Flatlander Faith

Apologetics from an Anabaptist perspective

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The dinosaur question

In 1991 an archaeological research team discovered dinosaur bones in the Frenchman River Valley of south-western Saskatchewan. Over 20 years of painstaking work by hand uncovered the almost complete fossilized skeleton of a T. Rex and then removed it from the rock in which it was embedded.

Named Scotty, the massive reconstructed skeleton is now on display at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum in Regina. Scotty is the largest T. Rex ever discovered, 50 cm longer and 400 kg heavier than the Chicago Field Museum’s Sue.

The R.S.M., formerly known as the Saskatchewan Natural History Museum, displays 3-dimensional scenes of Saskatchewan flora and fauna, both of the present day and of the past. This includes lifelike re-creations of smaller land-dwelling and water-dwelling dinosaurs.

I know there are Christians who recoil at the subject of dinosaurs. “The Bible never mentions dinosaurs, so I don’t see why I should believe they ever existed,” some say “It’s just a story made up by evolutionists.”

People who say, or think, things like that aren’t as common as they once used to be. But if you are one of those who still has qualms about the dinosaur question, here are a few points that might calm your fears.

  1. It’s hard to argue with a pretty much complete fossil skeleton. Fossils are being found all over the world. Those as complete as Scotty are uncommon, and it’s possible that sometimes bones have been assembled incorrectly, but that isn’t enough to explain away all the evidence that has been discovered.
  2. Richard Owen coined the word dinosaur in 1842 after bones were discovered in various places that did not match any creature now living. It combines two Greek words and means “terrible lizard.”
  3. The Bible speaks of dragons, sea monsters, behemoth and leviathan. These could well be descriptions of the beasts we now label dinosaurs. Bible commentators in the past thought the description of behemoth in Job 405-24 sounded like a hippopotamus. They were doing their best to match it to some animal that they knew existed. Does it really match? I don’t think so. The hippopotamus is a fearsome beast, but this sounds like something even bigger and more fearsome. “He moveth his tail like a cedar,” cannot describe a hippopotamus which has a tail like a rope that is less than 20 inches long. Leviathan also sound like something bigger and more fearsome than a crocodile. 
  4. Many folktales about dragons are too fantastic to be believable. Yet the great number of such stories, and the fact that the dragons they describe are a lot like dinosaurs, leads one to believe there is some underlying truth. It’s not necessary to believe every detail of these stories, but neither is it wise to dismiss them altogether.   
  5. The book of Job appears to have originated as oral history some centuries before the development of a phonetic writing system. Behemoth, leviathan and the unicorn (not a cute cousin of the horse, more likely something like a humongous rhinoceros), likely describe animals which later became extinct and whose bones we have been digging up over the past two centuries. 

Lazy thinking

The sluggard is wiser in his own conceit than seven men that can render a reason (Proverbs 26:16).

My mother told the story of a poor farmer extolling the virtues of socialism to his neighbour who was even poorer.

“If everyone who has more than they need would share with those who do not have enough, what a wonderful place this world would be!”

“Sooo, does that mean that if you had two cows you would give me one?”

“Of course.”

“If you had two horses, you would give me one?”

“Certainly.”

“And if you had two pigs, you would give me one?”

“Oh come on now, that’s going too far. You know I have two pigs!”

That is the thinking of a sluggard. Sharing is a wonderful thing, if it means that you are giving to me. If I have to give something away, that is quite a different matter.

We all know people like that. If McDonald’s charges them five cents too much for a coffee, they are filled with indignation for days. If they see an opportunity to pick up a dollar that does not belong to them, it does not seem to cause the slightest twinge to their conscience.

Still, the majority of the people around us are honest; if they see a dollar laying around, they will try to find the owner. Why? Why is it that so many people still have a clear sense of right and wrong, even though they believe that we are just random agglomerations of protoplasm that appeared for no particular reason or purpose?

Isn’t this the reasoning of a sluggard? If there is a purpose for my existence, then there must somewhere be Someone who is the reason behind all that exists. The sluggard does have a sense of what is right and what is wrong, but wants to believe that this sense is just an evolutionary survival instinct. He would rather believe that he is doing the best he can under the circumstances and that he will never have to give account for cutting corners in life to the Lord of all that exists.

