Faith and Works Explained

The Scriptures make it clear that Christ is the only ground whereby we can be justified.  He is the source of our justification and the only instrument of our salvation, Jesus alone has the power to redeem us. Yet the question remains – to whom does He justify? Does He justify those who merely profess His name yet willfully continue in sin, obeying the lust of the flesh and remaining in all manners of disobedience and impurity? It is true that faith in Christ is the channel by which all men are justified; for apart from the redemptive work on the cross salvation would not be attainable, it is only through His shed blood that we are made alive. However, the scriptures make it clear that a profession of faith in of its self cannot save us unless it’s followed by a repenting and turning away from sin (Acts 20:21). Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 13 that if we have a faith that can move mountains but do not have the love of God then our faith will profit us nothing. Standing on the work of the cross we must also crucify our flesh and be born again in the Spirit, for the love of God is the fruit of the Spirit.

In Romans 8:4 Paul says that God sent His Son that “the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in those who walk according to the Spirit,” It’s interesting that Paul doesn’t simply say that the righteous requirement of the law is fulfilled in those who believe, the word walk denotes action and implies that we abide in the Holy Spirit, being transformed and reborn into the Image of Christ over the course of our life time. Romans 8:13 says “if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the flesh you will live.” In order to be born again we must be putting to death the carnal man with all his desires and passions; In the hope of the promise to come we must purify ourselves through the power of the Holy Spirit, casting off the works of the flesh that so easily entangle us. For we know that those who go on willfully practicing such things will not inherit the kingdom of God (Galatians 5). To the apostles this kind of obedience was implicit with respect to the Christian walk, the idea of a Christianity whereby one professed faith in Christ yet continued walking in the lusts of the world was apostasy. In Revelations 3:15 we hear the word of the Lord to the church of Laodicea declaring, “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot.. so then, because you are lukewarm I will vomit you out of my mouth.” Though the church believed in the Gospel they remained complacent in their earthly riches, neglecting their salvation they lived apathetically toward the will of God, unconcerned with righteousness.

God requires that we actively pursue Him. The Christian life is not a casual affair whereby we seek the Lord at our own leisure; He requires that we surrender our entire life to Him. In the parable of the hidden treasure the kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man that sells all he has and buys that land where the treasure is buried, this is to be the depiction of the Christian life. Likewise Jesus tells the young rich ruler, “sell all your possession and give your wealth to the poor then come follow Me.” God doesn’t require all believers to sacrifice their belongings as a precondition to obtaining His favor. Jesus knew that the ruler idolized his wealth and worshiped his riches, esteeming his earthly treasures above obedience to the will of God. The Lord commands that we have no other gods before Him; He will not tolerate lukewarm believers clothed in idolatry who profess His name yet put their earthly aspirations before the kingdom of heaven. Luke 13:46 “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord’ and do not do what I say?” If we profess the name of Jesus yet neglect to obey His word, then our profession will count for nothing when we stand before Him on the day of judgment. “not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in Heaven.. Then I will declare to *some, ‘ I never knew you; depart from Me you who practice lawlessness!’”  Many will come before the Lord wearing garments still defiled by the flesh, again these are the ones who neglected their salvation, failing to purify themselves through the regeneration of the Holy Spirit; though professing faith in the Lord they remained carnal and did not abide in Him.

We are to understand that Christ did not come to destroy the law but to fulfill it, not that lawlessness would abound but that all those who put their faith in the Lord and walk accordingly would be sanctified by His blood. Romans 2:13 tells us that “not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.” If we read on here we see Paul is not speaking in context to the strict tenets of the Mosaic law, but the word of God written on the hearts of all men, our conscious bearing witness and testifying to His divine nature and His righteous character, an inherent moral law woven in the very fabric of our soul. However, Paul doesn’t say the doers of the law are justified, rather he says that the doers of the shall be justified. Paul would have us understand that those who actively practice the word of God based on the revelation revealed to them shall be justified by Christ. For it is Christ who justifies those who diligently seek after him in accordance to the faith allotted to them.

Paul opens up the book of Romans by stating he had received “grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations (vv 5 KJV).” We see that Paul identifies the purpose of His apostleship as bringing about an obedient faith. However, it’s important to mention again that while obedience is an essential element establishing our faith, Paul never implies that our obedience makes us righteous, for we know that all our righteous works are like filthy rags. Instead we are to understand that obedience to the faith brings us into Gods righteousness. The scriptures make it clear that if we sow into the flesh according to the lusts thereof then we shall surely die, but if by our obedience we sow into the Spirit we will be made righteous. Romans 6:12-13 “Do not let sin reign in your body so that you obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness.. What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not! Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death or obedience leading to righteousness? But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart.” Paul explains that saved by grace does not mean we can go on willfully entertaining the lusts of the flesh and think that God will still impute His righteousness unto us. In order to become a beneficiary of Christ’s redeeming grace we must actively partake in our salvation through an obedience led by faith. Hebrews 11:8 says “By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed..” Faith doesn’t act independent of our obedience, but by faith we now serve the Lord in Spirit.

