I remember the first time I heard George Washington’s Farewell Address. I was stunned. I heard things that didn’t match what I had been taught and his words described something far afield from what I was seeing in my job at the White House. It was so unsettling that it provoked an insatiable search to discover the truth about that generation and what they believed. What I found eventually led me to leave the White House to do whatever I could to restore the foundations they believed were absolutely critical to our liberty and freedom.
But it wasn’t just Washington’s words concerning the necessary foundations of religion and morality that stunned me, it was also his warning about “political parties”.
He loathed them.
Because Washington believed that a political party would eventually begin to primarily seek those things that brought it power and control rather than seeking those things that were best for the country.
He was prophetic.
For the political parties today, by and large, do just that.
Case in point: the current flap over whether or not the Census in 2020 should include a simple question that asks if the person is a citizen of the United States. Now, for a farm kid from Idaho, this sounds like a reasonable question that a nation might want to ask. Many other nations ask it; the U.N. recommends it; the Constitution actually demands it by requiring "complete and accurate data" and this is why it was a question on the Census up until the 1950's. One would think, in our times of intense debate about illegal aliens, that we would want to have accurate data on the subject. But, instead, it has now created a firestorm and numerous states have brought a law suit to ban this question from the Census. Eric Holder and the California Attorney General claim this question is "irresponsible" and "unconstitutional".
Why? What is going on here?
Well the answer isn’t found in something compassionate concerning non-citizens, but it is found by looking at the loss or gain of power associated with asking a citizenship question. One particular party knows that if the Census asks that question, it could change the numbers that would reduce their power.
This is much like the flap over the Constitution’s three-fifth rule concerning counting slaves. Many have pointed to it as proof that the founders believed black people were only three-fifths of a human being. But they are ignorant of the fact that it was all about power. The slave-states wanted their slaves counted so it would increase their “representation” and the non-slave states didn’t want them counted because they wanted to reduce the power of slave-holding states.
If you look behind the rhetoric today, you will find much of the same thing. One party derives power by having more illegal aliens in the country or by increasing the number of “dependents” or “wards” of the state; both parties derive power by promising largess from the treasury; one party derives power by doing everything it can to destroy the reputation of those in the other party.
Is it for the flourishing of the people?
No. It is for power.
Why do many votes fall along “partisan” lines? Is it because they differ so radically on what would be best for the nation or is it simply for the sake of their party? When a sound judge is nominated for an office, why does one party stonewall him? Is it for the best of the nation or is it another party power play?
It’s all about power.
You’ve heard the phrase “follow the money”. Well, when you see and hear the intense political rhetoric and hatred today, simply ask the question: “Which party gains from this?”… and you will have a better understanding of what is really going on.
Often, one party will feign a deep benevolent concern for a segment of the culture, but it is not because they have a real compassionate heart for them, some do for sure, but it is primarily because that segment represents a voting block. Much like Judas (John 12:5-6), who feigned concern for the poor, not because he had a real compassion for them, but because he was stealing from the till.
It’s all about power. And power is about money and control and significance.
And that does not seek the “general welfare” of the nation.
Listen to Washington’s words:
“It [the political party] serves always to distract the public councils and enfeeble the public administration. It agitates the community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms, kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which finds a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions.”
He also believed that this “partisan lust for power” and the alternating domination of one political party over another would eventually lead to one party, when it enjoyed the position of power, to “exact revenge on the other”.
It isn’t hard to see, with the deep hatred that is expressed by the current party out of power, that when they regain it, they will scorch the earth with revenge.
This is scary.
And that is why Washington was not a party animal.
I saw “Risen” last week while in Tennessee. Great movie. I had never thought about the possibility that Pilate would have a deep interest in finding the body of Jesus. For sure, the Jewish hierarchy would have been rabid to do so. They had taken measures beforehand to ensure no one stole the body and then when the tomb was found empty, they immediately bribed the guards to spread a lie. For sure, they would have done everything possible to find Jesus’ body in order to squash a “resurrection” movement. But I’ve never considered the political pressure that Pilate would have felt to do the same.
