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Friday, February 16, 2018

Because there cannot be a married bachelor, there is no God. Um... what?

A while back, I came across a forum with a thread titled, A Library Of The Best 40 Atheist Arguments Against God. I wrote about the first argument then and had intended to visit the thread from time to time and discuss more of the arguments. However, the thread failed miserably to live up to its title and I didn't feel any urgency to get to the other arguments. It's been 2 years now and I happened across the same thread so I thought I'd look at the second argument on the list. It goes like this:

The paradox of omnipotence

We agree that a "married bachelor" can not exist because it is contradictory and self-refuting. An omnipotent God is self-refuting and contradictory.
-Omnipotence is the ability to do all things. To have all abilities
-However, some abilities are contradictory to each other. or some actions negate each other
-To sleep means you are not awake, for instance. You cant be alseep and awake at the same time.
God has the ability to live for ever. Eternal life. However, that means that he can not die and he doesnt have the ability to kill himselfy
God has the ability to be everywhere. he is omnipresent. However, that means that he doesnt have the ability to leave a certain place or the ability to be absent.

The author's point is that, since we can imagine things that God cannot do, there cannot be a God that can do all things. This is called, “the omnipotence paradox” and has been put forth many times, although, usually not so clumsily worded as above. A more succinct example is to ask, “Can God make a rock so big that even He can't lift it?” Either He can't make a rock that big or He can't lift the big rock He created – either way, there's something He can't do.

As we consider an answer to this, we have to consider what does “omnipotent” mean? The author above defines it as “the ability to do all things” but I couldn't find a mainstream dictionary with that definition. defines it as, Having unlimited power. Having great power and influence.” Merriam-Webster has, “Having virtually unlimited authority or influence.” defines it as, “Almighty or infinite in power, as God. Having very great or unlimited authority or power.” You can see that the ordinary meaning of omnipotent is having all power and/or authority. To redefine it to mean, “able to do anything” gives a critic the opportunity to create a strawman, then suggest some logical absurdity that God can't do.

There are certainly things that Christians will admit that God cannot do and still be omnipotent. Here are some examples: God cannot lie, God cannot be wrong, and God cannot stop being God. All of these things can be true of God and yet God could still be described as omnipotent. Indeed, if God could lie or be wrong, it would diminish His omnipotence; how could someone lie or be wrong and still have “all authority”?

To justify their unusual definition of omnipotent, some critics will point to Philippians 4:13, I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. Their claim is that this verse seems to say Christ should be able to do anything – even create a married bachelor. As usual, though, the verse is taken out of context. Paul suffered many things throughout his ministry – shipwrecks, stonings, beatings, and even imprisonment. Through it all, he learned the secret to bearing all the ups and downs – the power of Christ. Here are verses 12-13 together: I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. What Paul is saying is that he knows he can prosper whatever his circumstances because Christ strengthens him. Clearly, he is not saying the “all things” he can do through Christ would include an ability to make a square circle!

The omnipotence paradox is a sort of logical gimmickry. Think about this: by asking if God can make a rock so big even He can't lift it, critics want you to believe that God should able to become unable. That sounds sort of ridiculous when it's put that way. It's a classic strawman argument. Critics redefine omnipotence to mean, “able to do anything,” invent logically impossible scenarios, then say there can't be an omnipotent God because He can't do what is logically impossible. Just as I don't believe God's omnipotence is diminished by saying He cannot lie, neither do I feel it's diminished by saying God cannot do what is logically impossible.

However, I don't want to sell God short. On many occasions, the enemies of Jesus would attempt to trap Him using clever arguments; in every case, Jesus would turn the table on them and they would look the fools. It became so bad that Luke 20:40 says eventually, no one dared asked Him any more questions. Perhaps God, who is also omniscient, would know a clever way to solve what seems to be logically impossible. I don't expect Him to have to, but I would laugh my head off at the skeptics if He did!

Christians should be glad the straw god of atheists doesn't exist. Their god would be able to lie. Their god would be able to err. Their god offers no hope. But there is hope in the God of the Bible. Because He cannot lie, I know I can trust His promises. Because He cannot err, I know I can trust His judgments. Because He cannot sin, I know Jesus was the spotless Lamb who was able to take my sins. Because He cannot change, I know my future is secured.

Praise the Almighty God!