Today it is common for preachers to assert the doctrine that working out our salvation in obedience to the will of God is simply an inherent byproduct of faith. Thus if we have faith we will inevitably have works, and if we don’t have works well it simply means that we never had faith to begin with. While this doctrine seems like a safe reconciliation of seemingly contradictory passages, it simply isn’t scriptural. James explicitly says that “faith by itself if it doesn’t have works, is dead (vv.17)” clearly indicating that one can have faith and not have works.  James never indicates that works will involuntarily flow from our faith, on the contrary he says “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also (vv.26).” Rather than our works inherently flowing from our faith, James makes the case that just as the spirit gives life to the body so works give life to our faith. Thus we are to understand that instead of true faith producing obedience, it is active obedience that gives life to our faith and makes it true.

James is clear “That a man is justified by works, and not by faith only (vv.24)”. For some this might seem inconsistent and difficult to reconcile with other passages throughout the Scripture. it’s important to distinguish that James is not talking about ceremonial or sacrificial works that many religions subscribe to. The work that James refers to is the work whereby we exercise the love of God toward those around us. James 2: 8 & 12 “If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “you shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you do well; but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted as a transgressor (vv 8).. so speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy (vv 12)”. We see James is speaking in regards to works of the law of liberty. The scriptures tell us that when we are joined to Christ the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: ‘love your neighbor as yourself’. Because many were professing the gospel yet exhibiting favoritism toward those of stature and wealth, James clarified that if our actions and lifestyle contradict our faith then such profession is meaningless. Thus if we claim to be a Christian yet neglect to walk in the love God i.e. the Holy Spirit, then we effectively nullify the grace of God and become a transgressor of the law. Romans 13: 8-10 “Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another, for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law, for this, “you shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, “you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law”. Now that we are under grace and not the Law, the only work that is required of us is that we put our trust in Jesus Christ and walk by the Spirit, demonstrating the same love that Jesus had toward us when He went to the cross. 1 John 4:23 “This is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as he commanded us.” While the Lord commands us to love, it’s important to remember that it is the Lord that equips us with His Spirit to love in the first place. The Lord commands us knowing that only through Him can we walk obediently.

But how do we reconcile scripture found in Romans chapter 3 and 4 where Paul clearly rejects works? Reading in context here is very important for understanding the kind of works in which Paul is referring to. In contrast to James, who was speaking in regards to the works of the law of liberty whereby we are to actively demonstrate the love of God toward those around us, Paul here is speaking specifically of the ceremonial and sacrificial works of the Mosaic Law, also known as the Torah. Consisting of 612 commandments, the Torah was given exclusively to Israel in order to separate them from all the other nations, creating a barrier between them and the Gentiles. Having governed Jewish practice since the beginning, many Jews were still clinging to the traditions of the Torah as the source of their justification. Paul effectively refutes the works of the Mosaic Law and establishes faith in Christ Jesus as the common ground by which all men now have access to God. Romans 3: 28-29 “we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the works of the Law. Or is He the God of the Jew only? Is He not also the God of the Gentiles?” We are to understand that when Paul speaks of faith apart from works here, he is specifically speaking to the Jews in context to the works of the Torah, opposing sacrificial traditions and rituals such as circumcision which excluded gentiles from entering the fold of Gods family. 21st century Christian doctrine tends to leave us with the impression that working, in all senses of the word, is mutually exclusive to living in God’s grace; this false dichotomy couldn’t be further from the truth. The scriptures tell us that it is in fact God’s grace that empowers us to work out our salvation.

Thus while Paul boldly rejects the works of the Mosaic law and declares faith as the vessel by which all men can come to God, Paul does not reject the good works whereby we diligently and actively espouse ourselves to obeying the word of God, for we know whoever has His commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Him (John 14:21). Paul prefaces chapter 3 and 4 with Romans 2: 6-10 making this decidedly clear, stating that God “will render to each one according to the his works: Eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor and immortality; but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness – indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek. But glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For there is no partiality with God”. Paul never seeks to denounce the necessity of obedience or indicate that we can be justified regardless of how we decide to live our lives as long as we profess faith in Jesus. We will recall Paul explicitly speaks of being slaves to the ones whom we obey, either sin resulting in death or obedience resulting in righteousness. As mentioned, Paul indicates the purpose of his apostleship was to bring about obedience to the faith. Paul never permits lawlessness or indicates that faith can exist independently of our obedience to it. On the contrary Paul urges believers to eagerly devote themselves to obedience, only now he urges that we ought to “serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter” – Romans 7:6.

