Thursday, February 26, 2009

Truth and Belief

Several years ago my wife and I were privileged to lead Focus on the Family’s worldview lesson series The Truth Project. In lesson 1 the participants were asked, “Do you really believe that what you believe is really real?” Did you count the times r-e-a-l appeared in this question? Returning to the title of Focus’s workshop series, consider the keyword: truth. The concept of truth seems underused and misunderstood in today’s postmodern society.

A web search of truth will lead you to a discussion of truth theory. One finds there are over a dozen categories of truth. Which truth is the one Christians traditionally endorse? Which truth did Christ reference when He said “I am the way and the truth and the life” or “For this cause came I into the world, to testify to the truth” (John 14:6, John 18:37 NIV)? The Truth Project clearly refers to a category called correspondence truth: a statement corresponding to objective, external reality, or corresponding to the actual state of affairs. Other types of truth are coherence, constructionist, and consensus truth, to mention several of many.

The lively disagreements people often experience are more related to their personal beliefs than to objective truth. Let’s envision truth and belief as circles. The circles of truth and belief may partially overlap. The common area of the two circles is sometimes called knowledge, as classically understood. Individuals and groups sometimes have difficulty acknowledging that their beliefs may not be true. Christians must constantly put their beliefs to the test to establish and affirm whether their beliefs are really true.

Scientific discoveries since mid-20th century have clarified not only details of creation events, earth time scales, and the causes of earth's geologic features, but also have revealed previously unknown facts in physical, biological, and earth sciences. These discoveries have powered life-enriching advances in medicine and technology. Acquiring true beliefs in science or theology is not simply a matter of picking and choosing as we do at a buffet table. Belief testing is a principle advocated in scripture. We must be sure our beliefs overlap with the truth to produce knowledge.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Crisis of Consensus Science

The term wisdom is used more frequently in the book of I Corinthians than in any other New Testament book. The contrast between man’s wisdom and God’s is drawn frequently. The NIV translation calls man’s wisdom “the wisdom of this world” (1:20) and “the wisdom of this age” (2:6). Eugene Peterson, in The Message Translation, refers to turning conventional wisdom on its head (1:19), and human wisdom being “tinny” and “impotent” (1:25); another of his paraphrases predicts that the fashionable wisdom of high-priced experts will be out-of-date in a year or so (2:6). The Apostle Paul could have been speaking of a phenomenon of the 20th and 21st centuries--the human wisdom known as “consensus science.”

“And the consensus is…” How many times have we been relieved that a consensus was reached in a lively group discussion of some weighty issue where a decision was needed? Perhaps not everyone was in agreement, but at least we were reassured that the democratic principle of majority rule was applied. The terms “democratic” and “consensus” ring reassuring and inspiring. When the conclusions of science professionals, however, boil down to “consensus science,” sometimes they are driven by profit motives, politics, or personal agendas. At other times their conclusions may be worldview-driven.

For this post I will mention only two of many possible examples. First, global warming has been pronounced factual, and this pronouncement comes replete with heroic, prescribed solutions. There is a “consensus,” we are told, notwithstanding the existence of an ever-expanding army of scientists and laypersons who point to errors and deficiencies in data collecting and mathematical models, and uncertainties in causation and prescribed remedies. Nevertheless, we are told we need to act before it is too late! Naturalistic evolution has also been pronounced factual, settled beyond question. They claim evolution is a conceptual pillar upon which rests the entire field of bioscience. There is increasing skepticism in some quarters of the scientific community about the truth of evolution, even as its supporters grow ever more strident. People who have legitimate doubts or questions are accused of being reactionaries, having devious motives, being out of the mainstream, or worse. Proponents of these relentlessly promoted paradigms do not tolerate opposing views.

The late Michael Crichton gave an eloquent speech questioning global warming in 2003. He stated, “I regard consensus science as an extremely pernicious development that ought to be stopped cold in its tracks. Historically, the claim of consensus has been the first refuge of scoundrels; it is a way to avoid debate by claiming that the matter is already settled… Let’s be clear: the work of science has nothing whatever to do with consensus. Consensus is the business of politics. Science, on the contrary, requires only one investigator who happens to be right, which means that he or she has results that are verifiable by reference to the real world… If it’s consensus, it isn’t science. If it’s science, it isn’t consensus. Period.”

