Category: Science

Is the History surrounding Julius Caesar more or less credible than that of Jesus Christ?

Ides of March   This past Tuesday was the Ides of March. The significance of the 15th of March would have totally slipped by me hadn’t I been reminded by a couple FaceBook posts. One such post attached an interesting article entitled “6 myths about the Ides of March and killing Caesar.” The article questions the accuracy of many facts that Shakespeare incorporated into his play, The Tragedy of Julius Caesar. The article’s author relies upon the expertise of Barry Strauss, a professor of history and classics at Cornell University.

I personally don’t know which set of facts are closer to reality, those from the ancient historian, Plutarch who Shakespeare apparently drew from, or those from alternate ancient historians, Nicolaus of Damascus, Suetonius, Appian, and Cassius Dio, who Professor Strauss additionally referenced to accent his recent book on Caesar. What I find disturbing is that most modern historians who quote from any of these ancient writers accept without question the authenticity of the life accounts of secular characters such as Caesar, while denying the accuracy of the combination of Biblical and secular evidence that describe in much greater detail the person of Jesus Christ, His teachings and the events surrounding His life and death.

A comparison of the nature of the evidence for each clearly establishes the biases of those who accept the former but deny the latter. The ancient documents and other evidence authenticating the life and times of the founder of the Christian faith far outnumber (times multiple hundreds) that of any other historical figure; and the earliest Biblical works have been dated much closer to the period when Jesus actually walked this earth, than those documents relating to the lives and accomplishments of Caesar, Mark Antony, Plato, Aristotle, etc.

So what can or should we do about this obvious unfairness? Nothing in the natural! For we know that many have chosen to be deceived and to deceive others rather than bend their knee to their Creator. But pray for them – for God can and has revealed Himself to many such intellectuals (of which I R one) – and will continue to do so until Christ’s return.

To be or not to be (an evolutionist)

 Last Thursday was the 206th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birthday, as well as the 19th month anniversary of my blog.  Today the two are linked together quite strangely, yet perhaps appropriately because I often end up wandering down a path that I had no inkling I’d be traversing earlier.  It all began when my genius Pennsylvania cousin who, along with her husband, sport doctorates in chemistry, posted a bust of Darwin on her FaceBook page, with words of adulation.  A couple days later I happened to mention this to a friend who concluded our conversation with, “Did you know that Darwin had a deathbed conversion.”  I responded, “Really!” but in my mind I thought “BS!”  After all, I’d read a copy of the 6th edition of On the Origin of Species (where the scientist first used the word “evolution”) back in college, and I’d studied both evolution and creationism over the years, and the various theories of proponents and antagonists of each, but nowhere had I ever heard of this deathbed conversion.

 Rock Star Salvation Syndrome

 I imagined this was another case of “Rock Star Salvation Syndrome.”  This is the title I’ve given to the universal trait of nearly every human being to seek out and claim famous people whose opinions and positions purport to align with our own – a sort of faith affirmation.  I’ve spoken of this in earlier blogs.  Unfortunately I see it even among the most dedicated Bible-believing Christians, though it seems that every man and woman has the RSSS virus resting dormant in their subconscious, just waiting for a trigger to activate it.  But back to Charles – who, after all, was a rock star of his day.

 One could easily be drawn to a “hope” that Darwin “returned to Christ” based on the fact that he had grown up in the Christian faith.  When he failed to become a doctor as his father had wanted, he began studies intending to become a country parson.  He took theology at Cambridge, where he was so impressed by the logical arguments in support of creation in Paley’s Natural Theology that he memorized them by heart.  However, following the loss of a favorite daughter, he gradually drew away from religion and eventually became an agnostic.

 Christian writers are often quick to point to statements that Darwin made that indicate he may have questioned his own theory.  Statements such as: “To suppose that the eye with all its inimitable contrivances for adjusting the focus to different distances, for admitting different amounts of light, and for the correction of spherical and chromatic aberration, could have been formed by natural selection, seems, I freely confess, absurd in the highest degree;” and “Why, if species have descended from other species by insensibly fine gradations, do we not everywhere see innumerable transitional forms?”  But every honest scientist recognizes they don’t have all the answers, so it’s not unusual that Darwin also experienced such moments of soul-searching.

 A Plethora of Information

 Yet, though the salvation claim seemed highly questionable, my inquisitive nature is such that I just had to investigate it.  Under the search title “Charles Darwin’s last days” I was surprised to find a number of articles on the events preceding his death and the interpretation of those events.  Several claimed his deathbed acceptance of Christ, even of his recantation of the theory that is so associated with his name.  Several counter-claimed such a change of heart as nonsense– included among these were his son Francis and his eldest daughter, Henrietta, who, aware of the importance of the last words of famous men, sat poised with pen in hand to catch every last word of her father as he lay dying.  I was amazed that there were even some detailed research studies done on this subject, the most famous being one done by science historian James Moore, who spent twenty years investigating this, with his research and findings published in a 1991 book The Darwin Legend.  For this work Moore included for consideration several private letters between Darwin and his friends.   If you want to research yourself, here’s a site to begin: http://www.creationmoments.com/content/demise-charles-darwin

 Moore and most others credited the legend of Darwin’s conversion to what is called Lady Hope’s letter.  Born in Tasmania, Elizabeth Reid Cotton emigrated as a young child to India then finally to England where she became an evangelist. She married the elderly admiral Sir James Hope at the age of 35.  Though he died four years later, she retained the title Lady Hope throughout the remainder of her evangelistic career.  She met D. L. Moody in America and worked with him during his English campaign.

  It was at this time that she wrote her account of her visit to Charles Darwin over thirty years earlier. She was a skilled writer having written 30 books and told her story in a way that led the reader to conclude that she had discovered that Charles Darwin had had a conversion experience. She actually visited Darwin at his home seven months before he died. Darwin’s wife, Emma who attended St. Mary’s Anglican Church in the village, was always concerned about her husband’s salvation and it seems that in order to appease his wife’s concern, Darwin had invited Lady Hope to call upon him.

 The letter, later published in Boston’s Watchman-Examiner in 1915, mentions that when she entered the room where Darwin lay sick, he was reading the Book of Hebrews, chapter 6.  That chapter of course includes the words of warning: “For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame.”  These words would have logically gotten Darwin’s attention, if the story is accurate.  Lady Hope thereafter says that she brought up the subject of evolution and cleverly worded her report: “… his fingers twitched nervously and he said that as a young man he had had some foolish ideas.” She went on to say that Darwin had asked her to arrange a prayer meeting in his garden house and talk about Jesus. From this and other statements like it, the reader would naturally conclude that Darwin was a genuine Christian but she had been careful not to actually say that.

 Following the publication of this article, Lady Hope immediately became the darling of the Christian talk circuit of the day.  The fact remains that Darwin never outwardly recanted his position on evolution, and even after this purported meeting with Lady Hope, he told others that he remained an agnostic.

 Does it really matter to anyone but Charles?

While it would be wonderful if Charles Darwin received Jesus as his Lord and Savior and if we actually knew that for certain; unfortunately the facts don’t seem to back that up.  But that should have absolutely no bearing on our own personal faith walk.  We follow Christ because He first loved us and gave His earthly life that we might have life eternal.  We believe that God is our Creator and the One who directs our lives because His Word tells us so, because of the evidence He has revealed and continues to reveal to us in the wonder and complexity of the micro and macro universes about us, and because we know in our hearts that “Once I was blind and now I see.”  It’s clear to me that it takes more faith to dispute the existence of God and to follow an evolutionary phantom trail to our existence than it does to believe what God has told me and continues to tell me every day about my past, present and future.

Scientific and technological advances in 2014, something positive on which to meditate

As the year comes to a conclusion I look around and see and hear the voices of uncertainty and fear all over the media.  The winds of turmoil blow throughout the Middle East, Africa, Europe and Asia – and even in our own city streets.  Friction boils over between those attempting to keep the peace and those who see those authorities as impediments to their freedom.  Battles of words and actions wage on racial fronts, political fronts, religious fronts and societal fronts. And people face financial, health and other day-to-day challenges.

 So often science and technology too has taken a bad rap in Christian circles – and often rightly so.  For in times past many in academia and intelligentsia have misused and abused these God-given blessings to try and disprove even the existence of the Creator and His authority in the earth.  But in 2014, I believe scientific and technological advancements as a whole reflected some of the most positive steps forward that we’ll be able to look back on with pride in the years to come.

 That’s not saying that even in 2014 there haven’t been moments of imperfection in the scientific community.  In fact a popular scientific journal even acknowledges that the current pressure on researchers to “publish or perish” has often yielded reports of new discoveries that had to subsequently be retracted for any number of reasons.  See five such examples at the referenced site: http://www.livescience.com/49266-retracted-science-papers-2014.html.

 Sometimes the claims and results proved merely to be silly, though harmless – other times the sacrifice in the integrity of the scientific method yielded dangerous and lethal results.  Take for example the now well-refuted claim that there was scientific evidence linking the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine to autism, and that the CDC was covering it up.  The sources’ published papers were later found to be based on “falsified data and weak statistics.”  Though their claims were subsequently retracted, the rumors generated by the publications didn’t go away.  And we’re seeing the results in many cases of kids still being exposed unnecessarily to these dangerous and potentially deadly diseases.

 But for every one of these cases of sloppy science, 2014 has seen ten positive ones that have either already benefitted mankind, or will very likely do so in the near future.  This is true across the entire spectrum of scientific research and development: whether we’re looking at archaeology, astronomy and cosmology, biology and genetics, chemistry and physics, earth science and geology, even space exploration.  While I’m fascinated by the achievements made in each of these areas over the past twelve months, for the sake of space and time I’d like to focus on one that touches each of our lives – namely advances made in medical and health science.  My hope is that it will lift your spirits as we enter into the New Year.

 Advances made and medical and health knowledge revealed to improve each of our lives

 Cancer:

 A new way to destroy metastasizing cancer cells traveling through the bloodstream has been discovered by researchers at Cornell University.

Researchers at Cardiff University achieve a major breakthrough in treating chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL), the most common form of leukemia.

