Saturday, 28 July 2007

The Council of Europe finds creationism dangerous

The Council of Europe has its eyes on creationism. They propose a 19 point resolution with an associated 105 point explanation. The summary states,
The theory of evolution is being attacked by religious fundamentalists who call for creationist theories to be taught in European schools alongside or even in place of it. From a scientific view point there is absolutely no doubt that evolution is a central theory for our understanding of the Universe and of life on Earth.

Creationism in any of its forms, such as “intelligent design”, is not based on facts, does not use any scientific reasoning and its contents are pathetically inadequate for science classes.

The Assembly calls on education authorities in member States to promote scientific knowledge and the teaching of evolution and to oppose firmly any attempts at teaching creationism as a scientific discipline.
Aside from being completely wrong about creationism, the document is filled with inaccurate comments and their proposals are fearsome.

Rebuting the proposal would take a bog post or several per point so I will pick out a few.
3. The prime target of present-day creationists, most of whom are Christian or Muslim, is education. Creationists are bent on ensuring that their theories are included in the school science syllabus. Creationism cannot, however, lay claim to being a scientific discipline.
Not all creationists seek to mandate teaching of creationism in schools. 2 leading creationist organisations (Creation Ministries International and Answers in Genesis) in the English speaking world and the Discovery Institute specifically have stated they do not want laws forcing their views taught. The creationist organisations' primary target is Christians within the church. And while they are happy if individual schools wish to include creationism within their curriculum, the idea of making it mandatory and therefore having opponents teach it and likely distort it is not appealing.
11. Our modern world is based on a long history, of which the development of science and technology forms an important part. However, the scientific approach is still not well understood and this is liable to encourage the development of all manner of fundamentalism and extremism, synonymous with attacks of utmost virulence on human rights. The total rejection of science is definitely one of the most serious threats to human rights and civic rights.
So how exactly is a rejection of science a serious threat to human rights? I don't advocate rejecting science but this comment is patently false. Many men have accepted science and used inventions available through scientific development to serious impinge on human rights. I don't blame science for that, but if you are wont to connect acceptance of science to human rights I think you will have stronger case for an inverse relationship that a direct one.

But the frightening comments are such as these,
17. Investigation of the creationists’ growing influence shows that the arguments between creationism and evolution go well beyond intellectual debate. If we are not careful, the values that are the very essence of the Council of Europe will be under direct threat from creationist fundamentalists. It is part of the role of the Council’s parliamentarians to react before it is too late.
The idea that the council is benevolent and knows what the society needs. They have judged creationism and found it wanting and therefore must protect the vulnerable public. They cannot be exposed to "dangerous" ideas for that will damage society. Your thoughts must be controlled and you are limited in what we will let you think about, but it is all for your own good. Trust us as we want the best for you.

All while approving of abortion and euthanasia, overriding the rights of parents (education in Germany, corporal punishment in Sweden), and witnessing a rise in slavery coincidental with the demise of Christianity.

You can worship God, but only if your religion is approved by the benevolent powers:
13. All leading representatives of the main monotheistic religions have adopted a much more moderate attitude. Pope Benedict XVI, for example, as his predecessor Pope John-Paul II, today praises the role of the sciences in the evolution of humanity and recognises that the theory of evolution is “more than a hypothesis”.
Their proposal, in 5 parts, would find agreement by creationists for the first 3:
18.1. defend and promote scientific knowledge;

18.2. strengthen the teaching of the foundations of science, its history, its epistemology and its methods alongside the teaching of objective scientific knowledge;

18.3. make science more comprehensible, more attractive and closer to the realities of the contemporary world;

18.4. firmly oppose the teaching of creationism as a scientific discipline on an equal footing with the theory of evolution by natural selection and in general resist presentation of creationist theories in any discipline other than religion;

18.5. promote the teaching
of evolution by natural selection as a fundamental scientific theory in the
school curriculum.
And the creationists would add that if 18.5 is enacted then they should do this fully, teaching evolution, warts and all—for there are many difficulties that could be raised. And if you don't want exposure to the problems but just school child acceptance of the shaky theory, then it is propaganda and not science you are proposing.


