Friday, August 12, 2005

This beginning of miracles (Gen 2:1-3)

The SAB has no notes on these verses, but I wonder if we can pause for a moment and relax as God did after all of this and contemplate it over a nice glass of wine. I don't think it was ever stated in chapter one of the SAB outright, but it was implied that there is a big scientific problem with this whole week. Certainly everyone who is a skeptic knows it without having to be told. Here is the seventh "day", and we have to wonder as I hinted at previously what exactly does a "day" comprise of? Modern science teaches us that several billion years elapsed between the creation of the universe and the time the first man walked on earth. So is each "day" 24 hours, or is it some larger span of time?

Let's jump ahead about 4,000 years to a moment that is recorded in the Gospel of John, chapter two. Jesus is at a wedding feast, and a terrible faux pas has happened: the groom's family has run out of wine. Well, most of you probably know this one. Jesus takes six huge waterpots full of water and turns them into wine. A man at the party who was the first-century equivalent of a wedding planner compliments the hosts on the quality of this fine wine, not knowing that Jesus had just made it out of water.

The SAB has pretty much no comment on Jesus turning water into wine in this story. The fact is that, in a sense, it's not so very remarkable that he did it. I have a cousin who has the ability to turn water into wine actually, and he does it all the time. Of course, he's not as fast as Jesus; it takes him a little over a year to make a good wine out of water.

When the man tasted the wine and complimented its quality, do you think he pondered to himself, "This wine is good; it tastes like it was made in an instant from water a couple minutes ago!" Probably not. In fact, I'd venture that if you put Jesus' wine next to a regular wine, it would for all intents and purposes be impossible to tell which was the supernatural wine.

If God can create something in a second that usually takes a year or more to make, do you suppose He can create something in six days that "usually" would take ten million years to make?

Skeptics point to modern science and say, "We can see that there are stars more than 6,000 light years away, therefore the universe must be more than 6,000 years old. Therefore the Bible is incorrect." Sounds good, but remember this: God created light first.

Have you ever heard people ponder whether or not Adam had a belly button? Some say no, he didn't, because he had no mother. But if we consider Adam to be a normal man, he had DNA, and in his DNA, he had an X-chromosome; where do those come from? In every other man throughout history, it came from their mother. On this day, day seven, Adam was less than 48 hours old; ever seen a depiction of Adam with a bald head? It takes more than 48 hours to grow a full head of hair, so logically, he should be bald, right?

No, if you had cut down a tree in the Garden of Eden, it would have rings indicative of years it had not grown. Adam had characteristics of a normal man who had lived for twenty, thirty years or more because God made him complete. The night sky shone with light from stars thousands of light years away that had only come into existence two days before Adam himself did because God made the sky complete. What I'm saying is, can you think of any good reason why God wouldn't make a universe that had the perfect appearance of being over ten billion years old?

A lot of you have probably heard a form of this argument in people saying that the world was created with fossils already in place, or something like that. The standard response is, why would God want to trick people? Now, I'm not necessarily saying anything about fossils, but I'm definitely not saying God is tricking us. I'm talking about God creating a universe that is a work of art! If a painter uses their paints to make a picture of a landscape that doesn't actually exist anywhere but in their mind, do we say that they have intended to trick us, since the trees and the flowers didn't actually grow from seeds, but only appeared to do so? When an author creates an interesting main character, do we complain that that person appears to be a real human, but does not have an actual mother and father? God's making a work of art with intricate detail and fine craftsmanship, and if He doesn't have to skimp on the details, why should He? Indeed, why would He?

And why take ten billion years when He can do it in six days and have the same exact results? In the end, I don't think we really can know for sure, but given the fact that God is omnipotent, I see no good reason for a Bible-believer not to believe the world was created in exactly six literal days.


Anonymous said...

Y chromosomes dont come from mothers.

Brucker said...

I was sitting in church Saturday night, and out of the blue, unrelated to anythin g going on or anything in the sermon, the thought popped into my head: "Oh crap, did I type 'Y-chromosome'?"

Looks like by the time-stamp on your comment, I was already an hour too late. (Of course, I'm sure at least 20 other people noticed and didn't bother to comment, so oh well...)

Brucker said...

And it's corrected.

Anonymous said...

You appear to be giving God way too much benefit of doubt. If God wants to create a universe, why can't he create one that doesn't have overwhelming evidence for evolution? And why is every phenomemon in his universe so suspiciously naturalistic?

