Archive for June, 2011

June 28th, 2011

Einstein’s Impact on the Epistemic Method

by Max Andrews

Lorenzo Valla (1406-1457) developed the interrogative (interrogatio) rather than the problematic (quaestio) form of inquiry.  Valla’s mode of inquiry was one in which questions yield results that are entirely new, giving rise to knowledge that cannot be derived by an inferential process from what was already known.  This method was similar to the works of Stoic lawyers and educators like Cicero and Quintilian; that is, questioning witnesses, investigating documents and states of affairs without any prior conception of what the truth might be.  Valla transitioned from not only using this method for historical knowledge but also applied it as “logic for scientific discovery.”[1]

Valla’s logic for scientific discovery was the art of finding out things rather than merely the art of drawing distinctions and connecting them together.  He called for an active inquiry (activa inquisitio).  John Calvin (1509-1564) applied this method to the interpretation of Scripture and thus became the father of modern biblical exegesis and interpretation.[2]  Francis Bacon (1561-1626) applied it to the interpretation of the books of nature, as well as to the books of God, and became the father of modern empirical science.[3]

This methodology created a split between subject and object, knowing and being, and gave rise to phenomenalism.  Newton claimed that he invented no hypotheses but deduced them from observations produced rationalistic positivism, which engulfed contemporary European science.  This split’s gulf was widened by David Hume’s (1711-1776) criticism of causality, depriving science of any valid foundation in necessary connections obtaining between actual events and of leaving it with nothing more reliable than habits of mind rooted in association.[4]  Hume weighed heavy in Immanuel Kant’s (1724-1804) philosophical development.  Given the Newtonian understanding of space and time, Kant transferred absolute space and time from the divine sensorium to the mind of man (the transfer of the inertial system), thus intellect does not draw its laws out of nature but imposes its laws upon nature.  According to Kant one cannot know the Ding an Sich (thing itself) by pure reason; one is therefore limited to the sensual and shaping mental categories of the mind.  That which comes through sensation the intuitions are shaped by the mind’s a priori categories.  It is in this sense that Kant played an essential part in the development of the idea that man is himself the creator of the scientific world.

Throughout Einstein’s work, the mechanistic universe proved unsatisfactory.  This was made evident after the discovery of the electromagnetic field and the failure of Newtonian physics to account for it in mechanistic concepts.  Then came the discovery of four-dimensional geometry and with it the realization that the geometrical structures of Newtonian physics could not be detached from changes in space and time with which field theory operated.  Einstein stepped back into stride with Newton and his cognitive instrument of free invention.  It was free in the sense that conclusions were not reached under logical control from fixed premises, and it was invented under the pressure of the nature of the universe upon the intuitive apprehension of it.  Einstein used Newton and Maxwell’s partial differential equations in field theory to develop a mode of rationality called mathematical invariance.  Mathematical invariance established a genuine ontology in which the subject grips with objective structures and intrinsic intelligibility of the universe.[5]

Einstein’s categories are not some form of Kantian a priori but conceptions that are freely invented and are to be judged by their usefulness, their ability to advance the intelligibility of the world, which is dependent of the observer.  As he sees it, the difference between his own thinking and Kant’s is on just this point:  Einstein understands the categories as free inventions rather than as unalterable (conditioned by the nature of the understanding).  Einstein asserts that the real in physics is to be taken as a type of program, to which one is not forced to cling a priori.[6]

Principles of method are closely related to empirical observations.  As Einstein put it, “the scientist has to worm these general principles out of nature by perceiving in comprehensive complexes of empirical facts certain general features which permit of precise formulation.”[7]  These principles, not “isolated general laws abstracted from experience” or “separate results from empirical research,” provide the basis of deductive reasoning.[8]

There is a long tradition within Christian theology of drawing on intellectual resources outside the Christian tradition as a means of developing a theological vision.  This approach is often referred to by the Latin phrase ancilla theologiae (a ‘handmaid of theology’).  The evolution of thought and method from Newton to Einstein vitalized scientific theology.  Scientific theology argues that the working methods and assumptions of the natural sciences represent the best—or the natural—dialogue partner for Christian theology.[9]

Here too logico-deductive argumentation from static concepts and mechanistic systems are rejected.  There is another reorientation of man’s knowledge leaving epistemic and cosmological dualism behind in operations that have to do with the unity of form and being.  Scientific theology is concerned with the discovery of appropriate modes of rationality or cognitive instruments with which to enter into the heart of religious experience, and therefore with the development of axiomatic concepts with which to allow interior principles to be disclosed, and in that light to understand the rational structure of the whole field of God’s interaction with man and the world.[10]

Scientific theology takes Einstein’s knowing and being and his understanding of reality as a whole and applies this method of theology in Christian theology.  If the world is indeed the creation of God, then there is an ontological ground for a theological engagement with the natural sciences.  It is not an arbitrary engagement, which regresses back to Newtonian engagement, but it is a natural dialogue, grounded in the fundamental belief that the God about whom Christian theology speaks is the same God who created the world that the natural sciences investigate.[11]


            [1] Thomas F. Torrance, “Einstein and Scientific Theology,” Religious Studies 8 no. 3 (1972):  236-237.

             [2] Valla served in conjunction with Andrea Alciati (1492-1550) as Calvin’s primary influence for his biblical interpretation.

            [3] Torrance, 237.