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Tuesday, 24 July 2007

Who gets saved?

The question is not infrequently raised by those within and without the church about salvation thru Christ alone. It is asked, "What about those who have never heard? " Can any outside the church can get into heaven?

There are actually several groups to consider with this question and my understanding comes thru trying to make sense of all of them. My thoughts are tentative and I am happy to adjust it if I am shown to be scripturally incorrect. Salvation is clearly thru Christ. Christianity states that men only get heaven thru Christ and I am not seeking in this post to defend this--the Bible states that we are fallen and deserve death. In terms of justice, we all deserve hell; that Christ would save any is due to his mercy. We cannot earn our salvation and it is Christ's blood that allows our sin to be forgiven. My question is, who can the blood cover?

From a salvation perspective history is divided at the cross and resurrection. This divides mankind into 2 groups. However these can further be divided into those inside and outside covenantial communities. For those prior to Christ the covenential community were those who followed Yahweh. After Christ it is the true church. Can those outside those groups get into heaven?

Exclusivists claim that only those who are inside these communities are covered by Christ's blood and thus get entry into heaven. Inclusivists say that others can get in, sometimes including people from other religions. Universalists believe that everyone eventually will get into heaven. I would consider myself to be an inclusivist though prefer the term extended exclusivist. Strict exclusives may object to that, though I prefer it as I think entry to heaven is completely tied up in following Jesus.

Previous posts have shown my views on salvation. The saved are those who follow Christ. Repentance has to do with turning around, turning from behaviour that results in death to walking in the ways of God. If this is the case then can people who have never heard the gospel follow Jesus?

One cannot reasonably follow someone they have never heard of. They can however know something of Christ indirectly. Romans informs us there is enough in natural revelation to point to a creator. Because the Holy Spirit is always at work, even amongst the unsaved, he can in some sense draw men to God. The knowledge of God these people have is very limited compared to what we have with the more specific revelation of the Bible, as well as the Holy Spirit indwelling us, but it is still knowledge.

I think it possible for men to attempt to live for God in as much as they know. People living before and after the cross may try to be obedient to what they think God requires of them based on a desire to please God. They are still sinners and fail at times. Their obedience is imperfect because of imperfect knowledge. Sin that is committed is still sin even when we don't know that it is, sincerity cannot override sin; but the punishment may be less based on incomplete awareness.

Because these people are sinners they deserve death as we all do. But I do wonder whether Jesus will allow his blood to cover those who truly wish to live for God as best they know how. It is as if they are looking for God all their lives and when they die and face Christ they recognise him as the one they were looking for.

In the final book of the Narnian Chronicles, The Last Battle, when night falls on Narnia, the creatures are all forced to look at Aslan:
But as they came right up to Aslan one or other of two things happened to each of them. They all looked straight in his face, I don't think they had any choice about that. And when some looked, the expression of their faces changed terribly—it was fear and hatred:... And all the creatures who looked at Aslan in that way swerved to their right, his left, and disappeared into his huge black shadow,... But the others looked in the face of Aslan and loved him, though some of them were very frightened at the same time. And all these came in at the Door, in on Aslan's right. There were some queer specimens among them.
While this is fiction, I think there is something to Lewis' analogy. We can't get our theology from fiction though, so is there anything in Scripture that suggests this?

Passages about Nineveh and the queen of the South may give some clues. Though one could argue these people came into a relationship with Yahweh it was possibly based on less extensive knowledge than that of the Hebrews.

Comments about god-fearing Gentiles suggest these persons were on the path to heaven with perhaps incomplete knowledge; note how Cornelius still needed to be told about Jesus. These either antedate Christ or were perhaps proselytes so do not directly equate to the current situation. But for those who have never heard of Christ, how is their situation different from others pre-Christ outside God's covenant?