Further reading:

Thursday, February 8, 2018

When asking for evidence becomes a red herring

When I discuss the existence of God or creation with unbelievers or evolutionists, I'm often confronted with demands for evidence. I understand. Some things are harder to believe than others. If I were talking with someone I'd just met, and he told me he has a dog, I would tend to believe him. In my 50+ years of this life, I've known lots of people who own dogs. Based on my experience, owning dogs is usual and a claim to own a dog is reasonable.

If, on the other hand, a stranger told me he owned a sloth, I might be more suspicious. I know sloths exist but it's not usual that people own them as pets. I might ask him where he got a sloth and where does he keep it? If he says he found it as a stray and took it home, I would likely conclude he's lying. If he said, instead, that he operates an animal rescue, the sloth was recovered from a smuggler of exotic animals, he lives on a large piece of land outside of town, and now he keeps the sloth there in a secure enclosure, I would not be as quick to dismiss his claim. Now what he is saying is plausible. I could ask him more questions like, what does he feed the sloth and what does he do with it during the cold months? How reasonable his answers are will lend credibility to his claim to own a sloth.

My point is this: we make judgments about the truthfulness of claims all the time. Sometimes we have evidence that helps us make a judgment but often we don't. In fact, usually we don't. An employee is late because, “There was an accident.” Your son says, “I'm spending the night at Johnny's.” A student tells the teacher, “My dog ate my homework.” As soon as we hear claims like these, before we have a shred of evidence, we already begin to form opinions about whether they are true. We're not “blank slates” who approach every question with complete objectivity. We all have biases, experiences, and prejudices that influence our judgment. What is my history with this person? What do I think of his character? How plausible is what he says?

Over my years of studying apologetics, I constantly encounter skeptics who demand “evidence.” They will ask me what evidence do I have for a recent creation? What evidence do I have that the Bible is true? What is the evidence for God? I understand why someone would ask questions like these. It's like me asking questions to the person claiming to own a sloth – he's trying to decide how likely it is that what I'm saying is true. I welcome sincere questions. However, it's my opinion that most of the time, people who demand “evidence” before believing anything about God or the Bible, are using their demand for evidence as a red herring to derail the conversation.

Following are some statements I often hear from skeptics about evidence. I'm sure you've probably heard most of these too. I'm going to use them to illustrate my point.

I don't believe anything without evidence.”

When I hear people say this, my first response usually is to ask them, “What evidence led you to believe that you must have evidence to believe anything?” I ask this to try to get them to see that they really do believe some things without any evidence. Of course, I can't recall a time anyone conceded that point. They usually respond with a lot of bluff and bluster but I've never had anyone actually show me evidence to support this belief.

Here's the case: most people aren't scientists. They don't conduct experiments. They don't have laboratories. They don't do research. They haven't seen any evidence for evolution. Instead, they've heard the secular theories and explanations of the evidence and have chosen to believe them. So they do, indeed, believe some things without evidence. Their demand to creationists to provide evidence is essentially special pleading aimed at forcing creationists to play by the arbitrary rules of the evolutionist.

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”

Carl Sagan made this famous quote but, just like the quote above, it doesn't stand up to its own standard. Some might say Sagan's statement is an extraordinary claim; where is the extraordinary evidence that proves it's true?

The fact of the matter is that even extraordinary claims often require only ordinary evidence. Take a resurrection, for example. To prove someone has risen from the dead, you need only to show he was once alive, that he died, and that he was later alive again. When we discuss the resurrection of Christ, we talk about the written accounts made by people who knew Him intimately during His ministry, who were witnesses to His death, and who later saw Him alive again. They talked with Him, touched Him, even ate with Him after they saw Him die. Yet, instead of trying to impeach this compelling evidence, many critics simply dismiss it saying the Resurrection requires “extraordinary” evidence. So you can see that the demand for extraordinary evidence is a gimmick that allows skeptics to dismiss much of the evidence for God, the Bible, and Christianity without really having to rebut any of it.

Claims made without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.”

By now, you can probably already see the flaw in this statement. Saying, “claims made without evidence cane be dismissed without evidence,” is itself a claim and, so, must have evidence to support it. The critic who makes this claim is basically giving me a free pass to ignore it!

