Category Archives: Apologetics

Shedding “light” on Creation

In one of the discussion threads on christiannews.net the issue once again arose regarding the age of the Earth. This particular discussion dealt with newly discovered intact fossil fish. The debate raged (on and on and on) about geology and Genesis and man’s creation. But I asked a question several times and could not get any responses (save one) from “young earth” believers: Is the Earth the same age as the universe or is it much older?

So in the next series of posts I want to explore if and how the Biblical account of creation squares with our empirical understanding. I will start by exploring the first created thing: light.

And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. – Genesis 1:3

You can’t get much earlier than that.

Sir Isaac Newton is considered the first scientist to explore the nature of light. He was able to determine that white light was actually composed of many colors, i.e. a spectrum. Isn’t it interesting that the God left a spectrum (rainbow) as a sign that he would never again destroy the Earth.Was light composed of many colors prior to the Flood? We have no way of knowing for sure, but we can be certain that such is the case today.

Another thing that Newton determined was that light behaves like a wave. Using a double slit experiment he observed the interference pattern that one would expect a wave to produce. In the physics of that time, it was believed that waves were fluctuations in density of some medium, so if light were a wave then there must be some medium in which it propagated. No one knew what it was, so they proposed a hypothesis that the universe was infused everywhere with a substance with no mass which could occupy the same space a other objects. It was deemed the luminiferous aether (or ether). It was a major goal of 19th century science to determine its nature.

If there were such a thing as the ether, then it was reasonable to expect the velocity of light to differ depending on the direction in which it was measured. After all the Earth was speeding through space at considerable velocity.One experiment sought to prove the hypothesis that the velocity of light differed depending upon the direction in which it was measured. This is the famous Michelson-Morley experiment. It is one of the classic examples of a falsifiable hypothesis and this experiment is a stunning example of falsification What they found was that light propagated at exactly the same velocity irrespective of the direction in which it was measured. In other words, they determined that the velocity of light in a vacuum was a constant.

This would have major repercussions in physics leading eventually to the Special Theory of Relativity. It is of such major importance that the question must be asked: Is there anything in Michelson-Morley the contradicts the Biblical account of the creation of light?

I am very interested in getting the response of anyone (especially a pastor or teacher) who holds to a more literal reading of Genesis. If we can’t come to some common ground on this topic there may be little hope in harmonizing the Biblical creation account with current cosmology.

Let’s hear what you have to say.

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Fighting fire or fighting firemen?

“Jennifer” replied to one of my posts on christiannews.net regarding concerns we have over the direction Pope Francis appears to be taking us. I had expressed some reservations about his Jesuit worldview and she agreed that she had similar concerns.

Specifically, she wondered how those who believe in the True Presence of Christ in the Eucharist and those who deny it can operate under one roof. This cuts to the very purpose of the blog site. It’s one thing to want Christians to work together to achieve positive change in this increasingly anti-Christian world, but how exactly do we overcome our differences? What kind of “roof” can we operate under?

I have two approaches to that. First, to list the things that we all share in common and that cause us to identify as Christians. And second, to identify the specific evils in the world that we need to address together.

The first is what C. S. Lewis called “Mere Christianity.” What does that mean? Here’s my (perhaps incomplete) list:

  • That Jesus Christ was truly the Son of God.
  • That Jesus Christ lived and walked on the earth
  • That Jesus Christ performed miracles
  • That Jesus’ death on the cross is the sole means by which we obtain salvation
  • That Jesus intended His church to survive eternally

Catholic believe these things to be literally true. Evangelicals believe these things to be literally true. And although there are other immense theological differences between us, we can still choose to set these aside and choose to cooperate as Christians in love and brotherhood.

Here are some of the evils in the world we must work together to overcome:

  • The evil of abortion
  • The evil of inhibiting the free exercise of our religion by limiting our speech
  • The evil of compelling us to operate against our religious principles
  • The evil of a hostile LGBT minority that seeks to demonize any deviation from their political agenda by any means at their disposal
  • The evil of religious genocide
  • The evil imposition of Sharia law by force

This may not be an exhaustive list, but I think it lays out both the common ground for our cooperation as well as goals towards which can agree to work.

If out of this comes a greater tolerance of one another’s beliefs, then it is all to the good. But that is not necessary to begin to accomplish the tasks at hand.

I liken our problem to two people in the midst of a burning building, arguing about whose firefighting techniques are the best instead of just putting out the fire any way they can.