Jesus tells a parable about sheep and goats. Many interpreters apply this to Christians but some apply it specifically to those who have no direct knowledge of Christ.
"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left. Then the King will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.' Then the righteous will answer him, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?' And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.'

"Then he will say to those on his left, 'Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.' Then they also will answer, saying, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?' Then he will answer them, saying, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.' And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life." (Matthew 25:31-46)
The setting is the gathering of the nations. This is perhaps a pointer to not equating the sheep with Christians and the goats with non-Christians. A second pointer is that the individuals of the nations are judged by their works. But there is a third feature that points away from this being about Christians and non-Christians. In discussing this with my pastor he suggested that the parable is very likely to be about those who have never heard the gospel because the sheep are surprised by the king's comments. The reaction of the sheep is not one that would seem likely of Christians who have already been told to feed the hungry, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked. Whereas those who seek righteousness may do these things yet not know they are doing it for Jesus.

And what of the idea that Christ avails his blood to cover those who only meet him after death? Firstly scripture suggests that we need to make our decision before death (and these people have), not that the power of atonement can only be applied before death. And secondly, this is the situation of those in covenential relationship with God pre-Christ such as Noah, Abraham and David. Christ did not die until after their death but it is still Christ's death that avails them heaven—incidentally, this is consistent with them going to Sheol after death until, at least, Christ's resurrection.

If my conclusion is true, and I am cautious about my conclusions, why evangelise? Why take the gospel to those who have never heard?

Because choosing God without the gospel is probably not common. Telling those who are seeking God about Jesus gives them joy in knowing Jesus now, security of their future, power to avoid sin, encouragement to tell others. And for the majority who are heading to hell it is the opportunity to turn. The gospel is the power of salvation, it convicts sinners who repent and choose life.

Monday, 23 July 2007

Crocodile or hadrosaur?

The bunyip displayed in my recent post has some similarities to a crocodile, notably the tail. I am uncertain what the aboriginal word for crocodile is. But there are several distinct features in the picture that are not seen in crocodiles and alligators (these are the same essential kind of animal created by God).



The legs on the drawing come from below the animal, not from the side. The animal is walking on its back feet, not all fours. And the animal's face is more representative of a duck bill than the snout of a crocodile. The picture is probably more representative of what we think a hadrosaur (a duck billed dinosaur) looked like. The interesting thing is the drawing of the bunyip predates the discovery of a fossilised duckbilled dinosaur by 13 years.

Sunday, 22 July 2007

Too many quizzes on the net

Which theologian are you?

You scored as a Karl Barth. The daddy of 20th Century theology. You perceive liberal theology to be a disaster and so you insist that the revelation of Christ, not human experience, should be the starting point for all theology.

Karl Barth

93%
Anselm

80%
Martin Luther

73%
Charles Finney

67%
John Calvin

60%
Friedrich Schleiermacher

47%
Jonathan Edwards

40%
Augustine

27%
J├╝rgen Moltmann

27%
Paul Tillich

13%

Quizfarm: Which theologian are you?

Not certain what to make of this. Better learn a bit about Barth. Pleased to score low on Augustine. The closer one can be to single figures with similarities to Tillich the better; what, with his denial of the divinity of Jesus and quotes like this,
God does not exist. He is being itself beyond essence and existence. Therefore to argue that God exists is to deny him.
I realise he is saying God is beyond existence, but given that God is himself a being...

What's your theological worldview?

You scored as a Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan. You are an evangelical in the Wesleyan tradition. You believe that God's grace enables you to choose to believe in him, even though you yourself are totally depraved. The gift of the Holy Spirit gives you assurance of your salvation, and he also enables you to live the life of obedience to which God has called us. You are influenced heavily by John Wesley and the Methodists.

Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan

89%
Fundamentalist

75%
Neo orthodox

71%
Reformed Evangelical

64%
Charismatic/Pentecostal

57%
Emergent/Postmodern

39%
Classical Liberal

36%
Roman Catholic

18%
Modern Liberal

11%

Quizfarm: What's your theological worldview?