            [4] Ibid., 240.

            [5] Ibid., 241-242.

            [6] Donna Teevan, “Albert Einstein and Bernard Lonergan on Empirical Method,” Zygon 37 no. 4 (2002): 875-876.

            [7] Albert Einstein, Ideas and Opinions, Trans. and rev. Sonja Bargmann (New York: Three Rivers, 1982), 221.

            [8] Teevan, 877.

            [9] Alister E. McGrath, The Science of God (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2004), 18-19.  There are five distinct classes of things—time, space, matter, energy, and the things relating to conscious life—form with their combinations the known universe.  The fifth class must, like the previous, be permanent in quantity, variable in form, and cannot be destroyed.  This may be simply labeled as “spirit.”  In natural science dialogues, this element is often referred to as “God,” though it does not necessarily carry the theological meanings with it.  This, perhaps, is the sense in which Einstein meant the term “God.”  T. Proctor Hall, “Scientific Theology,” Monist 23 (1913): 95.

            [10] Torrance, 244.

            [11] Both the natural sciences and Christian theology are to engage with the nature of reality—not deciding this in advance, but exploring and establishing it through a process of discovery and encounter.  McGrath, The Science of God, 21-22.

June 28th, 2011

Treating My Trigeminal Neuralgia

by Max Andrews

In the summer of 2009 I developed a slight pain in my left temple.  It progressively got worse and more painful to the touch.  By autumn it got really bad.  It got to the point that it was always in pain without it being touched and when it was touched it was like having lightning run through my face.

I went to the university’s medical center and they really had no idea what was happening and they kindly took my $90 for the visit and told me to go to another doctor’s office (let’s just say I wasn’t too happy about that).  I went to my old family doctor’s office back in Richmond, VA and the doctor told me I had trigeminal neuralgia.  It took me a while to say it and learn to spell it but he was kind enough to explain the situation to me.  The trigeminal nerve is located by the temple and has three other nerves branches coming out from it; one to the lower jaw, another to the cheek area, and the other towards the eye.  I was also interested to find out that this condition is most common in middle-aged women, I considered myself to be the lucky one.

I was then referred to a neurologist in Richmond who didn’t help me at all.  I guess he wanted to see how much in pain he could make me on my first visit so he pushed down on the nerve when I got there.  I gave out a violent jolt and a scream and had me in pain for quite a long time after that (the lightning bolt pain lingers for a while).  I was prescribed this medicine that dulls the neurological system to help dull the pain.  It didn’t really help.  All it did was make my tongue go numb and make me tired.  After months of continuous pain, not being able to sleep on that side of the pillow, use headphones, and barely being able to shave the left side of my face, my wife (then girlfriend) convinced me to go a chiropractor.  This is the victory story.  After five months of going to the chiropractor the pain dramatically decreased!  It was amazing!  So for any of you who suffer (and yes, it’s a suffering pain) from trigeminal neuralgia, I recommend trying a chiropractor.  It didn’t cure me because I still have the pain but it’s only to the touch now and the area of touch is much smaller.  I still have to have my hair dresser be careful when cutting my hair and I still have to be careful when shampooing my hair but it is quite manageable at this point.

I’ve been blessed throughout this whole ordeal by having resources available to me online and meeting others that have this condition as well.  I’d recommend Ben’s Friends (a community for people with rare diseases to get support), Living With TN (a support group for those who suffer from trigeminal neuralgia), and Kathy Gilbert Taylor (a certified rehabilitation counselor who has a great story about her familiarity with TN).  Kathy has been an online acquaintance of mine for quite some time and is such a wonderful, caring, and godly woman.  I really appreciate her ministry and the encouragement she has provided for me.  So, for those who are struggling with trigeminal neuralgia, I hope this is some encouragement for you, it can be controlled and you can once again have a normal lifestyle.

June 27th, 2011

Causal Agencies, Occam’s Razor, and the Cosmological Argument

by Max Andrews

Objects that are thrown up in the air typically fall back down.  Lighting is always followed by thunder.  Rocks that are thrown into a puddle of liquid water or a stream always produces a splash or ripples.  The earth rotates, which may be observed by the rising and setting of the sun every day (unless observing from one of the poles at certain times of the year).  Thirst is usually remedied by drinking water and hunger is usually fixed with eating food.  Refracted light will distort the image of an object.  Magnetic fields with polar opposites will repel one another.  Gas under a constant pressure has a volume equivalent to its absolute temperature.  These are all examples of regular natural cause and effect relationships.

There are also agents of causation.  Causal agents have the ability to initiate and to cease a series of cause and effect relationships.  These agents themselves are “little unmoved movers” so to speak.  Now, it’s typically easy to attribute simple events like a rock falling off an embankment into a stream or throwing a rock in the air and watching it fall back down again as regular natural cause and effects.  However, there are more complex events such as tornadoes, hurricanes, volcanic eruptions, or meteorite impacts that have many more cause and effects to be explained.  The ancients tended to lean towards the simplest explanations (a tendency still practiced today with Occam’s Razor).  The simplest explanation then seemed to be causal agency–attributing complex events to the will of the gods.

