Merry Christmas

For God So Loved the World “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16 ESV)

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. (Luke 2:1-20 ESV)

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I Am Wonderfully Made

For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. (Psalm 139:13-14 ESV)

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Christmas seems like a great time to talk about the birth of a child. So for the next few days that is what I hope to do. Today though I am not going to write about the child you expect. No, today I go closer to home. The past November on the 26th at 9:31 PM we welcomed a new addition to our family, a new granddaughter Clara Mae. Clara was 8 pounds and 1 ounce and 20 inches long. No matter how many times I see a newborn I cannot help but think of the miracle that is the birth of a baby. How is it that something so complex as a human being can start out as a microscopic cell and grow into this perfect replica of their parents?

Now the naturalist leaning will tell us that it is just a matter of the cell splitting and then using the information contained in the DNA to over the course of about nine months form a baby. All very natural and no need to bring in any supernatural elements thank you very much.

Yet when we look at how the fertilized egg “knows” what to do and in what order to create this new human we have to look at the DNA. DNA is the language of the cell. Every creature that has ever lived on this earth has DNA and uses it to replicate and repair itself. The DNA alphabet consists of four letters and every creature including us uses these four letters to reproduce. Think about that for a moment.

The English alphabet has 26 letters. Other alphabets have more or fewer letters of characters but none have only four. Yet somehow the four letters in our DNA are able to carry all the information needed to make another human.

I am typing this on Microsoft Word. Word allows me to change to font and its size. I can alter the spacing and numerous other aspects of my document with a few clicks of the mouse. I just type and words appear on my screen. Now I am not a programmer and have no idea how complex the code that created Word is but I am betting it is pretty complex. Yet the coding for word is child’s play next to the coding that was needed to create me.

Now no one I know thinks that somehow Word was created without the need for intelligence. Yet many think that the code to create each of us somehow just came about through a random and undirected process. That just doesn’t seem very likely to me.

Over three thousand years David wrote a praise to God. In it he acknowledges that God formed him in his mother’s womb. David realized that something as remarkable as humans needed something more than just chance. We need a creator. Someone who guides us from the moment of conception to the moment we draw our final breath.

When I hold my new granddaughter Clara I am once again reminded of the miracle of birth. It is another miracle of birth that we celebrate every December 25th when God Himself came down to live amongst us.

Have a blessed day,

David

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I Am

Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations. (Exodus 3:13-15 ESV)

A while ago I was out running errands when Tony Evans came on the radio. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Dr. Evans, he is the Senior Pastor to the over 9,500 member Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas, Texas, and the first African American to earn a doctorate in Theology from Dallas Theological Seminary where he taught evangelism, homiletics and black church studies at DTS, and serves on its Board of Incorporate Members. He is a speaker, teacher and writer and in my opinion one of the best speakers around. His enthusiasm for the Word is contagious and his speaking style reminds me of some of the old time Baptist pastors. He has a way of making difficult scripture accessible to all.

Doctor Evans short radio piece was on Exodus 3 verses 13 to 14. As you can see from reading the verses we have Moses having doubts if the Hebrews will believe he has been sent from God. So, Moses asks God if the ask who should he say has sent him. God answers Moses saying ““I AM WHO I AM.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘The LORD, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations”

Doctor Evans makes the observation that God by using “I AM WHO I AM” is telling Moses and us that He is self-existent, that is that God is not contingent on anything else for his existence. Let’s take a look at what The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Revised Volume 2, Page 507 has to say about how God identifies Himself, God declares that His name is ʾehyeh ʾašer ʾehyeh. The verb ʾehyeh is imperfect qal and is obviously linked to the tetragrammaton, as vv 14f make plain. Of the two possible senses for it, “I am who/what I am” and “I will be who/what I will be,” the latter is preferable but not because the idea of God as a self-existent, unique, transcendent being is “foreign to Hebrew thought,” as has often been said (cf. Isa. 40–55, which describe Yahweh in exalted language that implies all those things). Rather, it is preferable because the verb hāyâ has a more dynamic sense of being—not pure existence, but becoming, happening, being present—and because the historical and theological context of these early chapters of Exodus shows that God is revealing to Moses, and subsequently to the whole people, not the inner nature of His being, but His active, redemptive intentions on their behalf. He “will be” to them “what” His deeds will show Him “to be.”