With both the power of Rome and the power of the High Priest joined together to find the corpse, it would have been pretty much impossible for someone to pull off such a hoax. Especially since, as the movie portrayed, the evidence at the tomb had to be significant. Ropes that were busted “like thread”, the huge stone tossed aside like nothing, grave clothes collapsed upon themselves, guards giving fearful testimony of something terribly “supernatural” happening… evidence that didn’t match up with a body heist by a bunch of uneducated fishermen.
The movie followed a plausible course in which the Roman Tribune, sent by Pilate, squeezes all the possible suspects and witnesses, looking for answers, and, hopefully, a dead body. But instead of a corpse, the Tribune comes face to face with Jesus… alive. Risen. Just as He had said.
This is the heart of the movie plot and what happens in the heart of the Tribune as he encounters the risen Nazarene.
But what struck me was the scene when the Tribune had hauled in Bartholomew and was putting pressure on him to reveal where they had taken the body. The disciple wasn’t fazed by the intimidation, nor the threats. Surely, the Tribune had the power of life and death over him, but Bartholomew was overpowered, instead, by the reality that Jesus was really, really alive. He had seen Him. He had talked with Him. It was true… absolutely true. All doubts were now gone. And if Jesus had really risen from the dead, then everything about Jesus… everything He had said, everything He had done, everything He had been teaching them was not only confirmed, but it meant that death was NOTHING… the grave was NOTHING. And so, standing in the presence of a worldly power that could have easily hung him on a cross as well, Bartholomew spoke with a sense of awe and inner joy: “If you want to crucify me, I will gladly submit… this changes everything!”
And from that point on in the film, in the back of my mind I wondered, why don’t I carry that same sense of awe and inner joy and outlook on life?
The resurrection of Jesus is by far the most documented event in the Scripture. It is virtually impossible for anyone to mount an honest and credible argument against it. For those, of course, who do not believe, no amount of evidence would suffice, much like George Wald and spontaneous generation or Francis Crick and DNA.
But I am not writing for those who do not believe, but for those who do… because it is easy to allow the narrative of the Easter event to become just that… an oft-heard narrative… so familiar, so common, that we are no longer moved by its reality.
That is why I have continually asked myself the question:
“Do you really believe that what you believe is really real?”
Bartholomew was realistically portrayed in the movie as one who had “seen the risen Jesus” and for him it “changed everything”. The Tribune saw Jesus alive as well and the movie concluded with him taking off his Tribunal signet ring and confessing, “I can never be the same.”
For those of us who believe, we, too, at some time have confessed the same thing, that we would never be the same again.
But the flow of the world pulls at us daily… like a relentless gravity… and our perspective shrinks back into the box and into the mold of a world that continually acts as if there is nothing outside of that box… the only reality is the physical realm that we are bumping around in minute after minute, year after year, life after life… matter and energy is all there is… survival of the fittest… grab what you can… all about me… nothing really matters.
And all of that would be true…
Jesus rose from the dead.
He really did.
“Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O grave, is your sting?” 1 Corinthians 15:54-55
May this amazing reality be lived out in our lives daily.
Because if He lives…
it really does change everything.
I rarely endorse things, but I wanted to make sure you were aware of the upcoming release of what I believe is a “must see” film, I Can Only Imagine.
Odds are you’ve heard the song many times. It is the only Christian single to ever reach 2x platinum for over 2 million digital downloads. It took Bart Millard ten minutes to write and nothing was changed from those original words. He wrote it as a tribute to his dad, who, in Bart’s words, was a “monster”.
But the movie really isn’t about the song. It’s there at the end, but it’s the deeply captivating story behind the song that takes you from hopelessness and tears of abuse to the joyful tears of redemption. That’s all I ‘m going to say except that you must see this film. I’ve seen it twice and I’m going again.
Gather your family and your friends and go experience it. Get your neighbors together and go.
Everything about it is phenomenal.
It will put a lump in your throat, warmth in your heart and something wet in your eyes.
It will move you.
Thomas Kuhn, in his radical book, “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions” chronicles the rise and fall of what he calls “scientific paradigms” throughout the history of science. As each paradigm arose, it laid claim to how one thought of science and how one “did” science. It even crafted the definition.