The unfair treatment of those who question consensus science results in a breakdown of confidence in science and scientists by many people in the church. There is some very good science which calls attention to the genius of our Creator. But even this good science sometimes becomes suspect. Our effort to secure truth is thereby derailed. Perhaps even our blog theme—the Science/Faith connection--suffers a credibility crisis in the shadow of this phenomenon. Science topics are infrequently used in our church settings. Christians should realize that “pure” science suffers the same challenges as “pure” doctrine, “pure” truth, and “pure” motivation. Scientists are equally as vulnerable to the human element as any other group, including church leaders and laypersons. My previous post began to explore this idea. Bad science can mislead and disappoint. Good science helps us achieve the wisdom of truth and the reality of God’s role in the natural world--past and present.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Responses to Listeners (3)

Many listeners were enlightened by the recent programs featuring astrophysicist/theologian Dr. Hugh Ross. One recent letter to the John Ankerberg Show expressed the essence of concerns from other listeners. The writer was saddened by the interpretations of Dr. Ross concerning Genesis 1 and 2, including the length of the creation days. He only expected this kind of approach from “liberals” and “deniers of the faith.” He wondered what Christians believed about creation events “before science,” and felt the program guest distorted the simple meaning of the scriptures.

Our complete response follows:

Thank you for your letter and your interest in the topics being presented on our recent programs. Many of us understand your questions because, like you, we were once taught a different interpretation of the Genesis account than we now hold. Sometimes we justify our beliefs by saying “This is what I was taught.” Scripture encourages us to study and to prove what is true, praying for God’s wisdom before coming to conclusions.

You use the expressions “liberal” and “denier of the faith.” I must characterize the position of ATRI as being far from liberal, and I must state that we affirm orthodox Christian beliefs and are not deniers of the faith. A study of our ministry’s many available resources would confirm this. The most straightforward readings of English translations of Scripture do not convey variations of meaning in the original Hebrew. Readings of those translations do not, for example, acknowledge that there are several “literal” interpretations of Hebrew yom (day). A thorough study of scripture, interpretive helps and commentaries by our side, may help us understand difficult passages. But we must never stop learning, studying, and discovering.

The findings of science are a great blessing rather than a threat to our faith. As a science teacher, I have been brought closer to the Creator by becoming aware of God’s work revealed and clarified by science. Your question “What did all Christians do before science?” is a good one. Before 1950, we were not aware of DNA as the fundamental genetic material. Before the 1960s we had not broken the genetic code of life. The 1960s also brought us vibrant confirmation of the CMBR (cosmic microwave background radiation), the leftover radiation from the Big Bang, present wherever we look in the universe. Satellite technology in the last twenty years has affirmed this creation event and the age of the universe with great precision. Also in the 1960s, plate tectonics was affirmed, revealing how the earth has been prepared by our Creator for life today. In the last fifty years, science has provided ultrasound and genetic confirmation of the truth of Psalm 139:13 (NIV), God’s hand in creating the total personhood of the pre-born: “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” Science has revealed these truths. We are thankful for these scientific discoveries and rejoice that our knowledge of the natural world is now more complete.

Hundreds of discoveries in cosmology and advances in technology are testimony to our Creator’s wisdom and love for humanity. He designed a world of order and beauty for the benefit of mankind. New discoveries about the origin, age, and fine tuning of the universe enable us to reconstruct earth history as never before dreamed possible. Such evidence did not exist a short 50 years ago. Dr. Hugh Ross’s programs on The John Ankerberg Show on design in the universe and God’s creative events are not an occasion for ridicule. Rather, they are an opportunity to give God the glory. These discoveries magnify God rather than diminish Him.

Thank you for listening to our programs, and for writing to us at The John Ankerberg Show.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Darwin Day

Spotted on the “Faith and Values” page of our local newspaper the weekend before Darwin Day: “A celebration of the 200th birthday of Charles Darwin will be at 7 PM Thursday, Feb. 12 at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship.” This page doubles as an announcement forum for area church events. John G. West, in his 2007 volume Darwin Day in America, states, “Promoters of Darwin Day deny that their activities are anti-religious.” West continues, “Perhaps in an effort to clean up the image of Darwin Day as merely Christmas for atheists, a professor from Wisconsin is now urging churches to celebrate 'Evolution Sunday' on or near Darwin Day."

A judgment concerning whether Darwin Day is pro- or anti-religion depends on what or whose religion we are talking about. If you search for definitions of “religion” on the internet, you will find, in addition to references to God or deity, many different expressions of religion along these lines: “A framework that shapes the entirety of life and thought.” In these terms, Darwinian evolution is a religion. Today, Feb. 12, we commemorate the birth of the most famous popularizer of the religion of evolution, Charles Darwin.