This is lazy thinking. If one seeks to search the reason for our sense of right and wrong, it quickly appears illogical that it could simply have arisen in response to the survival of the fittest in a dog eat dog world. Where then does our conscience come from? Evolution cannot even explain consciousness, let alone conscience.

There are people around us who appear to have stilled their conscience. Have they really succeeded? Or have they simply chosen to live with the terrors that dwell in their mind, hoping with all their might that death will be the end of it?

One of the greatest arguments for the existence of God is that those who have repented of the wrong they have done are blessed with a peaceful mind and a heart that forgives others who have wronged them.

Dispensationalism Justifies the Crucifixion – Part 2

More about Philip Mauro (1859-1952), the author of this writing:  It was Mauro who prepared the legal case that was argued by William Jennings Bryan in the Tennessee – Scopes trial in 1925.  It is often forgotten that the proponents of evolution were defeated in this case.  Mauro wrote a book, entitled Evolution at the Bar, in which he stated: “Although sometimes spoken of as a “scientific” theory, Evolution is not scientific; for science has to do only with facts. Evolution belongs wholly in the realm of speculative philosophy.”

AN EXTRAORDINARY JUDICIAL PROCEEDING
The pages of history would be searched in vain for another instance where a person charged with a capital offence was subjected to trial successively by two differently constituted tribunals.  And this unique feature of the trial of Jesus Christ is the more extraordinary because the two tribunals before which He was successively arraigned were of diverse nationality — one Jewish, the other Roman – and also of diverse orders — one ecclesiastical, the other civil.  He was arraigned first before the Jewish Sanhedrin, over which Caiaphas presided, he being “the high priest the same year” (John 11: 49); and then before the Roman governor.  And so it must needs have been, in order that the Scriptures might be fulfilled, which foretold the manner of His death (Matthew 27: 35).  For the usual method of execution practiced by the Jews was stoning; and moreover, during the period of Roman domination, it was not lawful for them to put any man to death (John 19: 31).

THE FULFILMENT OF PROPHECY
The closing events of our Lord’s life had been clearly foretold by the prophets.  Thus in the second Psalm we read: “The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against His Christ, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us.”

There is no uncertainty as to the fulfilment of this prophecy; for the disciples, after reciting these verses of the Psalm, said: “For a truth, against Thy Holy Child Jesus, Whom Thou has anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel were gathered together for to do whatsoever Thy hand and Thy counsel determined before to be done” (Acts 4: 24 28).

Thus the great confederacy of Jews and Gentiles, kings of the earth and rulers, having set themselves in defiance against Jehovah and against His Christ, succeeded only in accomplishing what His eternal counsels had decreed before to be done.  Wherefore, through all the centuries from that time to near our own day, the people of God have been perfectly agreed that the way, and the only possible way, to the throne of David for Him, and the only possible way of salvation for them, was the way of the cross, the way of His death and resurrection; that Christ must needs have suffered those very things ere He could enter into His promised glory or be the Saviour of His people (Luke 24: 25-27).

“PROVE ALL THINGS: HOLD FAST THAT WHICH IS GOOD”
All believers in the Lord Jesus Christ are agreed that the things whereof He spoke to the two on the road to Emmaus, things which were predicted of and suffered by Him, are the foundation things of our most holy faith.  None, therefore, would knowingly lend countenance to any doctrine that even seemed to raise a doubt in regard thereto.  Consequently they are in duty bound to examine with the utmost care and with an unbiased mind any and every newly propounded system of doctrine which teaches by implication that our Lord was, according to the Roman law, which was the law of the land at that time, actually guilty of the very acts of sedition whereof He was accused by the Jews; and specifically that He in person, as well as His Spirit-filled forerunner, His twelve apostles likewise, and the “other seventy also,” had gone about all Judea and Galilee proclaiming the immediate advent of the earthly kingdom which the Jews were eagerly awaiting at the very time.

Manifestly, if the Lord Himself, or John, or any other of His servants, had proclaimed by His authority on even a single occasion the King and the Kingdom for which the Jews were looking, or had proclaimed anything that could be fairly construed as subversive of Caesar’s authority and as tending towards the setting up in its stead of another government, His accusers would have been justified and His sentence and execution would have been warranted by the law of the land.