When the people asked what work they must to do the work of God, Jesus replied “this is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.” – John 6: 29. So why didn’t Jesus command them to walk in the Spirit, crucifying their flesh and loving their neighbor in fulfillment of the royal law? at this point the full mystery of the gospel had not yet been revealed, the suffering on the cross and the impartation of the Holy Spirit were still hidden from mankind and the time had not yet come for Jesus to speak of them. It’s not until  the night of His betrayal when Jesus begins disclosing to His disciples the full mystery of the Gospel and the power of the Spirit to come that He issues His final commandment. John 13: 34 “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.” The Christian faith isn’t merely a belief, it’s a process of regeneration whereby we surrender to the Lord and submit to His will in all aspects of life, being reborn into the image of Christ.  Jesus never indicated that we could maintain a lasting and sanctifying relationship with Him apart from walking in obedience to His word. In 1 John 1: 6 we are reminded that, “if we say we have fellowship with Him and walk in the darkness we lie and do not practice the truth. but if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light we have fellowship one with another and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.”

It is by faith that we receive the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and it is by walking in the guidance of the Holy Spirit that we effectively love God and love one another, thus fulfilling the royal commandment. Because love is a fruit of walking in the Holy Spirit, true love can never be manufactured by man. While the world can imitate the works of love, unless we have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit fashioning the love of God inside of us such imitation will avail nothing. 1 Corinthians 13: 3 “if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.” Because God is love, the focus of love will always be leading others back to Him. Exercising human compassion and self-sacrifice apart from truth is ultimately meaningless. Thus the way in which we truly love one another is abiding in the Lord and allowing His love to flow out of us; and while love is a fruit of abiding, abiding in its self is a daily commitment to picking up one’s cross and crucifying the flesh. Every day we must give attention to renewing our mind and training our body into submission. In John 15: 10 Jesus tells us that “If you keep my Commandments, you will remain in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and remain in His love.” It’s not that if we love God we will inevitably walk obediently, rather if we walk by the Spirit in obedience to the word of God then His love will flow from us. Just as trees need water and sunlight in order to produce fruit so we need to water ourselves daily with His word and abide in Him in order to bear fruit. Every day we must examine our faith, for long as we are in this physical body sin will always be crouching at our door step waiting to ensnare us and carry us away if given the opportunity.

The scriptures fervently warn the believer against drifting away, reminding us that in order to receive the prize we must finish the race laid before us. While it’s true that we enter into His salvation the moment we confess with our mouth and believe in our heart that Jesus rose from the dead, it’s also true that if we neglect our salvation and drift away from the faith then we will not inherit the kingdom of God (Hebrews 2:1-3). Colossians 1:22-23 “Yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach – If indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel.” Paul tells us that Abraham was made righteous by His faith, yet James elaborates that Abraham was justified by His obedience when he offered up Isaac, that through his works faith was made perfect. Paul and James do not contradict each other, rather we are to understand that while justification comes by way of faith the moment we believe, a belief in of it self can’t be sustained unless it’s followed by obedience. In order to receive the prize we must continue in the faith, steadfast and not moved away. The biblical portrayal of faith is trusting in God and acting on what He has revealed; thus to answer the question posed be James, “can faith apart from works save us?” we would respond, certainly not. Revelation 14:12 “Here is the perseverance of the saint who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus.”

While obedience is a choice, we must also always recognize that “it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.” – Philippians 2:13. In us nothing good exists, we all have turned unto our own way; there are none who seek after Him. We are to be reminded that even when we are laboring it is still by His grace that we are being empowered to do so; 1 Corinthians 15: 10 “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.” It is God who puts the desire in our hearts to walk obediently and it is God who equips us to carry it out, apart from Him we can do nothing. So then, through the power of the Spirit let us put to death our fleshly desires and remain steadfast in the faith, bearing the fruit of the Spirit which is love; for this is His commandment committed to us in fulfillment of the Law.

“By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome. For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world –our faith.”

 1 John 5: 2-4

What Proof Is There For Atheism?

The common argument that atheism is simply “the lack of a belief in God,” still requires a great deal of clarification before it can be considered anything other than shifty rhetoric and polarizing disregard. Many claim to be atheist because the apparent lack of evidence corroborating the existence of an intelligent designer. However, If I were to affirm the existence of God by simply drawing attention to the inability of natural laws and behaviors to account for the origins of space, time, matter, and life, then my atheist counterpart would unquestionably be quick to point out the disparity between my observation and my conclusion.

Atheism has huge scientific implications, a natural and unguided universe is an astounding and remarkable claim that defies the most astronomical probabilities. The key to formulate a compelling case is corroborating ones own argument with as much evidence as possible, then comparing it with competing interpretations to assess the most conclusive and comprehensive argument. Yet what we typically encounter are atheist dismissing the creationist side in a attempt to establish their positions predominance by default. The irony is that this type of “weak” atheism, as it is commonly referred to, is ubiquitous even among the most militant atheist. It seems that rather than engaging in the debate most atheist have cleverly postured themselves on the outskirts of the discussion, often more content with mocking and ridiculing their opponents ideas as puerile than providing compelling arguments of their own.