When we speak of “the entirety of life and thought,” we could also be speaking of “worldview.” Much contemporary worldview thinking about behavior, attitudes, values, and beliefs filters through the Darwinian mindset. For example, human life and behavior is merely the product of a blind, materialistic process which brought us forth from LUCA, the “last universal common ancestor” somewhere around 3.9 billion years ago. If we are the product of blind, naturalistic, materialistic forces, the thinking goes, how could anyone be responsible for his/her actions? The criminal can’t exercise free will or help himself avoid bad behavior, because all our behaviors are already determined for us. They are, therefore, out of our control. This sounds extreme, but our judicial system has long moved through various degrees of flirtation with “insanity” defenses and leniency based on principles that there is no such thing as “free will.”

Likewise, society’s attitudes toward theistic religion, sexual mores, life in the womb, euthanasia, the distinction between human life and lesser forms of life, and even business practices and human behavior in general, are often viewed through materialist, reductionist, and deterministic lenses. Simply stated, that means we can’t really help what we do, since we are the product of evolution. Belief in Darwinian evolution is basically naturalism infiltrating our thinking process. The role of God is relegated to religious fantasyland, unnecessary and unwanted. The marvelous complexity and beauty surrounding us, Darwinists claim, is just an accident resulting from the ability of inanimate matter to self-organize. That ability produces our astonishing cosmos, together with the life which inhabits it, they say.

Both naturalistic and theistic evolutionists may want to think more carefully before lighting candles on Darwin’s birthday cake. Belief in Darwinian macro-evolution needs a religious faith which posits that the effect is greater than the cause. This is an irrational proposition. The religious belief that (1) the cause (God) is greater than the effect (the cosmos), and, as a result, (2) design and beauty of our cosmos and its living systems has a cause greater than itself, is completely rational. The first chapter of Genesis passes the rationality test.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Responses to Listeners (2)

We will respond on this blog to questions and comments related to science and faith, especially those inspired by Dr. Ankerberg’s current and past programs on creation. Sometimes the question is shortened in the interest of brevity. Questions emailed to will be answered by return email and may appear on this blogsite. Questioners will be anonymous.

Comment: Tonight’s show with Hugh Ross. Please! There was and is no mention of “explosion” in Genesis. God “created” it all with divine control. The word create in Genesis is above man’s intelligence to define. Explosions create chaos. Period. May I suggest you read Genesis once again.
Response: Personally, I would prefer several thousand pages detailing the creation events. But in His wisdom, God chose to give us two brief chapters. I would also prefer more detail about God’s concept of the term create. That word most certainly has nuances of meaning beyond our human ability to understand. In the context of Genesis creation events, if we assign chaos and destruction to “The Big Bang,” we are in error. Dr. Ross carefully described this event, and events in the eons following it, as one of fine-tuned precision beyond our wildest imagination. It has characteristics, therefore, of a wonderful creative event. God has graciously given us the ability to use science to enlarge our understanding of how God accomplished His creative work in this cosmos.
Question: Do you really believe Dr. Hugh Ross’s theory? What about the Bible that states that God created the heavens and earth in 6 days? I am so disappointed! You’re saying this was millions of years. We take the Bible literally. It didn’t happen with a BIG BANG! Response: When one studies the many hundreds of independent scientific evidences for a very ancient universe and earth, along with Hebrew scholarship which permits several “literal” meanings of “yom” (day), we may conclude that science and Hebrew scholarship both support an old universe, not a young one.