Researchers have found a mutated gene common to a rare, but particularly virulent, form of pancreatic cancer.

Two international trials suggest a promising breakthrough in the treatment of advanced skin cancer.

Sedentary behavior increases risk of certain cancers, according to a new study.

The anaphase-promoting complex – one of the most important and complicated proteins involved in cell division – has been mapped in 3D at a resolution of less than a nanometre. Researchers claim this finding could transform the understanding of cancer and reveal new binding sites for future cancer drugs.

Stanford researchers have developed a “decoy” protein that disrupts metastasis, the process that makes cancer cells spread to other sites in the body.

A new drug for advanced breast cancer can extend patients’ lives by 15.7 months (56.5 vs. 40.8 months compared to previous treatments).

A new drug, OTS964, can eradicate aggressive human lung cancers transplanted into mice, with few side effects.

 A way to stop Ras proteins moving from the center of a cell to the membrane, a fault common to one-third of cancers, is reported at the National Cancer Research Institute Cancer Conference in Liverpool.

Researchers at Queen Mary, University of London, report a major breakthrough in treating advanced bladder cancer.

Cardiovascular problems:

The biggest ever stem cell trial involving heart attack patients has commenced in London. It will examine 3,000 patients in 11 European countries, determining whether death rates can be reduced and damaged tissues repaired after a heart attack.

A stroke therapy using stem cells extracted from patients’ bone marrow has shown promising results in the first trial of its kind in humans.

A new drug known as LCZ696 can reduce the risk of death from cardiovascular disease by 20% compared to previous treatments. It is claimed to be among the biggest advances in treating this condition in over 10 years.

Spinal injuries:

Researchers have demonstrated for the first time the in-vitro growth of a piece of spinal cord in three dimensions from mouse embryonic stem cells.

A paralyzed man becomes the first in the world to walk again following a pioneering therapy which involved transplanting cells from his nose into his severed spinal cord.

Blindness: A new gene therapy technique has restored the sight of six patients who would otherwise have gone blind.

Deafness: By boosting a protein called NT3, scientists have restored lost hearing in mice.

Prosthetics:

A Dutch man has been fitted with a prosthetic hand capable of delivering a sense of touch.

After eight years of development, a new hi-tech bionic arm becomes the first of its kind to gain FDA approval for mass production.

A Colorado man becomes the first bilateral shoulder-level amputee to wear and simultaneously control two modular prosthetic limbs using his thoughts alone.

Internal Medicine:

Using stem cells from just 25 milliliters of blood, researchers have grown new blood vessels in just seven days, compared to a month for the same process using bone marrow. These blood vessels were implanted in patients to connect the gastrointestinal tract to the liver.

Miniature human stomachs have been grown from stem cells, potentially offering a way to study ulcers and repair stomach damage in patients.

Organ transplants:

A whole functioning organ – a thymus – has been engineered to grow inside an animal for the first time.

The first baby born to a mother with a womb transplant is announced in Sweden.

Organ donation: Experiments on rat livers have shown that a new cooling method can triple the time that donor organs can be stored outside the body.

Medical implants: Researchers create a biodegradeable battery that could be used for medical implants inside the body.

Stem cell research:

A new method to obtain human-induced pluripotent stem cells from a single drop of finger-pricked blood is achieved.

Scientists from Harvard Medical School report a new method of using toxic stem cells to attack brain tumors, without killing normal cells or themselves. The procedure could be ready for human clinical trials within five years.

Genetic research to reverse diseases: The first evidence that CRISPR can reverse disease symptoms in living animals has been demonstrated. Using this new gene-editing technique, MIT researchers cured mice of a rare liver disorder.

Antibiotic-resistant bacteria: A new way to attack antibiotic-resistant bacteria is announced. It involves blocking the mechanism they use to build their exterior coating.

HIV: For the first time, researchers have demonstrated proof-of-concept that the HIV virus can be eliminated from the DNA of human cell cultures.

Infectious diseases: Scientists have engineered artificial nanoparticles made from lipids that can treat bacterial infections without antibiotics while simultaneously preventing antibiotic resistance.

Natural treatments:

Researchers show the first evidence that green tea extract enhances cognitive functions, especially the working memory, suggesting a possible treatment for impairments such as dementia.

A study found that wine only protects against cardiovascular disease in people who exercise.

A study of 131,000 people has found that drinking tea reduces non-cardiovascular mortality by 24 percent.

Dental problems: Researchers at King’s College London develop a new dental technique known as Electrically Accelerated and Enhanced Remineralization. This allows a decayed tooth to effectively repair and heal itself without the need for drills, needles or fillings.

Improved processes to administer medicine: A new device created by the University of California enables real-time measurements of drug metabolism and concentration in the bloodstream, potentially improving the way doses are administered.

Parkinson’s disease:

Researchers in Sweden report a huge breakthrough in Parkinson’s disease using stem cells to restore neurons in rats. Clinical trials for humans are expected by 2017.

Neurons reprogrammed from skin cells have been grafted into the brains of mice for the first time with long-term stability. This demonstration of lastingly stable neuron implantation raises hope for future therapies in humans that could replace sick neurons with healthy ones in the brains of Parkinson’s disease patients, for example.

Mental and Emotional problems: The first blood test to diagnose major depression in adults has been developed.

Diabetes: Harvard researchers have turned human embryonic stem cells into cells that produce insulin, a potentially major advance for sufferers of diabetes.

Arthritis: A new treatment for arthritis involving the use of implanted bio-electronics is announced. More than half of patients using the device saw a dramatic reduction in symptoms. It is believed the treatment could be widely used within 10 years.

Aging:

People who feel younger than their real age are more likely to live longer, according to research by University College London. Positive outlooks on life and aging, a sense of empowerment and will to live may explain the difference in life expectancy.

By blocking the activity of an enzyme known as Granzyme b, researchers have slowed aging in the skin of mice.

Obesity: Scientists have made progress towards developing an “obesity pill”, by using stem cells to turn white, or “bad,” fat cells into brown, or “good,” fat cells. Two compounds have already been shown to achieve this in human cells.

Basic wound healing: has been advanced with a synthetic platelet that accumulates at sites of injury, clots and stops bleeding three times faster. The synthetic platelets have realistic size, disc-shape, flexibility, and the same surface proteins as real platelets.

Ebola: An experimental vaccine to prevent Ebola has shown promising results in a Phase 1 clinical trial.

Myotonic dystrophy type 2: Researchers have shown in precise detail how a molecular defect is responsible for the disease, then designed a potential drug candidate to reverse its course.

God is in the Sign-making Business

 Samuel Clemens (alias Mark Twain) once said, “It ain’t the parts of the Bible that I can’t understand that bother me.  It is the parts that I do understand.”

 A “part of the Bible” that I used to consider most disturbing was when Jesus was explaining to his disciples the parable of the sower: “To you it has been given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God; but to those who are outside, all things come in parables, so that ‘Seeing they may see and not perceive, and hearing they may hear and not understand; lest they should turn, and their sins be forgiven them.’” Mark 4:11-12, in which Jesus was quoting Isaiah 6:9-10.    For the longest time it bothered me that God would intentionally use parables rather than plain language to explain a truth, “lest they should turn and their sins be forgiven them.”  In contrast, He clearly explained each parable to His disciples, whenever they asked Him to.  It finally occurred to me that the key was that they asked Him – they really wanted to know what each parable meant, because they believed in Him and trusted that He would tell them the truth.  See also Matthew 13:13-14 and Jeremiah 5:21 (this people has a defiant and rebellious heart.)

 God always reveals the truth behind a mystery to people who really want to know the truth

 It’s not that God has not provided enough information to humanity about Himself.  God is in the sign-making business.  Signs of Him are all around us.   He constantly posts signs that reveal His presence, His moral law, His love and His manual on how human beings can live blessed and purposeful lives.  But, as Jesus told His disciples, “… these signs will follow those who believe, in My name …” demons will be cast out, hands will be laid on the sick and they’ll recover, and much miraculous / supernatural activity will be in evidence.  See Mark 16:14-18.

 Belief is paramount to participating in the blessings of God’s Kingdom.  The ability to understand spiritual truth, God’s mysteries from the beginning of time and into the future, is confined to believers.  Believers?  In what?  Belief in the gospel, the good news of Christ’s salvation message!

 From the very beginning God provided enough information, and revealed enough about Himself, for a person to seek and find and understand, if they have a real desire for truth.  On the other hand, God has also left many areas hidden – so the one who chooses to not believe His written Word can likewise rationalize their non-belief.

 C.S. Lewis, the once skeptic and agnostic turned Christian apologist understood this as well as any human being possibly can.  He explained it this way.  The belief in a supernatural reality [e.g.: Biblical truth] can neither be proved nor disproved by experience.  One’s preconceptions of not believing in such prevent him from apprehending the evidence even if it’s available; so another’s preconceptions of believing lead him to imagine the evidence, even when it’s not there. [C. S. Lewis, “God in the Dock”, copyright @ 1970, by the Trustees of C. S. Lewis]

 For example, Christians contend that there are compelling evidences proving the truth of the Bible, such as: God’s character, the Bible’s claims of divine authorship, the internal unity of the Bible, fulfilled prophecy, scientific accuracy, archaeological finds and the Bible’s life-changing power.  Some of these evidences and proofs are better than others.  For example, in earlier blogs I’ve discussed prophetic and archaeological findings which provide independent historic evidence confirming many of the Bible’s claims.  And here are a few more archaeological findings discussed in a recent “Answers in Genesis” article. See the following site for a summary and some pictures of the five evidences provided: http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/am/v6/n2/archaeological-finds.

