No, The Ark Encounter is Not Scientific… And That’s OK

Bill Nye recently toured the Ark Encounter, the new exhibit created by Answers in Genesis as part of the Creation Museum. Unsurprisingly, Nye’s evaluation was unfavorable.

Nye’s position is that the exhibit is unscientific. He believes it to be a tool of brainwashing that is hindering the progress of scientific education in our country, particularly as it pertains to combating climate change.

As an atheist, Nye’s worldview is full of holes, logical contradiction, and truths borrowed from the Christian worldview which he seeks to debunk. He can give no rational assurance to himself or anyone else why the claims of science or even his own senses or reason are to be trusted without begging the question. Such is always the case of one who believes that we evolved by random chance through undirected scientific processes over billions of years.

So it is hardly worth our time rebutting him. There is some value in it, but there is danger as well.

But for the sake of our thinking, what are we to say about his claim that the Ark Encounter is unscientific?
Well this all depends on what you mean by scientific.

Answers in Genesis founder and president Ken Ham has poured a great deal of effort into advancing the distinction between Observable science and historical science. This was the crux of his position in the 2014 debate against Nye.

The argument, which has a high degree of merit and yet has not been addressed by Nye or any other critics of creationism, goes that you simply can’t apply modern scientific methods to testing historical claims because they are claims about one-time events that happened in the distant past. You simply can’t use the scientific method here. You can’t conduct an experiment to try to reproduce it in a lab. You can’t peer review the Bible.

Of course here’s the point. The Bible doesn’t need to be peer reviewed. It wasn’t written to be peer reviewed. Because God doesn’t have any peers!

So Ham’s argument is that when Nye and others say that the Bible is unscientific, they are expecting it to meet the same rigors as claims about the efficacy of new drugs, or the physics of gravity/the general theory of relativity, or biology, or chemistry, or any other of the hard sciences we have today.

But because history – not just biblical history – doesn’t work that way, we can’t apply those same rigors. Sure we can do archeology, and we can examine manuscripts. But that usually creates more questions than answers. It certainly leaves large gaps, and what we fill those gaps with is determined more by our presuppositions than hard science.

Nye would probably object that he fills in the gap with hard science. In one sense this is reasonable, but there’s an unprovable presupposition there that this is always appropriate. More to the point, he has to presuppose that the particular facts he imports from hard science are the appropriate ones and are arranged in the appropriate way.

So when it comes to whether the claims of the Bible are true, they simply can’t be tested with the scientific rigor Nye wants them to be.

Should we expect them to be? Here’s what bothers me a bit about creation science. The flood is not only an historical event that took place thousands of years ago, it was a divinely orchestrated event.

The Scriptures are full of things like this. They tell of everything being created from nothing in six days. They tell of a catastrophic worldwide flood. They tell of fire from heaven destroying a city, of the waters of the Red Sea being parted so the Hebrews could cross on dry ground, of the sun standing still, of a man living in the belly of a fish for three days and nights, and of a multitude of people being raised from the dead.

These are not claims of science. They are the mighty acts of the God given to display his transcendent power over the natural world which he created and scientists study . This is the God who made the laws that scientists rely on. He therefore can suspend or change them when he wishes.

These claims require no scientific proof, not that any could ever be forthcoming.

This is not to say that the evidence of science cannot be arranged in a way that demonstrates how it does not actually contradict these claims, as is so often and vociferously argued by Nye and his ilk.

[As an aside…. My own criticism of the Creation Museum was that I wish they would do more of this, or at least would make a more prominent feature of their museum. When I went through it felt like I was walking through a life size diorama of Sunday School illustrations. There are some science bits, but they were tucked off to the side and I had to go looking for them intentionally.

[They also spent a lot of time trying to make it look like atheists are this big conspiracy out to try to attack God and his people. While we know that such a conspiracy is true in one sense – the enemy who has darkened their understanding certainly wages war against God and his people! – individual scientists aren’t necessarily consciously trying to do this. Are they contributing to that war? Sure, but they don’t realize it and wouldn’t claim to be doing that. They are as much victims of it as they are participants in it, and when you accuse them like this, it constitutes an ad hominem or a poisoning of the well. That does sort of put a toe into the brainwashing territory. At the very least in undermines credibility. But I digress.]

But let us not think that by showing how the claims of the Bible are not debunked by science we are somehow proving God’s existence. He doesn’t need us to, and it would be impossible anyway.

That’s not because he doesn’t exist, but because trying to prove God by scientific means is a rigged game and the house always wins.