While a paradigm reigned, it controlled the questions and answers—not through some sinister tyranny—but because it set the framework and boundaries, and one’s thinking just naturally stayed within that box. At some point, however, reality and pesky observations that didn’t “fit” the framework mounted up until the paradigm collapsed under their weight and a new one arose… a paradigm that drew a different box, attempting to minimize all the rogue data points. But, alas, over time, that paradigm began to be troubled by its own maverick observations, and, taking its place in the dustbin of scientific paradigm history, it, too, collapsed, giving way to the next. And so it has gone, up to the present.
Kuhn’s book, as you can imagine, didn’t set well with the scientific establishment, for it raised questions about whether or not the reigning paradigm really had a lock upon scientific truth as it loudly claimed and as every paradigm before it loudly claimed. One only has to remember the complex epicycles that were constructed when Ptolemy’s framework reigned to visualize how a paradigm struggles for years and years to hang on in the midst of increasingly troubling observations. I believe we are seeing history repeating itself today.
It is important to keep in mind, therefore, how fallible science really is, especially in a culture that carries an almost divine view of the current paradigm. This is, unfortunately, what many Christians have done when they put their faith in a paradigm that, in my opinion, will most likely soon collapse.
The current scientific paradigm can be roughly assumed to have arisen around the publishing of Einstein’s theory of relativity. But it wasn’t his theory that was the major change from Newton. It was the deep and total wedding of the new paradigm to the philosophy of naturalism. This is important to understand, for the paradigm was now bounded by that philosophy. No matter what the observations were, no matter what the evidence was, the paradigm must always point to natural causes. Indeed, you are not able to publish any research or textbook that points to anything but a natural cause. And because it has defined “science” this way, if you do research that does point to a supernatural cause, your work will be labeled “pseudoscience”.
This is the accusation leveled at those who support or are working in the “Intelligent Design” arena. When we did a Cross Examine show on Dr. Guillermo Gonzalez, he talked about how he was denied tenure because he authored an Intelligent Design textbook “The Privileged Planet”. The book didn’t name “God” but it pointed to a “cause” that wasn’t random and mindless. Ben Stein’s movie “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed” attempted to chronicle this almost militant position that the paradigm has fortified against those who dare point outside of the cosmic box of naturalism.
When a paradigm reins, those boundaries of thought and inquiry are found to be ubiquitous within the culture, extending to not just the centers of cultural power, like academia and the media, but to the common man. I have often, in discussion with people regarding the work of “creation” scientists been met with the response, “but that’s not science”. Of course it isn’t if you accept the current paradigm’s definition that all scientific inquiry and conclusions must be consistent with naturalism.
But it wasn’t always this way.
Consider several paradigms ago, during the days of Johannes Kepler:
“The chief aim of all investigations of the external world should be to discover the rational order and harmony which has been imposed on it by God.”
This was a paradigm, though inadequate in some of its conclusions, which allowed for scientific inquiry that could point to both natural and supernatural causes.
That would be labeled “pseudoscience” under the current paradigm.
Let me give a real life example as to how this works.
Dr. Francis Crick was the co-discoverer of DNA. When he realized what they were looking at—the immense complexity and exquisite order of something akin to millions and millions of lines of computer software code, fully debugged and elaborate beyond anything we could dream of creating—he was struck by the impossibility that it could have arisen even with the billions of years within the framework of the paradigm. But he was bounded and constricted by that paradigm to only point to natural causes. Therefore, instead of concluding the way Kepler would have concluded, Crick posited the theory of “Directed Panspermia”… the theory that life must have come from outer space.
Now, this obviously doesn’t solve the problem of how such deep complexity can arise by random processes just because you throw it off to another planet, but it fell within the paradigm’s code of conduct and so it was an acceptable theory.
Dr. George Wald provides another insight into the power of a paradigm’s covenant:
“Most modern biologists, having reviewed with satisfaction the downfall of the spontaneous generation hypothesis, yet unwilling to accept the alternative belief in special creation, are left with nothing. I think a scientist has no choice but to approach the origin of life through a hypothesis of spontaneous generation… One has only to contemplate the magnitude of this task to concede spontaneous generation of a living organism is impossible. Yet here we are, as a result. I believe in spontaneous generation.”