Why can’t we just put out the fire?

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Mea maxima culpa: how I lost sight of my goal

I just read two replies to comments I posted on chritiannews.net and suddenly realized how I had lost sight of my goal of joining Evangelicals and Catholics in harmonious action to defend the Christian faith against the evil of the world.

I started up this blog to further the efforts initiated by Charles Colson and Fr. Richard John Neuhaus delineated in “First Things” in 1994, an article that began my journey to the Catholic faith. I can’t do much about the Evangelicals who see the Catholic Church as the work of the devil. When they are being polite they try to win me back the their faith. And when they are not I am given both barrels of every anti-Catholic misconception in vitriolic and personal fashion. It has been this experience that precipitated my descent into anger and unforgiveness.

But there are a few that take the time and effort to respond to me in a thorough and civil fashion. I have invited a few of them to join me on this blog and I sincerely hope some do. I have become a little discouraged by my inability to draw some of these folks here to have real discussions away from the heat of comment threads.

If you have responded to my invitation, my sincere welcome. Please post comments. Tell me if you think this joint effort can succeed. If the Lord chooses to use this venue to advance the cause then my joy in being in the His service knows no bounds. If not, then I rejoice as well that I am needed elsewhere.

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In response to a tedious calumny

So once again on christiannews.net we are reminded that Catholics believe that salvation comes through good works. This is, of course, a tired and easily refuted accusation, but here’s an analogy that may make clearer what Catholics actually believe.

Let’s suppose my wife gives me a wonderful book as a gift. I am so grateful to have received it that I tell everyone about it. I praise my wife for caring about me so much that she was willing to make a personal sacrifice to obtain it for me. But I never actually read it. It sits unopened on the shelf in a place of honor. So ask yourself this: did I actually receive the gift she gave me?

It’s much the same way with salvation. We don’t do good works to obtain salvation. We actively participate in our salvation by living the Gospel in our lives. We have three choices: do evil, do nothing, or do good. Which do you suppose the Lord would have us do?

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Who is BVM?

Luke 1:48: From now on all generations will call me blessed.

Do you call her “blessed?”

Isaiah 7:14: Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.

Mary is “the virgin” not “a virgin.”

Her name was Mary.

Do you call her the Blessed Virgin Mary?  If not, why do you claim to be scriptural?

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Who wrote Genesis?

My college education was long and chaotic. Some might call it eclectic but it would more accurately called undirected. For a good part of the time I was an anthropology major at Wayne State University studying under Dr. John Cole, a student of the famous social anthropologist Leslie White. One of the foundational principles in studying other cultures is never to bring your cultural biases into your field work. Most of the field work of the nineteenth century was terribly flawed in this regard. “Civilized” anthropologists went out to study “primitive” cultures, imposing their values on what they observed. 

One of the most common errors was to treat oral traditions as “myths” in the sense of being fables or legends. They assumed that the indigenous people “believed” literally the stories they told. This was a bias made by members of a literate culture observing a non-literate (not illiterate) culture. The meaning of the concept of “belief” they held was much more concrete than the understanding of the speakers. 

The role of story-telling in preliterate cultures has a distinct evolutionary advantage. Stories are the means by which the deepest truths of the culture are preserved intact even after many generations because stories contain a relatively small number of details which must be preserved if the story is to make sense. Let me illustrate

Have you ever had the experience of hearing someone describe an event at which you were also present? Did you notice that the other person always got it “wrong” by leaving out facts, adding new ones or distorting some? Personal memory is a very unreliable way to store information, so if we are to transmit cultural wisdom we have to have some way to ensure that information is preserved intact through countless generations.

If you have children or grandchildren you must have told them some classic bedtime stories which are pretty much known throughout our culture. And did you notice that when someone else told them the details were pretty much exactly intact? Why? Because unlike the memory of actual events, they are not dependent on personal recollection but rather on the fictional details, repeated time after time.

So in preliterate societies, the story tellers were responsible for passing on the culture And we call these stories”myths.” Myths are not untrue in a modern Western sense, but rather they contain essential truth wrapped in a fictional structure that protects that truth from distortion. As a culture begins to develop writing, these myths start to be written down, not so much as a historical record as a modern person would define it, but as a memory aid to ensure even more the accuracy of the story. When we approach these texts as modern Westerners, we tend to bring our understanding of textual criticism with us. And many people approach early texts incorrectly with that bias.