Well, the Wesleyan comment did not really surprise me. I am surprised it scored me lower on Catholicism than Liberal Christianity though. Inadequately framed questions perhaps, and slightly simplistic approach to Pentecostalism.

Saturday, 21 July 2007

What animal is this?


Australian Aboriginals claim knowledge of an animal they call a bunyip. Many have suggested that this is mythical but when bones were shown to an Aboriginal he claimed they were from a bunyip. He gave a description of a it and drew a picture of it. When the picture was shown to other people, who do not necessarily have contact with each other, they confirmed it was a bunyip. This occurred in 1845.

I am not certain if this the the original picture or a rendition is based on the description. Does it resemble any creature extant or extinct?

Tuesday, 17 July 2007

God and God alone

My wife was playing a song on the piano this evening. Probably because the song is 20 years old we haven't sung it in church for some time. It is simple but the lyrics and music are excellent and sound. I had forgotten how much I enjoy it. I think it will stand the test of time, unlike many Christian songs—though I am told the same is true of hymns, we sing the greats and many lesser ones have been fallen by the way. Written by Phill McHugh.
Verse
God and God alone
Created all these things we call our own
From the mighty to the small
The glory in them all
Is God's and God's alone

Verse
God and God alone
Reveals the truth of all we call unknown
All the best and worst of man
Can't change the master plan
It's God's and God's alone

Chorus
God and God alone
Is fit to take the universe's throne
Let everything that lives
Reserve its truest praise
For God and God alone

Verse
God and God alone
Will be the joy of our eternal home
He will be our one desire
Our hearts will never tire
Of God and God alone

Monday, 16 July 2007

Do I have Christian worldview?

Worldview Exam: You are a Strong Biblical Worldview Thinker. But I still only scored 143 points of 170 possible, 84%. This is their ratings chart.
Scoring/Ratings Chart
Strong Biblical Worldview Thinker 75% - 100%
Moderate Biblical Worldview Thinker 50% - 74%
Secular Humanist Worldview Thinker 25% - 49%
Socialist Worldview Thinker 0% - 24%
Communist/Marxist/Socialist/Secular Humanist Worldview Thinker under 0%

Their sections were, with my score in parentheses,
  • Civil Government, 8 questions (62%)
  • Economics, 9 questions (66%)
  • Education, 6 questions (83%)
  • Family, 4 questions (100%)
  • Law, 13 questions (76%)
  • religion, 29 questions (94%)
  • science, 8 questions (81%)
  • social issues, 8 questions (93%)
For a total of 85 questions. My combined total of 84% was after a redo because of their faulty marking scheme. Sample question:
Physically and mentally healthy adults that do not work should not be protected from suffering the consequences of their actions.
Of which the possible answers are; with marking schedule:
  • Strongly Agree +2
  • Tend to Agree +1
  • No Opinion -2
  • Tend to Disagree +0
  • Strongly Disagree -1
The author may have strong Christian worldview but he doesn't have a strong ability in maths and/ or programming. If one is uncertain about an issue (no opinion) it seems unfair for them to score lower than someone who has come down strongly on the wrong side. So my redo was choosing to side on one side or another. Further, I am not certain how well this was weighted: having a strong Christian worldview of family but less so of law would count for less overall than someone in the reverse position. They need to decide how important each section is and how much it should contribute to the whole, then weight the number of questions appropriately.

One problem I had with the test is some of it relied on American history. Take this question,
The original intent of our founding fathers was a form of government that was free to set its own policy only if God had not already ruled in that area. Our founders believed that our man made laws were not to contradict the laws of God.
Whether or not one believes the founding fathers thought in a certain way does not necessarily mean one's own worldview is suspect. And if you are somewhat ignorant of American history but know how a biblical government should be founded then you deserve full credit.