  1. The Tel Dan Stele (900–850 BC) – A stele is an upright stone that is inscribed and used as a monument of an important event or achievement. Rulers and peoples from Egypt, Israel, and across Mesopotamia used these steles to commemorate great victories and accomplishments. This particular stele is extraordinary because the expression, “House of David” is carved on its stone face. This affirms that the United Monarchy under King David existed in history and contradicts the long-held opinions of skeptics who denied that David ever existed.
  2. The Meesha Stele (846 BC) – Popularly known as the Moabite Stone, it records the revolt of Meesha, King of Moab, against Israel. This incredible stele mentions Omri, King of Israel, and David of the United Monarchy. It even refers to Yahweh, the unique name of the God of Israel! Together with the testimony from the Tel Dan Stele, we have a powerful external witness that the Bible records the true history of the kings of Israel and their interactions with foreign kings.
  3. The Nabonidus Cylinder (550 BC) – King Nabonidus of Babylonia left a magnificent cuneiform cylinder (wedge-shaped letters inscribed on a clay cylinder) mentioning his elder son, Belshazzar by name. Critics of the Bible had claimed for many years that the account in the book of Daniel was wrong.  They said Belshazzar was never a king in Babylon and that Nabonidus was not his father. The discovery of this cylinder clearly showed that these scholars were dead wrong. Indeed, we can now understand the meaning of Daniel 5:16 more precisely where it says, “Now if you can read the writing and make known to me its interpretation, you shall be clothed with purple and have a chain of gold around your neck, and shall be the third ruler in the kingdom.”  This text now makes perfect sense because Nabonidus was in a co-regency with his son Belshazzar, who was the crown prince of Babylon. So that would make Daniel the “third ruler in the kingdom.”
  4. Caiaphas Ossuary – An ossuary was a box constructed to hold the bones of the dead after decomposition. In 1990 a startling discovery was made that shook biblical scholars and archaeologists alike. In the Peace Forest section of Jerusalem was discovered a burial cave containing twelve ossuaries, one of them being none other than that of Caiaphas, the high priest who presided at the trial of Jesus. This amazing discovery provides us with a powerful historical connection to the events described in the Gospels.
  5. Pilate Dedication Stone – In June 1961 an inscription on a limestone block, found at a Roman amphitheater in Caesarea Maritima, rocked the scholarly world. The block, which was once used as a dedication stone of a nearby temple and now reused for seating at the local amphitheater, had an extraordinary inscription. It read: “Tiberieum, (Pon)tius Pilatus, (Praef)ectus Iuda(eae).” Those scholars who questioned Pilate’s existence (and the gospel accounts generally) were silenced with this amazing discovery.

 Regardless of these wonderful archaeological findings, atheists and agnostics nearly always create some rationale to dispel each piece of evidence and/or argument.  Very few indeed even allow themselves a serious look at any evidence that would contradict their position.  Fortunately, those few who do usually end up “back-sliding,” i.e.: becoming believers themselves.

 I plead with you – don’t be blind.  Ignorance is not bliss – it’s dangerous.  Be open to consider ALL the evidence – not just what fits your personal agenda.  “Seek and you will find!  Knock and it will be opened to you!  Ask and you will receive!”

Medical Science accidentally discovers another Biblical Truth

I’ve mentioned many times in this blog how I attend a Saturday morning men’s prayer group and how it provides such great inspiration and encouragement and wisdom that I can use throughout the week.  This past Saturday was no exception – and the one thing that made the greatest impression on me was a simple story a gentleman told of how, since his now two-year-old grandson was born, he has recited to the lad “You are a good boy.”  Then this past week the little boy for the first time repeated those words: “I’m a good boy.”

 This is something I too have tried to engrain in my own three grandchildren, in my imperfect way, encouraging them that they are good, that the little things they do are done well, that whatever they scribble on paper is beautiful, and that they are loved regardless of their behavior.

 Of course many “realists” will point out, that man’s grandson and my grandkids are going to face many future challenges.  They’ll be tempted from all sides: peers, things they’ll see and hear in the media, their liberal educators, even the public school curriculum which is designed to lead them down deviant paths.  While that’s all true, it doesn’t take anything away from the spiritual law that I simply call the Law of Words.

 About 3070 years ago, the Law of Words was recorded by a God-inspired King Solomon in what we now call the Book of Proverbs, chapter 18, verse 21: “Death and Life are in the power of the tongue.”  The Law of Words is no less valid and operative a spiritual law than the law of gravity, the 1st and 2nd laws of thermodynamics and the law of aerodynamics are valid and operative laws of our natural world.  And finally, many 21st Century secular doctors and psychologists are beginning to recognize the Law of Words as a legitimate principle of life: that the words we speak and hear impact us physically, emotionally and mentally, and can even be manipulated to cause changes in each of these areas.

 The World of Psychology (the Internet’s longest-running psychology & mental health blog) recently did a review of Words Can Change Your Brain, a book written by Andrew Newberg, M.D. and Mark Robert Waldman.  These experts on neuroscience and communication contend that “a single word has the power to influence the expression of genes that regulate physical and emotional stress.”  They explain the science of how positive words can alter the expression of genes, strengthening areas in our frontal lobes and promoting the brain’s cognitive functioning and propel the motivational centers of the brain into action and build resiliency.  Conversely, hostile or negative language disrupts specific genes that play a key part in the production of neurochemicals that protect us from stress, increasing the activity in our amygdala (the fear center of the brain).  Angry words even send alarm messages through the brain and partially shut down the logic-and-reasoning centers located in the frontal lobes.  According to the authors, using the right words can transform our reality: “… the longer you concentrate on positive words, the more you begin to affect other areas of the brain. Functions in the parietal lobe start to change, which changes your perception of yourself and the people you interact with. A positive view of yourself will bias you toward seeing the good in others; whereas a negative self-image will incline you toward suspicion and doubt. Over time the structure of your thalamus will also change in response to your conscious words, thoughts, and feelings and we believe that the thalamic changes affect the way in which you perceive reality.”

 This is a highly scientific explanation for what the Bible states in simple language from cover to cover.  The Word of God of course was not written primarily to enhance our understanding of science, but to prepare God’s people to live counter-cultural lives, and to be thoughtful, engaged lovers of wisdom, and lovers of God and neighbor.

 A millennium after Solomon, Jesus cautioned His disciples as well as the people who were contending with Him: “… every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment.  For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.”  His apostle James later said it a little differently as he talked about the power of the words we speak: “Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing.”  And the great 20th Century Christian author, university professor and lecturer C. S. Lewis put it in terms of belief, when he said: “We are what we believe we are.”  As a student of the Bible, Lewis clearly understood that, by extension, we will say we are what we believe we are.

 A Life Lesson: Preach to yourself what God intends for you to become

 An amusing characterization of the Law of Words is the British medical comedy drama series “Doc Martin,” which just completed its sixth season on public television.   The “anti-hero” of the show is a gruff, ill-mannered, cold and abrasive doctor whose lack of social skills offends many of the villagers who are also his patients.  We eventually learn that his behavior is the result of his upbringing (or lack thereof) by parents who, though they sent him to the best schools and wanted him to succeed, always focused on his deficiencies and made sure he knew about them.  His parent’s intentions may have been good, but the results were not.

 Obviously it’s preferable that a person be taught this principle and be encouraged from childhood to see themselves as the person God created them to be and to strive to become that person.  My friend’s grandson will never forget the words, “I’m a good boy,” even as he struggles through the temptations the world, the flesh and the devil bring before him.  He’ll always know that his PaPa and his God are standing with him to help him get through them.

 Yet even adults can benefit and change once they know the truth, that they were created in the spiritual image of their God.  People who are taught to say, “I’ll never amount to anything” or “I’m no good” are right.  Yet if those same people are taught to recognize and declare: “God created me for greatness, for a heavenly kingdom, even here on earth, and for an important purpose in God’s plan,” they are even more so right.  Even if a person (like Dr. Martin Ellingham) didn’t have anyone else to encourage them in their childhood or adult life, once they learn the benefits of preaching to themselves the words and promises that God has declared over them, they will begin to see those promises realized in their life.

 Progressives, especially Christian progressives are prone to ridicule the Law of Words as a far-out “name it and claim it” theological heresy or something that those weird “faith preachers” have made up.  No!  It’s right out of God’s written Word.  In his book Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis states: “We all want progress, but if you’re on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive.”

 What say you?

Mapping of Human Genome – another Fork in the Road

 One hundred trillion cells (not even including red blood cells and reproductive fluids) package DNA into 46 chromosomes – which define every human being.  Twenty-three thousand genes are distributed along the chromosomes, organized in apparently no particular way.  With its twenty different amino acid building blocks (each defined by a three letter linear gene code DNA), cells build proteins, some of which define skin and hair color and others carry and receive signals necessary for many body functions (insulin, smell, taste, etc.) Interestingly, each cell has the genetic set of information to build any organ, though it doesn’t – so there are no chromosome codes for the heart or the brain.

 To the scientist, the philosopher and the theologian alike, the success in mapping of the human genome served as a fork in the road of life – one that forced each one to reevaluate their specific belief system regarding the foundation and inter-workings of the universe they inhabit and purport to improve.  Forks in the road of life are not unique, in that every man and woman faces down several over an average life span.  To some it’s the death of a child.  To others it’s the unexpected loss of a spouse, a parent, or a best friend.  To still others it’s the diagnosis of a terminal illness, a financial collapse or a public disgrace.  In addition to each of these, the scientist is forced to contend with the ever-more frequent discovery of new information of such a cataclysmic dimension as the defining of the genetic material of a complex organism.

Every fork in the road, whether of a scientific or more personal nature represents a challenge.  What are we going to do with the predicament we face – and what are we going to do and believe about the new information with which we are presented?  Are we going to rely exclusively on our background, our education, our personal experiences and what our peers say about the new situation or information?  Or are we going to be open to what the Spirit of God has to say about it as well?

 The Road before the Fork

 Two men worked nearly independently and competitively to map the intricacies of human genome (script, with all the instructions for building a human being).  Francis S. Collins was at the helm of the government funded International Human Genome Project, the largest such effort ever; whereas J. Craig Venter insisted he could develop the road map of life faster and much less costly, and proceeded with a team of his own choosing.

