50 Questions Christians can’t answer

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I came across an article titled, “50 Questions Christians can’t answer”, by P.E. Puckett. It is not the first time I have seen posts or articles like this and undoubtedly it will not be my last. I am not sure why this post and list in particular caught my attention, but it did.

My initial reaction was to see which ones I could respond to, and then consider using them as some blog material. From there I had illusions of grandeur when I thought I would take a year and answer one of them every week. After a moment’s consideration, I quickly dismissed that idea because of the time it would require. Since I am teaching a new curriculum starting this next school year, (Common Core), my time for blogging will be at a premium.

This premium price was realized on my first day of summer vacation. About two weeks ago, when I was looking forward to some home projects, reading and writing on apologetics to my heart’s content, I somehow strained my sciatic nerve. The only position that was relatively pain-free was on my back with my knees up. I will add that it is not easy to eat ice cream while flat on your back. If the ice cream is at all soft, you can easily drop a spoon directly on your face, which, if you’re 18 months old, no one would give you a second glance. Then if you move too fast, the dog or cat will have something to lick up, after it skips across your face. Not to mention, the consequences are more serious if you have an abundance of facial hair. So, unless you’re an expert at tossing nuts into the air and catching them in your mouth, I would not recommend hovering the spoon a foot above your face and rolling it over, to drop spoon fulls of ice cream into your mouth.

It has been about two weeks, and I can now sit at my computer for a while before I have to get up. Also, I can bend over enough to touch the top of my knees, but not much beyond that. I have no doubt my students would gladly point out how old I am getting.

The fellow who posted ’50 Questions Christians can’t answer’ wrote, “Religion is simply a story about how life came to be, why we are here, what we are to do while we are here and how, where we are going after death and what it all really means. This story, however, has to be unique to your environmental experience throughout your life to be believable enough to be accepted by faith. That is why a young Pentecostal Christian child being raised in southern Missouri, USA, will not readily be expected to grow up to be a follower of the Hindu faith. Religion is simply an environmentally influenced and culturally appropriate psychological vehicle needed for one to motivate their faith to positive affect.” 1

I was not even to his first question and I had issues with several things he had written! This is a classic example of the genetic fallacy. That is, religion is nothing more than the result of where you were born. A consequence to location if you wish. This is a common response atheists or skeptics may toss your way. For example, if you were born in India, you would be Hindu. If you were born in Ancient Greece, you would worship Zeus. If you were born in Iraq, your religion would be Muslim. The problem with this line of thinking is that it has no bearing on the truth or validity of any particular religion. Religion, or any belief system, should be investigated, researched, and examined to then stand or fall on its own merits and evidence. Where you were born and how you were raised is irrelevant to the truth of your worldview.

Look at it this way. Imagine everyone in the U.S. believed and taught the best way to eat ice cream was to lie flat on your back and drop spoonfuls into your mouth, and in Canada they believed and taught the best way to eat ice cream was to sit upright at a table and carefully place spoonfuls in your mouth. Supporters of both views would have to provide evidence to support their claims. The truth of their claims would be analyzed, and interested parties would come to a decision based on the evidence supporting the claim.  And I have learned in the past two weeks, one piece of evidence could be to compare how fat the dogs and cats are in Canada, to those in the U.S.

Frankly, many of the 50 Questions show remarkable ignorance of scripture and the message held within the gospel from someone who was supposedly raised Christian. Other questions drip with contempt and are difficult to even take seriously. A few are so simple even a child could give a sensible response. Finally, there are some which require some thoughtful consideration. If you are inclined, read all 50 for yourself here, or just read on to my answer for number one.

1 – If God is omnipotent (all-powerful), why did he take six days to create everything? Why not speak everything into existence all at once?

litteral

Do you take everything the Bible says as literal? In John 15:5 Jesus says, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” Is Jesus really a vine? Are we really branches? Or should we take this verse to have another meaning, another intent?

In Revelation 16:1 it says, “Then I heard a loud voice from the temple saying to the seven angels, “Go, pour out the seven bowls of God’s wrath on the earth.” Do you expect angles to literally pour our seven giant bowls on the earth, or is it some kind of metaphor that would aid our understanding?