Creation myths are cultural universals, that is they appear without exception in all cultures. I happen to believe that the creation myths of the Jews were in fact inspired by the Holy Spirit and provide infallible information about God and our relationship to Him. I don’t think one needs to read them in a literal, Western sense to understand the truth contained within. For instance, I do not need to believe in a literal Garden of Eden with a literal serpent in order to accept as true the fact of Man’s fallen nature. I also believe that God is revealed to us in two manners: via the direct evidence of His magnificent creation, and by direct revelation through the Holy Spirit. They are each true in their own way and cannot disagree. When science seems to conflict with Scripture, I think it is reasonable to assume that our reading is where the problem lay. Bear in mind that God can only reveal Himself in the language and the mental constructs of the men (and women) he inspires. The fantastic vision that Ezekiel saw, of wheels within wheels, would have been described entirely differently by a native of of a mesoamerican culture that did not yet have the technology of wheels. God’s revelation is so immense and so entirely beyond our ability to express it in words that anything we say is in one sense “mythic,” not that it speaks of the untrue but rather of the unknowable.

So to answer my question, it would be entirely correct to say that God “wrote” genesis since He was the only one around at the time. But I also believe it was the earliest writers of the Pentateuch who received the revelation of God and passed it faithfully to us. For me, the most important thing is that God the Holy Spirit can speak directly to us via the Scripture in order to know Him and, in so doing, begin to know ourselves. 

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I am not alone

I ran across this site in the christiannews.net comments threads and am happy to post a link.

http://truecreation.info

Not exactly what this site is about but close, and I recommend it as a well written and thoroughly researched defense of Christian faith and reason.

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The Elephant in the Sanctuary

Respect for another’s beliefs is impossible if one does not in fact know what the other believes. If this exercise is ever to fill a need, then it is necessary that we approach boldly those things on which we are most divided.

My evangelical brothers would of course point to things like salvation through works and the “worship” of Mary, but these things are trivialities compared to the amputation of the very center of Christian worship. I am referring to the denial of the True Presence of Christ’s Body and Blood in the Eucharist.

Here we find evangelicals backed into a corner. The discussion usually focuses on all the things that Catholics do that aren’t in the Bible, but when it come to the True Presence we are suddenly told that the clear sense of Scripture is not in fact saying what it appears to be saying. You may thank John Calvin for that. Martin Luther had no problem with it, although his enmity toward Rome may have compelled him to find a middle ground, namely consubstantiation vs. transubstantiation. I sincerely doubt that any Bible believing evangelical could accept either one.

Scripture clearly shows that Jesus was emphatically not speaking metaphorically when He said that unless you drink His blood and eat His flesh you have no part in Him. The Patristic texts also show that it was central part of Christian worship less than a century after Jesus’ death. There are plenty of resources outside this blog if anyone cares to look them up. That’s not my purpose here.

The point of this post is to raise two very important points:

1. If Jesus was, in fact, speaking in a metaphor, where else in all of scripture does he say “this” is “me?” There are numerous examples of His use of metaphors which evangelicals use to buttress the argument that this was not different. “I am the door…” Was Jesus saying He was a door? Of course not. Same thing with “I am the vine..” “I am the Way..” etc. But there is no other passage that says “this is me” or “this is my.” Metaphors don’t work that way. One may say to one’s beloved “Your hair is golden flax,” but if you say “this golden flax is your hair” the definite pronoun means that golden flax is the thing present and the hair is present as well. That is not a metaphor. So when Jesus says with respect to the bread He is holding in His hand, “This is my body..” he is saying that the bread is a real and present thing and it is referring to His real and present body. This is no metaphor.

2. The Eucharist had been the center of Christian worship for centuries. Why, them did the Reformers attack that first? Were they scandalized by its implications? If so they were in familiar company:

John 6:60, 66
60 On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?”
66 From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.

When I was an evangelical Protestant, I knew nothing of the true meaning of the Mass. I had a vague sense that it was all a bunch of meaningless ritual, no different in kind from the frankly arbitrary nature of evangelical worship. When I began to educate myself as to what Catholics actually believed, I was forced to see the Eucharist as either a horrendous abomination or else the very center and focus of Christian worship and piety. 

That is the challenge I place before my readers: either prove that it is an abomination or admit that it is what the Lord truly intended. There is no middle ground.