The life road each man traveled had a few similarities, but more differences.  Collins described his parents as “nominally Christian,” a role he mirrored in his childhood.  But as he proceeded through high school and his first degree in chemistry, he journeyed away from his vague Christian roots and into agnosticism.  Collins claims he was less an earnest agnostics, who considered the evidence and still couldn’t find a satisfactory answer, and more a casual agnostic (never really considering the evidence for and against belief – intentionally avoiding the need to be answerable to a Higher Power.)  He claims this is the most prevalent position in the scientific community.  Still, by graduate school he verbally declared himself an atheist.  It was only after he changed his career path, entered medical school, and started dealing with dying patients, that he was finally led to question his religious views.  He began investigating various faiths and familiarized himself with the evidence for and against God in cosmology.  He became engrossed in the writings of C. S. Lewis, himself a former atheist, and especially his book Mere Christianity.   The outcome of his investigation was a decision to become an evangelical and “serious Christian.”

His counterpart, Craig Venter was the son of an excommunicated Mormon who had drank and smoked himself to death by the age of 59.  Venter originally had no interest in schooling – until he was drawn to computers, especially writing software.  He most often describes himself  as “just a software writer” and has a habit of calling DNA the “software of life.”  Still, in his book, A Life Decoded, he expands that as follows: “As a scientist, an optimist, an atheist and an alpha male I don’t worry. As a scientist I explore and seek understanding of the world (s) around me and in me. As an optimist I wake up each morning with a new start on all my endeavors with hope and excitement. As an atheist I know I only have the time between my birth and my death to accomplish something meaningful. As an alpha male I believe I can and do work to solve problems and change the world.”

 Encountering the Fork

 Each team developed working drafts of the human genome at approximately the same time – with a formal announcement of the results of their efforts made in June 2000.

Both Collins and Venter faced the wonder and complexity of human life and walked away with a totally opposite conclusion as to its beginnings and source.  When the announcement was made in the East Room of the White House, Collins and Venter were joined by President Bill Clinton, with Prime Minister Tony Blair connected by satellite.   Collins’ expressed the effect the genome effort had on his belief system as he included the following among his comments: “… we caught the first glimpse of our own instruction book, previously known only to God.”  While Venter withheld his personal beliefs during the public event, six years later, asked by “60 Minutes” interviewer Steve Kroft about his theological beliefs, his response was: “I believe that the universe is far more wonderful than just assuming it was made by some higher power.” Regarding an afterlife, Venter has said: “We have one chance to live and to contribute to the future of society and the future of life.  The only ‘afterlife’ is what other people remember of you.”

These men of renown amazingly share many of the same awards and recognitions.  They shared the “Biography of the Year” title from A&E Network.  They jointly received the Biotechnology Heritage Award in 2001.  Even in 2005, Collins and Venter were honored as two of “America’s Best Leaders” by U.S. News & World Report and the Harvard Center for Public Leadership.  How can two men view the exact same evidence and come to completely incongruent conclusions?  It’s enough to drive one to the Calvinistic doctrine of election – were I not more trusting in God’s abundant grace, unconditional love, and did I not lean so heavily on the promise of Romans 10:9-10.

 The Road after encountering the Fork

 Let me start out by discounting a commonly held misconception of society that all scientists are purely naturalists who don’t believe in God.  That’s patently false.  Nor does Francis Collins stand at the podium as the sole scientist who is not ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  In 1916 researchers asked biologists, physicists and mathematicians if they believed in a God who actively communicates with humankind and in whom one may pray with expectation of receiving an answer, and 40% answered in the affirmative.  The survey was repeated verbatim in 1997 and the percentages remained very nearly the same.

But Francis Collins is unique in the scientific community.  As early as 1998, Collins proclaimed his pro-life stance in an interview with Scientific American.  He stated that he is “intensely uncomfortable with abortion as a solution to anything” and does not “perceive a precise moment at which life begins other than the moment of conception.”  After a term as director of the National Institute of Health (NIH), in 2007, Collins founded the BioLogos Foundation to “contribute to the public voice that represents the harmony of science and faith.”  Also, building on his own experiences as a physician volunteer in a rural missionary hospital in Nigeria, he demonstrated he’s very interested in opening avenues for genome research to benefit the health of people living in developing nations.  For example, in 2010, he helped establish an initiative called Human Heredity and Health in Africa to advance African capacity and expertise in genomic science.  He is also known for his close attention to ethical and legal issues in genetics and has been a strong advocate for protecting the privacy of genetic information and has served as a national leader in securing the passage of the federal Genetic Information and Nondiscrimination Act, which prohibits gene-based discrimination in employment and health insurance.  And Collins’ most recent books more than ever before focus on his faith and his journey to find it.  Such are: The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief (2006), The Language of Life: DNA and the Revolution in Personalized Medicine (2010), Belief: Readings on the Reason for Faith (2010), and The Language of Science and Faith: Straight Answers to Genuine Questions (2011).

Craig Venter is also unique, though in a much different way.  In the post-human-genome-mapping years, Venter and his team created “artificial life” – taking all the genetic information out of a single bacterial cell and replacing it with a chromosome they built in the laboratory.  They made a DNA strand with the minimum genes essential for a bacteria to reproduce itself.  This new life form has subsequently multiplied billions of times.   As a result, the President actually launched a bioethics commission investigation into Venter, and Venter himself admitted that it could be dangerous if placed into the wrong hands.  In the end, the Obama administration and Venter began working together to come up with an ethical framework for this type of science.  The scientist even applauded the commission for its open-mindedness and wisdom.  Venter claims his work is for the betterment of society and the future of humanity.  He has done work to genetically engineer algae to create a substance that can be refined into gasoline in hopes of addressing the energy crisis.  And more recently he has teamed up with a stem cell pioneer and the X Prize Foundation founder to form a company that will use both genomics and stem cell therapies to find treatments that allow aging adults to stay healthy and functional for as long as possible.  His book, A Life Decoded, My Genome, My Life (2008) is somewhat an autobiography.

In one sense, atheists take pride in “claiming” Venter to their side.  However there’s an interesting story about an exchange between Craig Venter and Richard Dawkins.  Venter apparently denied common descent, and Dawkins response was that he couldn’t believe that he would even question it.  In questioning whether there is a tree of life, it has many atheists and evolutionists concerned – with his dissent from Darwinian orthodoxy suggesting there is disarray in the community.

 Another Fork in the Road

 The “creation of artificial life” by the Venter team seems to bring each member of the scientific community to another fork in the road.  Or does it?  Does it really demonstrate the feasibility of life being created by random chance from non-life, as some claim?

This Venter team knew exactly what materials they were starting out with. A large group of people, working round the clock for more than a decade built on prior years of preexisting knowledge to insert some very carefully designed genes into a cell that already existed, so that it could reproduce.  In atheistic evolutionary biology the claim is not that DNA somehow morphed itself into an existing cell so that it could reproduce.  Before there was DNA there were no existing cells.

This research while truly amazing and potentially useful for mankind, does nothing to explain the dilemma of life production: you need DNA to make cells, but that you also need cells to make DNA.   I recently read a comparative example: the fact that human beings could build New York is evidence that nature, given no building materials, could construct such a city by random chance.  We all recognize how ridiculous the latter is; but atheists are in the unenviable position of accepting and defending the former.

 My conclusions?

 It’s a reasonable question to ask – what do I conclude from all of this?  That Francis Collins is godly and Craig Venter is an agent of the devil?  Hardly!  I don’t know either man’s heart – only God does.  Since the original genome mapping, both men have done good works.  Yet good works do not treasure-in-heaven purchase – though it’s a good beginning.

But doesn’t the Bible indicate that God doesn’t spend a lot of energy on trying to change the hearts and minds of atheists?  It infers that He actually laughs at them, when He says, “Only a fool says there is no God.”  See Psalms 14 and 53 and even the 1st chapter of the Book of Romans as examples.  Clearly, the beauty and wonder of God is on display even in His commandments, the first of which says: “I am the Lord your God.  I will have no other gods before Me.”  Right off the bat He’s telling His human creation: “I know you know in your hearts that a god exists and is responsible for everything around you.  Here I am!  There is plenty of evidence of most Judeo-Christian faith claims.  There is plenty of evidence in hand today, and there is more and more discovered every day by archaeologists, linguists, biologists, astro and geophysicists and other scientists, provided they allow for an open minded review of the evidence God places before them, and its significance.

But if God doesn’t spend a lot of energy on trying to change the hearts and minds of atheists, why should I?  Is it worth it, with so many other important things God has for me to accomplish?  I spend the energy because: first. I’m not God; and second, I have some very close friends and family members who claim to be atheists or agnostics, as I’m sure all of you have as well – and I’m not willing to give up on them, knowing the eternal cliff they’ll tumble off, unless something dramatically changes their hearts and minds.

Who sits around debating the age of the earth?

Most of my friends are nerds.  I am too.  Ian Fleming made another nerd, “Q,” a sort of a cult hero; but in the early James Bond movies he was always relegated to a small role as the scientist who developed all of 007’s high-tech weapons.  You know nerdism has gone main-stream when you see a lead-nerd in nearly every TV series – at least the decent ones.  In “The Middle” it’s the adolescent Brick, in “Person of Interest” it’s Harold, and in NCIS and each of its many spin-offs  there are multiple lead-nerds, like Abby and McGee.

Personally, I’m thankful for the nerds I’ve been privileged to call my friends.  They’ve each broadened my horizon and exposed me to areas of knowledge I might otherwise have never discovered on my own.  From the poly-sci major, whose idea of fun is a 150 mile drive to hear a speech by an expert on urban renewal, to the former foreign production liaison who knows Egyptian military leadership and Kuwaiti royal family members on a first name basis, and who can provide an insight into middle-Eastern politics unfamiliar to most of the U.S. press.  From the former South Dakotan farm boy who majored in engineering who has helped me diagnose numerous automotive problems, to the psych grad whose expertise now ranges from business finance to the arts, and who scrounges the internet for interesting stories and pictures to share with his friends.  These and others are the IT, mechanical and electronic gurus whose brains I’ve frequently picked to select a new computer, wide-screen TV or automobile.  I look at the crossing of our careers as a true blessing from God.

