Tag Archives: ID

Stars, sand and how to read the Bible

universe.jpgA recent commenter viewed Genesis 15:5 as evidence that the Bible has errors.  The context is God promising Abraham that despite his advanced age he would have many offspring.

Genesis 15:5 He took him outside and said, “Look up at the heavens and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.”

Here is what the commenter wrote:

There God promises Abraham to make his offspring as numerous as the stars. Referring to the visible stars only would not make any sense as we can see only a few thousands. But it cannot refer to the actually existing stars either, because there are about 200 billion in our Milky Way alone. 200 billion people could not possibly live on Earth, let alone Jews!

And I am not even talking about the stars in all the other galaxies. This is only one example. The bible abounds with errors great and small.

I think his interpretation of that verse would make a literalist fundy blush. 

First, since we always want to read things in context here are some other verses referring to the promises of Abraham’s offspring:

Genesis 22:17 I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies . . .

Genesis 32:12 But you have said, ‘I will surely make you prosper and will make your descendants like the sand of the sea, which cannot be counted.’”

God mentions Abraham’s offspring as being as numerous as the stars, then the stars and the sand, then the sand.  

So the question is, “What’s the point of these passages?”  Was God trying to make a precise statement of exactly how many offspring Abraham would have?  Was He saying that the number of stars is exactly equal to the number of grains of sand? 

Or is it possible that He was saying that not only would Abraham have one child – a highly unlikely scenario by itself – but that Abraham would have many, many descendants – physically and spiritually?

More importantly, go back in history and see how many stars people used to think existed, and how the Bible was far ahead of its time. As the commenter noted, we can only observe thousands of stars, and several thousand years ago they could view less than that.

But God knew that there were far more than that. Again, the point of the passage was the promise to Abraham, not a science lesson. But the fact remains that the earliest Bible writings asserted that there were far more stars than people thought – as many as there are grains of sand on the beach.

I think an unbiased person would see that the passage was obviously a promise that Abraham would have a great number of descendants and that there are far more stars than we can see – in fact, so many that counting them would be like counting grains of sand. And that is a claim that was thousands of years ahead of its time. Why not give the Bible a little credit for knowing that there are countless stars?

Pro-abortion macro-evolutionists

baby1.jpgI would expect macro-evolutionists to fall squarely in the pro-life camp.  After all, if their definition of “morality” is survival of the fittest and perpetuating the species, they should at least concede that deliberately destroying the unborn would not qualify as a moral good.  Life clearly begins at conception.   To hold any other view is to be anti-science.  I know pro-legalized abortionists have moved on to the philosophical “personhood” argument, but that isn’t scientific and it is flawed as well.

But if those I encounter in the blog world are representative at all, that is not the case.  While they reflexively use straw-man mockery in asserting that Christians are anti-science, most of them ironically turn around and play dumb about what the unborn are – as if science didn’t emphatically prove that the unborn are human. 

I’m always terribly amused when the science-lovers deny the humanity of the unborn. Read the embryology textbooks. It is a new life. If she wasn’t living and growing, the abortion wouldn’t be desired, right? She has unique human DNA, human chromosomes, etc. and is at the stage of human development that she is supposed to be at that time, just as toddlers are at a different stage than teens.

It is as if they are genuinely surprised when a human baby comes out.  “Wow, Dr., I had no idea!  I thought maybe it was just a big tumor, or a puppy, or perhaps an armadillo.  Another baby?!  That’s three times in a row.  What are the odds of that?”

They have also made appeals to animals performing abortions, as if mimicking animal behavior should be a model for us. 

I started to write that I could see them supporting abortions to weed out the disabled, but that would only be true if they were also in favor of destroying the disabled outside the womb.  At a minimum I would expect them to be against gender-selection abortions. 

Even Planned Parenthood used to concede the humanity of the unborn.  What scientific discoveries did they find to change their minds?

I think that the root of the pro-abortion macro-evolutionists’ worldview is not a love of science but a hatred of God. 

As always, remember that forgiveness and healing is possible for those who have participated in the abortion process.

Poor arguments to make with theists

circle-slash.jpgThis is a companion piece to Poor arguments to make with atheists.  I deliberately used theists instead of Christians to keep things simple, though I did use some Christian examples below.  I accumulated these from various atheist web sites or comments made here.

I enjoy questions with people who are willing to have a charitable dialogue.  I don’t waste time with people who come by with poorly reasoned sound bites they picked up from their Dawkins/Hitchens/Harris trinity. 

Also see a list of 300 disproofs of God’s existence (a parody on the common lines of reasoning often used by atheists). 

1.  There are lots of denominations within Christianity and lots of religions with differing truth claims.  There must be a solid majority with complete agreement for God to be real, so this is evidence that there is no God.

And where did they arrive at this piece of spiritual truth?   But if the truth is determined by a majority vote, then there must be a God.  There are far more religious people than atheists.  But the truth is the truth no matter how few agree, and a lie is a lie no matter how many agree. And if the majority rules with respect to truth claims then atheism is false, because most people believe there is a God.