How much can this be applied in a cosmological argument?  When would it be appropriate to invoke agent causation and at what expense to Sir Occam?  Let’s trim a little more off with the razor.  The ancients would attribute storms at sea to the god of the sea and volcanic eruptions to that respective god and so on.  Perhaps we don’t need many gods to explain complex various events.  It seems that if a god is needed to explain anything then we are left with one God.  The question then is can the razor cut off even more?  This is what Richard Dawkins advocates in The God Delusion, that we don’t need God or many gods to explain anything.  Here lies the nature of the debate in the cosmological argument.  Is the simplest explanation of all there is one uncaused causal agent or zero?

Today, we look back on the ancients and ridicule them for thinking that volcanic eruptions were the result of the will of the gods.  We now know the geological structure of the planet and how tectonic activity functions and tends to behave in certain areas and layers of the earth.  We can see the effect of the volcano’s eruption and extrapolate the causes to the movement of the iron core of the earth.  Our scientific knowledge in the field of geology and volcanology have progressed since the ancients.  So, has our scientific knowledge of the universe, of all that there is, progressed to the point that we can explain all that there is without having to invoke an uncaused causal agency?  First, before one proceeds with any scientific account for an explanation, one must notice the metaphysical aspect of the question.  This question is a philosophical question, not a scientific question.  Can we extrapolate all causes to have the first cause be self-caused?  Using something within the system of “all that there is” to explain the system itself (“all that there is”) is circular.  The whole notion is self-defeating.

It seems that if we use Occam’s Razor to trim the causal agencies down to zero then we no longer have any explanation for anything.  The explanatory scope and power cover nothing.  Using a causal agent as an explanatory hypothesis doesn’t seem to be an arbitrary ad hoc explanation either, it seems to be the only appropriate explanation that sufficiently fits the explanandum.  In the end, having one uncaused causal agent is the best answer to why there is something rather than nothing.

June 25th, 2011

Exclusive Diversity – More Thoughts on Frank Turek and Cisco’s Discrimination

by Max Andrews

Soon after hearing about Frank Turek’s wrongful termination by Cisco Systems I blogged about the situation in hopes of getting this information out for as many people to hear as I could reach.  Hundreds have since read my post and it has been shared by many organizations and individuals (thanks for sharing the news!).  Recently, I discovered a comment that was left on this post by Kathleen, which stated,

You seemed to be confused about what diversity is. It doesn’t mean a company is going to welcome skinheads, white surpremacists [sic] or anti-gay bigots.

Later, Blinkyboy left some loving words as he accused Dr. Turek of hate speech.

Actually Turek’s book qualifies as hate speech based upon its consistent use of lies and plagiarism. No one has to employ a lying bigot.

This is incredible.  I couldn’t help but shake my head at such horrible logic, intolerance, and hypocrisy.  Those who march under the banner of diversity and tolerance are the same ones who are just as or more intolerant than anyone else.  I’m not anti-diversity nor am I anti-tolerance.  Diversity is crucial for many things.  Diversity increases flow of perspective and thought in the free marketplace of ideas.  Diversity allows for a greater increase of making catalysts for attaining goals of an organization or group.  I certainly do my best to tolerate others as well.  However, tolerance is not the same as acceptance.  Tolerance is allowing others to hold the opinions and ideas that they may have.  Acceptance is embracing those opinions and ideas.  These two commenters who maliciously attack Dr. Turek are ignorant of what tolerance and diversity really mean.  If they claim to be proponents of such ideas, then they’re speaking out of both ends of their mouth.  This whole “hate speech” deal is just ridiculous.  Does having an opinion that doesn’t accept an idea or practice, in Dr. Turek’s case, homosexual marriage, qualify as hate speech?  I don’t think so.  The whole idea of “hate speech” is just off in my opinion anyways.  People can say whatever they want, if it’s hateful then they have the freedom to do so, but it shouldn’t be criminalized.  Many proponents homosexual marriage lobby need to check their words and their ideas before accusing others of being intolerant, hateful, or non-diverse lest they backfire.

June 21st, 2011

Christian Faith Requires Accepting Evolution? Not So Fast Huffington Post…

by Max Andrews

Recently, an article was published in the Religion section of the popular online news agency The Huffington Post.  I don’t know much about the author, Jonathan Dudley, but according to him he has graduated from seminary and is currently studying to be a medical scientist.  That’s excellent!  However, I’m not too convinced that his article is all too accurate.  In fact, it’s wrong.

I don’t want to push off the article all together because there are certainly many good points made.  For instance,

In theory, if not always in practice, past Christian theologians valued science out of the belief that God created the world scientists study. Augustine castigated those who made the Bible teach bad science, John Calvin argued that Genesis reflects a commoner’s view of the physical world, and the Belgic confession likened scripture and nature to two books written by the same author.

These beliefs encouraged past Christians to accept the best science of their day, and these beliefs persisted even into the evangelical tradition. As Princeton Seminary’s Charles Hodge, widely considered the father of modern evangelical theology, put it in 1859: “Nature is as truly a revelation of God as the Bible; and we only interpret the Word of God by the Word of God when we interpret the Bible by science.”

My quarrel with Dudley’s article is that his logic seems to be a bit off.  If by “requiring” acceptance of evolution for the Christian he means that it necessarily entails the acceptance of evolution then he has missed the gospel message.  There’s a difference between having sound Christian theology and philosophy and what it means to have Christian faith.  Here’s the logic.

Necessarily, Christian faith entails the acceptance of evolution.