When we engage in attempts to prove God’s existence to an atheist by scientific means, we enter his home turf and of necessity must employ means that he controls. We must present him with evidence he would consider compelling, but since he is the arbiter of what is compelling, he is going to set that standard such that it is impossible for us to meet.

Better to defend his attacks by showing how he begs the question in trying to disprove God.

Better still to try to deconstruct his worldview to show that it is inherently self-contradictory and relies on the worldview he seeks to debunk in order to make his arguments.

Best of all to love him in Christ, live the light of the gospel out before him, preach the good news to him whenever possible, and pray that God would open his eyes of faith.

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Wealth Inequality in America 

This video is rather old, but it came across my news feed again today, and I figured it warranted comment.

With the hard charge of Bernie Sanders in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, it would seem that this idea of inequality is becoming increasingly more popular.

There’s a major problem with it, though, and that’s that they are looking only at one side of the financial ledger to measure wealth solely by dollar income.

This isn’t all that surprising given that the cultural understanding of economy centers entirely around the government and their attempts to manipulate things through the income tax. 

Never mind that the effect of the income tax pales in comparison to the damage done by the Federal Reserve. That really doesn’t matter to most people who remain blissfully unaware of all but what the news media talks about. 

So to most people the economy is all about how much is the rich people’s money the government takes to help the poor. Republicans, of course, counter the Democrats’ desire to take it all (Democrats are no true socialists by the way, but that’s off topic), by saying that doing so would stifle the economy. 

Why is this bad? To them is because the money won’t trickle down in the form of jobs. So really both sides ultimately measure the health of the economy by how much of the dollar wealth finds its way into the pockets of poor people. 

(Kind ironic then, isn’t it, that this is the same government that encourages those poor people to spend their little hearts out by disincentivizing savings while at the same time sapping the purchasing power of what dollars they do have to spend…. But that’s another digression).

So what’s the proper economic analysis here? Is there a problem with this distribution? It certainly seems unfair, doesn’t it? But is it?

No. It’s not. Why not? Because of that whole idea of trickle down. 

Of course any time a fiscal conservative mentions the trickle down, the progressives are always quick to point out that the trickle down doesn’t work.

Is that true? No way! The fact is that the trickle down has already worked and this distribution is the proof.

Now that sounds backwards, right? If the trickle down worked, this graph would even out, wouldn’t it?

Well it certainly seems like it would, and that’s what the progressives say world happen. But that’s only because they are incorrectly measuring wealth in terms of income or dollars in a bank account instead of standard of living.

If you look at standard of living and then compare those poorest Americans with people in, say, Rwanda, it’ll put things into proper perspective pretty quickly.

All of this of course begs the question of why any one person has any greater claim than another to any given unit of wealth. 

The videographer’s bias (and the one growing increasingly common) is that at a certain point someone has enough and someone else has a greater claim to his excess, because… fairness.

The root of this idea has to do with need. Why does the top 1% NEED all that cash? Certainly if we distributed a chunk of that to the bottom 10% that would significantly increase their standard of living, right?

Or would it?

This whole thing seems to forget what money and income really are. Money is the measure of how much you have enriched the lives of to those around you.

It’s easy to understand when we break it down. If I give you a gallon of milk, and you give me $3, that $3 I have been enriched is roughly equivalent to the amount I have enriched you. My wealth has improved by $3. Yours has improved by $3 worth of milk.

Then suppose I buy a cow and sell all the milk I get from it to not just you but all my other neighbors. Every gallon I sell enriches someone else by $3 worth of milk and enriches me by $3 worth of currency. 

Now after a while that currency will start to pile up. Except for the amount I have to spend feeding and keeping my cow healthy, and except for the amount I have to spend on consumable goods and services for my own well-being, that cash is all going to accumulate into a nice pile of dough.

And since that wealth comes from a multitude of sources, if you compare me to any one of my customers, it will appear as though I have a great advantage over them. But that is merely because I serve more people than just that one. To be fair, you would have to compare me to the whole community, and you would have to count all the milk I’ve produced in the balance on their side.

These guys in the top 1% got there because in one way or another they have directly or indirectly enriched the lives of millions of people. 

Suppose $1 of every Star Wars ticket found its way into JJ Abrams’ pocket. If a million people went to see the movie, that would be $1 million to Mr Abrams.

It wouldn’t be fair for my neighbors to gang up on me and demand I distribute my pile of cash among them. Why do I owe them anything? I gave them milk. 

Similarly, it’s not fair for society to gang up on rich people and demand they redistribute their wealth. Why should they redistribute it? 