Because atheism directly infers the universe and everything in it came about by purely natural processes, an educated atheist must offer compelling evidence for said universe, that is if they wish to delineate an objective and educated framework for their world-view. While we understand the kind of events that must of taken place in order for the universe to exist, the fact that we don’t know precisely how it all came about doesn’t directly imply a designer. However, at this point in time we can rest assured that atheism is far from the default position. Any argument that simply asserts the “lack of belief in God” while refusing to provide any alternative evidence for a natural and unguided universe should not be valued for anything other than ignorance. The attempt to depict a designer as inherently puerile and superfluous might be enough for that PBS special, but it’s not going to withstand its critics scrutiny.

Let’s Leave Motives Out of It

Another great post from Seth!

Weighing the Evidence

When discussing ideas, I think it best to keep motives out of it.

Often, I am told that my experiences of God (and therefore my belief in Him) are nothing but the results of an elaborate physiological ruse, where I am held victim to the workings of my own brain (boy, aren’t we all?) — or, even worse, my belief in God is just the manifestation of my own wishful thinking.  Freud made this view popular, saying that religious beliefs are “illusions, fulfillments of the oldest, strongest, and most urgent wishes of mankind….  Thus the benevolent rule of the divine Providence allays our fears of the dangers of life.”  And Freud was a smart guy, so we can just take his word for it, right?  No need to look at evidence or reasoning or anything — or even lay me on a sofa and come up with any direct support for your…

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Quick Thought – Posing A Challenge To Atheist

On one hand atheist such as Richard Dawkins agree that “Biology is the study of complicated things that give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.” On the other hand atheist reject ID on the premise that there is insufficient evidence. Yet when you press the naturalist on the question of origins they concede the fact that even the most advanced evolutionary biologist in the world have no clue how life could have arisen by natural processes.

It’s interesting how so many prominent atheist thinkers agree that life appears designed, yet they all insist a designer is superfluous even though they have no clue how life could have arisen by natural processes. Are atheist guilty of blindly filling in the gaps with a natural unguided process? Is there an apparent prejudice within the scientific community that precludes God as a possibility? If life appears designed and there is no evidence to suggest it came about naturally, isn’t it logical to infer a designer?

The fact that naturalism is incapable of explaining our origins follows the basic predictions from the God-hypothesis. Sure atheist can argue that they’re “still working on it,” but couldn’t this argument be perpetuated indefinitely? At what point does the absence of evidence become the evidence of absence? How can God be considered superfluous when we have no substantiated alternative explanation, and all the while life appears to be purposefully designed? We are far beyond basic God of the gaps here; advances in molecular biology and the current data about the origins of the cosmos have some remarkable design engineering implications.

Unless there is evidence that can adequately explain away the appearance of design, I think it’s safe to assume that Intelligent Design is in inference to the best explanation.

Thoughts On Morality

The question is not whether believing in God is necessary for establishing some elementary moral foundation, it seems to be fairly obvious that an individual has the capacity for honest and forthright living apart from any credence to the transcendent. Yet for me a larger question still remains; that is, are we inherently moral beings because God made us in his image? I think often the public misconception is that Christians such as myself believe that in order to be morally inclined you need to have faith in God. While I do believe something can be said for the moral instability of an ideology that establishes it self without any recourse to a higher power, I don’t believe that religion, i.e. belief in God, is a prerequisite to being a fundamentally ‘good’ person.

Those who reject moral absolutes and adhere to moral relativism typically argue that morality is simply a measure of good posturing, that ethics can be explained by some social Darwinism, in which we cooperatively coexist for the mutual benefit of our species. This seems to be fairly plausible on some elementary levels. We often see this among’st various species in the animal kingdom, a group working together as one for the survival of all. Yet for all the observation of this peaceful Darwinian coexistence, there is the occasional barbarism. For example, in order to coerce the female to mate with them, male chimps and lions are known to kill their own infants (male chimps will even go as far as to cannibalize the baby chimps.)

In a land void of moral absolutes there is really no grounds for deterring the more dominant individuals from assuming their power over others. Just as there is no grounds to say that lions and chimps committing infanticide are wrong, from the evolutionary standpoint there is nothing inherently wicked about killing the infants. After all such minor atrocities really have nothing to do with the overall survival of the species. Thus while social Darwinism seemingly offers a congruent framework for the overall cooperation of a species, it does little to repress the internal selfish instincts that characterize our day to day lifestyle. This is merely to suggest that the atheistic paradigm is inadequate for establishing a solid moral infrastructure.

On a similar note what grounds would we have to criticize the Nazi regime for seeking to establish the dominant supremacy of a modern utopia? Hitlers implementation of eugenics was simply a matter of self consciously applying principles of Darwinian evolution. There’s nothing inherently wrong with obliterating weaker atomic particles in order to establish a seamless social structure. This is simply following suit with the struggle for supremacy and survival that follows from Darwinian logic. For it is precisely the logic of social Darwinism that brings us to such moral ambiguities. I find the reality that we are uniquely aware of such injustices seems to indicate an underlining and overriding moral consciousness.