Here is the clearest picture of what happens when the evidence obviously points to a supernatural cause, yet the paradigm prohibits it. Wald admits that he has to believe in something “impossible” because he is not allowed to believe in a supernatural “possible”.
Yet this is the paradigm in which many Christians have put their faith. And they have put their faith in it so deeply that they hold its conclusions to be absolute and the Scriptures must therefore be bent to conform to it.
In the Truth Project, I laid out the relationship of scientific observation and God’s Word. I labeled the later “Primary Truth” (Special Revelation) and the former “Secondary Truth” (General Revelation). I did so because I believe that we are called to begin with the Word of God as inviolable and we interpret the world around us in that light. Yes, it is true that the Bible does not speak of the atomic weight of uranium nor the amount of gravitational force that one body imposes upon another. God has given us the ability and the privilege to discover Secondary Truth from our observations. But when those observations come into obvious conflict with His Word, we must stand on His Word first. Now, it is also true that the Scripture does speak in genres other than historical narrative on occasion and many have undertaken the attempt to treat Genesis in another genre in which it can be liquefied and molded into the paradigm’s conclusions. And, I would be the first to say that if Genesis were written in poetic or metaphoric form, I would be more than willing to consider the paradigm’s reasoning. But it clearly is not any genre but historical narrative and there is nothing in the text, nor the words of Jesus when referring to Genesis, nor God’s word to Moses and the children of Israel when He implemented the Sabbath for them, nor any other place in the Scripture where it points back to Genesis that would indicate the text is anything but historical narrative.
This is why we interviewed Dr. Steve Boyd, considered one of the world’s best Hebraists. He said that the genre of Genesis is unquestionably historical narrative and anyone who wants to interpret it in another genre is doing so because he is first being driven by a belief that is external to the text.
Finally, it seems to me that the current paradigm is becoming increasingly unstable. As we discover more and more exquisite complexity within the living cell—amazing tiny machines performing sophisticated and inter-related tasks—it is difficult to rationally hang on to the “random-mindless-natural-processes-did-this” explanation. The more we study the rocks and fossils, the more untenable is the old theory that the layers and fossils were formed slowly over long periods of time. I have long thought that if Genesis didn’t record a global flood, science would propose it. Radiometric dating is being questioned. Soft dinosaur tissue is again roaming the earth and stirring up trouble. The big bang is exploding. Observations are now leading many to think the earth is headed toward a cooling cycle. And who knows if coffee is good or bad or good or bad for you.
But beyond the evidential problems, the human soul can only take so much of a philosophy that declares there is nothing spiritual about this world and our existence… that we are merely cause and effect machines with no souls that survive death and no ultimate purpose or meaning to our lives—a philosophy that will increasingly move toward more and more suicide and more and more violence as we increasingly embrace the underlying cosmic “truth” of “the survival of the fittest”. It is this hunger for something “spiritual” in a paradigm of only matter and energy that is driving why we see such a flood of movies and media that are filled with vampires and zombies, super heroes and the paranormal, and, of course, “the Force be with you”.
The current paradigm will collapse; all we have to do is look at history to know it will. The question is, what will take its place? If nothing else changes, it could be some form of the paranormal or an alien-based framework that tries desperately to draw another box to minimize all the pesky outliers—outliers that will never be understood without committing oneself first to the plain truth that the real Creator gave to us a long time ago.
Please, don’t put your faith in a temporary paradigm that is bounded by naturalism and teetering under the weight of contrary evidence. Put your faith first in God’s Word and then interpret the world through His lens.
[PS… for those who do hold a different position in all of this, please accept my observations in the light of Christian love in which I intend for it to be read. Blessings to you.]
Yesterday, we laid out the four basic views on Genesis and origins. Today, we want to deal with the “dichotomies” that exist between these positions, and specifically, the one we dealt with in the film, “Is Genesis History?” The word “dichotomy” simply means “contrast” or “division” and where we drew that line raised some controversy and consternation.