This doesn’t make sense at all.  He also equates this as orthodoxy!  Here are a few examples of what having Christian faith necessarily entails.

Necessarily, Christian faith entails the belief in the existence of God.

Necessarily, Christian faith entails the belief that Jesus was fully human and fully God and died as a propitiation for your sin.

These are examples of the gospel message, what it means to be a Christian.  Consider one’s theology as a web.  In the center of the web is the gospel message.  The next ring is orthodoxy, the acceptance of the inerrancy of Scripture, the second coming of Christ, the existence of a hell, etc.  Then there are peripheral manners and doctrines such as how sign gifts function today, how ordinances and sacraments are to be observed, etc.  One’s science, in this case, how one views evolution, is peripheral to being a Christian.  I agree with Dudley, a Christian should have sound theology and philosophy, which will shape how one applies theory in approaching the scientific data.  However, the scientific aspect of theology and philosophy is not the gospel message and it is not a manner of orthodoxy.  Dudley then proceeds to list several examples of creationism inability to account for specific scientific data, which I am not going to comment on (my credentials are in philosophy and theology).  However, I’d encourage him to be aware of one hand clapping.

I myself am not a creationist.  I believe [this] universe is about 13.7 billion years old.  I do advocate intelligent design, which is completely compatible with common descent evolution.  My only objection is with Darwinian evolution.  I appreciate what Dudley has attempted to do.  He has attempted to present Christianity in the light of responsible intellectual existence.  I hope he continues in doing so; however, he must do so by properly making the distinction between what requires Christian faith and applying sound theology and philosophy to science.

June 20th, 2011

The Problem of Miracles

by Max Andrews

Why must the possibility of miracles be so foundational? Because it’s the crux of the gospel message, the resurrection of Jesus.  If Jesus did not rise from the dead then our faith is in vain (1 Cor. 15.17).

Undoubtedly, one of the major stumbling blocks to becoming a Christian for many people today is that Christianity is a religion of miracles.  It asserts that God became incarnate in Jesus of Nazareth, being born of a virgin, that he performed various miracles, exorcised demonic beings, and that, having died by crucifixion, he rose from the dead.  But the problem is that these sorts of miraculous events seem to belong to a worldview foreign to modern man—a pre-scientific, superstitious worldview belonging to the ancient and Middle Ages.[1]

Miracle def.: A divine intervention into, or an interruption of, the regular course of the world that produces a purposeful but unusual event that would not have occurred otherwise.

  • Wondrous natural events do not qualify as miracles.
  • Supernatural events that do not interrupt the regular course of the world do not qualify as miracles.
  • “Laws of Nature” are not fixed laws; they are descriptive, not prescriptive.
  • Miracles are not violations of laws of causality, but are simply unusually effects produced by the introduction of a supernatural cause.

David Hume was an 18th century skeptic from Scotland who is considered an authority by many philosophers in challenging miracles.  Consider his take in An Inquiry Concerning Human Understanding,

A miracle is a violation of the laws of nature; and as a firm and unalterable experience has established these laws, the proof against a miracle, from the very nature of the fact, is as entire as any argument from experience as can be imagined… It is no miracle that a man, seemingly in good health, should die on a sudden: because such a kind of death, though more unusual than any other, has yet been frequently observed to happen. But it is a miracle that a dead man should come to life; because that has never been observed, in any age or country. There must, therefore, be a uniform experience against every miraculous event, otherwise the event would not merit that appellation.

Hume’s idea of “extraordinary claims need extraordinary evidence” is pictured in a scale.  On one side is full proof and the other side is the evidence from all people in all the ages for the regularity of the laws of nature, which also amounts to full proof.  Thus, proof stands against proof and does not incline in either direction, the wise man cannot hold to a miracle with any degree of certainty.  According to Hume, miracles are violations of the “laws of nature” that “firm and unalterable” experience has solidly established.[2]  Only a superior testimony of experience may override this proposition, but, unfortunately, there cannot be such a testimony, for if there were, miracles would no longer merit their name.[3]  For clarification:

  • Hume is not arguing that miracles are impossible, just that there can never be enough evidence to believe in them.
  • The entire fund of human experience has established the laws of nature and one would need a greater amount of evidence than all of mankind’s experience to believe in miracles.
  • Hume’s argument is based on probability:  It will always be more probable that a person will be in error (deceiving or being deceived) than an entire experience of mankind is wrong.

Keeping Hume’s criteria and experiential background information in the back of your mind, with respects to the resurrection, let’s consider witness credibility.  What about the contention that the disciples were guilty of fraud?

Easter is not primarily a comfort, but a challenge. Its message is either the supreme fact in history or else a gigantic hoax… If it is true, then it is the supreme fact of history; and to fail to adjust one’s life to its implications means irreparable loss. But if it is not true, if Christ be not risen, then the whole of Christianity is a fraud, foisted on the world by a company of consummate liars, or, at best, deluded simpletons. St. Paul himself realized this when he wrote: If Christ be not risen, then our preaching is meaningless, and your faith worthless. More, we are found to be false witnesses. [4]

What about the cause of the rise of Christianity?

If the coming into existence of the Nazarenes, a phenomenon undeniably attested by the New Testament, rips a great hole in history, a hole the size and shape of the Resurrection, what does the secular historian propose to stop it up with? … the birth and rapid rise of the Christian Church… remain an unsolved enigma for any historian who refuses to take seriously the only explanation offered by the Church itself. [5]

So, how should we answer the Humean objection?