Now I fully understand that people have rationalized evil in the name of Christianity; in a similar way many have also rationalized evil in the name of liberty. However, in no way does this diminish the integrity of either in their own respect. After all, it isn’t Christianity that should be judged off it’s followers, rather it’s followers ought to be judged off Christianity. You see, no religion or set of moral codes in of it self has the power to transform someone from the inside. In the scriptures the law was given to the Israelites as mirror in which their internal wickedness was to be accentuated, that they might realize their need for forgiveness; ultimately we are to understand the righteous requirement of the law surpasses our capacity for adhering to it. Alas, it is not a religion or a code of ethics we are in need of, but rather a savior! in this way Jesus came that we might pick up our crosses and follow after Him in faith.

We do have the capacity to be modestly “good” people apart from belief in God, just as we have the capacity to be modestly “good” people who believe in God. Either way, whether your an atheist or a law abiding theist, you can never be good enough. For the wages of sin is death, and because God is a righteous God he must punish all sin. Thus if you live by the measure of your own goodness, you will die by the measure of your own inadequacy. Only when we put our faith in God will we ever be able to fulfill the requirements of righteousness.

The late Christopher Hitchens use to pose a moral challenge to believers, he would say “name me a moral action committed by a believer that could not be made by a non-believer.” The fallacy of Mr. Hitchens argument is that it’s predicated on the assumption that Christianity is false, for in doing so he precludes the obvious answer, for clearly the saving of ones soul by the preaching of the Gospel is the greatest moral action that we can accomplish, one that can only be committed by a believer.

Creation Requires A Creator

How can anyone definitively say God exists? How could we ever claim to know such truth? Such mystical allusions are rife with arrogance, as if we mere mortal humans could ascend into the heavens and attain such privileged knowledge… These questions are not without due consideration, and I must say, providing a compelling systematic explanation for my faith has proven to be a tall order to fill. Often times my explanatory power gets muddled in the translation and I’m unable to provide anything palpable for my atheist friends to meditate on.

Thus I find myself in a peculiar position,  struggling to persuade those around me of that which I had taken for granted, that is creation requires a creator. I frequently find myself caught in the undertow of contemporary thought, locked in a twilight zone where men call things that are, as though they were not. In a world where positing an external creator is to replace science with magic! I feel as though I have awoken amid’st the chaos of an exotic circus grandeur, wherein faith is the grand illusion! for faith in God is to assert “Oogity Boogity caused everything by the mechanism of POOF!” as one blogger so eloquently attest. Perhaps I just never quite understood how something could pop out of nothing. The idea that space, time, and matter just spontaneously erupted from free-space defies not only the natural laws that govern our universe, but also reason it self. In this apparent anomaly that is our universe, we must admit, a higher power is a possibility worth considering.

Thus my belief in God rest on three basic assumptions: 1. God Himself is eternal, for we know that matter is not eternal but had a definite beginning. 2. that which has been created (matter) requires a creator. 3. That said creator has purposefully revealed himself to us in such a way that he can be discerned. Now in regards to this last point, I ask myself, looking back through the sands of time do I see any  indications of a creator attempting to reveal himself to us? Indeed, let us for a moment look plainly upon the scriptures. Comprised of arguably the most ancient texts in the world, we find a succession of congruent books purposefully documenting historical encounters with the “creator of heaven and earth.” Whats more, it is through these texts that we come across the extraordinary life of Jesus of Nazareth. A life having been foretold for centuries.

Isaiah 53: 5-6 “But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed.”

Psalms 22: 16 “For dogs have surrounded Me; The congregation of the wicked have enclosed Me. They pierced My hands and My feet”

And it is in the story of Christ that we see the only begotten Son of God descending unto humanity. The scriptures claim that faith comes by hearing the Word of God, and that Jesus himself was the Word made into flesh. It is precisely the life of Christ that I observe something fundamentally unique beyond any other historical record, a voice rising from utter obscurity, a voice that has endured throughout the ages. If we take the scriptures seriously we see that it offers us a very congruent framework in which God has revealed Himself to mankind.

But how can we know if Jesus was who He said He was? This brings us to a very fundamental question – what is our relationship with reality? Let us take gravity for example, we know gravity exists because we can observe and experience it laws in effect all around us, thus through our direct empirical contact we are made aware of its reality. It is through observing such uniform and repeated experiences that reality exists

Thus why should this methodology be any less viable in forming my reality of God? The scriptures assert that the law of the Spirit of life through Christ will produce within our members the fruits of the Spirit. That those who pick up their crosses and crucify the deeds of their flesh will be reborn a new creation, dissolved from the law of sin and the lusts of the flesh that govern our mortal bodies. Thus if the Spirit of God really dwells within us, and if Christ were true, then those who follow after Him ought to be able to observe and experience this new creation coming to fruition over time.

Galatians 5: 22-23 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control..”