This brings me to the present time and a simple FaceBook query I read last week.  One of the associate pastors of my local church, who has a habit of trying to get people to actually think, and question and defend their beliefs, made a somewhat controversial statement (at least to most Bible believing Christians).  Pastor announced that He believes in an “old earth,” (as opposed to a “young earth” not much more than 6000 years old.)  Within an hour there were more than three dozen responses – some just “liking,” others agreeing and commenting, and many more emphatically disagreeing (occasionally out of emotion, but most with apparently some knowledge of the subject.)  And I thought, “Who sits around debating the age of the earth?  On FaceBook no less!”  Then something clicked in my brain – my local church has a number of nerds like me.  This information surprised me, but gave me a new sense of comfort.

No!  I didn’t participate in the debate.  It’s not that I didn’t have my own opinion on the subject.  I simply didn’t have a firm grasp of either the evidence or even the possible alternative positions.  But I did take Pastor’s bait and decided to do some research of my own.

Let me start out by saying the only question I’ll be addressing in this blog is the age of the earth; not whether or not there is a God; not whether the universe was created by an intelligent being or somehow poofed into existence out of nothing; not whether man was created by God or evolved from some one-celled amoeba.  No!  These questions are all distinguishable from the issue of the age of the earth – and, from my point of view as a Christian, well settled truths clearly explained in the Bible.

Of course, most atheists would argue, and some Christians might agree, that the possibility of an old earth (in the range of millions to billions of years) renders the Bible inaccurate concerning origins.  Both are needlessly in error.  As far as the washed-in-the-Blood, Spirit-indwelled, born again believer, I don’t particularly care what he believes about an old or a young earth.  The answer isn’t essential to his salvation.  For him, the age of the earth is irrelevant.  But to others it may well be an unavoidable roadblock on the path to salvation.  For the benefit of these I care about the topic.   As the Word of God says, no one has a justified excuse for denying God:
“The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork.   Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night reveals knowledge.  There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard.”   Psalms 19:1-3   “… what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them.  For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse,”   Romans 1:19-20  For their benefit I believe we have an obligation to attain at least a degree of knowledge of the subject adequate to point them in the right direction; or, as a well-known Christian apologists is known to say, “put a pebble in their shoe, so they feel uncomfortable and inclined to research the subject themselves.”

 Observational versus Historical Science

Observational science is knowledge gained by observation.  It relies on the “scientific method”.

Historical science is theorizing about what happened in the past (unobservable) based on extrapolating what is presently observable.

Observational science is factual.

Historical science is simply another belief system about the past.  It’s not objective truth.  It requires assumptions (such as the absence of any supernatural force beyond the natural laws of physics, or in the case of radio metric dating, that the ratio of 14C to 12C has always been the same as it is today).

When a scientist classifies rocks as igneous, metamorphic, or sedimentary, that is observational science. But if that same scientist then claims that rocks are millions of years old, that is historical science.

Observing an element in a laboratory changing as a result of radioactive decay would come under the heading of observational science.  But using a number of unverified assumptions and extrapolating backward in time to use radioactive decay to estimate the age of a rock is historical science.

Alternative Number 1:  The earth is only 6000 years old

(Links age of earth to age of man)

Historically, the “young-earther” claim comes from the work of James Ussher, Archbishop in the Church of Ireland, from 1625 to 1656.  Ussher took the genealogies of Genesis and calculated all the years to arrive at a date for the creation of the earth on Sunday, October 23, 4004 B.C.  There are a number of assumptions implicit in the calculation, including: (1) that all the years the patriarchs lived were exactly 365.25 days long and that they all died the day before their next birthday; (2) that the genealogies of Genesis are complete, from father to son throughout the entire course of human existence; (3) that the Genesis creation days were exactly 24 hours in length.  It turns out that all three assumptions were inaccurate.

Those who hold the earth is 6,000 years old do so because they are concerned about maintaining the integrity and authority of the Bible.  Watching as the world rejects the things of God more and more with each passing day, is it any wonder it is viewed as worldly to consider the simplest reading of the Bible may not be the correct interpretation?  I agree the world doesn’t need more watered down Christianity, but it doesn’t need a flat-earth Christianity either.  It needs Jesus.  That is why this subject is important.

Alternative Number 2:  The earth is in the tens of thousands of years old

(Links age of earth to age of man)

The longer “young-earth” claim is based on a number of alternate interpretations of scripture.  First is the length of day for the six day creation period, second is the issue whether the genealogical record of Genesis is complete, and the third suggests that God may have initiated plant life as seeds initially, rather than fully mature.

Regarding the creation period duration, proponents of a possibly much longer time, point to scriptures that say in God’s economy, … with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. (2 Peter 3:8) and  For a thousand years in Your sight are like yesterday when it is past, and like a watch in the night.  (Psalm 90:4)  They suggest that creation could have lasted from a few to several thousand years.  Their position is reinforced by the fact that original biblical languages contained far fewer words than modern English, and hence, many additional possible interpretations.  The Hebrew word translated “day” actually has three literal translations: the daylight portion of a 24-hour day, a 24-hour day, and a long, unspecified period of time, as in “day of the dinosaurs”.  The Hebrew word translated “evening” also means sunset, night or end of the day.  The word translated “morning” also means sunrise, coming of light, beginning of the day, or dawning.  Our English expression: “The dawning of an age” illustrates the latter. The intended meaning of the word has to be determined from the context.

To support their contention, the longer day, proponents point to the “busyness” of the sixth day.  On the sixth day, God created the wild animals, cattle and creeping things.  Then God created the first man and placed him into the special garden that God had planted, “to work it and take care of it.”  We don’t know how long Adam worked the garden before God gave him the assignment to name the animals, but it wouldn’t have been much “work” if Adam was there for less than 24 hours.   Then the assignment of naming “all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air” – potentially tens of thousands of species – would have taken considerable time.  Then Adam’s response to Eve’s creation is “at last;” not exactly the response one would have expected from a man who had waited for less than one day.   So, they conclude that the sixth day more than likely took several years, not 24 hours.

Regarding Biblical genealogies, we know for a fact that in other sections of the Bible they were often “telescoped” – that is, some names were left out for the sake of brevity.  Similarly, some key genealogical terms (such as “son” and “father”) have much broader meanings in Hebrew than their corresponding English words. The Hebrew word translated “son” can also have the meaning of grandson, great grandson, and descendant; and the Hebrew word translated “father” can also mean grandfather, great grandfather, or ancestor.  Often it’s possible to identify where telescoping occurred by cross referencing the genealogies with other events dated in the Bible.  There is some evidence that would suggest the recorded names are representative of generations found throughout human history.

Regarding the possibility that God created seeds and allowed them to mature into plant life, the proponents often point to the Genesis 1 text for the third day.  Then God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit after their kind, with seed in them, on the earth”; and it was so. And the earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed after their kind, and trees bearing fruit, with seed in them, after their kind; and God saw that it was good. (Genesis 1:11-12)  The interpretation that God actually created seeds and planted those comes from an understanding of the word “sprout,” which refers to God allowing the earth to produce plants through germination.  The Hebrew word infers that God used processes identical to what we see on the earth today: plants spouted, grew to maturity, and produced seeds. The text states that the land produced the vegetation and trees.  By extension, since fruit trees take several years to mature and produce fruit, the third “day” must have been at least several years long.

So, in this alternative, they estimate the age of the earth as greater than 10,000 but certainly no more than 100,000 years old.

Alternative No. 3:  The Time Gap – Old Earth

(No direct link between the date of the creation of man and the age of the earth)

Most Christians who believe in an “old-earth” base it on a presumed time gap between the first and second verses of Genesis, chapter 1:  In the beginning God created the heavens and the earthGAP of Millions to Billions of yearsThe earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.

The contention is that God would not create something that was without form and void, and that there had to be a cause for the darkness on the face of the deep.  This approach pictures God creating an earth some time in eternity past and positioning some plant and animal life on it.  Then some cataclysmic event occurred which led to its partial destruction.  The Bible, they claim gives hints of what this event was.  They often point to some texts in Isaiah, Ezekiel and Revelation which address the former good standing of another created spiritual leader named Lucifer who led a rebellion against God, for which he and those millions of (now demonic) angels who supported him were cast out of heaven to earth.  But conjecture concerning the cause of the cataclysmic event is for another day’s discussion.

Old-earthers emphasize that the Bible makes no direct claims as to the age of the earth. Nowhere does it teach that the earth is 6,000 years old; nor does it say the earth is billions of years old.   We must interpret the age of the earth from science and the Bible.  Even Job, when he responded to his critics well understood that God was responsible for everything we see on and above the earth – in fact his words seem to encourage scientific research for truth.  “But now ask the beasts, and they will teach you; and the birds of the air, and they will tell you; or speak to the earth, and it will teach you; and the fish of the sea will explain to you.  Who among all these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this.  In whose hand is the life of every living thing, and the breath of all mankind?”

The Bible doesn’t make any direct claims as to the length of the days of creation.  God doesn’t mark the passage of time.  Time only has meaning to mankind.   To God, man’s million years could be one second.  Therefore, no matter what the interpretation is of the original Hebrew for the word “day,” it doesn’t apply to an infinite God.  The early church fathers believed the days of creation were a thousand years long.  Literal days were not even considered until the fourth century, and it didn’t become a major theological issue until the 19th century.

We know God was here 5 billion years ago, so if the earth is 5 billion years old as some scientists theorize, no problem.  It certainly doesn’t detract from God or His power.  It really doesn’t matter from that perspective how long the period of creation is, for God’s power is beyond comprehension, beyond anyone else’s capabilities, and He remains omnipotent no matter how long creation lasted.

Point – Counterpoint

Old-earthers would say that the creation itself testifies to its age, and would point to all the carbon dating of fossils and other scientific discoveries.  So how do the young-earthers respond to this so-called “evidence?”

Young-earthers present their own “evidence.”

  1. a. Geological evidenceCarbon dating – Radiocarbon (carbon-14) cannot remain naturally in substances for millions of years because it decays relatively rapidly.  For this reason, it can only be used to obtain “ages” in the range of tens of thousands of years.   Scientists from the Radioisotopes and the Age of the Earth project examined diamonds that evolutionists consider to be 1 to 2 billion years old and discovered significant detectable levels of radiocarbon in these diamonds, dating them instead to around 55,000 years.