Even though the statement contradicts itself, critics still employ it as a way to excuse themselves from having to answer logical arguments. Let me give you an example: nothing can create itself. Are we agreed? So for nature to exist, it had to be created by something outside of nature – something “super” natural. Logically speaking, this is a valid argument for the existence of a supernatural Creator. It's so simple, yet so obvious that many critics have difficulty refuting it. Instead, they say, “Well,... do you have evidence for a supernatural Creator?”

Something can be true and have no evidence. Where is the evidence for Washington's crossing of the Delaware? No amount of scientific inquiry will discover it. The only reason we know it happened is because people who lived at that time wrote about it. Much of what we know about God is also what has been written down by the apostles and the prophets.

But besides the historical evidence, we do have compelling logical arguments for God. If we know scientifically, that matter/energy cannot be created naturally, then it must have been created supernaturally. We know that complexity and purpose are the characteristics of created things and so point to a Creator. We know that objectivity morality can only exist if there is a transcendent Lawgiver. I'm not asking for anyone to believe in God with a blind faith. I'm asking them to confront the many arguments that have already been made and quit hiding behind a flimsy demand for more evidence.

Further reading:

Friday, January 12, 2018

Does a new species of finch mean the finch has evolved?

A headline from reads, “A New Bird Species Has Evolved on Galapagos And Scientists Watched It Happen” The opening sentence claims, For the first time, scientists have been able to observe something amazing: the evolution of a completely new species, in the wild, in real-time. And it took just two generations. Wow! Scientists watched evolution happen in real time? I guess I should just give up and quit blogging! //RKBentley shakes his head//

I'm not really sure what all the fuss is about. First off, this isn't even news. The article was published 11/24/2017 and it cites a article that was published a day earlier. However, I found this same study discussed on on 11/6/2009. Second, the article is talking about hybridization – the cross-breeding of two different species. Hybridization is ridiculously common. It's been observed and understood for centuries. For example, how long have there been mules? A mule is the offspring of a donkey bred with a horse.

Hybrids are usually (but not always) sterile so we wouldn't necessarily consider a hybrid a new species. Species is a largely subjective term but when speciation is determined to have taken place, there is always someone anxious to label it “evolution.” Here are a few examples I've talked about before:
  • Scientists watch as a new species evolves before their eyes: Speciation, the formation of new species through evolution, is not usually an event you can directly observe. Organisms typically take many generations to accumulate enough changes to diverge into new species; it's a slow process... But biologists working at the University of California, San Diego, and at Michigan State University, may have just put a rest to all of those naysayers. They report to having witnessed the evolution of a new species [of virus] happen right before their eyes, in a simple laboratory flask, according to”
  • World-first hybrid shark found off Australia: Australian scientists hailed what they described as a world-first discovery of two shark species interbreeding Tuesday, a never-before-seen phenomenon which could help them cope with warmer oceans... It’s very surprising because no one’s ever seen shark hybrids before, this is not a common occurrence by any stretch of the imagination... This is evolution in action.
  • Pressured by Predators, Lizards See Rapid Shift in Natural Selection: “Countering the widespread view of evolution as a process played out over the course of eons, evolutionary biologists have shown that natural selection can turn on a dime -- within months -- as a population's needs change. In a study of island lizards exposed to a new predator, the scientists found that natural selection dramatically changed direction over a very short time, within a single generation....”
God created organisms “according to their kind.” Grass, herbs, and fruit have kinds (Genesis 1:11); Marine animals and birds have kinds (Genesis 1:21); Cattle, beasts, and every animal that walks upon the earth has kinds (Genesis 1:24-25). At the time of the Flood, representative animals from each terrestrial kind were brought aboard the Ark to keep them alive (Genesis 6:19-20). All of the various species of animals that exist today are descended from the smaller kinds originally created by God.

When I read headlines like these, it's my opinion that what we observe is better explained by Genesis than by evolution. For example, we have several instances of speciation happening rapidly. Creationists have been saying this is the case all along yet evolutionists still act surprised every time it does. They're so ingrained into their “millions of years” way of thinking that they act shocked when a new species forms in only few generations. They see a a new species of finch appear in two generations yet they scold creationists by claiming the 4,000 years since the Flood is not enough time for a bear to become a polar bear or a wolf to become a dog.