Moreover, and this is specially to be noted, there would have been, in that case, thousands of witnesses among the throngs at Jerusalem during that Passover season, who could have proved the accusation and would have been eager to do so.  For His enemies were ever listening with strained attention to His utterances, hoping to catch something out of His mouth whereof to accuse Him (Luke II: 54; John 18: 20).  This evidence — the lack of witnesses to any utterance from His lips that savoured — ever so little of sedition — though negative in character, is nevertheless very cogent.  But the Scripture contains even stronger proof that neither by John, nor by our Lord Himself, nor yet by any of His disciples, had He been proclaimed the promised King of Israel, the Christ of God.  For we have the clear and conclusive evidence afforded by what passed between our Lord and the Twelve at Caesarea Philippi on that notable occasion when He was for the very first time recognized as, and acknowledged by one of His disciples to be, the expected Messiah of Israel; and needless to say they could not have proclaimed before that episode what had not yet been revealed to them.  And as for the time subsequent, it is recorded that, on that very occasion our Lord “charged His disciples that they should tell no man that He was Jesus the Christ” (Matt. 16: 20); or as it properly reads, “that He, Jesus, was the Christ.”

Let it be remembered that in those early days of His ministry His miracles had excited the wonder of the multitudes, and filled the land with His praises.  The people were in expectation of the immediate appearance of the Messiah; and all men had previously been musing in their hearts concerning John “whether he were the Christ or not” (Luke 8: 15).  And the expectancy of the people had been raised to the highest pitch just before the occurrence at Caesarea Philippi, by the miracle of the loaves, whereby five thousand had been fed.  Some were saying He was John the Baptist; some that He was Elijah; others that He was Jeremiah or one of the old prophets risen again (Matthew 16: 13, 14; Luke 9: 19, 20).  Even Herod was greatly agitated “because it was said of some that John was risen from the dead” (Luke 9: 7-9).  It was under these circumstances that our Lord put to the Twelve that epoch-marking question: “But whom say ye that I am?” and elicited from Simon Peter the great testimony, “thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  We do not dwell upon the immense significance of Peter’s great confession, our only purpose in citing it being to call attention to the conclusive proof the whole incident affords that none of the Twelve could have announced Him previously as the Messiah of Israel, and that His express command forbade their doing it thereafter.

This proof, moreover, is strengthened by our Lord’s emphatic words, in which He blessed Peter for the reason that the great truth to which he had given utterance – that Jesus was the Christ of God and the Son of God — had not been revealed to him by flesh and blood, but by God the Father.  This makes clear that John had not preached it, else Peter would have learned it from Him.

Most earnestly, therefore, do we entreat all who love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity to search out and to consider carefully the copious testimony of the Gospels as to what He actually preached and taught in the days of His flesh concerning His mission to Israel and particularly concerning the nature of the Kingdom He was about to establish,— keeping in mind that any testimony which would support the postponement theory of our day, would have supported the accusation of our Lord’s enemies of that day.

Theory, hypothesis, fallacy

People despise Christian faith.  They hate it and are afraid that it may be true.
-Blaise Pascal

Pascal wrote these words at the beginning of the scientific era.  All attempts made during succeeding years to disprove Christianity by scientific means have been motivated by this fear.  For, if Christianity is true, if there really is a God who created everything according to a divine plan, we are in trouble.  How can we reconcile our egocentric life with His plan for our life?

The public has been conditioned to have faith in science, to the point of accepting without question any statement purporting to be scientific, while scoffing at any statement purporting to be Christian or Biblical truth.  It must be admitted that much nonsense has been spoken in the name of Christianity, giving the public some foundation for scepticism.  Discernment needs to be exercised in both domains.  This article deals with statements which purport to be scientific fact.

The first step in scientific thinking  is to observe a group of facts or events and devise a possible explanation that can be tested by further observation or experimentation.  This possible explanation is called a hypothesis.  If further observation and experimentation support the hypothesis, it then becomes a theory.  If the theory then can be shown to hold true in every possible circumstance, it is considered to be a proven scientific fact.

Unfortunately, the public wants so much to put their faith in science that there is no distinction made between, theory, hypothesis, fact and fallacy.
The big bang is a theory that can never be proven scientifically, because there were no human observers at the time the universe burst into existence.  It is generally accepted as a valid explanation of facts that are observable today.  This theory is basically in accord with Genesis 1:1.  However, the time frames that are generally associated with the big bang theory are only hypotheses.  The estimates of the time involved vary widely, with no evidence for any of the estimates.