  • Hume begs the question:  “Firm and unalterable experience”; He assumes that miracles have never occurred in order to prove that miracles have never occurred.  CS Lewis notes,

“Now of course we must agree with Hume that if there is absolutely ‘uniform experience’ against miracles, if in other words they have never happened, why then they never have. Unfortunately we know the experience against them to be uniform only if we know that all the reports of them are false. And we can know all the reports to be false only if we know already that miracles have never occurred. In fact we are arguing in a circle.”[6]

  • Hume presupposes naturalism.  Yet if God exists then surely miracles are possible.
  • Hume misuses probability:  1) Highly improbable events do occur; 2) probability cannot tell what actually happened in the past.
  • Miracles appear as sense perception and therefore can be supported by testimony; if miracles are possible then claims should be investigated rather than just ruled out a priori.

How about a more scientific challenge? Early and mid 20th century theologian Rudolph Bultmann argues that “man’s knowledge and mastery of the world have advanced to such an extent through science and technology that it is no longer possible for anyone seriously to hold the New Testament view of the world… the modern conception of human nature as a self-subsistent unity immune from the interference of supernatural powers must take its place.” According to Bultmann God is the Wholly Other, there are no points of contact between us and him.  God is, but we cannot know him objectively.  God is hidden and thus neither God nor his actions are open to verification.  This world is a closed system of cause and effect; we can never find God by empirical processes. There are no breaks in the links of causation; thus, there are no miracles. No event can ever be ascribed to God; all are natural causes.  There is an infinite qualitative difference between God and the world, which makes it impossible for God to objectively act in the world.  Paradoxically, the hidden God reaches down to finite humanity and reaches himself (via the kerygma).  Miracles would be intrusions of God into the natural realm.

What is quite interesting about Bultmann is that he was a contemporary with the rise of Einsteinian physics and relativity.  Bultmann was still shaping his theology and philosophy to a Newtonian system.  It’s not so much that God wouldn’t cause miracles; rather, it’s that he can’t. It would be morally wrong if he interfered with his creation.

How should we respond to objections based on science?

  • The closed-universe view, which says that the universe contains all of reality, is now being either questions or flat-out rejected by many scientists.  Many cosmologists are adopting the view of the multiverse, which is an open-system.  This is quite interesting, though I’m not using it argumentatively, if God were to create, wouldn’t you expect him to create an open-system such as the multiverse given is infinite creativity?
  • Physical science cannot account for all events purely on natural laws.
  • Probability applies even to the field of physics.
  • Some physical events are unpredictable and do not conform to laws (depending on which interpretation of quantum mechanics one ascribes to, particularly concerning wave collapse).
  • Causal agents (agents with libertarian freedom) create several events, which are unpredictable and cannot be ruled out.
  • Investigating an event to see if it actually occurred is valid apart from science and is regularly practiced in other fields (particularly the historical sciences).
  • All we need to establish by this method is that miracles cannot be ruled out a priori.
  • See more from John Lennox on philosophical and scientific objections.

How about a historical challenge?  Sociologist Ernst Troelstsch’s objection to miracles:  the principle of historical analogy.  In essence this principle states the historian has no right to accept as historical fact the account of a past event for which he has no analogy in the present.  For example, if one were to read of a great battle in ancient times in which one army massacres another without suffering a single casualty itself, one would be suspect of its authenticity.  To quote Troelstsch, “God never does miracles today, at least I’ve never seen one.  Therefore, I have no reason to believe that he did them in the past.”

Responding to Troelstsch’s historical challenge:

  • There are positive reasons to believe that the miraculous may be occurring today.  There is a growing awareness in the world of the paranormal—events that cannot be explained by natural causes.  (E.g. near death experiences).
  • It is impossible to argue that miracles do not occur merely because one has not experienced a miracle.  Miracles may be occurring beyond the scope of one’s awareness.  This is confusing an epistemological issue [knowledge based] with an ontological issue [a nature of being].
  • There is no reason a priori to reject the testimony of others who have experienced the miraculous.  As stated above, while one may be justified in requiring evidence for miracle claims, miracles are objective events that can be verified like any other event.

How about multireligious miracles?  The claim is that all religions have their miracles, so what makes Christianity’s miracles true and other religions’ false?

  • Not all religious teach miracles and the Jewish-Christian religions are the only traditions that claim to prove its teachings through miracles.
  • In all cases of miracles, no miracles have the historical evidence like the gospel miracles.
  • Christianity’s miracles are religiously significant.  Jesus’ miracles occurred at the climax of his unparalleled life.
  • Religio-historical context distinguishes miracles from physical anomalies.  When a scientific anomaly occurs it is usually assumed that some unknown natural factors are interfering, so that the law is neither violated nor revised.

It has been shown that miracles are not irrational, unscientific, or non-historical.  They can be rationally shown to be possible, are completely compatible with science, and because they are events in history, can be argued as historically have taken place.  If God exists then miracles are not only certainly possible, but one would expect them to take place as a sign of God’s presence.  Miracles are not beyond logic, logical absurdities, or contradictory.  No one is punting to the “God of the gaps”.

