Neuroscience and the Bible

Be afraid. Be very afraid. 

Or not.

When it comes to advances in science regarding the brain and our understanding of where our thoughts, emotions, consciousness, perceptions, choices, and more come from, some of our religious notions like the idea of the immaterial soul, or free-will, or sin might be shaken.  That shaking however, so far seems to involve religious traditions and a few interpretations of the Bible, but not the Bible itself.  Turns out the actual Scripture is holding up just fine.

Neuroscience, thanks to the use of brain scan technology, is a rapidly growing field of science that is in the process of revolutionizing psychology and our understanding of ourselves, but ironically Jesus and the Bible seem to have been saying similar types of things.

Some logical premise building first: If God is real, and the Bible was truly inspired by him, then it stands to reason that it would remain consistent with much of our own science.  That’s not the case with church traditions or some interpretations of the Bible. Those things change all the time. In fact, discovering the truth about most anything, means also discovering what was not true.  So while Christians may have to wait until reaching heaven before some arguments over interpretations are settled, it may be that some new scientific discoveries could actually help resolve some long standing debates.

Yeah, that’s probably wishful thinking, but at least the discoveries make the debates more interesting.

For instance, if neuroscience could prove (and some research makes a strong case) that our brain makes a decision BEFORE we are conscious of it, that seems to take away our ability to have free will over our own actions.  If we have no real choice, then what about sin? How could God judge us? Continue reading

Ken Ham and Bill Nye Debate: Now That I’ve Slept on it…

Despite the protests of leading atheists who didn’t want to treat scientists and human beings who believed in God as worthy of anything other than to be ignored, Ken Ham and Bill Nye nevertheless faced off for an in-depth, internet broadcast, and CNN-hosted debate over creationism, evolution, the Bible, the flood, naturalism, and definitions of science.  It was enlightening at times as even Bill Nye the Science Guy noted after Ham’s opening presentation.  The Saturday morning television science teacher started his own presentation by looking at Ham and admitting he had “learned something.”  At other times, it left multiple questions begging for answers and more time.  The demand by Nye at one point that Ken Ham answer a list of four important questions was comically followed by the debate moderator’s (CNN’s Tom Foreman) formal announcement that Ham had one minute to respond.  All of the proceedings, taking place last Tuesday, February 4 at the famous Creation Museum in Kentucky, provided both the benefits of sincere, polite discussion, and the limitations of dealing with such a huge subject in a mere two hours.  I simultaneously wanted more to be said, while getting tired of hearing it.

And you might be tired of hearing about it too! So I’ll try to at least be concise.

I loved it when Bill Nye talked about how much he loves science. Obviously I wish he understood how much I love it, too, and many other creationists, but you can’t help but enjoy his passion for discovering things.  What so many miss is how many Bible-believing Christians are science buffs.  It’s why we can’t get enough of Louie Giglio.  And yes, we do go to secular universities and ace those tests too.  Those decorated scientists who provided Ken Ham with statements via video clips did not have Theology degrees.

I loved that Ken Ham used the opportunity he had to keep coming back to the Gospel, the good news that God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son to die for the sins of the world.  Sometimes, it seemed Ken sacrificed debate time to do this, but sharing the actual Gospel to a worldwide audience was beautiful.  I’m sure it didn’t come close to convincing the most hardened atheist, but God knew who needed to hear that last night and they did.  Awesome, awesome, awesome thing Ken.

I love the fact that we had a real, and polite, debate between diametrically opposed world views.  We can’t even debate tax policy anymore without competing to see who can roll their eyes the most, but last night we saw something we don’t often see in the world lately, and that is respect for another human being.  Judging by the comments and articles following the debate, atheists are quickly trying to put a stop to this nonsense, but for a brief moment yesterday, both sides argued their case on the merits and appealed to people with reason.  That’s pretty cool, and as one of the news organizations noted in an article this morning, that’s worth something at least.

I loved that the two men both used power point demonstrations that seamlessly integrated into the broadcast.  It reinforced that this debate wasn’t just a name-calling contest that we generally see on the internet or the dismissive disdain from a Dawkins’ column. We all learned something because we weren’t turned off immediately. Instead, the audience was respectfully taught, whether they were in the “choir” or not.

I loved the fact that Ken Ham included video statements, and references from other decorated scientists who didn’t just believe in God, but believed in young earth creationism.  Bill Nye in particular has taken up the atheist effort to portray anyone who believes in creation as anti-science and the sort of people who will destroy America’s competitive edge because they are incapable of becoming engineers.  Nye continually went back to this caricature at the end of the debate, but his effort was largely diffused by the irony of several famous scientists who evidently were able to engineer important inventions and discoveries despite the fact they believed in God. Ironically, the famous scientists from history that Nye mentioned were often very devout Christians as well, so it doesn’t seem that much of a hindrance after all. Here’s another scientist’s take on that very issue (and several others Nye has brought up).  This is important stuff because modern day atheism is dishonestly propagating a lie in their efforts to win people to their side. Why would they do so? I believe the real cause is the spiritual battle. There is a father of lies, and this is what he does.

Hmmm…. that started sounding negative.

Ok, a couple of times I wanted to jump through the screen, besides the times Nye started talking about how anti-science all these God believers are.