For that matter, why did he create a universe with no evidence for his existence, and where all conjectures of his existence are unfalsifiable?

Brucker said...

Why does "overwhelming evidence for evolution" preclude the existence of God? I've heard rather convincing arguments that evolution makes God more likely.

Why shouldn't God use naturalistic means to achieve His ends? If you look at the Bible, a large portion of the miracles that happened were not of the "event beyond the laws of nature" type, but were rather of the "event higly unlikely but within the laws of nature" type.

As for your last question, I'm not sure what to say. You may indeed be right (about unfalsifiability, I strongly disagree with your claim of a lack of evidence). Some might say that this is so due to a need for faith, but I think that may be too simplistic of a response. If I think of a better answer, or a counterexample, I'll post it.

Anonymous said...

Well then, if God is constrained to work within the laws of nature, then what becomes of God? Unlikely events occur all the time, but don't require a divine explanation. The way I understand it, it is precisely God's job to defy the laws of nature. Isn't that the definition of Miracle?

It seems suspiciously convenient that the most grandiose miracles performed by God occurred when humans weren't around to properly document them. In fact, all non-naturalistic miracles effectively ceased when humans started recording history objectively and rigorously testing scientific hypotheses.

Brucker said...

God is not constrained to work within the laws of nature, He simply will choose to do so if what He wishes to accomplish can be accomplished in that manner. Unlikely events happen all the time, but there are certainly times when an event is not only unlikely, but significant in the unlikeliness of it. In 1Kings18, Elijah the prophet calls fire from heaven to consume a sacrifice on an altar. This "fire" may well have been a bolt of lightning; lightning happens all the time, but for it to happen when somebody says, "Right here, right this moment, I want lightning to hit this exact spot to show a sign that God exists," and then it does? That's extraordinary, and while it may not require a divine explanation, it certainly seems to beg one.

God's job is not to defy the laws of nature. God's job--if it has anything to do with nature--is to hold nature together.

As for the definition of "miracle", yes and no. The Bible deals with miracles of the type that defy the laws of nature, but there are also things considered to be miracles that are simply highly unusual events happening at highly significant times.

Some people have claimed that it was Christianity that fostered the way for modern science to exist. In early pagan times, people didn't believe that the world had predictable order, but that we were all at the mercy of the whims of the gods. Christians believed that God made the universe in a way that was sane and rational and followed laws, so it should be possible to figure out these laws. Miracles had historically served a purpose, and once that purpose was fulfilled, there was no need for them. But I don't think it matters anyway. If a miracle happened today that was, as you aptly put it, non-naturalistic, how could we test it scientifically? It seems to me it would be untestable by definition. Of course, a skeptic would then reject it (and perhaps rightly so) and it would have made no difference.

Anonymous said...

[Allow me to say that this is some of the most thoughtful (not to mention healthy) Christian commentary I've seen in a long time]

I fully agree with the notion that miracles had served a purpose in the past. Their purpose was to explain natural phenomena for which a scientific explanation did not yet exist. Indeed, in the aptly-named Dark Ages, Christianity was science, until scientists learned better. So I suppose, in this sense, Christianity may have paved the way for modern science.

However, every new scientific advance seems to whittle away at the magical properties of God, and makes God more and more supernatural and imponderable. In our modern times, why is it so unreasonable to take the final step, and do away with the god-concept altogether?

By the way, there are many things that God can do that would constitute a "miracle" in my opinion, and would go a long way towards proving his existence. I suppose it could be anything that grossly violates the known laws of physics. For example, an everyday object that blinks in and out of existence (and does so repeatedly, under controlled conditions). Or water being turned into wine (a stable substance altered at the nuclear level at room temperature).

Brucker said...

Why not do away with God? Well the reasons for that are purely theological.

Heck, I'll share one of my favorite allegories here, since I doubt I'm going to get to use it in the blog.

Once upon a time, there lived a group of mice that lived inside a piano. Every day, beautiful music would come out of the blackness above them and fill their world. Most of the mice believed that up above them lived a creature that they called the Musicmaker that knew far more about beauty than any mere mice ever knew, and the Musicmaker created this music for the sake of his love of beauty and art.

One day, a pair of mice decided that they wanted to see the musicmaker for themselves. Perhps he existed, perhaps not, but they wanted to know the truth. So they climbed up the inside of the piano towards to source of the music, where nobody had gone before. Eventually they arrived at a large open space full of strings and hammers. When the music began to play, they saw the hammers move. They returned home.