Question: (re History Channel’s doomsday, end of calendar, end of earth program) Does science show the earth will be in the middle of the Milky Way, a once every 25,000 year occurrence, on 12/21/2012? What will occur? Please have the astrophysicist address this issue.
Response: Dr. Hugh Ross would not subscribe to any such doomsday scenario for 2012. Popular, sensational Merlin or Nostradamus type speculations about the end of the world are not valid truth.
Question: I had not heard the argument (from the ATRI January mailing list letter) that Noah’s ark could carry only a maximum of 30,000 species, but that today many millions of species exist. I asked a number of friends (how so many species survived the flood). One is a science teacher and he told me that if you eliminate fish, amphibians, and arthropods, the remaining species of “land animals” remaining today would easily fall within the capacity of the ark. So it would seem that there is not actually any difficulty here. I was wondering if you had a response for that? Thanks.
Response: There is enormous difficulty. Considering arthropods only, the problem is insurmountable. There are 750,000 species. 350,000 of them are beetles. A few are aquatic, but even those wouldn’t fare too well in the salty ocean envisioned to cover the entire globe by those who believe the flood was “global,” covering even Mt. Everest. Just imagine THAT many arthropods on the ark! Dr. Ross believes in the flood, but not a GLOBAL flood. He believes in a UNIVERSAL flood – the UNIVERSE of that day, a relatively small area of the mid-east. Remember, all the earth’s people had not yet spread around the world and were confined only to that area. The same problem occurred later at the Tower of Babel. No doubt we had a widely scattered distribution of species around the entire world, just as we have today. I doubt that Noah journeyed off to Australia to collect kangaroos. A reasonable solution is that the flood was local, and that the ark animals were needed to repopulate the flood area quickly to help provide food for Noah’s family when the flood receded. A global flood covering all the mountains, even Mt. Everest, presents unimaginable difficulties. So does the time-warp speciation of 30,000 species becoming millions of species in just a few thousand years! That would necessitate macro-evolution on a scale inconceivable to the most ardent evolutionist. A UNIVERSAL (local) flood does not conflict in any way with scripture.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Responses to Listeners (1)

We will use this blog to answer as many listener questions and responses as possible, particularly those generated by the current and past series dealing with scientific evidence relating to creation and cosmic history. Questioners will be anonymous. Sometimes the question is shortened in the interest of brevity or our blogpost response expanded in the interest of clarity. Questions emailed to will be answered by return email. Representative questions may appear on this blogsite.

Question: The Bible tells us that God created the world in seven literal days. How do you reconcile millions and billions of years with the seven day creation?
Response: There are hundreds of independent scientific indicators pointing to a very ancient universe, including indicators of the universe’s expansion, such as red-shift phenomena which enable scientists to calculate age, radiometric dating, ice cores, and deposition rates calculated from ocean sediments. Moreover, Hebrew scholarship points to four different interpretations of the Hebrew word for “day” (yom) including long period of time, and they are all “literal” interpretations in the original Hebrew.
Comment: The Hebrew word for day used in Genesis 1 and 2 does not mean very long period of time. I haven’t found a Hebrew word for day that can be translated into anything but from sunset to sunset, the daylight hours, or the morning.
Response: There are many fine Hebrew scholars, such as Gleason Archer, Walt Kaiser, and Norm Geisler who disagree with your proposal. It is my personal view that holding to a singular interpretation of “yom” negates not only good theological scholarship, but also negates perfectly good science as well. There’s good and bad theological scholarship; there’s good and bad science. If science and theology seem to disagree, there’s an error in one, or the other, or both. God bless you in your search for truth.
Comment: I was disappointed to read your recent letter (to the ATRI mailing list) stating your position on old-earth creation…I am disappointed by your slanted treatment of this issue. Many believe in the old earth. That is alright. But I would hope that you would treat this serious subject with appropriate circumspection and open-mindedness.
Response: Dr. Ankerberg has often given both sides of this debate the podium on his program. At other times, he presents one view, such as the view Dr. Ross is carefully presenting in the present series. He presents this view as representing, in his considered opinion, the TRUTH, because he believes truth is achievable.
Question: Are you good folks aware of the books by Dr. Gerald Schroder? ...His doctorate is in the Earth Sciences and Nuclear Physics. Response: Yes, I have checked out Dr. Schroder’s thesis. It seems to rely completely on a sort of “time warp,” a “perception deception.” If this were a scientifically valid proposal, no doubt it would have received much attention in the scientific community. I do not wish to disparage him or any of the many other creative proposals to reconcile old/young earth problems, but I feel the truth is achievable under the umbrella of mainstream science and orthodox theology. Dr. Hugh Ross definitely qualifies to speak from both of those perspectives. Thanks for writing.

Friday, February 6, 2009


Among creationist Bible believers there are lively disagreements about how and when God created the universe and the living things which inhabit it. Each time Dr. Ankerberg presents scientists and theologians discussing creation-related issues, the ATRI ministry receives a significant number of queries and comments from listeners who feel old earth views are unfaithful to correct biblical interpretation. The current series is no exception. A number of listeners have expressed disappointment, even chagrin, that any theologian of orthodox stripe would promote the view that our earth is not 6,000 to 10,000 years old, but rather, billions of years old.