Miracles shape the crux of the Christian worldview.  The Jesus Seminar presupposes the impossibility of miracles, “The contemporary religious controversy turns on whether the worldview reflected in the Bible can be carried forward into this scientific age and retained as an article of faith… the Christ of creed and dogma… can no longer command the assent of those who have seen the heavens through Galileo’s telescope.”[7]  Miracles are a stumbling block for naturalists.  The use of miracles as an apologetic method is known as evidential apologetics.  Evidentialists will appeal to miracles to argue for theism:  1) historical evidence shows miracles occurred, 2) a theistic context is necessary for a miracle; 3) therefore, God must exist.  One of the most prominent proponents of this method is Gary Habermas.  This is what he calls “one step apologetics”.  Classical apologists also use the resurrection and miracles as arguments for the existence of God; however, they use it in conjunction with other arguments for the existence of God to set up a theistic context prior to arguing for miracles.

This world, after all our science and sciences, is still a miracle.” –AW Tozer


[1] William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith, ed. 3 (Wheaton, IL:  Crossway, 2008), 247.

[2] David Hume, An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, 2nd ed., Eric Steinberg, (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company Inc., 1993), Sec. X, Part I, 76.

[3] Ibid., 77.

[4] Sir Norman Anderson, The Evidence for the Resurrection (Leicestyer:  Inter Varisty Press, 1990), 1.

[5] C.F.D. Moule, The Phenomenon of the New Testament (London:  SCM, 1967) 3, 13.

[6] C.S. Lewis, Miracles, (New York Macmillan Publishing Company, 1960), 102.

[7] R.W. Funk, R.W. Hoover, and the Jesus Seminar, “Introduction” to The Five Gospels (New York:  Macmillan, 1993), 2. For more on miracles, arguments for them, and applications see William Lane Craig’s Reasonable Faith ed. 3, a source for much of the included information.

June 20th, 2011

Ancient Texts Compared to the Bible

by Max Andrews

Below is a chart that compares popular ancient texts with the Bible in when it was written, the earliest copy we have, and the number of copies there are.  This information is about a decade old so the number of NT manuscripts has most likely increased by now.  This may serve as a simple illustration of a component to the textual reliability of the Bible.

Author Book When Written Earliest Copy Time Gap No. of Copies
Homer Iliad 800 BC 400 BC 400 yrs 643
Herodotus History 480-425 BC AD 900 1,350 yrs 8
Thucydides History 460-400 BC AD 900 1,300 yrs 8
Plato   400 BC AD 900 1,300 yrs 7
Demosthenes   300 BC AD 1100 1,400 yrs 200
Caesar Gallic Wars 100-44 BC AD 900 1,000 yrs 10
Livy History of Rome 59 BC – AD 17 4th Cent. (Partial)Mostly 10th Cent. 400 yrs1,000 yrs 1 Partial19 Copies
Tacitus Annals AD 100 AD 1100 1,000 yrs 20
Pliny Secundus Natural History AD 61-113 AD 850 750 yrs 7
New Testament   AD 50-100 AD 114 (fragment)AD 200 (books)

AD 250 (most of NT)

AD 325 (complete NT)

+50 yrs100 yrs

150 yrs

225 yrs

5,366

Josh McDowell, The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict, 1999.


June 18th, 2011

Gravity: The Theory of Intelligent Falling

by Max Andrews

I’ve heard gravity used as an example as a means of mocking intelligent design by its equivocation to Darwinism.  I’ve dialogued with Darwinists and when I refer to their position on evolution as Darwinism some have retorted with, “I believe in gravity, does that make me a Newtonian?”  There are so many fallacious equivocations with comparing Darwinism to gravity that it’s a bit embarrassing for the mocker to make such a claim.  What spurned this post was question asked by a skeptic at the Glasgow Skeptics at the Pub talk with the University of Minnesota Biology Professor PZ Myers.  After a question by Jonathan McLatchie, an intelligent design proponent, Dr. Myers proceeded to ridicule McLatchie (I’ll comment on this in another post, you can read more on Dr. Myers’ reaction here).  The following question was asked by a skeptic right after McLatchie’s debacle with Dr. Myers.

Why do you think evolutionary biology is such a target for creationists? I mean, if you had been talking about general relativity you wouldn’t expect people to be here advocating intelligent falling [inaudible… “spaghetti monster”]. So why do you think it is that evolutionary biology is such a target?

Dr. Myers proceeded to answer the question by stating that physics and cosmology has been criticized by creationists.  This is true, many creationists (despite the categorical breadth of the term), do challenge the standard model of particle physics and big bang cosmology (among many other models).  Dr. Myers was correct in that but he failed to note the equivocation in the question and in his own response.  The equivocation is categorical, attempting to compare the strength of explanatory power and scope of Darwinism with gravity.  General relativity is, perhaps, the most well established scientific theory that sufficiently explains the relationship between two massive bodies.  Darwinism is the theory that all living things descended from an original common ancestor through natural selection and random variation, without the aid of intelligence or nonmaterial forces.  Here are my main contentions:

  1. Darwinism attempts to explain the origin of life in a prescriptive manner for the organization of information whereas gravity is a descriptive and is a means of transmitting information.
  2. Gravity could be an information component when aggregated with other constants and initial conditions to bring about a finely-tuned universe for the essential building blocks of life and environments required for life (at best to make Darwinism possible).  (See PCW Davies’ paper “How Bio-Friendly is the Universe?”).  When gravity is being used as an equivocation for being an information component the equivocation falls short because it is merely a part of a series of necessary components.  Again, Darwinism is a theory that takes information and organizes it to create life; gravity transmits information and has no ability to self-organize in a mechanistic manner to create information.
  3. There is information displacement in appealing to gravity as an equivocation.  Because of the descriptive and prescriptive differences between Darwinism and gravity the appeal to gravity does not sufficiently explain the aggregate information.  A sufficient equivocation would be the presence information fine-tuning of the universe’s initial conditions, laws, etc. with the information present in the Darwinian mechanism.  The only comparison that can be made is the presence of information (which is still debatable).  The origin and transmission of information cannot be appropriately equivocated.  Even so, if one wants to advocate a mere presence of information in the initial conditions then that information is, again, not self-producing and must have been caused by intelligence since no physical effect could self-produce information from the initial conditions. It creates a causal circularity.  (See Stephen Meyer on information in the physics and how this falls short in front-loading evolution from a theistic perspective).
In fairness, I suspect that the equivocation is supposed to correlate the sufficiency in explanatory power and scope of the data and how widely accepted or established the theories are.  Even so, one of two fallacies rest with this appeal (depending on intent).  Either’s it’s a slippery slope by suggesting that doubting Darwinism leads to doubting gravity or it’s an argumentum ad populum by appealing to its wide acceptance.  Either way, the attempt to intentionally correlate the two theories falls prey to fallacious reasoning.  All that one is left with at this point is fallacious mockery.  Dare I equivocate it to shooting oneself in the foot?
June 18th, 2011

Process Theology in a Nutshell

by Max Andrews

Process theology entered the scene as a new natural theology.  Some major proponents are Charles Hartshorne, John Cobb, David Griffin, Schubert Ogden, and Thomas Altizer.  This concept of God has him evolving in the world, co-dependent, and God needs us to evolve with him.  God is not all-powerful and he cannot necessarily bring out what he wills.[1]  God works with us by luring us; to lure the cosmos and us to an ever-greater directedness, novelty, harmony, and fulfillment.  God is not omniscient because the future is truly open.  This is a facet is similar to the open theist’s concept of omniscience though the open theist typically affirms that omniscience is defined as God knowing everything in so long as it is possible for him to know it.  A more modest case would simply be that omniscience is redefined.

God is seen as an actual and everlasting entity who is becoming (evolving) in potential as a being.

  • He supplies every entity with it’s initial entity and gives to all beings relevance
  • God needs the world as much as the world needs God
  • The consequent of the pole (physical or actual pole; contrast to potential or primordial pole), also called nature instead of pole, which receives or prehends, uses and is affected by the concrete entities of the world.
Consider the lemniscate as an illustration of God’s and the world.

Left side

  • Potential and not actual (dotted line maybe)
  • What Whitehead referred to as eternal objects
  • Primordial and mental
Right side
  • Consequent or physical pole
  • Relates to all actual entities, galaxies, stars, physics, etc.

God is absorbing in and through the consequent nature all good and evil valuations from all actual entities.  Through creative prehension, in order to make all things and to turn all increasingly to the good, God transforms everything he took in through the consequent nature and re-injects it into the consequent world. God is seen as dynamic, growing, evolving, learning, and directing; also, in an organic relation to all entities in the world.  Because God is not distinct from the world we can infer things about God from the world.  As responsive and growing God too is partially created by the universe as he interacts in it.  He hopefully creates good out of all occasions and persuasively lures to greater creativity and harmony, etc.

Then there is process and reality (the Process Bible).

“Both God and the world, together constituting the universe, are caught in the grip of the ultimate metaphysical ground, the creative advance into novelty.” Alfred North Whitehead

Creativity is ultimate in Whitehead’s view.  Process is a view of reality as a whole.  The world is dynamic, relational, and evolutionary.  Time, process metaphysics, is not a single smooth flow but droplets or actual occasions.  An actual occasion is the basic unit of reality.  This actual occasion (currently understand as being Planck time, 10-43sec.) and it’s evaluation is prehended by the occasions that follow and personal human existence is wholly made up of these occasions dynamically.  All of reality and it’s massive occasions are interrelated because the cosmic realm is a living whole (like an organism) then all things are vitally linked for ultimate actualization of possibilities.  All reality, then, is an interrelated society of societies of occasions and all of things impact all other things—causal efficacy (not mechanical), understood as relational that which forms an organic whole.  Ontorelations, a result of what exists as a result of relationships.From within all of this, God is lovingly seeking to lure the world to greater creativity… out of destructive chaos.


[1] For clarification, the orthodox understanding of this is that the consequent of God’s will is brought about necessarily by virtue of his power and knowledge; however, the antecedent is contingent upon many factors including the will of free agents.

June 16th, 2011

Frank Turek and Cisco Systems’ Discrimination

by Max Andrews

Today started off as a rather normal day for me at the office until I happened to notice Dr. Frank Turek post an unsettling news update from his Twitter account.  His tweet read,

The Cisco Kid: Fired by Cisco for my political views even though they were never mentioned during work. http://t.co/pwH8UjB via @townhallcom

I almost passed over it as I briefly scrolled through my feed.  The link he had shared was an open letter written by Dr. Mike S. Adams to Mr. John Chambers, Chairman and CEO of Cisco Systems Inc.  The account of what happened can be read in the letter but I’ll share a brief synopsis.  Dr. Turek was hired by Cisco back in 2008 to train in leadership techniques and team building for their Remote Operations Services team.  Dr. Turek “was fired as a vendor for his political and religious views, even though those views were never mentioned or expressed during his work at Cisco.”  What happened was one of the managers in Dr. Turek’s program Googled Turek and noticed that he had authored a book, which advocated a particular position on marriage that this manager, a self-identified homosexual, disagreed with.  A complaint was filed against Dr. Turek for not having values consistent with Cisco.

