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Tim Challies

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science

3 years 1 month ago
Should Christians embrace evolution? It is an increasingly urgent question and one that seems increasingly difficult to answer. Like you, I have grown accustomed to hearing Christians declare that, in the end, it doesn’t really matter a whole lot what you believe about creation, whether you embrace a literal six-day creation or a version that allows for some kind of evolution. If only it was that simple. The fact is that there are many other doctrines that lean heavily upon the doctrine of creation. As this one topples and falls, many other crumble along side it.

Just a couple of weeks ago WORLD magazine declared Should Christians Embrace Evolution? their book of the year for 2011. I received the book just days after and eagerly opened it up to see what the fuss was all about. What I found is a book that offers a series of biblical and scientific responses to the question of evolution. Edited by Norman Nevin, the chapters are written by a list of distinguished scientists and theologians. 

What the book demonstrates above all, and what it demonstrates especially in the first half, is that there is far more to the issue of creation than merely whether the world was created in six days or six billion years. This doctrine of creation provides a foundation for many others. As we let go of a literal six-day creation, we find many other critical doctrines are in danger of falling with it. For example:

  • Was Adam truly a historical person who truly fathered the entire human race?
  • Did death exist before man’s fall into sin? What kind of death came with the Fall?
  • Did God create a world in which death was, in fact, a necessary (and good!) part of the created order?
  • Can one join Darwinianism and the Bible without inadvertently (but necessarily) slipping into Gnostic errors which downplay the physical in favor of the spiritual?

This is merely a sampling. The fact is that creation does not stand alone within the Bible; there is much that hinges upon it.

The book’s second half turns to questions related to science and looks to homology; the nature of the fossil record; chromosomal fusion and common ancestry; information and thermodynamics; and other topics. Essentially, this portion of the book shows that those who hold to a young earth do not have to check their brains at the door. It is possible to be an intellectually-fulfilled six-day creationist (something Al Mohler has also demonstrated in this conference talk).

Putting the two halves together, we have a book that can be read through or that can be used for reference, to address specific concerns. It is a book to be read by six-day creationists who are eager to confirm what they believe and it is a book to be read by those who doubt six-day creationism or who have turned from it all together. Even if such people are not convinced by the arguments, at the very least they will find the debate framed in an honest and compelling way. It will show them the questions they need to be willing and able to answer if they are to remain faithful to Scripture.

 

 

 

Perhaps the golden quote in the book is this one: “Every generation of Christianity has its own stigma by which the believer’s faith is severly tested.” It seems increasingly clear that evolution is the great test of the early twenty-first century. We are being tested to see if we will capitulate, if we will feel shame, if we will allow the world to transform the church. Really, this is a test to see whether we will allow the Bible to be the norming norm, the ultimate source of truth that takes precedent over all others, or whether we will prioritize our own understanding of God’s natural revelation. This book asks all the right questions and, as far as I can see, answers them faithfully. I highly recommend you keep a copy of it handy.

4 years 2 weeks ago
Yesterday I finished up Nancy Pearcey’s new book Saving Leonardo. Nancy doesn’t write a lot of books, but when she does, they are worth reading. She’s a unique thinker and one who puts into words what for so many of us are just ideas flitting around the edges of our minds. This new book is just like that.

When I finished it up I began to write a review but found that I was having trouble distilling my thoughts. I did something I try not to do, at least until I’ve finished writing my own review—I went looking for what others are saying about it. As I did so, I came across a really good review written by David Steele (who blogs at veritas et lux). David was kind enough to give me permission to simply re-post his review. It nicely captures my own thoughts on Saving Leonardo!

*****

Nancy Pearcey has done it again. Her book Total Truth captured the attention of thousands and helped equip a new generation of thinking Christians. While some consider the term “thinking Christian” somewhat of an oxymoron (think, “military intelligence,” or “jumbo shrimp”), nothing could be further from the truth. Indeed, clear thinking and warm-hearted devotion are crucial characteristics for anyone who professes faith in Christ. Anyone who rejects the notion of a “thinking Christian” should pause and consider the thought process generated in order to make the claim!

Pearcey’s newest masterpiece, Saving Leonardo is, as the subtitle suggests, a call to resist the secular assault on mind, morals, and meaning. The primary assertion: “The only hope lies in a worldview that is rationally defensible, life affirming, and rooted in creation itself.”

The Threat of Global Secularism

In part one, author clearly articulates the necessity of a Christ-informed worldview. She challenges readers: “Do you have the tools to detect the ideas competing for your allegiance in movies, school textbooks, news broadcasts, and even Saturday morning cartoons?”

Pearcey reveals the goal of the book at the outset: “The goal of this book is to equip you to detect, decipher, and defeat the monolithic secularism that is spreading rapidly and imposing its values on your family and hometown.” As such, she calls Christians to abandon the “fortress mentality” that has been prominent for years; a mentality that gravitates to isolation from the world. Rather, Christ followers ought to become familiar with their audience and engage with them on a worldview level. “The first step,” writes Pearcey, “is to identify and counter the key strategies uses to advance the global secular worldview.”

Next, Christians must understand how secularism views the nature of truth. Pearcey demonstrates how empiricism has spawned what we know today as the fact/value split. This divided concept of truth is the most important feature of a secular approach to epistemology and is “the key to unlocking the history of the Western mind.” The author is quick to explain the biblical concept of truth; a notion that was the theme of Total Truth: “Because all things were created by a single divine mind, all truth forms a single, coherent, mutually consistent system. Truth is unified and universal.”

The fact/value dichotomy finds values in the so-called upper story (a scheme developed by Francis Schaeffer). These values are private, subjective, and relative. Values include religious claims and personal preferences. Fact are found in the lower story. These facts are public, objective and universal. The author gives numerous examples of how the fact/value dichotomy is diametrically opposed to the biblical view of truth. For instance:

  • “Science deals mainly with facts; religion deals mainly with values.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
  • “Science yields facts but not ‘value judgments’; religion expresses values but cannot ‘speak facts.’” – Albert Einstein

Clearly, values posed in the fact/value dichotomy are never considered to be true. Rather they are expressions of an opinionated individual; i.e. a so-called “bigoted Christian.”

Two Paths to Secularism

Part two uncovers two paths to secularism, namely, the Enlightenment and Romantic movements respectively. The Enlightenment (or Analytic Tradition) is fixated on reason and relies on the scientific method. Immanuel Kant plays a central role here with his nature/freedom dichotomy. Various worldviews have been spawned as a result of Enlightenment thought including empiricism, rationalism, Darwinism, logical positivism, linguistic analysis, utilitarianism, and materialism.

The Romantic stream (or Continental Tradition) relies on story and is fascinated by myth and imagination. Again, various worldviews have resulted including idealism, Marxism, deconstruction, phenomenology, existentialism, pantheism, and postmodernism. Both streams are reductionistic and the author is careful to bring this point home repeatedly.

Pearcey dissects both streams carefully and skillfully. Her depth and insight is very helpful and encouraging. The final two chapters are the most helpful and practical. The author prompts readers to give up the typical Christian fortress mentality: “Christians must go beyond criticizing the degradation of American culture, roll up their sleeves, and get to work on positive solutions. The only way to drive out bad culture is with good culture.”

The author reminds Christian parents that they cannot protect their children from unbiblical worldviews. But they can “help them develop resistance skills, by giving them the tools to recognize false ideas and counter them with a solid grasp of biblical concepts … Christians are responsible for evaluating everything against the plumb line of Scriptural truth.”

Nancy Pearcey is picking up where Francis Scheaffer left off. And she gives Schaeffer the last word on the subject: “One of the greatest injustice we do our young people is to ask them to be conservative. Christianity is not conservative, but revolutionary … We must teach the young to be revolutionaries, revolutionaries against the status quo.”

Saving Leonardo will likely win the Gold Medallion award in 2010. It’s that good!

*****

So there you have it. This is yet another fantastic book from Nancy Pearcey. It’s one of those books that will require a lot of thought and a good deal of concentration. But it’s one that will reward the effort.

8 years 1 week ago
There is a great deal of controversy surrounding global warming. Some insist that it is a terrifying and imminent concern that portends worldwide disaster. Others scoff at the notion, accusing those who spread such dire predictions of using global warming as part of a larger, sinister agenda. Al Gore considers global warming to be an inconvenient truth and a pending planetary emergency. In his political career he was an advocate of measures to deal with this and other environmental crises, and in his post-political career he has accelerated these warnings. An Inconvenient Truth, an immediate New York Times bestseller, and the film that was released at around the same time, are his attempt to take this message to the masses.

An Inconvenient Truth is an oversize paperback book which contains predominantly photographs. “It was Tipper who first suggested that I put together a new kind of book with pictures and graphics to make the whole message easier to follow, combining many elements of all the new original material I have compiled over the last few years… My hope is that those who read the book and see the film will begin to feel, as I have for a long time, that global warming is not just about science and that it is not just a political issue. It is really a moral issue.”

The introduction contains exactly what we would expect from Al Gore. He trumpets his concern for the environment and his accomplishments in this area, while criticizing the Bush administration for its lack of environmental concern. He quotes Martin Luther King, mentions AIDS and Hitler and, in veiled terms, compares Bush’s apathy towards global warming to the appeasement tactics of Neville Chamberlain. The book then begins to present Gore’s case for the threat of global warming. He uses many beautiful pictures showcasing the beauty of creation, and just as many sickening pictures showcasing the negligence of human beings. He presents multitudes of graphs and charts. But strangely and noticeably absent from the book is any kind of substantial proof. There is not a single footnote or endnote to be found. Nor is their any serious consideration of those who have studied the same evidence and reached different conclusions. Gore presents global warming as fact and as fact accepted by the almost unanimous consent of qualified scientists. In a section answering the ten most common misconceptions of global warming, Gore repeats what he writes elsewhere: “Scientists overwhelmingly agree that the Earth is getting warmer, that this trend is caused by people, and that if we continue to pump greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, the warming will be increasingly harmful.” While some of this is fact, the extent of the danger and the extent that humans are causing this warming trend are hotly disputed among credible and knowledgeable scientists. The case is not nearly as settled as he would have us believe.

One of the great frustrations with this book is that all evidence, no matter how contradictory, is used to prove the existence of global warming. Global warming is blamed for flood and drought, heat and cold, freezing and melting, thick ice and thin ice. The mounting evidence that would seem to contradict Gore’s thesis is either ignored or reinvented to prove it. Also, for a book dealing with the environment, this one contains a great many uses of the word “I.” The book is, in fact, partly autobiographical, for Gore discusses events in his life that shaped his passion for the environment. It is more than a little bit self-congratulatory and more than a little uncharitable to those who reach opposite conclusions.

Despite these frustrations, the book is not without value. Many of the facts presented are worthy of deep consideration. The book’s final section contains information on what you and I can do to solve the climate crisis. While some may not believe in the immediate extent and danger of the crisis, there are many good and common sense suggestions to be found here. There are many suggestions that will help us become better stewards of the earth. Pictures and descriptions of the devastation caused by humans should give us all reason to think deeply about our responsibility to this planet.

While the book contains only brief and vague references to God, Gore does affirm his belief that God created this world. He feels God did so, though, through the means of evolution. Beyond this he provides little explanation as to how God may have created the world or what God’s ongoing involvement is. He certainly does not discuss one of the great contradictions between those who believe in evolution and those who believe in creationism. Evolution teaches that humans, while we may be the most intelligent and capable form of life in the world at the moment, are merely as we are because of the long and random process of evolution. We were apes in the past and may evolve into some other form of life in the future. Our source is little different than the source of any other form of life. The Bible, however, teaches that God deliberately made us as we are today and that our source is God Himself. We are made in His image and He gave us this earth to tend and to keep. We are not the same as the earth and not subordinate to it. Rather, we are high above it as the only creatures made in the image of God. It is the Bible, and not evolution, that provides the moral basis for tending to the earth. I don’t see how it is possible for an evolutionary worldview to posit a moral responsibility to the earth.

Those who hold dear the Bible ought to be the first to protect the earth, for it was made by God and was given as a gift for our enjoyment. We were told, and still are told, to tend and to keep it. We are responsible for protecting it from harm. I am not convinced that the case for global warming is as clear as Gore would have me believe. Still, I believe we need to protect this world for it has been given to us in trust. The earth is a finite resource and one we ought to treasure, for it displays the glory of God. This book could have been much better, if only Gore hadn’t skipped over so many facts that were inconvenient to his arguments.

10 years 10 months ago

In my Home Church (Bible Study / Cell Group) this week we are studying the prophet Daniel. Specifically we will be examining him as a shining example of a man who stood firm in his convictions. When commanded to cease worshipping God, he never considered disobeying God. Instead, he pressed on with his routine of praying three times each day. He knew there would be fearsome consequences, yet trusted that obeying God was preferable to any punishment he could face at the hands of men. You can read the story, known to children around the world as “Daniel in the Lion’s Den” in Daniel chapter 5.

Studying Daniel made me think of another section of the Bible that has been on my mind recently. Romans 2:24 reads, “For the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you”. This passage refers to behavior among the Jewish people of Rome during Paul’s days. These people had turned their backs on God and sunk into every type of ungodly behavior. I find it a sobering thought that people who do not know God can blaspheme His name because of my behavior. What a responsibility it is to be a light to the world and to “walk the walk.”

This brings me back about 650 years to Daniel. Had Daniel backed down and ceased worshipping God, or even if he had partially backed down and made his worship private, the name of God would have been blasphemed by the Persians. They would have seen Daniel as a man who was afraid to stand for his convictions. But Daniel did not back down. He stood firm and rather than being blasphemed, the name of God was exalted by the Gentiles. In Daniel 5:26 - 27 we read the proclamation of the Persian king:

For He is the living God and enduring forever,
And His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed,
And His dominion will be forever.
He delivers and rescues and performs signs and wonders
In heaven and on earth,
Who has also delivered Daniel from the power of the lions
.”

Here was a man, a Gentile, who praised God for His greatness. He was driven to this proclamation because of the wondrous work God performed in rescuing Daniel. It goes without saying that had Daniel allowed himself to be intimidated and had he refused to stand strong for his convictions, the king would never have praised God. Rather His holy name would have been blasphemed.

What an honor and what a great responsibility it is to call ourselves by the name of our Savior and to be His ambassadors on earth! As Christians we bear the name of Christ. Through our example - through our lives - God’s name can be praised and God’s name can be blasphemed.