 

To the Hebrew people God was not a being that came into existence but a being that had always existed and it is this eternal existence that concerns me today. How often have you heard the question “who made God?” Children will sometimes ask this question but all too often unbelievers will also ask this question thinking they have somehow asked the question that puts to rest the existence of God. But they have missed a very important point when we look at how the universe came to be.

We know today that the universe had a beginning. Every experiment conducted over the last fifty plus years points to the fact that our universe is not eternal and had a definite birth about 14 or so billion years ago. Let us take a quick look at causality. Something can be uncaused, it can be caused by something else or it can be self-caused. We can rule out the last example because it is a logical impossibility. In order to be self-caused that thing would have to exist before it existed. This is clearly impossible. We are then left with two means of causality, something can be either uncaused of caused to come into existence by something else. Our own experiences are very familiar with things being caused by something else. Babies are caused by their parents. Buildings are caused by teams of workers. Canyons are caused by erosion and mountains by plate tectonics. Everywhere we look one thing is caused by another thing. Something had to exist in order to cause something else to come into existence.

What about the universe? What caused the universe to come into existence? Furthermore, why is the universe even here? If there was a time when something did not exist then why does it exist today? It is the fact that the universe had a beginning that has scientists and philosophers jumping through hoops since the 1960 trying to come up with a reason that does not involve God.

They have come up with all manner of multiverses or special quantum fluxes in order to show how the universe came into existence. Do you spot the flaw in these arguments? They do not tell us how everything began. The multiverse just passes the problem to another level. You are just adding universes one before the other, this begs the question of what caused the universe. The multiverse is an example of an infinite regress as a joke it is called “Turtles all the way down” This came about when people argued for a flat earth. When asked what held up the earth the answer was a large turtle. So what was that turtle standing on, another turtle. The line of reasoning leads to the answer, there are turtles all the way down. Down to what is left unanswered.

The quantum flux needs space time to happen but unless we are to dismiss Einstein we have nothing for the quantum flux to flux in. Einstein’s theories wrap space time with the universe. They all happened together. Where does this leave us? There must be a first cause. For anything physical to exist there has to be a first cause and this first cause has to be uncaused. That is it always has to have existed and always will exist, eternal.

What would this first cause look like? As I said before it has to be eternal and uncaused. The universe can give us other clues. Our universe has rational laws that govern it so the first cause has to be rational. The universe is ordered so the first cause should also be orderly. The universe was created so the first cause has to be creative. The universe exists where it could not exist this can lead us to think the first cause is loving. To create something as large and powerful as the universe out of nothing means the first cause is all powerful. The first cause would have to have infinite intelligence and knowledge to create something as our universe that eventually is home to an intelligent species.

The first cause should be loving, rational, all powerful, eternal, all knowing and intelligent. This sounds an awful like the God described in the Bible. This is something that the Hebrew people knew over four thousand years ago. It is something that believers know today. Unbelievers have to jump through a lot of hoops in order to get around God. But even with all their machinations they still have not answered to question, where did everything come from.

What I have written today is a long drawn out version of the Kalam Cosmological argument. This line of reasoning is as follows, whatever begins to exist has a cause; the universe began to exist; therefore: the universe has a cause. A year or so back one of my atheist readers commented that he had refuted the Kalam argument. I looked at his refutation and what I found was a version of the multiverse theory. In his example he postulates that the universe was created similar to how droplets of water are created when waves crash upon the shore. What is missed is where did the ocean that created the wave come from not to mention the shore. These types of arguments may answer how the universe came into being but ignores the question of where everything originally came from or why there is anything at all.

For a summary of the Kalam argument for God look at my post on this blog. Or for an in depth look get William Lane Craig’s The Kalam Cosmological Argument.