Recall that these four positions are primarily characterized by how they view current scientific claims and how they treat the text in Genesis, specifically Genesis 1-11.
If you look at the picture, I have drawn a white dotted line that marks the first obvious division, or “dichotomy”, in the four views. This division has to do with the belief in the existence of God. The Secular Evolution position does not acknowledge His existence; the other three positions do. Now, this does not necessarily mean that someone who holds the Secular Evolution position doesn’t believe in the existence of God, it just means that when it comes to speaking, writing, teaching, researching or talking about origins, they don’t acknowledge Him. If the point of the film had been to deal with the question of God’s existence, then we would have drawn the line between positions one and two and that would have been the focus of my questions to the scientists.
The second obvious division is represented by the black dotted line. It sets the demarcation between the belief in evolution or creation. Just the labels used for each position make drawing this line quite easy. It is important to note that the first two views are committed to evolutionary theory first when it comes to their position on Genesis. The Secular Evolution perspective disregards the text as either irrelevant to the discussion of origins or labels it as myth. The Deistic Evolution perspective, in most cases, embraces the Bible, yet it, too, is committed to evolution theory first. This necessitates interpreting Genesis in a genre in which the text can be “liquefied” so as to be easily reconciled with Evolutionary conclusions and timelines.
We need to stop here, because this is a critical point that must be understood. Liquefying a text means one declares it to be a flexible genre such as myth, poem or metaphor, where the interpretation of the words and text are left primarily up to the reader. I remember attending a “Folk Literature” class in college and was astounded at how “liquid” the professor encouraged us to make the works we were reading. I thought the story was about a boy and his dog, but she taught us to read into it whatever we wanted. The same happens to Scripture when we change the genre from historical narrative, where words have a fixed meaning, into metaphor, where the words are pliable and can be squeezed into most anything. This linguistic “switch” provides the mechanism for someone to look at words such as God creating Adam and Eve on Day six, which appear to be historical statements, but declare them instead to be metaphor and then interpret the passage to mean something radically different: that the progression of evolution reached a point where a hominid group had advanced enough to be metaphorically labeled “Adam and Eve”. This is the power that is granted to the reader when the text is moved from historical narrative to a genre of liquidity. It also allows one to still claim to “hold to the Bible” though in reality they have molded the Biblical text to match the scientific claims that they believe should be held to first.
However, this was not the dichotomy that we dealt with in the film. If it had been, I would have been asking questions focused upon evolution versus creation only.
This brings us to the final “division”, which is the large yellow line in the picture. It sets the “dichotomy” between the first three positions and the fourth position, Historical Creation.
This was the dichotomy that we dealt with in the film and it is here that the controversy and consternation arose.
The Deep Time Creationists didn’t like being lumped in with the first two positions (I don’t blame them) and so they accused us of creating a “false dichotomy”. Now I will agree that the line between positions two and three, evolution and creation, is a whole lot thicker than the line between three and four. But, the dichotomy between Historic Creationists and the other three views does exist and it is not insignificant.
Let’s look at it.
The Historical Creation view reads the Genesis text as a literal, historical narrative. This leads to a position that God created everything in the way it is laid out in the text: creation in the span of six days, a literal Adam and Eve, a literal Fall, a global flood, a Tower of Babel, etc. The Historical Creation view begins with the text first and attempts to understand the world around us in light of that text rather than beginning with a scientific claim and trying to mold the text to fit that claim.
Those who hold to the Deep Time Creation view, however, come to the text with a belief that the scientific claim of Deep Time is absolute and therefore the text has to be interpreted to fit that claim. In this, they come to the text in the same way the first two positions do. Now, granted, the Deep Time Creationists that I know (and love) hold to a literal Adam and Eve, a literal Fall, etc. But everything in the text where a historical reading would be incompatible with the view of Deep Time is then reinterpreted to fit that timeline. The “evening and morning”, for example, are not a literal evening and morning, but millions or billions of years. The order of creation is not literal, but more symbolic or metaphorical, liquefied to match the evolutionary timeline. If you look at the timeline laid out by Hugh Ross, the most prominent Deep Time Creationist author, the creative acts of God are approximately every 20 million years and there is a different order than the text presents. The two events in Genesis that come in most conflict with Deep Time are the creation of the stars and the Noahic Flood. Therefore, the flood has to be interpreted as either a local flood or symbolic of God’s judgment and the stars, planets and elements came about not by God speaking them into existence, but after billions of years of cosmic evolution.