They gave us Star Wars and iPhones and Facebook and well-stocked grocery stores and cars and loans when we needed to buy a house or pay for college and so on and so forth.

Don’t look at this graph and think only about how much cash is at the top without realizing that that cash got to the top because the guys at the top are responsible for the fact that the guys at the bottom live better than kings did 400 years ago.

The wealth has already trickled down – not in the form of cash, but in the form of standard of living.

Don’t believe me, just look around you! The poor in this country are not that bad off. Some people are truly suffering, but there are almost always circumstances surrounding that, and even the worst of of them are doing pretty well actually.

Again, compare them to people living in Rwanda or the Philippines or Myanmar. 

With relatively few exceptions, the poor in the United States (and most of the so called “first world”) have food, clothing and even cell phones and tvs. 

But more to the point, because if the efforts of guys at the top, even the poorest in this country have indoor plumbing, electricity, refrigeration, forced air central heating, air conditioning, some firm of automotive transportation, telephones, access to a computer with Internet access, and a thousand other things poor Americans take the granted every day that simply did not exist or at least were not available to the poorest of people even as recently as 100 years ago. 

All of these comforts enjoyed by everyone in our society that came about because of the hard work of those at the top.

Sure there’s always going to be a certain handful of exceptions to every rule. But by and large, the pattern is that the guys at the top, though they have indeed amassed a vastly greater sum of cash than everyone else in this country, have done so by serving others.

The implication – or rather the outright statement of this video maker – that the rest of the people are suffering as a result of all this hoarding is patently false. In fact quite the opposite is the truth, because how did these guys amass all this wealth? 

They did it by enriching the lives of millions of other people which has drastically improved the standard of living for those who seem to have less.

Biblical Government: Anarchy, Minarchy, or Statism? A Response

Click for more in this series: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5

I ran across a series of articles lately on a blog called “The Kuyperian Commentary.”

The Article in question is titled “Biblical Government: Anarchy, Minarchy or Statism?” and was written by Adam McIntosh, a former missionary kid, and currently a pastoral intern in Southern Illinois. It is my intention over the next series of articles to interact with the ideas McIntosh presents in his article. Before, I get into it, though, I would encourage you to read the entire thing for yourself. It’s a bit long – a five parter – but it’s well worth it, and you’ll have a much better context for what I am going to say.

Continue reading Biblical Government: Anarchy, Minarchy, or Statism? A Response

Legislate Morality?

I read these comments from Al Mohler on Facebook:

“The argument for removing polygamy laws was simple: the state has no business legislating morality. But every legislature legislates morality. Every code of laws is a codex of morality. The law is itself inherently and inescapably moral, even irreducibly moral. The law can’t be anything other than a moral statement.”

In my early days, I made that argument rather vigorously, but have now come to modify my position. It is not so much that I have abandoned what I once believed, but that I now understand the nature of that belief with greater clarity. Continue reading Legislate Morality?

An Open Letter to Ohio Senators Cafaro, Brown, Turner and Schiavoni RE Senate Bill 248

UPDATE: VICTORY! http://hslda.org/hs/state/oh/248_withdrawl_statement.docx. Here and after I already printed, signed and sealed my copies of the letter. Oh well. At least I didn’t stamp them. I will definitely have to keep my eye on this issue though.

I live in Ohio. I home school. This hits home. Senate Bill 248 is an attack on home schooling families. Read more here and here. In response, I have drafted the following letter that I plan to send to the sponsoring legislators. I will also be sending a modified version to the senator from my district urging his opposition to this.

Continue reading An Open Letter to Ohio Senators Cafaro, Brown, Turner and Schiavoni RE Senate Bill 248

So… What if my son or daughter was gay…?

I decided to tag onto my previous post and give my thoughts on what I would do if my son or daughter came out to me as gay.

First of all, this would not have been the first conversation we have had on the subject, nor the last. It won’t be the first because I plan, relying on God’s grace, to lay a proper foundation for any discussion of these issues which includes discussing what God’s word says and talking about the heart issues of idolatry that would be involved. This context is important. If I say nothing to my kids about these things before they talk to me, and simply react negatively to their announcement, then regardless of whether I intend to be reacting in defense of God’s truth, they will perceive only self-righteousness and disapproval. If, on the other hand, we have established the ground work of understanding what God’s word says and what the heart issues are, then we have a framework in which to deal with this issue.

