Saturday, November 30, 2019

No One Talks About it Series: Week 6 - Piercing Science

I am mostly the product of American public education. And because of that, the majority of what I was taught I simply believed. One of those areas was science. Whatever was taught to me, I took at face value, because the fact of the matter is, I had no desire to delve deeper into the subject. That is until my second year of ministering to the youth in Quartzsite. Some older teens were going through a science class where they were discussing evolution. We had several conversations on the matter in Sunday school, and I decided to do my own research into the the topic of evolution and the Bible. Now in college I was required to read a book on three interpretations of Genesis 1, and because of my public educational background, I tended to fall into agreement with the the Eras Argument. 
But as a I dove deeper and deeper into the various arguments for and against evolution, I began to see one major hole after another in the arguments presented. From cosmological events, to fossil records, to bio-diversity, all the way to how even the evidence is presented to people, the holes just kept growing and growing. After a year of study, I moved away from my beliefs of the era argument and now hold to a literal six day. 
I continue to read as new science is presented, or new interpretations of Genesis 1 are given, but I have yet to hear an argument that convinces me to change my position. 

And it’s with this idea of Christians taking a serious look into our own position on the science and the Bible, that we move into our sixth week in our “No One’s Talking About It” series.

Several weeks back we began a journey on responding to a man who says he is losing his Christian faith. This man is Marty Sampson, and he is an ex-worship leader and writer for the group Hillsong. In the last five weeks we’ve covered five of Sampson’s reasons for losing his faith. With the focus on him saying again and again, “No one’s talking about it.”
So, we’re talking about it. We’re tackling those subjects that have led to this man to walk away from the Christian faith, because there are answers and there are people talking about it.
Last week, we talked about where Sampson says, he wants genuine truth. Which is something that humanity has struggled with since Eve believed the serpent’s lie. To which the answer we came to is that, genuine truth is only found in the Word of God, because like the philosopher Plato stated almost twenty-three hundred years ago, the only truth we have access to are shadows on the wall. And what we need, is someone from the outside to come and reveal truth to us. This outside truth that Plato speaks of is found in the person of Jesus, and his spoke word, the Bible.

But let’s continue in this vein of seeking truth by going back to Sampson’s truth seeking quote. 
Sampson writes, “I want genuine truth. Not the ‘I just believe it’ kind of truth. Science keeps piercing the truth of every religion.”

I agree with Sampson, I want genuine truth. I don’t want ‘just believe it’ kind of truth either. And in fact, God doesn’t want us to have that kind of truth. See, the word that we translate into English from Greek for words like, trust, belief, and faith, all have as their root the word pistis. This word has the implication that you have been convicted by the truth to entrust your life something.
Faith in the Bible isn’t supposed to be blind in the sense that you just believe based on nothing. No, rather faith is supposed to be based on evidence that convicts us to believe.
One of the best examples of this that I like, is a situation that comes from Luke 7, where John the Baptist sends two of his disciples to see if Jesus was really the Messiah. In other words, John wanted evidence that his faith in Jesus was correct. Jesus replies to the two disciples in verse 22, “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.”

Jesus gives evidence to to backup his Messiahship. Faith in the Bible is being convicted of truth to entrust our lives to Christ. So we are not called to the “‘just believe it’ kind of truth”, instead we are called to evidence based truth. 

With that in mind, let’s answer the looming question, does science keep “piercing the truth of every religion” as Sampson says?
Now really, this is vague. What truth is Sampson talking about, it isn’t clear. So I am approaching it from a common objection I have encountered that fits within the frame of Sampson’s objection.
That common objection is, the Bible is outdated because science continues to refute it. To counter this idea, let’s look at three scientific branches where the Bible has been consistent, and it’s just in the modern era that science has caught up. But before we begin, what am I not saying. I am not saying that the Bible is a scientific text book. Meaning, the Bible was not written with intent of revealing to humanity the way in which the world works on a physical level. But within the pages of the Bible, there are hints that the creation of God is deeper than we can imagine.
So as we look at these three places within the Scriptures that I believe point to these deeper points, I want us to have that in our minds. We are not looking at the Bible as a scientific text book, but rather as God pointing us to search for deeper realities of his created order.

First, let’s look at what is called the finite universe that science says we see around us.