The core narrative of the Bible is not that that man has ascended into spiritual enlightement and obtained this privileged knowledge of the one true God, but rather God that has descended unto earth and revealed Himself to us in such a way that we can be assured that He is who He says He is. If we look objectively at the mere fact that the teachings of Jesus persist as the most influential words to ever be spoken, we have good reason to believe that Jesus in His own right was extraordinarily unique.

Knowing what we do through recent advances in cosmology and physics, is it logical to presume the world could have arisen by purely natural processes? Today many scientist have attempted to postulate different theories on how ‘something’ could have emerged from ‘nothing’. Redefining nothing to be some sort of quantum vacuum in which particles appear from free-space. perhaps the words of Paul ring more true now than they ever did:

20  For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.21 For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools” – Romans 1:20-22

Naturalism And The Proverbial Rabbit-Hole

Throughout this blog I have transcribed some of the growing concerns with regard to the efficacy of Darwinian evolution in explaining the diversity and biological complexity of living organisms. I have also spent a great deal of time addressing the perennial issue of origins, shedding light on the scientific communities rather tentative approach in postulating a coherent theory which would adequately explain the origins of the first information necessary to produce life; a phenomena which surely must have transpired at some point in our distant past.

My purpose in writing this post is to provide a comprehensive critique on the contemporary orthodox perspective that an unguided naturalistic process could account for the origins of life and the rise of new complex biological novelties, as well as the origins of the cosmos – not mentioning the anthropic fine-tuning necessary for sustaining it.

One of the first things that I began to write about was the inconsistency between the fossil record and the theory of evolution, or macro-evolution, that is the gradual transition from one species into a fundamentally new anatomical creature. Darwin himself conceded the fact that in order for his theory to be viable it would have to be a very slow and progressive process because only small genetic variations meet the test of heritability; larger mutations typically result in death and/or sterility.

Thus by it own logic the Darwinian theory predicts a specific pattern of evidence when observing the fossil record. More to the point, one would expect innumerable transitional fossils illustrating a slow harmonious evolution of evolving complexity over millions and millions of years. Yet what we find is a rather abrupt beginning of life forms already in advanced anatomical stages. We see fully developed kinds that more or less remain the same until they go extinct, nothing that would seem to indicate a gradual evolution over time.

It was Steven M. Stanley, the renown American paleontologist and evolutionary biologist who wrote “Species that were once thought to have turned into others, have now been found to overlap in time with these alleged descendants. In fact the fossil record doesn’t convincingly document a single transition from one species to another.” In contrast to this notion that the fossil record supports an evolving tree of evolutionary complexity, Stanley touches on the reality that such is the diversity of life that often lends it self to plausible intermediates. But surely buried some where deep in the rocky strata there must be compiled countless transitional fossils collectively documenting the morphological evolution of life – right?

Tiktaalik, the poster child of Darwinian evolution – transitional fossil? or plausible intermediate?

It wasn’t until the 1970’s that we began to see paleontologist such as Stanley reject the concept of gradualism. Strictly adhering to the empirical data, Stephen J. Gould and Niles Eldredge were the first to introduce the theoretical concept of punctuated equilibria. In essence this was an attempt by paleontologist and evolutionary biologist, deeply ingrained in the philosophical concept of naturalism, to tailor an evolutionary theory to fit the lack of evidence for morphological trends in the fossil record.

“most families, orders, classes and phyla appear rather suddenly in the fossil record, often without anatomically intermediate forms smoothly interlinking evolutionary descendant taxa withe their presumed ancestors.” Niles Eldredge

“indeed the chief frustration of the fossil record is that we do not have empirical evidence for sustained trends in the evolution of most complex morphological adaptations” – Stephen J. Gould

Eldredge and Gould asserted that speciation is primarily restricted to rare and relatively rapid events (punctuation), outside of these episodic events species persist in a state of stasis, where they remain relatively unchanged (equilibrium).

“The Eldredge-Gould concept of punctuated equilibrium has gained wide acceptance among paleontologist. It attempts to account for the following paradox: within continuous sampled lineages, one rarely finds the gradual morphological trends predicted by Darwinian evolution.. The punctuated equilibrium model has been widely accepted, not because it has a compelling theoretical basis but because it appears to resolve a dilemma.” – Robert E. Ricklefs

The problem with the theoretical foundation of punctuated equilibrium is that its breaking alliance with one of evolution’s greatest allies – time! Thus while punctuated equilibrium seemingly bridges the gap in the fossil record, it raises some serious questions in the field of genetic populations.

In the arena of applied mathematics, natural selection acting on random mutations to produce new anatomical novelties is by no small measure a stretch of the imagination. The ratio of functional mutations to all the possible ways of arranging the genetic sequences in the DNA is astronomically small by anyone’s scientific standards. Thus when you begin to diminish the time-frame allotted for these transitions to take place, you seriously jeopardize an already infinitesimal likelihood of reaching your desired outcome.