Another problem I had was if one tended one way because that was the general thrust of scripture, but there are other scriptures that limit the extreme view, or scripture is not absolutely clear, then one gets only 1 of 2 possible marks. The answer to this question is either yes or no,
Adam and Eve were fictional characters that never really lived.
However the answer to this question is less clear cut,
There is no reason why a biblically-minded Christian should be opposed to human cloning.
Of course this is not a proper survey or well thought out Christian assessment, just an advertisement for their worldview seminars. You will have to unsubscribe to their newsletter afterward (click on the link at the bottom of the first email).

I applaud them for running worldview weekends, many people who become Christians know little doctrine and even when they do, seem to have some cognitive dissonance with their ideas at church and their ideas in the workplace. Others may not understand how to work out faith in practice. Ideas have consequences. While loving and obeying Jesus is more important that right belief, belief affects behaviour. We need to take every thought captive.

They need also be cautious with what they teach and their emphasis. Several concepts are clearly taught in Scripture, many are less clear and some are subtle. God's expectations of nations and his expectations of individuals may not be the same. God's priorities for kingdom citizens may be different to those who have yet to join.

Sunday, 15 July 2007

Who is Nabu-sharrussu-ukin?

Michael Jursa has found a receipt for gold on a Babylonian tablet. The tablet reads
1.5 minas of gold, the property of Nabu-sharrussu-ukin, the chief eunuch, which he sent via Arad-Banitu the eunuch to [the temple] Esangila: Arad-Banitu has delivered [it] to Esangila. In the presence of Bel-usat, son of Alpaya, the royal bodyguard, [and of] Nadin, son of Marduk-zer-ibni. Month XI, day 18, year 10 [of] Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon.
The claim is Nabu-sharrussu-ukin, chief eunuch may be Nebuzaradan, the captain of the guard who is mentioned in Kings and Jeremiah.

He is mentioned in 2 Kings 25:8,11,20; Jeremiah 39:9,10,11,13; 40:1; 41:10; 43:6; 52:12,15,16,26,30.

Nebuzaradan was the officer who burned Jerusalem
In the 5th month, on the 10th day of the month—that was the 19th year of King Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon—Nebuzaradan the captain of the bodyguard, who served the king of Babylon, entered Jerusalem. And he burned the house of the LORD, and the king's house and all the houses of Jerusalem; every great house he burned down. And all the army of the Chaldeans, who were with the captain of the guard, broke down all the walls around Jerusalem. And Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard carried away captive some of the poorest of the people and the rest of the people who were left in the city and the deserters who had deserted to the king of Babylon, together with the rest of the artisans. But Nebuzaradan the captain of the guard left some of the poorest of the land to be vinedressers and plowmen. (Jeremiah 52:12-16)
I withhold judgment currently. I am not a linguist so my opinions on the similarity of the name is of minor consequence. I am not convinced about other commonly accepted identifications such as Ahab and Jehu in Assyrian documents. It would be interesting if this proves correct and thus a reminder of the veracity of the Bible.

Saturday, 14 July 2007

Types of science

In arguments over evolution it seems like many evolutionists (and often non-evolutionists) do not understand science. Bacon gave quite a good definition

observation → induction → hypothesis → test hypothesis by experiment → proof/disproof → knowledge

The basic tenet is that we can test ideas. We want to know how something works and we do repeated experiments and others can do the same experiments. This limits our tests to the present.

To get around this limitation the term science has been expanded. People make hypotheses about single events. Events that by their nature are not repeatable. The problem is that because the term "science" is used for this also people equivocate without being aware of it and in philosophical debates conflate the meanings. This leads to absurd accusations such as creationists investigate gravitation by reading the Bible whereas evolutionists drop bricks off buildings.

What is the difference?
  • Repeatable science is called operational or empirical science.
  • Investigating events is called inferential or historical science.
It is not that an event cannot occur repeatedly, it is that a specific event occurred once. There may be many wet days but did it rain in Rome on March 15?

Proving that an event can occur does not prove that it did occur (though it may add evidence to the proposal). Showing that cats can be killed by drowning does not prove that the dead wet cat found in the rubbish bin was drowned. Proving that an event cannot occur does however counter wrong theories. Showing that jelly cannot cut skin proves the man was not stabbed to death with a giant pudding.