Christianity claims to be the narrow road, anyway.  Jesus didn’t expect a majority to follow him.  And the Bible addresses many false teachings and warns of others to come.
Also, as one atheist noted when trying to rally people to do “raiding parties” on theist sites, “Atheists as we all know from bitter arguments on this site, embrace a pretty broad range of views.”  So by their logic they must have a false worldview, right?

2. Why is it that religious people resort to imaginary answers (faith) built on the circular reasoning that the bible provides those answers? Does god exist? Yes, because the bible says so. D’uh!.

That is an actual quote.  I got this a lot from the Dawkins’ blog “raiding party.”  I call this the fallacy-within-a-fallacy argument.  They make a straw man argument about us making a circular argument. 

I never made that claim about the Bible other than noting that the Bible does claim 3,000 times to speak for God and that it is a sort of necessary condition to be considered the word of God.  We have lots of reasons to believe it is the word of God, but we don’t need circular reasoning for it.

He also uses a non-Biblical definition of faith.  We have faith in something, and it isn’t a “blind faith” or a faith in spite of the evidence.

3. Arguing from incredulity: You just have a made-up invisible friend in the sky, etc., etc.  Do you probably believe in santa Claus and the Easter Bunny?

This charming ad hominem attack works both ways.  I submit that A is far more incredible to believe than B, and could have expanded on A for days.

A. The universe was created from nothing without a cause and organized itself into the spectacular level of complexity we see today, including life being created from non-life.

B. The universe was created by an eternally existent God.

We have lots of evidence for the existence of God: Cosmological (”first cause”), teleological (design), morality, logic, the physical resurrection of Jesus, etc.  If atheists don’t find that compelling, then so be it. I’m on the Great Commission, not the paid commission. But to insist that we have no evidence is uncharitable in the extreme and makes reasoned dialogue virtually impossible.

4. Arguments from ridicule (also see #3).  You can sprinkle in some ridicule to make an argument more entertaining, but using it as your primary argument is weak and fallacious.  Having visited quite a few atheist websites this seems to be their main line of reasoning.

5. As a Christian, you deny all gods but one. As an atheist, I deny all gods. We’re practically the same.

This is a cute but horribly illogical argument.  Saying there is no God isn’t a little different than saying there is one God, it is the opposite.  That’s like saying, “You deny all other women as your wives except one, so you’re practically the same as a single person.” 

6. You don’t have empirical evidence for ____ (God, the resurrection, etc.).

To quote Bubba: “Can one prove that only empirical evidence is trustworthy? Better yet, can one prove this by using only empirical evidence?”

The answers, of course, are no and no

The argument is a “heads we win, tails you lose” trick.  They say that you can only consider natural causes for the creation of the universe, and since they have nothing to test then there could not have been any supernatural cause, right?

7. Parents shouldn’t be allowed to indoctrinate / brainwash their children with religious beliefs.

The brainwashing must not be working, because so many people leave the church.  And why isn’t it brainwashing when the schools do it with evolution and their sickening strategies to take away the innocence of young children?

I find it interesting that with such low church attendance, general Biblical illiteracy and the monopoly that materialism has in public education that most people still don’t buy the macro-evolution lie.  No wonder evolutionists are so frustrated!

Some parents may go overboard with the fear of Hell thing.  But parents have rights, and more importantly, strong warnings are only inappropriate if the consequence in question is not true.

8. The Bible teaches _____ [fill in hopelessly (and deliberately?) wrong interpretation].

Please learn more about the Bible and the faith you are trying to criticize.  Straw-man arguments are unproductive.  This is perhaps the most common error I come across.

9. Christians disagree on what the Bible teaches (or Muslims disagree on the Koran, etc.) so there can’t be one right answer.

Just because a book is capable of being misunderstood doesn’t mean it is incapable of being understood.  Disagreements in science don’t mean everyone must be wrong. 

If you have actually studied the Bible you’ll note that it addresses many false teachings and warns that there will always be false teachers.  So the concept that people disagree on what the Bible says isn’t exactly newsworthy.  It is Biblical, in fact.

10. Why do religious people keep quoting bits out of a book written long ago by stone aged (or bronze aged) and ignorant men?

The men who wrote the Bible were quite intelligent.  The Apostle Paul, for example, was well educated, articulate and a clear thinker.

The age of the book is completely irrelevant, of course.  If God wrote it the message would be timeless.  And of course, if it were written last week they’d complain that it was too late.

The complaint that our responses are old is also invalid.  The objections are old as well.  The funny thing is that over the last 2,000 years brilliant theists have wrestled with the same questions the New Atheists have, except with more clarity and thoughtfulness.

11. Why do religious people not understand the scientific and philosophical arguments against the existence of god which clearly refute its existence?

This commenter didn’t share any of those arguments or refer to any sources, so it is difficult to answer even if the objection didn’t have a flawed premise (it is basically a “have you stopped beating your wife” type of question that anyone on any side of an issues could use).  

12. I can’t understand or conceive of why God would set things up this way, so He must not exist.

We call this “creating God in your own image.”  See the 2nd Commandment. 

If you create your own universe with working DNA and such, you can make your own rules.  But whether you like it or not you play by God’s rules in this universe and you’ll have to give an account for your life.  Ignorance is not an excuse.