These interpretations are not driven by the text, but rather by the belief that the scientific claims are absolute regarding Deep Time. The text is therefore secondary to that claim and must be interpreted in such a way as to match it. I can guarantee that if science posited Near Time, no one would be arguing that the text demands millions and billions of years. The contrast here with the Historical Creation position is not insignificant and I do not believe it was a “false dichotomy”.
Now, I understand their frustration and can even sympathize with the argument that we didn’t take the time to deal with the differences between these various positions. That may be a valid complaint. However, the film was not intended to be a tutorial on the four positions. Its purpose was to give evidence for the position that holds to the historicity of Genesis and therefore to show the scientific support for a Near Time perspective of the universe and life and the historical reading of the text. And, in all fairness, we were so pressed with time constraints that we not only had to cut the time down for the scientists and the evidence that eventually made the film, but we had to leave out incredible interviews such as Dr. Larry Vardimer on the ice age as we stood beneath the glaciers of Mt. Shukstan or Dr. Stuart Burgess filmed in the swamp at Reelfoot Lake or Dr. Joe DeWeese in the cancer research lab at Lipscomb University.
The purpose of the film was to deal with the historicity of Genesis and over and over again we made the point that the issue was “time”… “deep time” versus “near time”, for this was, in essence, the basis for a very different view of history. It would have been impossible for anyone to miss this point. Therefore, the line of dichotomy in the film was drawn between positions three and four. Again, it is not surprising that we have been criticized by Deep Time Creationists for lumping them in with those in position one and two. But I am convinced that no matter what “contrast” we had used, no matter where we had drawn the line of dichotomy, there would have been complaints by the Deep Time Creationists because of who they had been “lumped” with. They clearly don’t want to be lumped with evolutionists and they clearly don’t want to be lumped with “young-earthers”. :) I understand that completely. But they do share the “deep time” and evolutionary timeline of the first two positions and therefore they are forced to interpret Genesis in such a way that is incompatible with its historical narrative. My Deep Time friends don’t like that statement, but it is true. The flood isn’t really global, but local in order to preserve the deep time in the rocks. The “days” aren’t really days and the order of the created events are rearranged to match the evolutionary timeline.
When God called forth Israel as a nation, He gave them the 7-day week as a structure for their life, to work six days, as He had done, and then rest on the 7th. These are the words of God spoken to Moses:
So the sons of Israel shall observe the Sabbath, to celebrate the Sabbath throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant. It is a sign between Me and the sons of Israel forever; for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, but on the seventh day He ceased from labor, and was refreshed. Exodus 31:16-17
It is hard for me to even imagine how this could be any clearer. I cannot imagine the creation of God spanning billions of years and then have Him so clearly state that He created it all in six days and in a particular order if He really didn’t do that. I cannot imagine that the creation involved millions of years of death with creatures of great violence tearing each other apart, most becoming extinct, before Adam comes on the scene. This is far from the historical narrative. And it doesn’t match what I understand God will do in the future when the lion will lie down with the lamb.
This is why there is a historical dichotomy line that runs between the Historic Creationist position and the other three positions. And it is this dichotomy that was being addressed in the film. It isn’t a false dichotomy. There is a great “contrast” between the historical narrative laid down in Genesis and the histories of the other three views.
This line of course, merely divides the positions we hold and it should not be used as a line to divide us as followers of Christ. I want to again express my deepest respect and admiration for my Deep Time Creationist friends and organizations like the Discovery Institute who have been invaluable in the cause for Intelligent Design. We are all enriched by that work. Though we have different positions, it is important that we show the world that we are united in Christ.
It should be clear, however, that in all of this, the weight of the claims of science is significant. It causes many to believe it has the correct interpretation of the evidence and should therefore be held as primary truth and the Scripture secondary. Next time, we will examine the current role and philosophy of science and how it impacts each of these positions.