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Permabear rants

Haha you folks are a bunch of gullible idiots. Shame on this “news” site for deliberately misrepresenting the president’s quote to get its uneducated reader base all fired up. Reaffirming a commitment to
“a fundamental American value: that government should not intrude in our most private and personal family matters”
and that
“The federal government should not be injecting itself into decisions best made between women, their families, and their doctors”
does not equate at all to a “commitment to abortion”. How stupid can you people get? Grow up. 

Judging by your other comments, it is almost a certainty that I am better educated, more successful, and innately more intelligent than you’ll ever be. Given this, if you believe that I am stupid, I shudder to hear how lowly your opinions are of yourself, assuming you perceive a proportional relative comparison. I also like how you’re incapable of presenting a proper rebuttal that could have included facts, quotes, or even some sort of logic-based argument. Typical.

“Permabear Hunter” on christiannews.net

Here’s my response and an invitation to take it outside:

This posting is about to get the kind of attention it shouldn’t deserve.

1. “a fundamental American value: that government should not intrude in our most private and personal family matters”. I’m 100% with you on that. Such as home schooling, what we pack in our children’s lunch boxes, how we choose our medical care, how we choose to defend our homes. Stuff like that. Obama has no problem intruding when it supports his agenda.

2. “The federal government should not be injecting itself into decisions
best made between women, their families, and their doctors” Couldn’t agree more. The Constitution grants the states sole discretion into matters of this type.Yet Roe tramples on the rights of states to protect its citizens from an over-reaching federal government.

But this nonsense about “a decision between a woman and her doctor” is entirely irrelevant. A woman and her doctor are not protected if they plan to rob a bank or kill a toddler. So it all boils down to what they are, in fact, deciding to do. And if one believes, as I do, that a fetus is a person entitled to protection under the law, then a criminal conspiracy has no constitutional protection. The ENTIRE argument regarding abortion hinges on that one question and nothing else.

And later:

If you want to take this off line, comment on my blog http://bbcatholics.blogspot.com. I’ll provide you with all the intelligent discussion you crave.

Will (s)he show up? Or am I not well educated, intelligent and successful enough to engage?

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The Patristic Gap

How many of my evangelical readers have read any of the Church Fathers? The period during which they wrote, and during which much fundamental doctrine was hammered out, is referred to as the patristic period. And keep in mind that the patristic period could be said to have begun with the Resurrection. We have no problem reading Acts, or Paul’s writings for example, but many evangelicals seem to act as if nothing written after Paul and Revelation has any significance. No Augustine, no Justin Martyr, none of the early councils. And. most surprisingly, no Ignatius of Antioch. Here was a man who was appointed by Peter as bishop of Antioch and was himself a disciple of John, yet who is disregarded almost entirely in evangelical teaching. Is it possible that nothing he said was important to the life of the Church?

It would not be too much of a stretch to say that the patristic writings are ignored by evangelicals because they are too “Catholic.” In fact, it is quite clear that many of the “unbiblical” practices of the Catholic Church were already an established part of Christian worship in the first and second centuries.

Let’s assume for the sake of argument that at some point the patristic writings took the Church away from the simplicity of the Gospel and had become by then distorted by the accretions of the “traditions of men.” We would therefore have to ask ourselves when exactly did that occur. Did the Gospel message get lost immediately after the death of the last Apostle only to be rediscovered by the Reformers fifteen centuries later? Or should we  assume that the Church lost her way gradually and that the earliest writings may shed some light on Christian practice soon after Jesus’ death. If so, then we are forced to take seriously the writings of those who were themselves disciples of the Apostles.

Here is my proposition: let us discuss what aspects of Catholic and evangelical theology and practice best conform to the earliest writings of the Church and to the writings of the Reformers. Where did Catholicism lose its way? Where did the Reformation get it right and where did it get it wrong? How closely to the teachings of the first Protestants does evangelical worship adhere? These are things we must discuss without rancor and with open hearts and minds.

I was raised an evangelical and I was led to the Roman Catholic Church. There are many, many testimonies of those who have taken a similar path, just as there are those who feel that God led them in the opposite direction. Let’s discuss their testimonies and see what understanding we can glean from them.

I still have some lingering doubts about the Catholic Church just as I had doubts about Protestantism. I’m perfectly willing to listen to those who have discovered the truth and have no doubts at all. Talk to me and share the truth. I am strongly of the opinion that as each of us draw closer to the true God we inevitably draw closer to one another.

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