This has got to be one of the poorest responses Cisco management could have to this type of situation for there are several things that are wrong here.  According to Dr. Adams’ open letter the complaining manager discovered that Dr. Turek had written a book on same-sex marriage.  Now, North Carolina is a “right to work” or “at-will” state.  This means that an employer can terminate an employe without notice, with or without any reason at all.  However, the reasons for Dr. Turek’s termination were given as being inconsistent with Cisco’s values.  There are exceptions to North Carolina’s “at-will” employment laws.  Wrongful termination can be filed for discrimination of age; national origin; disability (physical or mental); HIV/AIDS; gender; race; religion; genetic testing; lawful use of any product during non-work hours; military service; or sickle-cell trait.  According to Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 discrimination is prohibited based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin.  SEC. 2000e. [Section 701], the subchapter defines “religion” as follows.

(j) The term “religion” includes all aspects of religious observance and practice, as well as belief, unless an employer demonstrates that he is unable to reasonably accommodate to an employee’s or prospective employee’s religious observance or practice without undue hardship on the conduct of the employer’s business.

I have very few credentials in legal research, being that I only took a handful of undergraduate government courses, but it seems that Dr. Turek has a legitimate wrongful termination case to be made in an “at-will” state.  I will yield the legal research and precedents to those who are more credentialed and qualified than I am to explicate the legal issues here.

This whole situation is strikingly similar, perhaps even worse than the wrongful termination of NASA’s JPL information technology specialist David Coppedge.  Here’s a summary of the situation as provided by The Discovery Institute based out of Seattle, WA.

David Coppedge was an information technology specialist and system administrator on JPL’s international Cassini mission to Saturn, the most ambitious interplanetary exploration ever launched. A division of California Institute of Technology, JPL operates under a contract with the federal space agency. Coppedge held the title of “Team Lead” System Administrator on the mission until his supervisors demoted and humiliated him for advancing ideas that superiors labeled “unwelcome” and “disruptive.” Ultimately they fired him.

Coppedge was terminated for allegedly “pushing” intelligent design upon his coworkers.  JPL associated this with Coppedge’s “religious beliefs” and so Coppedge sued on grounds of religious discrimination.  (I suggest reading the articles listed for a full account).  Cisco meets a sub-par standard of internal consistency and had a knee-jerk reaction to, well they didn’t really know what it was they were reacting to.  According to Cisco Systems,

Cisco values and fosters diversity, development, and growth opportunities for staff through employee networks. These networks join employees to help reinforce the value of all aspects of each member’s personality. Valuing the differences in each person increases individual and team performance, productivity, and satisfaction. Cisco believes that its employee networks are critical to an inclusive organizational culture.

Sounds grand, right?  By all appearances this seems to be a harbor of professional, kind, and moral work atmosphere free of discrimination.  The problem is how consistent is Cisco going to be with this if it is at all possible?  Here are a few shortcomings Cisco made amidst this whole debacle.

  1. Cisco failed to comply with its own policy of “diversity” for not allowing, valuing, and fostering a view of heterosexual marriage that does not support same-sex marriage (Dr. Turek’s belief).
  2. Cisco failed to substantiate reasonable evidence of Dr. Frank Turek’s non-compliance.  The employee did not even exhaust the “evidence” (the book) prior to reporting the violation of values, which seems at this point to be hearsay at best, especially if it was not investigated by Human Resources.
  3. Cisco failed to recognize the complaining manager’s lack of fostering “diversity” and, by Cisco’s apparent standards, is just as guilty of failing to uphold these values as Dr. Turek.
  4. Cisco’s value and diversity policy is internally inconsistent, it is self-defeating.  There is absolutely no room for genuine diversity if Dr. Turek is an example of the practice of such diversity enforcement.  Reasons 1 and 3 make each party guilty of the same thing, which doesn’t permit anyone to have any expression [or beliefs unexpressed, as with Dr. Turek].  This follows that even if Cisco were to enforce any consequences for failing to comply with the value and diversity policy it would be a self-incriminating act by Cisco itself for failing to permit diversity.
  5. Essentially, tolerance and diversity is incredibly ambiguous (perhaps illusory) and inconsistently applied in Cisco Systems Inc.

I would like to call for Casey Luskin and the Discovery Institute to assist Dr. Frank Turek in legal advice (since they are not only a science think tank but also assist in legal affairs).  What makes this whole situation worse than Coppedge’s case is that none of these personal beliefs were expressed in the work atmosphere.  I stand behind Dr. Turek and Dr. Adams in their pursuit for answers, justice, and genuine equality under law.  I commend Dr. Adams for challenging Cisco CEO Mr. John Chambers to see if he is personally consistent with his company’s own policy (Chamber’s being politically conservative himself).  How far will we allow this inconsistency and self-defeating practice of “diversity” go under the guise of “tolerance”?