In Plato’s writing Timaeus, he tells how the universe came to be seen as we see it today. It was a place of disorder until the being he called Demiurge, or the craftsman, begins to bring order to fire, earth, air, and water. This idea of reconstructing the universe from chaos to uniformity is not unique to Plato. 
The Babylonian creation story, tells of an eternal chaotic swirl of water. The waters then divide producing two gods. From these two gods more gods are birthed. In the end a war breaks out and the god Marduk kills his nemesis Tiamat, then uses Tiamat’s body to create the universe and the earth. 
In the Aztec creation story, there was the eternal void, and from this void a god of both chaos and order created itself. In turn, through the children of this dual god, the universe is created through war, will live, die, and be reborn, continuing an eternal cycle.

In each of these creation stories there is a constant, the universe is an eternal entity of chaos. And for the rest of human history up to the 20th century, almost every civilization understood that the universe was eternal, with no true beginning, nor a true end.
Fast forward to 1917. It had been one year since Albert Einstein published his Theory of Relativity, and he had moved on to his next endeavor, the universe as a whole. Einstein began to work for the next two decades on a formula that would prove that the universe was eternal. The problem for him, was that he had to invent a constant in his formula to make sure that he would end up with an equation that would keep the universe from expanding and contracting. In other words, though the math didn’t add up to an eternal universe, Einstein created a way for math to prove it did.
Then it happened, in the early 1930s a man by the name of Edwin Hubble used a massive telescope to prove that the universe did indeed have a beginning. Einstein cursed himself, because he could have predicted this finding years before Hubbble, but he was so intrenched in thousands of years of human assurance that the universe eternal, that he forced science to prove a falsity.

Yet, the idea that the universe does have a beginning is not new to the Bible. That, until God created there was nothing. In the opening words of Genesis, it states, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” This simple opening line, flies in the face of a pre-existent universe. But rather boldly proclaims that not only is the God of the Bible the only God of creation, but that only he is eternal, and the universe in which time and space occupy comes from his creative work.

Arno Penzias, one of the men that lead to the discovery of cosmic background radiation, was quoted as saying, “The best data we have are exactly what I would have predicted had I nothing to go on but the five books of Moses, the Psalms, the Bible as a whole, in that the universe appears to have order and purpose.”
It took almost four thousand years for science to catch up with the simple opening of God’s account of creation.

Next let’s look at the age of the world around us by looking at one of the most controversial animals out there. In the book of Job, probably the oldest written book in the Old Testament, it says this about this animal,

“15 Look at Behemoth, which I made along with you and which feeds on grass like an ox 16 What strength it has in its loins, what power in the muscles of its belly! 17 Its tail sways like a cedar; the sinews of its thighs are close-knit. 18 Its bones are tubes of bronze, its limbs like rods of iron. 19 It ranks first among the works of God, yet its Maker can approach it with his sword. 20 The hills bring it their produce, and all the wild animals play nearby. 21 Under the lotus plants it lies, hidden among the reeds in the marsh. 22 The lotuses conceal it in their shadow; the poplars by the stream surround it. 23 A raging river does not alarm it; it is secure, though the Jordan should surge against its mouth. 24 Can anyone capture it by the eyes, or trap it and pierce its nose?”

I first read this when I took a class on the book of Job, and my first thought was that this sounded like a dinosaur. And I thought, could the behemoth of the Bible be that same as the dinosaurs we talk about today? The description given in Job chapter 40 seems to fit the bones of the dinosaur Diplodocus (Di-plod-i-cus). 
But science text books put the first appearance of dinosaurs at around 240 million years ago, with the reign of these beasts ending around 65 million years ago. So the only logical explanation is that the description of the behemoth of the Bible is either another living land animal like a hippopotamus or ox, or the people simply discovered the bones of an extinct dinosaur and used it as a story point.

Yet, as science has advanced, both in are ability to use microscopes and are ability to track down evidence in the past, two things cut a gash in this idea that dinosaurs are as old as the text books say. 

First off, I want us to look at a drawing reconstructing a Megalosaurus from 1859 by Samuel Goodrich.  
Goodrich had never seen a living Megalosaurus and so he based his design of the the creature solely on it’s skeletal structure. Fast forward to modern computer mapping and the new reconstruction looks something like this… 

There is a bit of difference here, which makes sense, Goodrich had never seen this creature before and so he tried his best to recreate it.
Now, I’m going to show you side by side comparisons of what were once called dragons with modern day reconstructions of dinosaurs.

4,000 years ago, a pendant was carved out of jade, this is what it looks like… 
It looks very similar to a modern reconstruction of a Gracilceratops (Grisl-sara-tops) 

On the Mexico Guatmalen border, there are glowing petroglyphs, one of which looks like this… 

Which looks very similar to a modern reconstruction of a Hypacrosaurus (Hypo-cro-sore-as) 

Finally, on the side of a rock face called the Kachina Bridge near Blanding, Utah a depiction of a creature is etched. 
This etching looks very similar to when I was growing up we called a Brontosaurus. 