No doubt many Christians believe the earth was created in six literal days. This fact was highlighted in a Feb. 5th 1014 debate between Ken Ham (young earth believer) and Bill Nye (old earth atheist). Ken Ham defended the young-earth creationist view that God literally made the earth in six 24 hour days. Bill Nye was on the evolution side promoting the view that the earth is billions of years old.

Sadly, a third view held by myself and many other Christians was not part of the debate, that being an old earth view of creation that does not hold to evolution; a view that the earth may be millions or billions of years old, but it still was created. Frankly, to some degree, I think this debate just added to the schism that seemingly divides science and religion. Some people think that science and religion are incompatible; certainly that the Christian religion is incompatible with modern science. Many old-earth creationists do not believe in evolution, (with the exception of Theistic Evolutionists), and in fact recognize the serious flaws in Darwinian Evolution despite what is, and has been, taught in public schools for the past 60 years. More importantly though, Ken Ham shared the Gospel message to tens of thousands of viewers, and for that I am thankful.

Old earth and young earth is one of those in-house debates that Christians can have. Many of my friends can be found on both sides of this issue. The problem is when many atheists paint young-earth creationists as ignorant and foolish. So foolish they ignore the evidence science provides for an old earth. Couple that with popular culture continually painting Christians in a negative light, anti-science, and as if their faith was a mental disorder, you have a stereotype difficult to change.  If a being, who was all-powerful and created everything in six seconds, six minutes, or six days, who am I to question it?

I certainly believe a God who created our existence is capable of creating the world in six, 24 hour days. What is important here, is to understand what I mean by “creating our existence”. I am not talking about just us, (humans) or even our world and solar system, but all of existence, all of our universe. Our own Milky Way Galaxy has about as many stars as we have grains of sand on the earth. The nearest star outside our own solar system is Alpha Centauri, about 4.3 light-years from earth, or about 26 trillion miles. If we took the space shuttle that orbits the earth at approximately 17,500 miles per hour and pointed it at Alpha Centauri it would take us about one hundred and sixty-five thousand years to reach it. That is just the nearest system within the billions of solar systems in our own galaxy. Outside of our own Milky Way Galaxy are billions of other galaxies. The immensity of our universe boggles the mind and is truly beyond our comprehension.

His second question, “Why not speak everything into existence all at once?” is answered in what modern science calls it the Big Bang Theory. A moment when everything was created, and to this day continues to create. So it should be obvious that He actually did create everything all at once, including time. Francis Bacon, who many say is the father of modern science said, “True knowledge is knowledge by causes.” In other words, science is learning about what causes things to act the way they do.

I say it continues to create because our universe is expanding. Albert Einstein first came across this notion while working on his theory of General Relatively in 1915. In fact, he was bothered by what it suggested: a universe that was expanding. Up until that time Einstein, and many other scientists, believed the universe was eternal, static, always existing, without a beginning. A few years later, just after World War I ended, Arthur Eddington conducted an experiment during a solar eclipse that confirmed the truth of General Relativity. Like Einstein, Eddington was not happy with what he discovered and wrote, “Philosophically, the notion of a beginning of the present order of nature is repugnant to me…I should like to find a genuine loophole.” 2

These men and others were uncomfortable with their discoveries because of what it implied. If the universe had a beginning, much like the first in a long row of dominos to fall, who pushed over the first one? Or better yet, and even more significant, who created the dominos to even start the process of their falling? Never mind who pushed the first one.

As the years passed, other brilliant minds confirmed what Einstein first discovered and published papers collaborating it. Then in 1927, Edwin Hubble discovered a ‘red shift’ in the color of distant galaxies. This new evidence, which could be seen with our own eyes, actually confirmed the universe was expanding. Not only expanding, but the further the galaxies, the faster they were moving away. In 1929, Einstein visited the Mount Wilson Observatory and looked for himself. That visit settled it for him. After that, Einstein focused on how God created the world, everything else was just minor details to him.

Over the decade’s evidence for the Big Bang began to mount. The Second Law of Thermodynamics tells us the universe is running out of useable energy. Just as a flashlight only has so much battery energy, so does our universe. If the universe is running down, it must have had a point in which it ‘started’ to run down. It can’t possibly have been running since eternity past, because we would have run out of energy long ago. In 1965, Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson detected a ringing from the Big Bang which earned them the Nobel Prize. In 1989, NASA launched the Cosmic Background Explorer which took pictures of the afterglow of the Big Bang. There is more, but suffice to say the evidence for the Big Bang is substantial, and mounting.

Steven Hawking wrote in his book, A Brief History of Time – From the Big Bang to Black Holes, “What is it that breaths fire into the equations and makes a universe for them to describe? The usual approach of science of constructing a mathematical model cannot answer the questions of why there should be a universe for the model to describe?” 3 In other words, why is there something instead of nothing? Why is there even a universe for us to exist in?

Once my students were discussing some scientific facts and theories. The question was asked about gravity and where it comes from and why it works the way it does; an answer science can’t even explain yet. So I borrowed from John Lennox the Oxford mathematician and Christian Philosopher a story about a cake. I explained to my students that if I baked a cake, they could investigate its ingredients, the quantity of sugar, flour, yeast, butter, eggs, etc. They could research the temperature it was baked, and how long it has been out of the oven. They could even taste it and see what flavors it held. They could tell me just about everything possible anyone would possibly want to know about the cake, except why I baked it. For that, they would have to ask me, the creator.

Robert Jastrow, an astronomer, physicist and scientist who worked in NASA, ended one of his many books his with this famous line, “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 conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.” 4

To accept the fact that there is an all-powerful Creator who did create this magnificent and immense universe that is beyond our comprehension, and then question his methods, is absurd. God did speak everything into existence all at once, which is widely supported by science.

Genesis 1:1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

I think R. E. Puckett needs to revise his claim to “49 questions Christians can’t answer”.

Sources:
1. Puckett, R.E. “Top 50 Questions Christian’s can’t answer.” Yahoo Voices. http://voices.yahoo.com, 11 Feb. 2010. 16 June. 2014
2. Geisler, Norman. Turek, Frank. I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist. Wheaton: Crossway, 2004. Print.
3. Hawking, Steven. A Brief History of Time. Toronto: Bantam Books, 1988. Print.
4. Jastrow, Robert. God and the Astronomers. New York: Norton, 1978. Print.

Links:
http://earthsky.org/space/alpha-centauri-travel-time
http://video.foxnews.com/v/3633724402001/does-science-support-the-book-of-genesis/#sp=show-clips

Who made God?

Reading Time: 5 minutesIs An Alien Message Embedded In Our Genetic Code?

Read the article if you’re inclined, but I want to point out the common misconception that was stated in the very last sentence of this science article. Ray Villard said, “And, even if the genetic code is ultimately considered the handprint of an extraterrestrial grand designer, then who designed the designer?” Sound familiar? How about if I put it this way, “So if God made the universe, who made God?” If you’re at all familiar with apologetics, this is a question you may have come across before. Even in my short study of apologetics, I now recognize this question in several different forms, and come across it on a regular basis.

When someone asks, “Who made God?” they are simply putting off the inevitable follow up question. “Then who made that God?” and “Who made ‘that’ God?” So on and on we go, with a never ending series of a God, who made God, who made God…” Call him what you want, Magic Man in the Sky, Grand designer, or an Extraterrestrial Super Being, something must have made him. The problem with this question, and its underlying suggestion, is everything must have been created. People assume since the universe had a beginning, that everything must have a beginning. Is that possible? Can everything have a beginning? Some think for this to be true, time must also have a beginning, not wind backwards, endlessly, infinitely, without end, as so many imagine. Let’s explore this for a moment and let me share with you some examples that may help. Say I asked a student to write negative 10 up on the board. She walks up and writes -10. I then ask another student to write a smaller negative number by simply adding a zero to the -10. So another student walks up and writes -100 on the board by simply adding another zero. I repeat the request to a third student by asking them to write a smaller negative number by adding another zero to -100. This student walks up, adds a zero and now we have a -1000. I continue this for a couple minutes, and it actually holds my students’ interest at first. They are thinking that something interesting will come of this exercise, but after adding multiple zeros, someone finally asks, “Why are we doing this Mr. Glazier?” I raise an eyebrow, feigning surprise, and state to the class, “I want us to write the smallest negative number and figured we would start today.” Well, any student who has any concept of negative numbers, understands there is no such thing as the smallest negative number, or the largest positive number for that matter. The students ‘in the know’ would groan and explain that is not possible, and begin to protest this exercise. They would of course be correct, it would be a waste of time because no one can write the smallest negative number. Once someone stated they have written the smallest negative number, someone else would walk up and add another zero. Does time have that same characteristic? Can we keep adding zeros infinitely? Consider this for a moment, because if time never had a beginning, we never would have reached this moment in time. Look at it this way, if our moment in time, on a time line was zero, for someone to work up to zero from a negative number they must have a starting point, say -100, or -1000, or -1,000,000. No matter how far back we go, for someone to count back up to reach zero, they must have a starting point. The same would be true for time, as it is tied to our existence. For time to reach today, it must have a beginning point. If time did not have a starting point, we would have to keep adding zero’s, endlessly, and would never reach zero, (our current moment in time).

Here is another example that Timothy Keller gave in his book, The Reason for God, which might better illustrate how time must have had a beginning. Say you are walking along in a park and passing by a park bench with an old man counting out loud as you walk by. You can’t help but hear him as you walk by, counting out loud saying, “Negative four, negative three, negative two, negative one, zero!” Suddenly when he says, “Zero!” he jumps up, fists pumping the air, and cries out, “I did it! I finally did it!” You look at him and ask him, “What are you talking about? What did you just do?” He exclaims, “It took me a long time, but I finally finished counting up from negative infinity to zero!” You would immediately recognize this man’s antenna does not pick up all the channels, or his cord does not quite reach the outlet. No one, no matter how long they tried, can count from negative infinity up to zero. They must have a starting point. Understanding the starting point is crucial in the Cosmological argument, or the argument for a first cause. What do Christians call the first cause? God.

Going back to the question, “Who made God?” you will begin to see that we cannot have an endless series of a God who made a God, who made a God. Once again we would never have reached today in time. Some may ask, “Now wait a minute, you say we must have a starting point for time, that time cannot go backwards infinitely, then how could we have a God who has lived forever?” Don’t think of forever in terms of infinite time, but outside of time. Dinesh D’Souza who wrote, What’s so Great about Christianity explained that forever does not mean a long time, but that God stands outside of time.

The Kalam Cosmological Argument does not state that everything must have a beginning, but only everything created must have a beginning.
1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
2. The universe began to exist.
3. Therefore the universe has a cause.
We know our universe was created, because in 1929, Edwin Hubble discovered a red shift in distant galaxies, which meant the universe is expanding. How we measure the distance between earth and our own local planets involves trigonometry, and the parallax. The same is true for distant stars and other galaxies. Giving even a simple explanation for this process, of which I only understand the basics, would move me well past the two pages I try to limit myself to in my blog posts. If the belief that our universe is expanding is true, and it is widely accepted in the scientific community and by Christian apologists, then a hundred years ago it must have been smaller than it is today. And if we go back a thousand years, then a million years ago, it would be smaller still. We can continue back to the point that our expanding universe is just a point, or what science calls a singularity. What would have caused that singularity, that beginning point, when time and existence came into creation? The answer is a God who stand outside his creation, who stands outside of time, which is also his creation.

Time does not go back infinitely, but, logically, must have had a beginning, or a created moment when it started. To have a start, you must have a starter and we call that starter of creation and time, God. God created our existence as we know it, and with the beginning of existence he created time, but that does not mean he was created. Logically, God must have always existed; He never had a beginning, and stands outside of time, because he created time along with this magnificent expanding universe we continually explore, and discover the wonders he has hidden for a time.

1 Corinthians 2:7
No, we declare God’s wisdom, a mystery that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began.

Hebrews 4:13
Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

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