Moreover, when we delve further into the mathematical plausibility of the mutational theory to account for the evolution of new ‘kinds’, we must also consider that in cases where we have land mammals evolving into fully aquatic creatures we need multiple coordinated mutations taking place in roughly the same time-span. For example, in order to get a successful transition from a Protocetus to a fully aquatic whale, we would need dramatic reorganization of the kidney tissue in order to take on salt water; we need hydrodynamic properties for the skin; forelimbs transformed into flippers; novel muscles for the blow hole; modified mammary glands to nurse its young underwater, etc,. etc,.

Predicated on the competition for survival, natural selection assumes that mutations provided for an edge in reproductive success among competing organisms. In order for evolution to be viable, every mutation must create a net benefit, otherwise natural selection will sift it out. Yet because mutations are random, the odds of getting multiple coordinated mutations necessary for sustaining a healthy marine vertebrate is mathematically inconceivable. In 2008 Durnin and Schmitt calculated the odds of simply getting two coordinated mutations for a complex adaptation like the one I just mentioned, and their conclusion was that you could get these two coordinated mutations once every 43.3 million years! – wheres the punctuation in that?

So are you willing to throw in the towel and slap a Jesus fish on your bumper yet? probably not.. and I agree while many of these anomalies don’t seem to have any specific scientific answer, they don’t necessarily beg the transcendental either. Invoking such explanations are more typically reserved for describing the emergence of life and the origins of the cosmos. 😉

In light of Sir Edwin Hubble’s discovery of the expanding universe we reach two very important questions that biologist and physicist have yet to answer. In relation to purely natural processes: (1) How did the universe begin? (2) How was the first information assembled?

Up until the 30’s most scientist believed that universe was eternal and that all life could be explained by a seamless natural process – human life, simpler life, chemical life, elementary particles from eternities past. Yet It was Albert Einstein’s field equations of general relativity and his new scheme for understanding the dimensions of ‘space-time’ that first postulated the theoretical concept of an expanding universe. Though it’s philosophical implications would initially lead Einstein to hypothesize a counteracting equation known as the cosmological constant, he would later refer to this illusory constant as the “greatest blunder” of his professional career.

Hubble’s usage of the great dome telescopes to document the data for the expanding universe has proved to be one of the most remarkable scientific discoveries ever. If the universe is continually expanding, then what happens when we begin to wind the clock backward? In 1969 Stephen Hawking solved Einsteins field equations and concluded that if if we go back far enough in time the curvature of ‘space-time’ would become so tight that it would become infinitely tight. For most scientist this was a very unpleasant reality, because for the first time there appeared to be considerable evidence in favor of the supernatural.

“This is an exceeding strange development unexpected by all but the theologians who have accepted the word of the Bible. For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conqueror the highest peak, as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been siting there for centuries.” – Robert Jastrow

Further down the rabbit hole we begin to reach the origins of life, a mystery that often invokes the most exotic and mystical explanations that you will ever hear – typically rendering most naturalist content to avoid the question all together. However, there are a few things that we do know, we know that in order for proteins to assemble they need the information coded in the DNA. Much like the syntax in language or computer programming, the DNA is characterized by what is known as sequence specificity, meaning that the specific arrangement of its parts are necessary for it’s function as a whole. Apart from this specified information amino acids do not have the capacity to organize themselves into a meaningful biological sequence. Dean Kenyon, ex-chemical evolutionary theorist argues that “the enormous problem that is neglected is the origins of genetic information it self.. We have not the slightest chance of chemical evolutionary origin for the simplest cell.”

To this day chemical evolution persist as the most inconceivable conceptual theory in the scientific community. There are absolutely no known naturalistic processes that have ever demonstrated the ability to generate the information necessary for the first life. So how does the naturalist reconcile this dichotomy between materialism and origins? well they don’t.. atheism has simply become the default among pretentious intellectuals who assert that belief in God is puerile, and anyone who disagrees simply gets stigmatized and bullied into the outskirts of the “scientific” debate.

A fact of contemporary life is that there has been a serious decline of religious faith. Thus there is a hunger for a creation story that doesn’t involve any external or transcendental explanation. Evolution and other atheistic ideologies are adopted merely on the qualification that they comply with a party-line that says ‘you may embrace any methodology that doesn’t invoke intelligence.’ Yet it is our knowledge of cause and effect that tells us complexity and design always point to an acting agent.

Intelligent design is not objected to on the grounds of inconclusive evidence, physics clearly points us to a theistic “in the beginning” type of explanation; rather, Intelligent design is objected because of it’s philosophical implications. Just as predicted, the world is perpetually becoming a darker and darker place, seeking to expel God from every political, social, cultural, and scientific thought. Information and empirical data will never be enough to sway some people from the depths of their naturalistic paradigm, because for some it’s not about the evidence, it’s about a fist-clenching dogmatic denial of God’s existence.