13. Some people who call themselves Christians do and/or say stupid things, so Christianity is false.

That doesn’t disprove Christianity any more than atheists doing and saying stupid things proves that there is a God. 

In fact, Christians saying and doing stupid things probably bothers us more than it does atheists.  Believe it or not, we have some common ground there. 

14. Religion poisons everything!  What about the Crusades, the Inquisition, etc.?!

That is unproductive hyperbole.  Religion has done many great things – helping the poor, building hospitals and schools, great art, etc.

You don’t judge an ideology based on the actions of those who violate its tenets.  Click the link above for more. 

The Salem Witch trials killed 18 people.  The Inquisition killed about 2,000.  That is 2,018 too many, to be sure, but keep in mind two things: The perpetrators did the opposite of what Jesus commanded and 2,018 murders was a slow afternoon for atheists like Stalin and Mao.

Here’s a quote from a guy trying to rally atheists to their cause by raiding theist blogs like this one – to rescue the world from this religious poison, I suppose.  Messiah complex, anyone? 

In a very real (but perhaps overly dramatic sense) the fate of the planet is at stake.

Uh, yes, “perhaps.”  But if atheism is true then who cares if the planet dies?  You must use empirical evidence to prove why it would be a bad thing :-).

I have noted that these critics focus almost exclusively on Christianity.  When you point this out to them they squirm and say it is the one they are most familiar with.  But with the growth of radical Islam and the perversions of the caste system in India you’d think they’d spread their evangelical atheism out a bit. 

15. Religion gets in the way of scientific progress.

That is simply untrue.  The Galileo story that people usually refer to has many mythical elements.  And how many people can cite an example besides Galileo?  And who knows, maybe Einstein’s presupposition of a static universe caused his error with the cosmological constant.  After all, an expanding universe certainly gives more support to a theist model than a static one.

16. You don’t use reason and we do.

That is just patently false.  Atheists just don’t like the reasons.  Christianity in particular encourages and applauds the use of reason.  Countless great thinkers and scientists were Bible-believing Christians.

Closing thoughts: As Edgar pointed out so well, even if every religion is completely false and atheism is true, then naturalism is to blame.  So it is irrational to get mad at religion or religious people.  We’re just doing what our genes tell us to. 

And, of course, you would have absolutely nothing to be proud about.  You haven’t accomplished anything and haven’t generated any brilliant or meaningful ideas.  You are just a bag of chemicals that thinks you have.  Congratulations!  You have no reason for bitterness or grandstanding.

All fun aside, those who can stay away from time-wasting arguments and who want to engage in an actual dialogue are welcome.  Otherwise, save your keystrokes.

Poor arguments to make with atheists

warning.gifThere are three ways discussions with atheists get off track rather quickly.

1. Don’t confuse moral behavior with a foundation for morality.  The claim that atheists don’t have a foundation for morality (a true statement in my view) is often miscommunicated or misinterpreted as saying they don’t have morals (a typically unfair and inaccurate statement).  Some atheists have better morals than “religious” people.

However, the “molecules to man” approach does not provide a foundation for morality. Classic atheist arguments attempt to read one in, but if you pay close attention you’ll see that they always bring some kind of moral framework in the back door.  I think they often do it unwittingly (mainly because it is so hard to get away from moral reasoning).

For example, I’ve seen the line of thinking that says such-and-such is moral because it is good for the perpetuation of the species. But note how that assumes a universal moral good of perpetuating the species. But where is the materialist proof for that? Who cares if the species is perpetuated if we are just a bunch of molecules? In the Darwinian worldview, lots of species have gone extinct – even before these awful, awful humans showed up.

I’m not denying the innate desire to live and help others, and I’m not denying that atheists don’t have the same feelings. I’m just saying that materialistic philosophy can’t provide that foundation.

2. While atheists can’t prove there isn’t a God, that isn’t a sufficient argument for theists to make.  Proving a negative in a rather sizable universe is somewhat difficult.  We can’t prove there isn’t a pink unicorn somewhere in the universe, either, but that is hardly a reason to believe it is true.

I think it is more fruitful to look at the evidence for and against the existence of God the way we’d make decisions on a host of other issues.  I can’t prove God exists in the sense that I can prove that 2+2=4, but I can point to a whole bunch o’ evidence that I think it rather compelling.  We make lots of important decisions in life based on less than 100.000% surety.

3. Don’t mix up the general concept of God with the specific concept of the true God as revealed in the Bible (i.e., the Trinity).  Sometimes Christians make good points about the existence of God but jump too quickly to him being the God of the Bible.  We believe that is true, of course, but I think it is more productive to approach the argument as follows:

  • Is there reliable evidence for the existence of God?
  • If yes, did He reveal himself to us?  How so?

It is possible to argue it directly from the Bible, but I think it is useful to distinguish between Biblical and general philosophical arguments.  The Word of God is living and active and accomplishes what God sets out for it to do.  But there are many times when other arguments are necessary.  There is nothing wrong with being charitable and meeting people where they are.  They have been bombarded with bad arguments from the Big Book O’ Atheist Sounds Bites for so long that they may need some help in seeing the truth.