Personally, I have exchanged hundreds of pages of letters in the last ten years with friends and relatives on this weighty issue, not counting the letter exchanges with listeners in the past few weeks. I have attempted to discuss and clarify the positions of Dr. Ankerberg, Dr. Ross, and other program guests patiently and thoroughly. Almost everyone agrees that it is not a matter of doctrine. One might ask, then, what really is at stake. Is truth at stake? All participants would agree that it is. Our responsibility to grasp truth is vital, along with our responsibility to embrace traditional, orthodox doctrine.

Christians who espouse young earth concepts have strong presuppositional leanings. That means, primarily, that they accept the supernatural revelation of the Bible as pre-eminent and foundational. For them, that is a “given,” a starting point for all other theological discussion, and needs no proof. Such starting points are known by philosophers as “properly basic beliefs.” We must quickly and emphatically state that this belief standard concerning scripture is, indeed, pre-eminent and foundational. However, it is a standard over which agnostics and doubters stumble. In my many conversations with agnostics, the objection to a presuppositional approach to the reliability of scripture surfaces frequently. My responses to them flow toward presenting evidence supporting scripture as a reliable witness to truth and reality. This testimony includes rational evidence that the scripture canon should be accepted as God-inspired, and that the events described in the canon should be accepted as true. Scientifically, we present plentiful evidence for a very ancient cosmos with the Big Bang as the initial event. We also reveal evidence for periodic, sudden creations of new life forms on this earth, ending with the creation of man. The use of such evidential apologetics is encouraged in scripture (I Thes. 5:21, Heb. 11:1). It is a common-sense approach as well.

If we agree that both old earth and young earth creationist believers accept the inspiration and authority of scripture in matters of origins events described in Genesis, what, then, is the source of difficulty? Briefly, the disagreement centers on (1) whether interpretation of Hebrew “yom” (day) is a 24-hour day or a long period of time; and (2) “No death before Adam’s fall,” a scriptural interpretation necessary to preserve the young earth paradigm. Blog readers may wish to check out my outline of the issues relevant to this discussion elsewhere on the homepage of this ATRI website, under the title “Earth and the Cosmos.” For believers in a young earth and universe, the 24-hour day interpretation becomes a pillar of their apologetic approach.

Creationists seeking the truth about the Big Bang, the time scale, creation events, and death before Adam’s fall need to turn to the scientific evidence—for, or against. Scientific evidence in these areas is abundant. The literature teems with evidence for an ancient cosmos starting with the Big Bang, as this blog has often stated. Believers and unbelievers alike have the choice to accept or reject such evidence, even when truth is at stake. But when the secular world searches for truth, we must remember that they will be more impacted by evidence than by presuppositions.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Science Apologetics

Let’s more carefully define apologetics as a sequel to our recent post on Evidential Apologetics. Our Christian faith needs a rational foundation. Apologetics is the process whereby we justify, support, and defend our belief system, which could fortify our own beliefs and help us convince a seeker. A large share of our discussions with others relating to matters of faith is connected with apologetics. The John Ankerberg Show discussions on science, past and current, uses science to aid us in supporting our belief that God exists and is the Creator of everything.

The science-minded person’s faith may be particularly strengthened by evidential apologetics. That person seeks answers to questions like “What happened?” “How did it happen?” and “When did it happen?” He is interested in demonstrating that certain causes have resulting effects. Classical apologetics relies upon reason and rationality to evaluate what we observe. This encompasses cosmological (first causes) and teleological (design) arguments. Finally, there is presuppositional apologetics. Presuppositionalists hold that the Bible’s revelation is pre-eminent. This apologetic method accepts God’s existence and written revelation of Himself as a “given,” a starting point for all other discussion. Other apologetics methods exist and there is some overlap in apologetic methodology.

There is a spirited discussion among Christians about whether the earth and universe is old or young and whether God created a fully-formed universe in the last 10,000 years within just six days, as opposed to a Big Bang 13.73 billion years distant. This discussion relates more closely to which apologetic method one embraces than to any other differences within the creationist faith community. If divergent views of creation events and timeframes were understood to be differences in apologetics methods, perhaps some of the heat generated by the discussion would abate.

No professional scientist would minimize the importance of evidence-gathering and analysis. The past and current John Ankerberg Show programs on scientific evidence for the Big Bang, design in the universe, and sudden and supernatural creation of life forms have a distinct flavor of evidential apologetics. As we study these various methods, however, we must recognize value in each and every one. Even champions of one method or another would agree that favoring one method merely indicates a difference in emphasis.