1.   b. A second problem with dating is that radiometric methods for dating the earth’s rocks are based upon the decay sequences of certain elements.  For example, uranium-238 (called a parent element) will, through a series of decomposition processes, ultimately produce lead-206 (called a daughter element).  Scientists believe they know the present decay rate. Thus, if a rock contains both uranium-238 and lead-206, the ratio of the two elements will be used to estimate the age of the sample.  It is conceded, however, that in order for this method to be valid, certain assumptions must be granted.  It must be assumed that no lead-206 was in the rock at the time of its formation. But what if lead-206 was a part of the original creation? That would invalidate the accuracy of the age-estimate.  It also must be assumed that neither the parent nor the daughter element has been altered in mass since the beginning.  However, there is an increasing body of evidence which indicates that both parent and daughter elements, under the proper conditions, can migrate in the rocks, thus radically affecting any result that might be obtained.  The assumption is made that decay rates have remained constant. Again, though, recent research has shown that while these decay rates appear to remain constant within narrow limits, under special circumstances they may be altered considerably.

1.  c.  Examples of false projections: Studies on submarine basaltic rocks from Hawaii, known to have formed less than two hundred years ago, when dated by the potassium-argon method, yielded ages from 160 million to almost three billion years (Funkhouser and Naughton, 1968).  The shells of living mollusks have been dated at up to 2,300 years old (Keith and Anderson, 1963).  Freshly-killed seals have been dated at up to 1,300 years, and mummified seals, dead only about thirty years, have yielded dates as high as 4,600 years (Dort, 1971).   And there’s even a case where muscle tissue from a mummified musk ox was dated at 24,000 years, while hair from the same carcass dated only 7,200 years! (Jackson, 1989).

1.  d. Tightly Folded Rock Strata – When solid rock is bent, it normally cracks and breaks. Rock can only bend without fracturing when it is softened by extreme heating (which causes re-crystalization) or when the sediments have not yet fully hardened.  There are numerous locations around the world where we observe massive sections of strata that have been tightly folded, without evidence of the sediments being heated.  This is a major problem for old-earthers who believe these rock layers were laid down gradually over vast eons of time, forming the geologic record.  However, it makes perfect sense to people who believe these layers were formed rapidly in a global, catastrophic Flood.

1.  e. Like other planets, the earth has a magnetic field that is decaying quite rapidly. We are now able to measure the rate at which the magnetic energy is being depleted and develop models to explain the data.  Secular scientists invented a “dynamo model” of the earth’s core to explain how the field could have lasted over such a long period of time, but this model fails to adequately explain the data for the rapid decay and the rapid reversals that it has undergone in the past.  Dr. Thomas Barnes, professor emeritus of physics at the University of Texas, has done extensive research in the decay of the earth’s magnetic field. His findings indicate that the magnetic field was created only a few thousand years ago, and is decaying toward extinction (1981).

1.  f.  Also, deep under the surface of the earth are huge reservoirs of oil and water. Many of these reservoirs are characterized by extremely high fluid pressures. These pressures are gradually diminishing (much like air seeping from the tire of an automobile).  It is acknowledged that the rock above these pockets is porous enough to allow the pressure to escape in a matter of several thousand years. Yet the pressure is still there. Dr. Melvin Cook, former professor at the University of Utah and president of IRECO Chemicals (1968 winner of the Nitro Nobel Award), argues that this suggests that these pressure pools were formed only a few thousand years ago.  He contends it is evidence for a young earth.

2.   Astronomical evidence –The gravitational pull of the moon creates a “tidal bulge” on earth that causes the moon to spiral outwards very slowly.  Because of this effect, the moon would have been closer to the earth in the past. Based on gravitational forces and the current rate of recession, we can calculate how much the moon has moved away over time.  If the earth is only a few thousand years old, there’s no problem, because in that time the moon would have only moved about 800 feet.  But about 1.5 billion years ago the moon would have been touching the earth!

3.   Biological evidence – In recent years, there have been many findings of preserved biological materials in supposedly ancient rock layers and fossils.  Laboratory studies have shown that there is no known way for biological material to last more than thousands of years, instead of the millions of years old claimed for some.

4.   Anthropological evidencemathematics – We can calculate the years of human existence with the population doubling every 150 years (a very conservative figure) to get an estimate of what the world’s population should be after any given period of time.  A biblical age of the earth (about 6,000 years) is consistent with the numbers yielded by such a calculation. In contrast, even a conservative evolutionary age of 50,000 years comes out to a staggering, impossibly high figure of 10 to the 99th power.

5.   Young-earthers of course present theological arguments as well – such as the statements of the Bible that death entered the earth when Adam sinned.  They see physical death as one of the penalties of sin – first demonstrated by the death of the sacrificial animals, beginning with those killed by God to clothe Adam and Eve.  “Therefore, just as through one man [the first Adam] sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned– …death reigned from Adam… by the transgression of the one the many died…” (Romans 5:12,14-15)   Whereas old-earthers would teach that death and bloodshed existed long before man’s existence.  Adam was, in effect, created on top of a graveyard of decaying or fossilized animals.

6.   One of the most ironic arguments though is the young-earthers’ quoting of evolutionists who admit to problems in proving an old earth.  Such is Dr. Stephen Moorbath, from the University of Oxford, who wrote: “No terrestrial rocks closely approaching an age of 4.6 billion years have yet been discovered.  The evidence for the age of the earth is circumstantial, being based upon . . . indirect reasoning.”  (1977)  And Dr. John Eddy, an astronomer who, stated: “There is no evidence based solely on solar observations that the Sun is 4.5 to 5 billion years old…. I suspect that the Sun is 4.5 billion years old. However, given some new and unexpected results to the contrary, and some time for frantic recalculation and theoretical readjustment, I suspect that we could live with Bishop Ussher’s value for the age of the Earth and Sun [4004 B.C.].  I don’t think we have much in the way of observational evidence in astronomy to conflict with that.” (1978)   And Evolutionist Frederic B. Jueneman declares: “The age of our globe is presently thought to be some 4.5 billion years, based on radiodecay rates of uranium and thorium.  Such confirmation may be short-lived, as nature is not to be discovered quite so easily.  There has been in recent years the horrible realization that radiodecay rates are not as constant as previously thought, nor are they immune to environmental influences.  And this could mean that the atomic clocks are reset during some global disaster, and events which brought the Mesozoic [age] to a close may not be 65 million years ago, but rather, within the age and memory of man.” (1982)

Of course Christian old-earthers counter each of these arguments.  For example, regarding the carbon dating issues, they generally acknowledge that examples can be found of erroneous results, but say that “a few discrepancies” don’t disprove the science behind the approach.

Regarding death, they clearly acknowledge that the Bible teaches that death is the penalty for sin.  “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.”   But they emphasize that spiritual death is much more important than physical death.  Physical death can never separate a person from Christ, like spiritual does.  Nevertheless, the young earth proponent believes that the Bible teaches there was no physical death before sin.  There’s no question that sin introduced spiritual death, and indirectly introduced physical death to the human race.  But it did not introduce physical death to the world.   The old-earther asks us to consider the following facts.

  1. God said the plant and animal kingdom He created was “very good,” even before He created Adam.  It must have been a thriving, renewing ecosystem to be “very good.”  Death and regeneration are crucial to the working of God’s creation.  It was specifically designed this way. If it were not self-renewing, it would not last very long, and then God’s creation would indeed not be “very good.”
  2. The Bible says that God gave the green plants to all animals to eat. Young earth proponents claim that since the animals ate grass in the garden, there was no death due to carnivorous activity.  However, the Bible does not say that animals “cannot” eat meat – it only says they were given grass to eat.  God created many animals to eat meat and without meat, they would die.  Perhaps all the meat eaters were outside the Garden – that’s something we just don’t know.
  3. Then consider the spider – it was created with only one diet in mind – a dead insect.  Also, some snakes were created with venom? Venom only has one purpose – to kill or incapacitate, then consume.
  4. And what about disease? Did the microorganisms (viruses, bacteria) that cause disease exist before the fall of man?  After Adam sinned God is already in His seventh day of rest, and the creation is already 100% complete.  Didn’t they have to be created some time during the six days of creation?  We know that bacteria existed before the fall, because Adam and Eve were normal human beings, who required the aid of bacteria for the breakdown of foods in the human digestive tract.  Perhaps the young earth proponents will argue that the bacteria and viruses we have today mutated from this original bacteria source.  That would be an interesting discussion.
  5. The rock record, through its fossils, indicates that death existed for millions of years.  By young earth models, all fossil-bearing rock layers must be laid down after the fall of man. The mechanism they point to is the Flood of Noah.

  So what conclusions do we draw from all this?

 The real issue is not the age of the earth.  Rather, the real issue is authority.  God’s infallible Word must be our ultimate authority, not the unstable foundation of human reasoning – whether you are a young-earther or an old-earther.

The Origin of Language and its Biblical Implications

Professional linguists, archaeologists, psychologists, anthropologists, and other “ologists” typically have little to find consensus on.  However, one thing on which most would agree is that the origin of language in the human species is the hardest problem in science.  In the 19th and the first half of the 20th Centuries most scholars refused to recognize it as a suitable topic for serious study.  In fact, in 1866 the Linguistic Society of Paris went so far as to ban debates on the subject, and most of the western world went along with this ban for the next 90 years.

One problem that makes the topic difficult to study is the lack of direct evidence.  Anyone wishing to study the origin of language is forced to draw inferences from other kinds of evidence, such as fossil and archaeological records, comparisons between human language and systems of communication among animals, human behavioral evidence, etc.

My interest in the subject is driven by my curiosity as to what language Adam and Eve spoke when they walked with God in the garden in the cool of the evening, as He taught them all they needed to know to tend the earth and its animals.  Was it an ancient form of Hebrew?  Was it a totally unique “Adamic” language?  Or was it the language of heaven?  I often wonder about such things that neither I nor anyone else can possibly know for sure until we get to heaven.  Yet I wonder.  Sometimes in these states of wondering, my day comes to an end feeling like the great theologian Thomas Aquinas must have felt as he searched for and often got divine inspiration as to the mysteries of heaven.  Other times my day ends feeling like Alfred E. Neuman.  Those of you too young to understand the analogy, google it.