Which brings me to another point – how are these people defining evolution? When most people think of evolution, they think of dinosaur to bird or ape to man. However, evolutionists describe any change in a population of animals as evolution. If there were a population of moths where 60% of the moths have light pigment, the population is said to have evolved if the next generation has only 50% with light pigment. It's evolution by definition. The examples of “evolution” we observe don’t demonstrate any mechanism that could eventually turn a molecule into a man.

The sensational headlines that talk about evolution happening before our eyes are seldom anything more than hype. Even if we are occasionally surprised, it is ultimately nothing more than an anecdotal example of a rather mundane phenomenon – a new recombination of traits that have already existed in the population. Two lizards giving birth to a bird would be news. Two finches giving birth to a finch is click bait.

Further reading:

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Happy New Year!

At the start of every new year, there's a tradition practiced by many people of telling a big, fat lie called a “new year's resolution.” I say it's a lie because the failure rate on these resolutions is abysmal. Many don't even make it past the first week. Most don't last the first month. I read one survey that showed only 13% of people keep their resolution the first year. To me, it sounds like maybe they need to look up the definition of “resolution” because it seems like most of them weren't very resolved to begin with.

I tend to not make resolutions. Another thing about resolutions is that they are usually things people should have already been doing anyway. A popular resolution, for example, is that a person will try to lose weight. Usually what happens, then, is that the person eats like pig between Thanksgiving and Christmas with the intention of starting a diet after the New Year. If you think you need to lose weight, just start trying to lose weight now. Continuing a practice you know you should change simply for the sake of waiting for the New Year doesn't make a lot of sense.

Having said all that, I have been considering what types of changes I might need to make for my blog this year. It's not a resolution; it's more like just a reassessment of what I want to accomplish and how I'm going to get there. I'm tempted to say I'll blog more but that's one of those things I doubt I'd be able to keep. Still, there are some things readers of my blog can expect to see this year:

More Scripture

Regular readers of my blog know that I trust the Bible above the opinions of any man or scientific consensus. I put Scripture ahead of my own personal feelings. However, new readers who happen upon a single post, might get the impression that I am using “science,” “evidence,” or philosophical arguments as though they are more important than the Bible.

I will try to include at least some Scripture in every post. No one should be able to read more than a few of my posts without knowing all of my arguments are scripturally sound. Ideally, visitors will not leave my blog without having a chance to hear the gospel.

More links

I sometimes critique arguments I find on the web. I also often quote other people. When I do this, I have always been careful to provide links to the source. However, I think I should start providing links to support some of the points I'm making as well. Perhaps I might add footnotes. Hmmm. I think doing this will help show my arguments are a little more researched and not pure opinion. Oh, and I'm going to start providing links to the sites where I've found the pics I use for my post.

Finally, after each article, I'll try to provide links to past articles I've written that might relate to the subject at hand.

More social media

I already have FaceBook and Twitter accounts with a few thousand friends/followers. I need to become more practiced in leveraging those mediums to reach more readers. You may start seeing hashtags at the end of my articles. I'm even toying with the idea of starting a YouTube channel! Yikes.

There are hundreds of millions of people using social media. It's the mission field of the new millennium.

Fewer series

If you picked up a best selling book, how interesting of a read would it be to read a random chapter in the middle? It might make some good points but, without reading the whole book, it's going to lose something. That's how I've come to feel about writing a series. For new readers who visit my blog in the middle of a series, it's like they're starting an interesting book in some middle chapter.

If I can't make a point in a single post, I may stretch it to two but that's going to be my limit. Furthermore, each post has to make its own point so that it could be read as a stand alone piece.

Longer posts

I had made the decision long ago to limit my posts to 2 written pages (about 1,000 words). I thought people would get bored with pieces that are too long but maybe 1,000 isn't quite long enough. I want to make sure I cover my arguments thoroughly and if I need more words, then I'll take more words – especially if I'm going to write fewer series.

Broader content

I know I write a lot about evolution and creation but that's not really my mission. Jesus said, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15). He also commanded His church, Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen. (Matthew 28:19-20).

The Great Commission is to preach AND teach. My blog has been read in places I could never have gone otherwise. It has been read on every continent including Antarctica. I want to use it to equip the saints and challenge the lost. With that in mind, I want to devote more time to posts about theology, defending the faith, rebutting atheists, and offering a Christian perspective on politics and social issues.

If my visitors have any suggestions about things they'd like to see on my blog, please comment. Thanks to everyone who visits. God bless and have a great new year!!