The point that Lennox is trying to make can be illustrated in the following manner: Suppose thousands of years ago a group of primitive individuals came across a leather bound book filled with letters and symbols the likes of which they had never seen before. If the individuals were reductionist they would only try and explain the nature of the book in terms of the ink and paper.

Though the specific semantics of the symbols might not be deducible, we certainly do as rational and logical creatures have the capacity to recognize the product of other minds. Of course the symbols are abstract but we still have the capacity to infer intelligent causation. This can also be understood through logical syntax, where we recognize the ordered structure of things as meaningful, again this is part of being a rational and logical human being.

In fact the scriptures tell us that all of creation – the sun, moon and stars – are symbols with a semiotic dimension, they are a universal language that denote the existence of a creator.

Psalms 19: 1-4

“The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork.

Day unto day utters speech, And night unto night reveals knowledge.

There is no speech nor language Where their voice is not heard.

Their line has gone out through all the earth, And their words to the end of the world.”

As Christians we hold that there is a semiotic dimension to the world around us where we can reasonably infer intelligent design, in the same way that primitive individuals finding a leather bound book with mysterious and foreign symbols inside of it would.

Belief vs. Knowledge

A brilliant post from Seth

Weighing the Evidence

Ah, tildeb, you’ve done it again — you’ve raised such an incisive point that I have no choice but to devote an entire post to my reply 🙂 Thanks, as always, for the inspiration!

Now, I for one highly recommend my readers to take the time to go through the entire discussion (it actually starts back here, then jumps to here) — but, since this may be a tall order for people who already live rich and busy lives, I’ll set the stage by saying, simply, that the discussion thus far has been characterized by tildeb offering critique of my methods in arriving at the truth about God.  I have provided evidence of both subjective and substantive natures, but all were rejected because, at the end of the day, my metaphysical worldview boils down to faith — I cannot know definitively that what I believe is the truth, because none of…

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Is Faith The Absence Of Evidence?

In the arena of philosophical and scientific discussion the word faith is often used to describe a belief that is unsubstantiated. In other words faith is employed to fill gaps in knowledge, thus the more faith I have the further I travel outside the scope of empirical evidence.

But what exactly is it that constitutes faith? Derived from the Greek word pistis, faith is simply translated “to be persuaded.” So what is it that persuades someone like myself to believe in God? Is it evidence in that which is evident? or is it blind unsubstantiated claims completely void of reason?

I am frequently told that it is the latter of the two, that to profess the notion that God created the world is to place some abstract wibble wobble like widget in place of science. Such ideas falsely assume that creationist such as myself are inserting God as a mechanism in place of science. On the contrary, I hold God as an agent who has established the laws of nature.

In the words of John Lennox -“Suppose we have a Rolls Royce turbo jet engine, and I offer two explanations of it, first is aeronautical engineering and the basic laws of thermodynamics. Another explanations is Rolls and Royce, Choose one! Well anyone can see that’s an absurdity, their two different kinds of explanations, the first is in terms of law and mechanism, that is the scientific one, and the second is in terms of agency”

The conflict between theism and atheism is not whether God and science contradict each other, what it really boils down to for me is the question of origins – How did life begin? There are only two possible explanations

a) life was created

b) life evolved naturally through non-living particles

Both have some rather supernatural implications. On one hand you have to either accept that an all powerful and eternal God created the universe, or that – despite it being mathematically impossible and scientifically implausible – life evolved naturally through an unguided process – take your pick!

I recently had a conversation with a blogger in which he explained to me how “New Atheists [such as himself] clearly self identify as agnostic atheists.” which simply means that while they don’t claim to have sufficient knowledge to make a conclusion on how life began, they are persuaded that God doesn’t exist.

When confronted with the question of origins most atheist like the blogger I mentioned will try to conveniently play the agnostic card and say they don’t presume to know how life began and that they would never pretend to know something so silly. We are often led to believe that atheist make no claims of belief, that they simply assert the “lack of a belief” in a intelligent designer. Albeit to deny the existence of God is to directly infer the only other alternative whether they care to admit it or not. The agnostic card hidden up the sleeve is just an attempt to save face and not commit intellectual suicide by saying that they believe life evolved naturally.

The English astronomer Sir Fred Hoyle’s explained why life could not have arisen by a purely natural unguided process:

“life could not have had a random beginning.. the trouble is that there is about two thousand enzymes, and the chance of obtaining them all in a random trial is only one part in 10 to the 40,000 power, an outrageous small probability that could not be faced even if the whole universe consisted of organic soup. If one is not prejudiced either by social beliefs or by a scientific training into the conviction that life originated on the Earth, this simple calculation wipes the idea entirely out of court….The enormous information content of even the simplest living systems…cannot in our view be generated by what are often called “natural” processes…For life to have originated on the Earth it would be necessary that quite explicit instruction should have been provided for its assembly…There is no way in which we can expect to avoid the need for information, no way in which we can simply get by with a bigger and better organic soup, as we ourselves hoped might be possible a year or two ago.”