There’s more we could discuss, in fact in his book Untold Secrets of Planet Earth: Dire Dragons, Vance Nelson goes around the world to document these types of similarities.  But all of this might be coincidence, simply sharing similarities. None of this can hope to prove that the behemoth in Job is what we modernly call a dinosaur, and that dinosaurs truly lived at the time of humans. But it is one of those holes I talked about earlier.
What is sure to be a bigger hole, and one that could point to man living alongside dinosaurs, is when in the early 90’s soft tissue was discovered in well preserved dinosaur bones. Then in 2004, red blood cells were found in the fossils of a supposed 70 million year old t-rex ( Red blood cells shouldn’t be able to survive for 70 million years, and yet they have.
Recently this has been dismissed as being caused by iron as the body broke down. But this explanation doesn’t follow logic to fit the millions of years that it would have to decay.

It seems like, ancient people encountered these behemoths, drew pictures, carved pendents, and wrote down their descriptions. And it seems like modern science is finally catching up.

Finally, I want to move into a different form of science. Away from cosmology, and archeology and into sometime we’ve hit on already in this series, called textual criticism. Where cosmology seeks to understand the universe and how it got here, and archeology tries to understand the past, textual criticism tries to explore the writings that are passed down to us.   
Every book of the Bible has been studied, torn apart, and put back together for hundreds of years. In the turn of the 20th century, a wave of scholarship began to permeate the academic world that viewed the Bible as simply unreliable and therefore unworthy of real academic scholarship. But in recent years, the scrutiny of the past that wanted to completely throw out the Bible, because it was seen as historic garbage, has turned. In fact we have come to a place where even skeptics of the Bible concede its authenticity.
In reference to 1st century historical practices, skeptic scholar Hugh J. Schonfield, who wrote The Passover Plot, notices in Acts 10:6 a detail that most of us would overlook. In the passage Luke describes Peter staying in the home of a man named Simon. Luke observes that Simon is a tanner of animal hides and he lives by the sea shore. Schonfield writes about this saying, “This is an interesting factual detail, because the tanners used sea water in the process of converting hides into leather. The skins were soaked in the sea and then treated with lime before the hair was shaped…” In other words, the Bible contains real details of everyday life which shows that it was written within the window of time that it claims to have been.
In reference to how modern scholars have reevaluated the genre of the different aspects of the New Testament, Gram Stanton in his book Jesus and the Gospel writes, “the gospels are now widely considered to be a sub-set of the broad ancient literary genre of biographies. (pg. 185)” This means that scholars have stopped looking at the Gospels and other books of the Bible through modern eyes, and have began to read them into the cultural context in which they were written.
In reference to the biggest event in the New Testament, which is the resurrection of Jesus, Bart Ehrman an agnostic and one of the leading New Testament Scholars states, “That Jesus’ followers (and later Paul) had resurrection experiences is, in my judgment, a fact. What the reality was that gave rise to the experiences I do not know. (Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium. p. 230-231.) Though Ehrman doesn’t believe in the resurrection, he cannot deny the proof that something happened to the disciples of Jesus to stop them from running away from danger and boldly embrace it.

This brings Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:24 into sharp focus, “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.”
Modern scholars affirm what the Scriptures speak and the Scriptures have shown them to be a constant even as scholars have changed.

Many people have the idea in their mind as Sampson does, that science is making the Bible and the teachings therein obsolete. Yet the reality is, the Bible has stood the test of time and continues to show how reliable it is, because even in the face of 21st century science it stands firm. Whether that be in the realm of cosmology, archaeology, or textual criticism, the Bible stands a solid rock that we can rest assured in. 

So my challenge this week is first, do your own research. Go, search, and challenge the Bible against modern science. Dive deep into the arguments on both sides, don’t believe this because Jeremiah says. Rather develop the faith that the Bible calls us to, faith that is convicted by the truth. Do as I did and study, because the Bible will prove itself solid.
The second part of the challenge, is to praise God. Praise him for the vastness of his creation, for his ability to continue confounding the minds of the smartest people in the world, and for his deep love for us as individuals.

I want us to leave with this quote from Albert Einstein, though not a believer, still saw through science’s ability to discover God on it’s own. “Human beings, vegetables, or cosmic dust, we all dance to a mysterious tune intoned in the distance by an invisible player.”

Let us recognize our Creator and give him the praise that he deserves as we dance to the tune that he is playing for us. Amen.

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