"There is no Musicmaker," they declared to the other mice. "The music we hear is just the result of hammers hitting strings."

Many people, both theists and skeptics, believe that God is only found in that place where we cannot explain the universe around us. It is my personal belief that there is virtually nothing in the physical universe which we cannot understand if we apply our minds to understanding it. But even once all things physical are completely understood, God will remain right where He always was: outside of our universe making beautiful music for those who are still interested in hearing.

Billy Fortenbury said...

A) The mice could just as easily crawl out of the piano and see your music maker, however. Can you say the same for your god?

B) You exlained how a 2000 year old book could possibly support your disbelief that the universe is billions of years old. However, you failed to touch upon the overwellming majority of modern science. So god creates a universe with light coming form 10 billion light years away already because it is artistic. Okay, explain carbon dating (yes, because the half life of carbon makes the universe a much more beutiful place if you make items appear older than they really are). You didn't exactly explain fossils either, despite mentioning them. Many creationistss think that the universe is only about 6000 years old. Please explain how recorded Chinese civilization and history goes back further than that. id god actually create an entire, gargantuan, civilizated region called China at the same time he created Adam and forget to mention that to the PEOPLE writting the bible? You touched on one single topic (Light received from stars). One. And you didn't to a very good job rebuffing the SAB's point of view either on that one topic (The bible says god created everything, light first, so he creatd it how he wanted, and he wanted light to reach Earth from 10,000,000,000 light years away for aesthtic reasons. That's called the Logical Fallacy of Circular Reasoning. A happens cause B said so, therefore B proves A).

Brucker said...

A) Yes.

B) This is a tougher question, let me break it down...

Carbon-dating: Yes, like you hinted at, God could have made certain things appear older than they are. in doing this, it may have included changing the amount of Carbon-14 present in certain objects. The point is that He's not skimping on the details, He's even making things we can't see work out right. Other theories exist, however. Reader "bookdragon" dropped a link somewhere in an older comment about the speed of light, and it may cover one of these theories which is basically that while the speed of light is a constant upon which most of the rest of our modern understanding of the physical world is based, the speed of light may not have been what it is today back in the time of Genesis. Perhaps God created the world with the speed of light being near infinity, and allowed it to slow down throughout history. If that were the case, radioactive decay would vary along with this changing "constant". I also have a personal theory related to the water canopy theory that I've had a hard time getting someone to give me a straight answer on, mostly because it's hard to formulate a straight question in the midst of such a strange theory.

Fossils: Honestly, I don't know. My personal theory from above deals with the issues of fossils to a great extent, but it's entirely theoretical and in my mind. I know some science, but am certainly not an expert.

Chinese civilization: For one thing, I don't know how old the universe is, although if I take the Bible literally, (which I try to do when feasible) it comes out to somewhere around 6,000 years, yes. It may however be older, and Chinese history may be shorter than it is claimed to be, I don't know much about it myself. I do understand that the Bible would have us believe that no civilisation is older than the time of the flood, but I'm not sure when that is, honestly.

Circular reasoning: I'm not sure I follow you here. Where is my circular reasoning? At no time am I claiming that my understanding of the Bible is THE truth, only that it is my understanding. It sounds like you're saying I'm claiming that I've proved that the Bible is true because it says it's true. That indeed would be circular reasoning. What I'm saying is that I see the Bible saying that such-and-such happened, and if it's possible given the world-view of the Bible that such-and-such could indeed have happened, then the Bible is internally consistent on the matter of such-and-such. That's all.

I hope this answers your questions.

Anonymous said...

the way you know god is a man made creation is the fact that most subscribers to christianity sit idle while throughout history atrocities are committed in the name of christianity. christian's will always "alter" the facts of the bible to stay close enough to science to "seem" feasible. examople "how do we explain fossils and god?" Its a work of art? this is just ridiculous! the fact that these so called christians can even begin to THINK that they might have insight into the mind of a "supreme being", while their only REAL connection to him is a book,written,edited, and translated by wealthy men (they had the printing presses)(jesus was poor)throughout history.
I dont mind when you guys believe this on your own...but dont promote it in OUR schools, and government. by the way...are santa claus, sasquatch, and the abominable snowman also gods creations that we just havent seen yet. or have you seen them and i keep missing them because of my lack of faith?