Evolution, after all these years, is no more than an unproven hypothesis.  Wishful thinking might be a more accurate term.  There has never been a shred of evidence produced of one species evolving into another.  It is not difficult to accept that a Chihuahua and a Newfoundland are both dogs and probably had a common ancestor, but there is zero evidence that a dog ever became a cow or any other type of creature.  It is inconceivable that a fish could become a dry land creature by means of the small incremental mutations essential to evolution.  A fish that developed legs would be asphyxiated out of water.  A fish that developed lungs would drown in the water.

The DNA found in every cell of the body contains more information than the Encyclopaedia Britannica.  Why is it that no one believes that the Encyclopaedia Britannica could appear as a result of a series of unconnected, random events, but so many intelligent people believe that DNA developed that way?  It must be that these people are afraid of the consequences of admitting there was some intelligent force at work in creating the universe and the beings that populate the universe.

In recent years, many highly skilled scientists have taken an honest look at the information provided by science and felt compelled to admit that the evidence shows that there must have been a designer.  These scientists, who have become known as the Intelligent Design movement, did not start with certain religious prejudices and try to make the evidence before them fit these prejudices. They have simply expressed the only conclusion that seemed to fit the accumulated evidence.

Their opponents are found among those who are so fully committed to materialistic hypotheses that they feel compelled to twist and select evidence to make it fit their pre-established belief system.  Such an attitude does not merit the label of “scientific.”  It is really a humanistic religion based on the supremacy of man rather than upon science.  Unfortunately, our public education system, at all levels, is founded upon and infused with this religion.
To put it simply, truth never contradicts truth.  The Bible and science are not in conflict.  Neither are there parallel truths, so that we could accept materialistic explanations of our origins and biblical explanations of our destiny.

The evidence of science shows that all that exists is of a level of complexity that can only be explained by the action of a Designer with intelligence far beyond our own.  The Bible tells me who that Designer is.  With the recognition of an Intelligent Designer there comes inescapably the realization that this Designer must have a plan that includes me.  The Bible tells me what that plan is.

“It was just his time to go”

Whenever someone dies unexpectedly it can be counted on that some kind soul will say, “Well, I guess it was just his time to go.” This is supposed to be a comfort to the bereaved family. How is this going to make the tragic loss of a loved one easier to bear? Shall they cancel their grieving in submission to the inexorable will of a God who decided that “now was the time for this person to go,” no matter how gruesome the circumstances?

I don’t get it. How far would these people be willing to push this line of thought?

WARNING: THE FOLLOWING PARAGRAPH DESCRIBES EVENTS OF STOMACH-CHURNING EVIL!

The dozens of prostitutes that Robert Pickton picked up in Vancouver, killed, put through a meat grinder and fed to his pigs, was it “just their time to go?” Why then was Robert Pickton convicted of murder? He would merely have been the instrument to accomplish that which God had decreed must happen.

I cannot stomach that kind of belief that makes God responsible for all the horrific evil that goes on in this corrupt world. I know that there are true believers in divine election who can spin elaborate arguments to prove that a person such as Robert Pickton is entirely guilty for the things he has done, even though he could not have chosen to do otherwise. My poor mind is just not capable of such mental gymnastics.

Neither can I simply accept it on faith, because it contradicts everything that the Bible tells me about God. “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. Do not err, my beloved brethren. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” (Jamies 1:13-17).

There is a curious resemblance between the convoluted arguments put forward by believers in divine election and those who believe in evolution. There are individuals who argue that not only is man a random blob of protoplasm with no meaning or purpose, but even his thoughts are nothing but random, meaningless electrical impulses. It appears that they see no irony in using their intellect to prove that their thoughts are completely devoid of meaning.

Both election and evolution deny that man has any freedom of choice. The proponents of these arguments believe that they are spinning an exquisite garment of the finest thread. Many people looking on are impressed with the vigour of their claims and assume they must be true, even though the threads are so fines as to be invisible. We should rather announce the obvious truth: the emperors are completely starkers!

It was Robert Pickton who decided it was time for those women to die. Despite their lamentable choice of occupation, they were individuals made in the image of God, who said: “As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?” (Ezekiel 33:11).

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