Inferential science in forensics is presented as circumstantial evidence. This however is not the only evidence. Witness is the other type of evidence. And a trustworthy witness is worth more than inference (though the 2 can be compatible in ways that are not immediately obvious).

There is very little difference between creationists and evolutionists about operational science. It is repeatable by anyone and the results can be seen and rechecked. The theory that best explains the data (eg. classical versus relativistic physics) and the significance of a particular experiment may differ, but the difference is still minor.

The major differences in worldview are in inferential science; the grand theories that are invoked to explain history. As we cannot observe this event due to its singular nature (that is, it occurred once) we are left with inferring the likelihood of various scenarios. Data is either consistent with these theories or not, but even showing that a fish can evolve into an amphibian now does not guarantee it has previously; it would be strong evidence that the theory is correct though. Other good evidence for the veracity of a theory is predictive evidence. Because much of a theory is modelled on observations it cannot be said to be predictive; the data is known first and the theory is derivative. Further, credence of the explanatory power of a particular paradigm is overrated, there is no end of sub theories that can be thought up after the event. Coming up with predictions that are different (therefore discriminatory) for several competing theories that can subsequently be tested can add credibility to the correctly predicting theory.

Saturday, 7 July 2007

Making energy work

Talk origins has a segment where they refute particular creationist claims. I was directed to this claim about energy transfer
Claim CF001.5:

Energy inflow into a system is not enough to make that energy useful. There must also be an energy conversion mechanism. Without that system, evolution cannot work.
Sourced from: Yahya, Harun, 2003. Darwinism Refuted, Evolution and thermodynamics.

Their response was two-fold. Dealing with them in order
Any atom can be an energy conversion mechanism. Atoms routinely convert between light energy, thermal energy, and chemical potential energy. The energy conversion mechanism is ubiquitous.
They seemed to have missed the word "useful" in the original quote. Drop water over a fall and the potential energy is converted to kinetic energy, heat and sound at ground level. How is that useful? How is that work? But place a water wheel in it's path: an "energy conversion mechanism" and one gets useful work. The "conversion mechanism" is not referring to the change in energy type, it is referring to the ability to extract work.

Moving on
A lack of an energy conversion system would not only invalidate evolution; it would invalidate life itself. Evolution requires only reproduction, natural selection, and heritable variation, all of which are observed in life. The conversion of energy is a quality of life, so the conversion system exists for evolution to work with.
Equivocation. Natural selection requires reproduction, and heritable variation (no dispute). Macroevolution requires an expanded genome: new genes, promoters, proteins, control sequences, etc. For this one needs a source, mutation being the favoured source among evolutionists. I claim no there is no known mutation that increases information. Beneficial mutations are not necessarily information gaining.

I fail to see how life invalidates the claim. Living things are energy conversion systems.

The nature of information needs expanding; but for another time.

Wednesday, 4 July 2007

Random quote

Whenever one considers the general "consensus" on anything, always keep in mind that most people are unthinking, maleducated idiots

Vox Day

Tuesday, 3 July 2007

Children: blessing or curse

The climate change fanatics have come a long way
Having large families should be frowned upon as an environmental misdemeanour in the same way as frequent long-haul flights, driving a big car and failing to reuse plastic bags, says a report to be published today by a green think tank.
The article further quotes John Guillebaud who says
The greatest thing anyone in Britain could do to help the future of the planet would be to have one less child.
Compare this to Psalm 121
Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD,/
the fruit of the womb a reward./
Like arrows in the hand of a warrior/
are the children of one's youth./
Blessed is the man/
who fills his quiver with them!
Now I don't have any desire to tell people how many children to have nor do I think the number of children produced correlates to righteousness; some people have chosen singleness for the sake of Christ. But when a philosophy contradicts Scripture you know that the philosophy is in error. The false conclusions of this group do not disprove anthropomorphic global warming but they definitely cast it in a negative light.

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