Brucker said...

"the way you know god is a man made creation is the fact that most subscribers to christianity sit idle while throughout history atrocities are committed in the name of christianity."

I fail to follow your reasoning. It seems akin to saying George Washington is a ficticious person because 21st century Americans sit idly by while the current administration erodes our rights in the name of freedom. Or that capitalism is a myth because Donald Trump has bad hair. I understand that the failings of Christians can make one question the validity of the faith they are supposed to stand for, but it proves nothing.

"christian's will always 'alter' the facts of the bible to stay close enough to science to 'seem' feasible."

I don't know what you mean, exactly. I will say that I think it's wrong to make a case for the validity/non-validity of the Bible by reading into it something that is not there. Some Christians are guilty of this, no doubt, but so are non-Christians.

"examople 'how do we explain fossils and god?' Its a work of art? this is just ridiculous!"

Why is that ridiculous? Can't God be an artist? Many who believe in God look at something like a sunset and are overwhelmed by the beauty of God's creation. If God exists, then He essentially made the sunsets of the world. I think it's right to ascribe artistic talent to God, whether he may have made fossils somewhere in those six days, or over the course of ancient history 6,000 or several billion years.

One of the above comments suggests that God could prove His existence by making "an everyday object that blinks in and out of existence". But as I myself said in the preceding comment, God made the world to have a semblance of order, so why should He pop a hole in that order just to show off? What purpose would that really serve?

"the fact that these so called christians can even begin to THINK that they might have insight into the mind of a 'supreme being', while their only REAL connection to him is a book,written,edited, and translated by wealthy men (they had the printing presses)(jesus was poor)throughout history."

Perhaps I'm just missing your point, but, um, printing presses were invented over a thousand years after Jesus lived. Even if He had been the richest man in the world, He couldn't have had a printing press. Unlike many other people in history, however, He had a handful of biographers travelling with Him during the most important parts of His life.

"I dont mind when you guys believe this on your own...but dont promote it in OUR schools, and government."

Okay, I'm with you on that one. I believe the separation of church and state is beneficial to both parties. (See my thoughts on the subject here: 1 2 3 4)

"by the way...are santa claus, sasquatch, and the abominable snowman also gods creations that we just havent seen yet. or have you seen them and i keep missing them because of my lack of faith?"

If they are real, and you haven't seen them, it probably has nothing to do with faith. Once again, I'm not sure what you're driving at here.

Anonymous said...

to clarify my position...scientists keep finding evidence that the world has existed for more than the 6000 yrs accounted for in the bible but christians just refuse to accept this evidence and provide none to support their own claims. meanwhile they have no problem supporting mad men who commit atrocities in the name of christianity. they seem on the "take", they dont care as long as their agenda is forwarded. Jesus said be proactive. real followers of god wouldnt allow their supreme being to be tarnished so. where is ANY christian codemnation of dobson or falwell or any other lunatic screaming for war! jesus, the son of god was about peace, but as long as they "say" they are christian, which is about as holy as most people who claim to be christians are , its ok with you guys. youre so phony! The science of our reality, on this plane of existence, says that we have remains of human ancestors that are well over 6000 years old. yet you guys just deny this, refuse to acknowledge it. and when you do you say it's his art. so now god is playing tricks on us? he's planting 6000 year old fossils and tricking our machines into reading them as much older? gods art is parlor tricks? the supreme being and three card monty?