Have a blessed day,

David

PS: To my readers, my apologies for not posting in such a long time. As some of you know I retired last year and I have often been asked what the most difficult thing about retirement is. I answer for me it is the lack of structure. I got my first real job as a painter’s helper when I was 14.Before that I mowed neighbor’s lawns. I have either worked, gone to school or both since then. Last year I found myself without the structure that I had for 50 years. Also, being home I tend to see something that needs doing and just do it which leads to a lot of jumping around. So as I seek to put structure in my daily life and as Gail and I travel the country please bear with me. My goal is to write a post at least once a week and to finish my study of Luke. Thanks for your patience and understanding.

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An Atheist Questions the Logic of Darwinism, Part 3

Part 3 of the series

Thomistic Bent

In the previous post, we learned that Thomas Nagel’s book Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False maintains that if indeed the world really exists in a mind-independent way (such as sugar or water) and if some things exist in a mind-dependent way (such as the taste of sweetness or the experience of pain as being bad), then consciousness exists and our observations of the world are not an illusion. Such a consciousness presents several complications for Neo-Darwinism due to 1) the need for a physical body to evolve a mental brain before the capabilities of the brain are considered, 2) the failure of a way to break down consciousness into components that could evolve, and 3) the failure to have an evolutionary schema that would allow for mental and physical evolution to happen in single events in organism.

Nagel’s next tact is…

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An Atheist Questions the Logic of Darwinism, Part 2

Part 2 in this series.

Thomistic Bent

Thomas Nagel, in his important book Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False, systematically challenges several important areas of study, claiming that neo-Darwinism cannot adequately explain the development of the biological world around us. The three big areas that he presents as issues are consciousness, cognition, and value.

Nagel argues that consciousness presents a significant problem for Darwinism. Since consciousness exists as a part of life, it must be considered in the explanation of how life came to be. As evolutionary biology is a physical theory, it has a choice of either reducing the mental to the physical or claiming the mental has some active part in life. If the evolutionist chooses the first option, it cannot account for mental things that are not physically reducible. If the second option is chosen, then evolutionary biology is no longer a purely physical theory…

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An Atheist Questions the Logic of Darwinism (Part 1)

This post from my friend Glenn is a great fit with my previous posts on evolution. David

Thomistic Bent

Evolution, as understood in the popular circles as purely random physical mutations filtered by natural selection, is increasingly under attack. It’s defenders must continue to climb further onto a limb and make explanations that taste more and more like just-so stories.

One recent attack on evolution comes from atheist philosopher Thomas Nagel who wrote the book Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature is Almost Certainly False. Nagel’s explanations are reasonable, but written as a philosopher who sometimes paints in broad strokes. His conclusions, however, are strong enough to deserve attention from the Darwinists.

Nagel is no religious zealot, for he clearly states what he would conclude if left to his own personal desires: “My preference for an immanent, natural explanation is congruent with my atheism.”(p.95) He denies any arguments that require a Designer (p.12), yet calls for intelligent design proponents to be treated more fairly and…

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Basic Islam – Part 5

Part five in John’s series on Islam. I agree that witnessing to Muslims should be done with a loving heart. Attacking someone’s religion is never a good way to build a relationship or trust. In my opinion the two toughest religions to witness to are Islam and Mormonism. To convert from either means banishment from family and friends. In the case of Islam it can mean death. Have a blessed day, David

Veracity

Uncomfortable Harry Bliss, The New Yorker, September 6, 2010

Suppose that you’re a Christian who wants to share your faith with a Muslim. How would you go about doing that? Further, suppose that you appreciate how difficult it is for anyone to overcome what they have been taught adamantly since birth. Muslims who convert to Christianity are considered apostate and subject oftentimes to ostracism and harsh treatment. They break their family’s hearts. The penalty for apostasy in many Islamic countries is death. Conversion is serious business. Sharing could get very uncomfortable.

There are many, many testimonies online about Muslims who have converted to Christianity. Their stories are fascinating, heartbreaking, shocking, tragic, joyful, unlikely, and often involve dreams. Many relate miraculous healing or delivery from dire circumstances. Some, like the five Christians noted below who were raised by Muslim parents, answer a calling to witness to the global Muslim and Christian communities after…

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