But just because a topic is controversial and one of the most difficult things to understand, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t investigate it to the best of our ability.  God created perfect specimens of humankind in the persons of Adam and his mate Eve – free of any kind of disease or physical weakness as we know it today.  Neither of these creatures had a history, yet the Bible infers that they were able to communicate with God, probably from day one.  Does the absence of thirty years or so of real-life experiences to aid the maturation process disqualify the possibility that the Creator of the universe could also deposit a language and an adult mental capacity to understand and use that language in His first intelligent creatures?

Why is it really so difficult to accept?  Unregenerated mankind is so attuned to trusting in himself and to trying to operate exclusive of God that he declares such mysteries impossible.  How foolish the Bible says.  It reminds me of the words of Jesus as He concurrently spoke to the multitudes and prayed: “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things [this generation’s rejection of His works and His teachings] from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes.  Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight.  All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.”  Matthew 11:25-27

I can understand why some of the 19th century theories have been ridiculed.  Some of them are really kind of humorous in the light of modern scientific methods.  For example, in 1861 linguist Max Müller published the following list of speculative theories:

The Bow-Wow or cuckoo theory, which Müller attributed to the German philosopher Johann Gottfried Herder, saw early words as imitations of the cries of beasts and birds.

The Pooh-Pooh theory saw the first words as emotional interjections and exclamations triggered by pain, pleasure, surprise, etc.

The Ding-Dong theory states that all things have a vibrating natural resonance, echoed somehow by man in his earliest words.

The yo-he-ho theory saw language emerging out of collective rhythmic labor, the attempt to synchronize muscular effort resulting in sounds such as heave alternating with sounds such as ho.

Then in 1930, Sir Richard Paget came up with the Ta-Ta theory, whereby he believed humans made the earliest words by tongue movements that mimicked manual gestures, rendering them audible.

The problem with these theories is that they assume that once our ancestors “stumbled upon” the appropriate ingenious mechanism for linking sounds with meanings, then language automatically evolved and changed.

Language development – an obstacle to evolution

Scholarly interest in the question of the origin of language has only gradually been rekindled from the 1950s on, with the greatest interest and research done over the last twenty years.  A number of modern theories have been proposed, but most arrive at an interesting common conclusion: that language development requires an element of trust between the communicators.

From the perspective of modern science, the main obstacle to the evolution of language-like communication in nature is not a mechanistic one; rather, it is the fact that arbitrary associations of sounds with corresponding meanings are unreliable and may well be false. 1 And if there’s a constant concern that the signals are false, they won’t survive to become a stable strategy.

Animal vocal signals are for the most part intrinsically reliable.  When a cat purrs, the signal constitutes direct evidence of the animal’s contented state.  We can ‘trust’ the signal not because the cat is inclined to be honest, but because it just can’t fake that sound.  Even primate vocal calls are hard to fake. 2 Their social intelligence is self-serving and unconstrained by moral scruples. Monkeys and apes often attempt to deceive one another, while at the same time remaining constantly on guard against falling victim to deception themselves. 3 It is precisely primates’ resistance to deception that blocks the evolution of their signaling systems along language-like lines.  Language is ruled out, because the best way to guard against being deceived is to ignore all signals except those that are instantly verifiable.

Words automatically fail this test. 4 Words are easy to fake. For language to work, then, listeners must be confident that those with whom they are on speaking terms are generally likely to be honest. 5 A peculiar feature of language is ‘displaced reference’, which means reference to topics outside the currently perceptible situation.  This property prevents utterances from being corroborated in the immediate here and now.  For this reason, language presupposes relatively high levels of mutual trust in order to become established over time as a stable strategy.  This stability is born of a longstanding mutual trust and is what grants language its authority.  A theory of the origins of language must therefore explain why humans could begin trusting cheap signals in ways that other animals apparently cannot.

None of the studies referenced come to what I consider the most obvious conclusion: that the origin of language has to be the most honest and reliable person in the universe – God.  And in spite of man’s stubbornness to recognize God’s majesty and sovereignty, He continues to communicate more and more about the wonders of His creation to mankind every day.

Not only did God reveal in His written Word the signs that would signal the approach of “the end of days,”which so many Christians are so insistent on focusing upon, but He continues to bless His creation with information about the natural world we inhabit.  He provides knowledge that allows engineers and scientists to design medical equipment and drugs that aid in the cure of many sicknesses and diseases, at the same time as He opens up the mysteries of the vast universe which God intended that we have dominion over.  Yet, this explosion of scientific knowledge has turned many in our post-modern culture to worship the creation rather than the Creator.  God doesn’t fear what people do with the knowledge He communicates to us – for each response reveals a person’s heart – whether that heart is pursuing Him or is following the path that Lucifer once took – trying to becoming a god unto themselves.  And we know how that poor choice ended up!

1 Zahavi, A. (May 1993). “The fallacy of conventional signalling.”  Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci 340 (1292): pp. 227–230.

2 Goodall, Jane (1986). The chimpanzees of Gombe : patterns of behavior. Cambridge, Mass.: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.

3 Byrne, Richard W.; Whiten, Andrew. (1988). Machiavellian intelligence : social expertise and the evolution of intellect in monkeys, apes, and humans. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

4 Knight, Chris (1998). “Ritual/speech coevolution: a solution to the problem of deception”. In James R Hurford; Michael Studdert-Kennedy; Chris Knight. Approaches to the evolution of language : social and cognitive base (Cambridge University Press). pp. 68–91.

5 Power, Camilla (1998). “Old wives’ tales: the gossip hypothesis and the reliability of cheap signals”.  In James R Hurford; Michael Studdert-Kennedy; Chris Knight. Approaches to the evolution of language : social and cognitive base (Cambridge University Press). pp. 111–129.

Is Science and Christianity reconcilable?

The media’s tendency toward conflict leaves the general public with the impression that all scientists are atheists and all Christian leaders are advocates of a faith that is blind to all evidence in the natural world.  This warfare mentality was triggered largely through the 19th century work of Andrew Dickson White, the first president of Cornell University, an outspoken champion of secularism and author of A History of the Warfare of Science With Theology Within Christendom.  Though his work is dismissed by most scholars today as pseudo-scholarly propaganda, it advanced the near-universal belief that science and Christianity can only quarrel.  Only when a giant in the dual fields of science and religion dies, as Ian Barbour who passed away over Christmas at 90 years of age, do the media ever seem to give serious patronage to the topic of reconciling the fields.   Even the so-called “Religion” sections of the mainstream media focus most often on stories that generate conflict between peoples of Faith, such as the two absurd articles I recently found in the Huffington Post: “Are Religious people less intelligent?” and “Are Protestants more creative than Catholics, Jews?”  Christian publications have done little to change the landscape of the conversation.  Generally they have ignored all discussion of scientific discoveries and theories, leaving the impression that they fear the natural implications as they relate to Holy Scripture.

 It seems that denominational and local churches have all dropped the ball on this, and have left the task of responding to the secular philosophies and the spiritual anemia rampant in the current culture, to para-church ministries.  Years ago when the local churches failed to meet their evangelistic mission,  Billy Graham stepped outside to launch the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.  To reach college and university campuses, Bill Bright started Campus Crusade.  And men like Oral Roberts, Paul Crouch, Pat Robertson and others stepped away from the Church to harness the media to reach the world.  Stand to Reason, the Christian Research Institute, Living Waters and other “apologetic” ministries have been similarly launched to defend the Christian faith, including demonstrating that it and science are reconcilable – and in fact, provides the only rational explanation for the creation and continued functioning of the natural world.

To many in the church, it’s enough to quote Romans 1:19 and 20 “what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them.  For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse,…” and then walk away from mankind, leaving each one to figure it out on their own.  But considering that our current culture is hammering the lies of atheism and evolution into our young people’s brains daily through the public school system and its textbooks, through liberal university professors who dominate higher education, through the broadcast media and through our government leaders and laws, they need to hear a strong voice from the Church.  Truth will always overcome lies, but truth must have a voice to do any good.

In point of fact, most scientific discoveries are a-religious and a-Biblical; that is, they stand alone as wonderful new information about the way our natural world functions, independent of any scriptural connation.  For example, the following are some of the most awesome discoveries of 2013.