"the fact that these so called christians can even begin to THINK that they might have insight into the mind of a 'supreme being', while their only REAL connection to him is a book,written,edited, and translated by wealthy men (they had the printing presses)(jesus was poor)throughout history." the point is that your only connection with god is a book. an old book but still just a book. it wasnt even originally written in english. after so many translations and edits, who today can say they have seen the true word of god? if ever a word or god existed? luke skywalker was in a book and some movies, why not believe in him? is it because he is too recent? how about islam? or buddhism they are both older than christianity, and the buddhists have never gone on a holy crusade or jihad as far as my research goes. printing presses applies to the fact that before we had govt and the right to vote the church and the wealthy ruled. who better than a rich guy to tell you some bs like dont worry about being rich on earth (like I am) you get yours after youre long as you live your life according to the book were making you read and believe!
Im being facetious to stop from crying at the idiocy of this whole thing. santa claus has been extensively written about and his exploits like god and jesus's have been well documented. so has sasquatch. why not believe in them? what sucks so much aboput christianity is that people parents indoctrinate them with this stuff when they are way to young to fully comprehend. all a kid knows is that he will go to hell (for a human it is the worst place we have ever dreamed up) if he doesnt believe. having your "mother" or "father" tell you that you will spend forever "burning and experiencing endless torture and physical pain" if you dont read/follow this book and submit your "soul" over to its author/protagonist can have a chilling effect on a kid. the only reason i dont believe NOW is because there is too much evidence against christianity. For me personally, seeing how most so called christians act is evidence enough that god does not exist. but yes my parents tried to indoctrinate me too. the same way a nazi tells their kid to hate jews. its sick. and you always have children so you can spread this "stuff". why dont you use your brain for critical analysis instead of turning it off to follow blindly. use the eyes and ears "god" gave you. and one question? why dont christians in america distance themselves from falwell and dobson and robertson?
these guys talk about killling people and they wish comas on people and the other christians say nothing? you wont judge your own just everyone else. so phony.
i thought jesus was about peace, and the meek shall inherit the earth. why do christians let a presidnet who claims to be among their ranks yet is clearly power mad use them (christians) for political gain? why dont you guys denounce robertson.? any of you? you cannot find anti robertson christians anywhere. but you can find anti islam and pro bush christians? so phony. there is no such thing as christians. either that or the bible is a coded lie. cause i dont see ANYONE who claims to be a christian act even remotely like they read and adhere to the teachings of the bible. im more christian than you. at least i am honest.

Anonymous said...

Many American Christians have gotten so far away from what the faith is about. They skew and re-interpret scripture to whatever the concern of the moment is. If a being from outer space were to arrive tomorrow, it would think that way to become a Christian is to help ensure that gay marriage doesn't occur, to help make abortion illegal, and remove anything considered "offensive" from the airwaves so that the "children" are protected. That's what makes watching this film so cringe inducing; they're so convinced that they're right and that not only that non-Christians are wrong, but that Christians that don't believe as they do have it wrong. Wow; let me join that club, seems so full of understanding and love; very Christlike.
from the site:

Brucker said...

I'm in agreement with you about how many Christians have gotten away from what Christianity is about. Whether or not homosexuality or abortion are morally acceptable is a matter that in the end can only be a pale shadow of the important issue of Christ's forgiveness of *all* sins. While there is indeed a place for the Christian to speak out against what they deem to be immorality, the Bible teaches that we are all immoral, and should be looking to our own moral failings. Still, while I am against censorship in general, I understand the drive to protect children from what is perceived as a corrupting influence, be it right or wrong.

I haven't seen the movie, but I did find a trailer for it. (Funny, but one of the reviews quoted in the trailer calls it "An admirably even-handed film." At first, I was imagining what horror an atheist would feel watching the trailer, and then part way through, I imagined this being played in my church and with a few exceptions, I could imagine people saying, "Cool! Where do I sign up my kids?")

I think it's worth noting that so long as such sentiments are not expressed through violence or bigotry, in my opinion it is not only acceptable but commendable for people of deep religious convictions to have an "I'm right, your wrong" attitude. Muslims all over the world believe that Christians do not know the true God, and so far as they are not the sort to fly planes into buildings, I would support their right to hold that belief. If it leads to open and honest debate with "infidels" and "heretics" rather than oppresion and scorn, I think it's a positive thing.

Na said...

Doesn't the idea that god made things seem a certain way because of his artistic flare sound as wishy-washy as suggesting that we might have only just been brought into existence this very second?

Aquaria said...

Sounds good until you realize that, in the genesis joke account, your petty sky god creates light BEFORE HE CREATES THE SOURCES FOR IT.

You do know how that's a huge stinking problem...Right?

Brucker said...

In reverse order...

Aquaria, you might want to read how I address that "huge stinking problem" right here. I don't see it as a problem at all, actually.

Na, I don't think it's wishy-washy, but I'm not sure how to explain why more than what I have said above. Sure, you could use the same argument to suggest the universe was created three seconds ago; I understand that. What's missing is that I'm not aware of anyone making such a claim. But on top of that, I'm not 100% certain that the Bible is making such a claim either; I'm only saying that I see how it's possible, if indeed God is omnipotent.

(I'm laid up with a bad cold today, maybe I'll get some time to answer some of your questions finally. Sorry for the extreme delay!)