They are called polystrate fossils. This is in the category of “Well Someone Should Mention This….” Ok. So in the debate, Bill Nye said he would change his opinion, and Ken Ham could change the world, if Ham could show evidence of a fossil that went from one layer to another. Ham never responded, but …ummm… Bill, there are so many of those particular fossils they have a name: Polystrate fossils. Mostly trees and at least one whale. You know, just in case you ever need this for trivia.  One question I wish Ham had countered with was how come we don’t find meteorites in those lower levels? Did it quit raining occasional meteorites for billions of years?

Ken Ham’s answers on radiometric dating were incomplete. He kept going back to the “we weren’t there” statement, but everyone knows it should be possible to study evidence today and make some educated guesses about how it got here. We do the same with crime scenes as Bill Nye noted.  What atheists don’t often note is that there can be more than one theory as to how things got this way, just like there is often more than one theory on what happened at a crime scene. Ken Ham was correct to say we all have the same evidence. I just wish the topic of radiometric dating had been delved into a lot more because most people simply accept it as Gospel.

Seriously, most of you reading this have never dated anything yourself and weren’t with the scientists who did. We all usually just believe what they tell us. At the risk of totally shaking your worldview built on your trust that radiometric dating is incredibly accurate, you should read this article.  Don’t worry, it was written by a real scientist with four degrees and a lifetime membership in Mensa. You’ll find it interesting.

Finally, I thought Bill Nye had a couple of good questions concerning people who had never heard of the Bible and where the Bible came from. He didn’t really ask the last one, but referred to it a lot.  I wish Ken Ham had taken the time to answer those more, because there are real answers for both.  Ken did say that eternal life with God doesn’t depend on what someone thinks about the age of the earth or evolution or something like that. You don’t have to be a young earth creationist to be right with God. Lots of Christians believe heartily in evolution. They may be right or wrong about that, but it doesn’t condemn anyone either way.

We are saved based on where stand with God. The Bible teaches that Jesus died for the sins of the whole world, even those who had never heard about him, both past, present, and future.  The Bible teaches that God reveals himself to the whole world through his creation. Someone might not know much about God, might not know anything about the Bible or Jesus, but they can still reach out to God because “the heavens declare the glory of God, the skies proclaim the works of his hands.” That’s from Psalm 19 and it’s quoted in Romans when Paul was talking about how they had “heard” the message from God.  If that’s the message-just the creation-that’s not a lot to go on. Evidently though, it’s enough.  They might not have ever heard about Jesus in ancient China, but I believe God reached out to each person, and worked in their hearts and in their lives based on what they did know.  Jesus is preached of course, because Jesus is the message that God wanted the entire world to hear before the end, but God worked historically and works today on people who haven’t heard yet.

Like I said, It’s a good question and I don’t blame atheists for wanting to hear a fair answer to it.  My answer is way too brief, but there it is.

I’m just thankful for the debate. I learned stuff too, and as we all hash through it and argue amongst ourselves, we’ll keep learning. That ain’t all bad.

God bless.

How Have You Changed in 2013?

Top Four…

  • I know I can improve myself.  Most of the time at New Years we make resolutions to get in shape, lose weight, and make personal changes.  In 2013, I had all these goals, but I also accomplished something I had never tried before when I completed a 12-mile, 20 obstacle Tough Mudder in September.  During the eight months I was preparing, I had to fight through a high ankle sprain as well, but I made it.  Crossing that finish line was one of the best feelings in the world. 2013 was the year I realized, “I can do this.”
  • Deeper Understanding.  That’s what I gained when I sought God for answers to some big questions and some issues that weighed on my heart.  Preaching through Revelation, I saw more in it than I ever imagined.  As a book about the big finish, it pulls in all the big questions and forced me to go deep.  Worship became more important as the power of it became evident on Sundays.  Yet it was that emphasis, that opened my eyes to see that worship is actually a fitting description of how a follower of Jesus lives life.  And everything from a couple of weeks in Kenya, to debates with others, to quiet times with just me and God… and I felt like I learned so much.  Let me be like that Mary person and learn at the feet of Jesus and I’m happy.  ….Ok, except let me be a dude.
  • God let me do cool stuff.  Every year we do that giant, evangelistic drama is awesome. I write it, and I play the part of Satan, which means I’m getting beat up at the end, but it’s amazing God lets us do something so fun for the Kingdom.  The radio play by play at the Class I State Championships was a dream come true as well. All in all, the stuff God let me do in 2013 made it a good year.
  • Doing Something Meaningful.  Not everything in the New Year is fun and games, sometimes it’s facing unspeakable tragedies. Saying a few words at a funeral or memorial, working to manage the assistance for the local MInisterial Alliance provided moments this past year that reminded me how great the love and compassion of God really are.  Any part I played in serving Him, is a privilege I’m unworthy of having.  It changed me this year. Deepened me. I’m grateful.

God bless. Happy New Year!

New Year’s Eve Post

Blogging through the New Year on Central Standard Time. Another year is going into the books tonight and where are we?  Where are you? Where am I?  Beyond a shadow of a doubt things are changing in our world, our culture, and always, always, always things change for us on a personal level. Here are some thoughts on all three. I’ll be blogging for the rest of the year, so feel free join in below.

World.  Christianity garnered some sympathy because of the increase in real persecution, especially in the Middle East.  From Egypt, to Iraq, to Syria, to Libya, to a mall in Nairobi, Kenya, Christians have been under real attack by Islamic militants.  Shades of Revelation chapter six going on in Middle East?  Well how about those famous four horsemen of the apocalypse? A white horse that represents revolution perhaps? Check. A red horse that represents war? Check. A black horse that seems to represent shortages and high prices of basic goods? Check. A pale horse that represents Death? