Friday, September 18, 2009

Book Review (4): The Ultimate Proof of Creation

Chapter 5 is called “The Procedure for Defending the Faith.” Lisle begins with a summary of chapters 1-4, noting especially that all people have a network of presuppositions, a worldview, a lens of sorts, through which evidence and all of reality is interpreted, and that only the worldview of the biblical creationist is rational; all other worldviews are irrational, because they rely on the creationist worldview to make their claims. Lisle moves on from this summary to aid believers in their approach to conversations with unbelievers, laying out a framework for critiquing faulty worldviews and presuppositions. He gives his readers a checklist of arbitrariness, inconsistency, and the preconditions of intelligibility, and then Lisle claims again that only the biblical worldview stands as rational against this checklist.

Lisle then expends the checklist, first adding 4 elements to the arbitrariness category: mere opinion, relativism, prejudicial conjecture, and unargued philosophical bias. After explaining these types of faulty arguments, Lisle expands the inconsistency category with 4 types: logical fallacies, reductio ad absurdum (reduction to absurdity), behavioral inconsistency, and presuppositional tensions. Once again, Lisle elaborates on these types of inconsistencies, yielding illustrations and examples to help us recognize them in conversations. Next, he expands the category of preconditions of intelligibility by adding 3 elements – reliability of our senses, reliability of our memory, and personal dignity and freedom – to the first 3 types mentioned earlier (laws of logic – or rationality, uniformity of nature – or science, and morality – or ethics). He concludes by reminding his readers that there are many other preconditions of intelligibility, basically anything we take for granted to help us understand reality.

In chapter 6, the shortest, called “The Place of Evidence,” Lisle explores “rational ways to use scientific evidence.” He details the confirmation of biblical creation, shows how we are to introduce and understand worldviews, and discusses again issues related to inconsistency and arbitrariness. He also reintroduces the ultimate proof, saying “absolutely any piece of scientific information can be used as an illustration of the ultimate proof.” Lisle then applies what he has just stated with a solid example, one worth repeating here:

“For example, an evolutionist might claim, ‘There is no evidence whatsoever for the creationist position.’ We could…say, ‘Actually there are many evidences that confirm biblical creation. Consider the information in DNA…’ and so on. The evolutionist might respond, ‘But these other evidences (fossils, etc.) support evolution, not creation.’ Then we would…say, ‘Actually, creationists interpret those same fossils differently than you do. Here is how we understand the evidence.’ (We then present our interpretation.) ‘So you see, we all have the same facts, but we interpret them differently because we have a different worldview.’

“An evolutionist may then try to argue that his interpretation of the evidence is better than ours. We could then point out that his interpretations are arbitrary and inconsistent… We could…expose the fact that the evolutionist must constantly invoke rescuing devices to explain away contrary evidence – this is totally arbitrary.

“A clever evolutionist will at this point either appeal to his own worldview (as the reason for his rescuing devices), or (more likely) will point out that creationists also have rescuing devices. (If he fails to realize these things, then we should help him out by suggesting them ourselves.) Now the evolutionist has enough education to begin to properly understand the true nature of the origins debate – it’s a debate over worldviews. As such, we…ask, ‘Which worldview can make sense of science anyway? For that matter, which worldview can make sense of any of the things we take for granted – personal dignity and freedom, rationality, morality, and so on?’”

Hopefully, you can see the direction in which that conversation would logically go. Lisle concludes chapter 6 by showing how David and Goliath apply to this discussion. David had 5 stones, but he only needed one. The crucial thing for David was that he knew how to use his weapon very well. We may not all be called to earn PhDs in astrophysics, like the author, but we can all learn a few useful scientific facts and apply them using logic and the ultimate proof of creation in order to defeat the enemy.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Book Review (3): The Ultimate Proof of Creation

Chapter 3, “Illustrations of the Ultimate Proof,” is Lisle’s attempt to confirm that even the most staunch evolutionists, or atheists, rely on the truth of the Bible in their arguments against it. His argument goes like this: “The unbeliever cannot consistently stand on his own worldview because it is irrational. Therefore, the unbeliever must stand on the Christian worldview in order to be rational. The unbeliever stands on Christian principles…but he denies that these are Christian principles. The unbeliever must use Christian principles to argue against the Bible. The fact that he is able to argue at all proves that he is wrong.” Though he could give many examples, Lisle focuses on these three – absolute morality, uniformity of nature, and laws of logic – because they are the most commonly used and the easiest to understand, and he goes into detail on each of them.

Though evolutionists and atheists often believe in morality, right and wrong, their worldview would suggest that morality is relative, and therefore, as shown earlier, irrational. But they would not dare consent to that conclusion, so they inconsistently stand on absolute morality, a biblical principle. Similarly, all non-creationists argue with an acceptance of the laws of logic, which are “God’s standards for thinking,” according to Lisle. He refutes a number of possible attempts to counter-step this definition and concludes again, “Laws of logic reflect the thinking of God and do not make sense in an evolutionary universe.” In explaining how only the biblical creation worldview accounts for rational thinking, science, and technology, Lisle even shows how Mormonism and Islam, along with all other non-biblical religions, fail to give adequate reason for the laws of logic humanity uses today. Finally, Lisle discusses uniformity of nature. While this is his, as a scientist, “personal favorite,” I found this section of the book to be challenging. Lisle understands logic, and he employs it well in his defense of biblical creation. He uses logic to show that uniformity of nature can only make sense in the biblical worldview. He repeats with different illustrations and examples the concept that any and every non-biblical stance, including such positions as theistic evolution, is by its very nature irrational. Lisle concludes, “If evolution were true, there wouldn’t be any rational reason to believe it!”

Lisle begins chapter 4, “Reasoning with an Evolutionist,” by saying, “Now that we’ve seen that there is an irrefutable proof of creation…” But I have a feeling many of his readers aren’t quite as comfortable saying that as he is. It’s not that we don’t fully agree with him; but there’s a confidence that comes with application of the truth that is amiss prior to that application. In other words, in order to share Lisle’s bold assertion that “an irrefutable proof of creation” has been presented, I need some help applying it. Thankfully, Lisle, in finally brings presuppositions to the discussion, gives that much needed application help. He gives a few examples of presuppositional beliefs – such as “God exists” and “the Bible is true” for creationists, and “naturalism,” “empiricism,” “evidence can be interpreted ‘neutrally’,” and even “evolution” itself for evolutionists – and he defines them as strongly held convictions that are assumed at the outset, “before any investigation of evidence.” They “control our interpretation of the evidence. We are often not aware of our presuppositions, but they are always present.” Lisle explains, “Presuppositions must be assumed before we can investigate other things.”

Lisle then applies what he has stated about presuppositions in explaining the pervasiveness of sin, the problem that has made humans incapable of discovering truth apart from God’s revelation. He mentions several Bible passages to support this claim, such as Romans 1:18-32 and Ephesians 4:17-18, and then he spends some time working through Proverbs 26:4-5. This passage from Proverbs seems contradictory at first glance, but it makes perfect sense once considered in depth. V4 says, “Do not answer a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him.” Creationists must not embrace faulty presuppositions or allow our presuppositions to be discarded in battle, lest we become fools, like the evolutionists. V5 says, “Answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes.” Without embracing foolish presuppositions, we reveal to the fool that he is indeed a fool by taking his presuppositions to their logical conclusion. Once fools see that their logic is faulty, perhaps, by God’s grace, they will abandon their foolishness and repent and come to taste and see that the Lord is good. Otherwise, they will continue to think themselves wise, unaware of their foolishness. Lisle wraps up chapter 4 by giving several examples of this biblical strategy in practice, and it’s just what we need to come a step further to wholeheartedly embracing the ultimate proof of creation.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Book Review (2): The Ultimate Proof of Creation

Chapter 1 is called “The Nature of Evidence,” and in it, Lisle addresses how two people with different presuppositions, or worldviews, can view the same evidence and come to different, even totally opposite, conclusions. He gives some examples of evidence that, seen rightly, supports the biblical creation account. This evidence includes information science (like DNA), irreducible complexity, and carbon (C-14) dating. Lisle notes that matter doesn’t “spontaneously generate information,” and that “only a mental source (a mind) can generate new creative information. He uses the very words of his book for illustration. Lisle also points to the existence of comets as good evidence for the biblical timescale of creation, which leads him into the next topic: “rescuing devices.”

The book seems to change course here, moving from the mention of various evidences to the rationale for dialogue regarding such evidences. Lisle defines a rescuing device as “a conjecture designed to save a person’s view from apparently contrary evidence.” He suggests that evolutionists use the Oort Cloud as a rescuing device to save their view of an old universe (billions of years) from the seemingly contrary evidence of comets, which cannot exist for even 100,000 years. In others words, Lisle says that any evidence can be explained away by invoking the unknown (a rescuing device); and the important thing to note here is that rescuing devices are not bad or wrong in and of themselves, as long as they are not arbitrary. Arbitrariness is not allowed in the philosophical realm of logical and rational thinking; rescuing devices must be reasonable, not arbitrary. Just as Lisle gave the comets and the Oort Cloud as an illustration that seems to favor creationists, he also gives one that seems to favor evolutionists – distant starlight. Of course, Lisle offers a number of reasonable rescuing devices that creationists employ regarding this apparently troublesome issue. But his point in doing so is to suggest that arguing over the evidence won’t bring conclusions. The argument must take place regarding worldviews.

Lisle next defines worldview as “a network of our most basic beliefs [presuppositions, to be introduced later] about reality in light of which all observations are interpreted.” While all people have a worldview, few realize it; and even fewer contemplate their worldview. Lisle gives a number of illustrations to support his stance here. One such example is this: “Suppose that your neighbor tells you that she saw a UFO last night. Your worldview will immediately kick in and help you process and interpret this evidence. As your neighbor provides additional details, you will begin forming hypotheses base don your worldview… The conclusion you draw will be influenced not only by the evidence, but also by your general understanding of the universe.” If you believe that aliens exist, you might agree that she saw a UFO; but if you don’t believe that aliens exist, then you’ll explain her sighting in another way. The point is that worldviews are what determine the meaning of the evidence. And so we must take a step away from the evidence in any given debate and look more closely at the worldviews.

Lisle begins chapter 2, which is called “Resolving the Origins Debate,” by laying out the creationist (biblical) worldview side-by-side with a synopsis of evolutionist worldviews (naturalism – “the belief that nature is all that there is” – or empiricism – “the idea that all knowledge is gained from observations”). The various evolutionist worldviews basically encompass all non-biblical views and hold to a faulty philosophy of uniformitarianism, the idea that “the present is the key to the past.” Lisle works hard to show that there is no neutral ground between these two competing worldviews (Matthew 12:30), though the evolutionist often demands that the creationist come to a neutral position for the sake of dialogue (by doing away with the Bible).

Since there is no neutrality, how might we determine whether or not a worldview is rational? Lisle points first to consistency, claiming that a true worldview must be internally consistent. He shows that relativism and empiricism are refuted by failing this test. Next Lisle lays the groundwork for a very important concept throughout the rest of the book – the preconditions of intelligibility. He says, “These are conditions that must be accepted as true before we can know anything about the universe,” and they are “things that most people take for granted,” things like “the reliability of memory,” “the reliability of our senses,” “that there are laws of logic that govern correct reasoning,” “uniformity of nature,” “morality,” “personal dignity,” and “freedom.” Lisle says, “Only a consistent Christian can have justification (a sound reason) for things like laws of logic and the reliability of our senses… Only in a biblical creationist universe is it possible to actually know anything about anything.” And then he reveals the great proof after which the book is titled. “The ultimate proof of creation is this: if biblical creation were not true, we could not know anything!” Lisle will repeat this ultimate proof in different ways throughout the rest of the book, but he says it again this way here in chapter 2: “Only the Christian worldview (starting with a literal Genesis) can rationally [in a non-arbitrary way] make sense of the universe.”

The remainder of chapter 2 is spent refuting initial reactions to this profound statement. Lisle gives examples of poorly articulated responses; he also notes “the necessity of being non-arbitrary.” Pointing out that knowledge is simply “true, justified belief,” Lisle concludes, “Non-biblical worldviews such as evolution are necessarily ultimately irrational,” because they have no justification for the beliefs within them; therefore they lack knowledge. As God says in His word, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge… Knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (Proverbs 1:7; 9:10). Indeed, the ultimate proof of creation is bold.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Book Review (1): The Ultimate Proof of Creation

The next several posts will serve as my review of Dr. Jason Lisle’s The Ultimate Proof of Creation (May 2009, Master Books). Dr. Jason Lisle received his doctorate in astrophysics from the University of Colorado at Boulder. He runs the planetarium at the Creation Museum, lectures on scientific and philosophical issues pertaining to biblical creation, and, apparently from the appendices of this book, answers many of the e-mail inquiries and comments that come in to Answers in Genesis. I have a number of copies of this book, and I would be glad to send you a copy, at no charge, just for engaging in a dialogue with me regarding the content of my review.

Lisle begins with acknowledgements, expectedly to the folks at Answers in Genesis, such as Ken Ham, but he also honors the late Dr. Greg Bahnsen, whose biblical apologetics ministry was in part the inspiration for the book. Bahnsen is beloved by many evangelical Christian leaders and laymen, yet some of his theological positions, such as Christian Reconstruction, Theonomy, and Postmillennialism, stirred curiosity at best and controversy at worst among the leading Reformed theologians. Lisle doesn’t get into these potentially controversial topics in his book, as his topic leans much more heavily on Bahnsen’s presuppositional apologetics. Though Lisle doesn’t use much technical jargon, he weaves issues of metaphysics and philosophy into practical and tangible elements of the lay Christian’s everyday life in such a way that no Christian, or atheist for that matter, would be confused by the logical flow of Lisle’s arguments.

Ken Ham writes a brief forward, focusing on the importance for Christians to be able to give an answer to those who ask them the reason for their hope (1 Peter 3:15). He makes two important claims: First, Ham says that most Christians are sadly lacking in their understanding of why they believe what they believe. In turn, they are unable to give a sound, logical answer to those who criticize their beliefs, and this reality leaves poorly equipped Christians on the defensive, instead of on the offensive with the gospel, where we ought to be. Second, Ham suggests that many non-Christians use unsound, illogical, and irrational arguments when denying or attempting to refute the claims of biblical Christianity. However, because of Ham’s first point, these unbelieving critics are often not adequately or accurately countered with what Lisle will reveal in this book – the ultimate proof of creation.

Lisle begins with a short introduction, but it’s an important one. He acknowledges the bold title of his book and assures his readers that he will explain it more as he goes along. Lisle states that “persuasion is subjective;” people are often persuaded by poor arguments on the one hand, yet unpersuaded by very good arguments on the other hand. In other words, says Lisle, people are not consistently rational. In general, humans don’t think clearly. Why? Lisle says we have worldviews and presuppositions that have formed over our lifetimes, and these perspectives change how we see evidence for truth. But before moving on in this line of thinking, Lisle defines some important and repeated terms, such as “evolution,” “creation,” and “unbeliever,” and provides a brief outline of the book’s chapters. We'll continue this review tomorrow, beginning with chapter 1.

Monday, September 14, 2009

DC 401 - Week 2 - Liberty and Legalism

As we prepare for our next meeting, the emphasis will be on the topic of "liberty and legalism." Here is how the workload might break down:

Monday - Read 1 Samuel 1-15 and Psalms 64-66
Tuesday - Memorize Galatians 5:1,13 - "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery... You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love." Also review previous memory verses, such as 1 Corinthians 10:13, Romans 12:2, and 1 Peter 2:12.
Wednesday - Read Jerry Bridges' article, "God Loves You and Has a Wonderful Plan for Your Life," and answer questions 1a-c and 2a-b (5 questions). Also review memory verses.
Thursday - Answer questions 3a-c and 4a-c (6 questions), and review memory verses.
Friday - Answer questions 5a-d and 6a-c (7 questions), consider the "food for thought" questions at the bottom of page 19, and ponder the list of cults and world religions on page 65 for your upcoming report.

As a reminder, the workloads will be slightly heavier than in the 101, 201, and 202 portions of this curriculum. They may take some getting used to, especially after coming off our lengthy summer break. Stay on top of the work!

DC 401 - Week 1

We started back our DC meetings after a lengthy break. We read the 48 chapters of Ezekiel over the break and discussed that this morning. Some themes of Ezekiel include the sovereignty of God, the patience of God, the justice of God, the sinfulness of man, the necessity of rebirth by the Holy Spirit, and the restoration that God will bring culminating in the remnant experiencing forever His eternal presence.