  1. After 36 years of flight, NASA declared that their Voyager 1 spacecraft had gone interstellar.  Measurements from the probe revealed that it had slipped out from the area where the sun’s electromagnetic influence reigns and tasted the space between stars. This piece of vintage ’70s hardware has only enough memory onboard to hold an average-size JPEG file.  http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2013/09/voyager-left-solar-system/
  2.  In January, two research teams announced a fast and precise new method for editing snippets of the genetic code. The so-called CRISPR system takes advantage of a defense strategy used by bacteria. The bacteria use RNA to identify foreign DNA and enzymes to chop it up. The scientists repurposed this system so that the RNA seeks out a specific sequence of DNA — a disease-causing gene mutation, for example — and the enzymes edit the genetic code to fix the mutation.    http://www.sciencemag.org/content/339/6121/768.summary
  3.  Data from NASA’s Kepler space telescope, which hunts for exoplanets, allowed astronomers to estimate the number of alien worlds that orbit sun-like stars at just the right distance for liquid water – and perhaps life — to exist. They calculate that about one in five of the 50 billion sun-like stars in our galaxy should have an exoplanet where the temperatures are balmy and nice.  http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/kepler-space-telescope-finds-earth-size-potentially-habitable-planets-are-common/2013/11/04/49d782b4-4555-11e3-bf0c-cebf37c6f484_story.html
  4.  In April, researchers at Stanford University described a series of chemical treatments that make brain tissue almost completely transparent. Scientists can then use any number of fluorescent labels to highlight neurotransmitters and other important chemicals, or trace the long skinny axons that send information from one part of the brain to another.  The technique works in human tissue too, which bodes well for using it to study what goes wrong in everything from autism to Alzheimer’s disease in unprecedented cellular detail. It’s just the kind of tool that the new federal BRAIN Initiative announced this year hopes will usher in a fresh round of discoveries about how the brain works.  http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2013/04/clarity-brain/
  5. Scientists had wondered why a furry red creature didn’t seem to breed with others of its kind in the Andean cloud forests where it lives. This year they found out: Anatomical and DNA tests established that the olinguito is a distinct species.  It’s the first new such species of carnivorous mammal discovered in the Americas in 35 years.  http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/for-the-first-time-in-35-years-a-new-carnivorous-mammal-species-is-discovered-in-the-americas-48047/
  6.  This year scientists announced several big steps towards engineering functioning organs from stem cells.  (1) A mini brain was created from stem cells derived from reprogrammed human skin cells. By providing just the right chemical environment, European scientists coaxed the stem cells to become neurons and arrange themselves into different structures that crudely resemble the anatomy of a developing fetal brain.  The researchers are using these methods to study what goes wrong in developmental brain disorders like microcephaly, using stem cells from individual patients. http://www.nature.com/news/stem-cells-mimic-human-brain-1.13617  (2) Meanwhile, researchers in Japan developed functional human liver tissue from reprogrammed skin cells and several teams reported progress on developing kidney tissue. The road to creating transplantable tissues from stem cells is still long, but these are encouraging steps.  http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/07/03/us-liver-stemcells-idUSBRE9620Y120130703
  7.  2013 was a banner year for electronics designed to work from inside the body. Scientists developed biodegradable circuits that could one day destroy microbes with heat to help heal a wound and dissolve after they’ve done their jobs.  http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2013/05/remote-controlled-dissolvable-electronics/  They invented flexible electronic tattoos that could be loaded with enough sensors to make your FitBit seem like a clunky piece of junk.  http://www.wired.com/design/2013/02/skin-printed-electrodes/  And now we have tiny LED probes http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2013/04/light-brain/  and a stretchy foil made of gold nanoparticles that can measure and manipulate the brain.  http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2013/07/stretchy-gold-conductor/
  8.  A study published recently found that mice can pass a fearful memory down to their offspring — and even the next generation after that. Mice in these later generations froze in fear when they caught a whiff of a certain smell that their fathers (or grandfathers) had learned to associate with an electric shock. Additional experiments showed the same effect when Mom was the one with the scary experience.  The study has spurred an animated debate about how this could happen. The brains of fearful progeny contained more neurons with receptors for the scary smell, the scientists found. They suggest that chemical changes to DNA that alter the way genes work could account for the persistence of memory through the generations.  http://www.nature.com/news/fearful-memories-haunt-mouse-descendants-1.14272

These advancements should excite every Christian – as we learn more and more about the wonderful universe God created to bless us and to have dominion over.  Unfortunately, some are bound to focus on the potential evil way that mankind might use some of these technologies.  It’s up to the mature Christian to make sure he and she gets involved and participates in the advancements of this technology, rather than censors and avoids them.  None are to be feared.  We need to exercise our vote in how these technologies will be utilized in the future.

Where Science and the Bible intersect

I’m a faith person.  The Bible says I have to be a faith person: “Without faith, it is impossible to please God.”  A lot of my Christian friends have blind faith.  But my constitution demands evidence of the truth or the goodness of something before I throw my support behind it.  Fortunately for people like me, God and His people over the millenniums of time have left a lot of evidence.  I’m always in the research mode and my sensors are set on high for any news report that purports to demonstrate a link between scientific discoveries and Biblical history or prophesy.

This year alone, FoxNews.com has reported on several archaeological excavations that claim to prove a variety of stories from the Bible.  This worries a lot of scholars like Professor Aren Maeir of Bar Ilan University who says he’s concerned that archaeologists are simply relying too heavily on the Bible itself as a source of evidence to initiate their digs and to interpret their findings.

He can probably blame 19th century men like Edward Robinson and General Sir Charles Warren.  In 1838, Robinson was the first to investigate the Holy Land, when he and his missionary friend Ali Smith roamed the country and identified some of the most important biblical sites.  And between 1867 and 1870, Warren conducted the first thorough survey of the Temple Mount and its environs.  His finds were meticulously recorded for the benefit of future generations to follow.

But the true renaissance in Israel of archaeologists looking for historical evidence of biblical stories began in 1968, about a year after the Six-Day-War.  And it’s continued in earnest into the 21st century.   The discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls two decades earlier, which validated much of the Hebrew Bible, undoubted influenced these archaeologists’ interest in the Holy Land.  The area of the Temple mount specifically has long been the focal point of geographical and historical studies. The Ophel Mound in Jerusalem sits at the heart of Biblical archaeology and the site’s rich research history continues to yield incredible discoveries to this day.

Ophel, by the way, means fortified hill or risen area, similar to the Greek term Acropolis.  The Ophel Mound in the City of David, generally considered to have been the original Jerusalem, is beyond the southern edge of the Temple Mount, with the Tyropoeon Valley on its west, the Hinnom valley to the south, and the Kidron Valley on the east. The valley separating the Ophel from what is currently referred to as the Old City of Jerusalem was once deep, but now lies hidden beneath the debris of centuries.

Anyway, a few days ago, when I saw another one of these stories about a discovery relating to the Ophel Mound, my interest was peaked – and I wanted to share it with others.  www.foxnews.com/science/2013/07/31/3000-year-old-inscription-translated-biblical-history/#ixzz2aid5dssb.  The story focused on the fresh translation of a mysterious language by an ancient Near Eastern history and biblical studies expert named Douglas Petrovich.  Petrovich claims to have cracked the code for inscriptions written on jugs and monuments found across Israel in recent years.  His analysis characterizes the language as the oldest form of written Hebrew.  An earlier interpretation had presumed that the inscriptions were Canaanite in origin.  If Petrovich’s analysis proves true, it would be evidence of the accuracy of Old Testament tales.  If Hebrew as a written language existed in the 10th century (the time of David and Solomon), the ancient Israelites were recording their history in real time as opposed to writing it down several hundred years later.

The key to Petrovich’s translation is an inscription on a 10th century B.C. jug that was discovered near the Temple Mount in Jerusalem last year, which has been labeled “the Ophel Inscription.”  However, the same script has parallels from several other sites, including Tel Batash/Timnah, Izbet Zartah, Khirbet Qeiyafa, and Tel Fekheriyeh just to name a few.  So there are profound ramifications in this discovery for our understanding of the Bible.

Of course there are many who do not like to mix “the hard facts of science,” with stories from the Bible.  When a similar inscription was found in 2008 at a site many now call one of King David’s palaces, Tel Aviv University archaeologist Israel Finkelstein said romantic notions of the Bible shouldn’t cloud scientific methods, and he warned the press against the “revival in the belief that what’s written in the Bible is accurate like a newspaper.”  Archaeologist Yossi Garfinkel who recently led a ten-year excavation of the possible palace of King David, overlooking the valley where the Hebrew king victoriously smote the giant Goliath, admits that “… there is a revolution in this type of inscription being found.”  But he summarily dismissed it as “like a [cellphone] text.”  In his opinion, the writing on the jug is just a type of shorthand farmers of the 10th century used, and not an official way of communication that was passed on.

I’m always amazed that so-called experts, with similar backgrounds and training, can look at the exact same evidence and come up with conclusions that are 180 degrees opposite to each other.  And that’s the case here.  In Petrovich’s words, “It is just the climate among scholars that they want to attribute as little as possible to the ancient Israelites.”  In my opinion, I think it’s simply a fear throughout the post-modern scientific community and academia of anything that purports to make the Old and New Testaments into historical accounts of real-life events.  And that fear seems to be magnified several degrees in the face of anything that serves to connect the dots between the events described in the Bible and relating to Christian doctrine.

But I ask, what’s wrong with relying on the Bible to initiate archaeological, or any other scientific discoveries?  In the past, it was the norm for Western scientists to look to the Bible to lead them in taking that first step toward better understanding their natural world.  Matthew Maury the 19th century father of oceanography, is a good example.  He noticed the expression “paths of the sea” in Psalm 8:8 written 2,800 years before his time and said, ”If God said there were paths in the sea, I am going to find them.”  He took God at His word and went looking for these paths.  We are indebted to his discovery of the warm and cold continental currents. And other early scientists like Galileo believed that the Bible contains scientific truths and that it is the function of wise interpreters to discover these truths.

If you’re like me, you want to see and touch the evidence that you’re reading about.  With regard to the Ophel inscription, here’s the next best thing: Douglas Petrovich’s analysis of the Ophel inscription www.biblearchaeology.org/post/2013/07/25/New-Find-Jerusalems-Oldest-Hebrew-Inscription.aspx#Article and two videos made by students who assisted the archaeologist working the site where the recent discoveries were made

Dr. Eilat Mazar, of the Institute of Archaeology of The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, has excavated in ancient Jerusalem for over 30 years.  She directs archaeological excavations on the summit of the City of David and at the southern wall of the Temple Mount.  In 2009-2010, Herbert W. Armstrong College students volunteered on the first phase of the Ophel Excavation directed by Dr. Mazar.  The first half of the second phase of the excavation ran from August to December 2012, with over twenty representatives from the college assisting Dr. Mazar.  Watch the excavation in action! http://www.biblicalarchaeology.org/daily/biblical-sites-places/jerusalem/video-inside-the-2012-ophel-excavations/

In April 2013, Dr. Mazar reopened the second phase of her Ophel Excavation, uncovering the ruins of King Solomon’s complex near the foot of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. This May, the college sent fourteen students to Jerusalem to volunteer on the dig. These digs have centered around a cistern from the Second Temple period as well as some underground caverns and tunnels. The current assumption is that the cistern collected rain water for public use during the time of King Herod.  The Jewish historian, Josephus, mentions that many of the Jews hid in underground caverns and tunnels during the time of the Roman overthrow of Jerusalem around 70AD. It is possible that some of these tunnels that are mentioned in the video are the same ones mentioned by Josephus. http://exploringbiblelands.com/2013/07/03/more-information-on-the-ophel-excavations/