And this won’t be the last because I will recognize that I can’t just say harsh words and force them to “snap out of it.” Whatever the true nature of homosexuality, it is clearly deeply ingrained into a person’s psyche. This will not have been just a whim that they decided to take on impulse that morning. It will probably be something that they have been harboring in their hearts for years. You can’t just brush that aside. In fact my primary motivation won’t even be to force change on them. It will be show them from God’s Word how they’ve chosen to follow the idols of their heart into sin and to plead with them to repent. I will recognize that I cannot force them to change. I can only be a faithful minister of God’s word to them and pray that God will work in their heart. Applying the gospel to this situation will take years of patient administration of the Word of God and of prayer. There will be complex layers of heart issues that will need to be worked through, and there will probably come to light ways that my sin has contributed to the situation, which I will need to repent and seek reconciliation for – which means I’ll have some log removal to do. That needs to be step one.

Secondly, I will remember that the reason they chose to come out to me was to seek my affirmation. What do I mean by that? I mean that keeping this secret from me has created an inner conflict in them that they are seeking to resolve. They are looking to find out how I would react to them telling me they are gay, and hoping that I don’t do the typical, “I have no son,” act. They are testing whether my love truly is unconditional, and need to be affirmed in it.

The most troubling implication of what I’ve been reading lately from conservatives is the rejection of the term “unconditional love.” What’s wrong with that term? It’s as though we’ve accepted the World’s notion that Love requires acceptance and absolute moral approval. Rubbish. Love is a commitment – a choice – to place the other’s needs above your own; to seek the good of the other no matter what. My child will need to know that I love him. She will need to know that my commitment to her is not grounded in my self interest but on the love that God has for me, and that even when they have chosen a path I disapprove of, I will still be their dad. This means that there will be some tough conversations and confrontations, but there will be a marked difference between the response of a self righteous, and embarrassed parent who is attempting to bully change out of his son, and the response of a loving shepherd who is broken that his sheep has gone astray, goes looking for it, brings it back, and binds up its wounds.

I cannot condone his choice, and I will not back down from trying to counsel him with the Word of God. But I will remember at that moment, that he needs to know that I still love him. She needs to know that my love cannot change. How I express that love will change, but the fact that I love her cannot ever change.

My message to my son or daughter would essentially be this: “We’ve talked about this. You know what God’s Word says about this. We’ve discussed the various heart issues that are involved in this decision. You know that I cannot morally approve of this choice. But you are my son, and I love you. I will never stop loving you. You are (growing into) an adult and I cannot force you to choose to honor God. I can only plead with you that you do and counsel you from God’s Word, which I will never stop doing. But this choice is yours to make. I will support you whatever you choose, even while I pray that God would win your heart back with the Gospel.”

My long term prayer and goal would be that God would use me to minister his Word to them and bring them back to repentance.
But my short term goal should be to affirm to them that my love for them is unshakable. It cannot be torn down by anything. It is founded on the solid rock of the Christ’s love for me that has put up with many a sin over these years.

A Prayer for Sandy Hook Elementary School of Newton, Connecticut

Sovereign Lord who works all things according to the counsel of your will, we pray to you for the families of Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Conn. They are in desperate need of your grace in this hour.

As you well know, Lord, the curse has broken through the facade of our lives. Death has come where it should not be – to children. Lord give us faith to believe in your goodness and in your sovereignty even in a time such as this. Shield us from anger and bitterness toward you. Grant us wisdom to understand the root of death, which is sin, and give us hearts of repentance.

An entire community is now shrowded in sorrow and its tendrils stretch across our nation. Father, our minds cannot fathom a way to comfort these who have experienced this grief, so we look to you to be their comfort. Give us wisdom on how to engage the world at a time like this. I pray especially for believers in Newton; that they would be moved by your Spirit to reach out to the families that have been victimized by this – both those who have survived and those who have lost. I pray that they would seek your face and find strength and wisdom to engage in this time. Give them words to say so that they can minister grace and mercy to these families that will not only comfort them, but will also somehow magnify your glory even in this dark time. I pray that the hope and joy found in the Gospel of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ would shine through the darkness of this hour and that you would cultivate hearts of faith in your people at this time.

I pray for all of us who sit on the outside looking in. I pray also that we would engage our neighbors. I pray that debates over guns and mental health would not dominate the discussion. As much as is needed, let us be a voice of reason in those discussions, but give us the words and the wisdom to make sure that no conversation passes us without us taking hold of the opportunity to discuss the deeper Spiritual realities behind what has happened. Oh let the church be the beacon of compassion and hope in this crises. Let the church shine the light of the Gospel and truth. Use us to draw people unto yourself.

I pray these things in the name of Jesus Christ, the suffering servant who “made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death of the cross” – for us!

As President Obama hinted at, may the Lord heal the brokenhearted and bind up their wounds.
Amen.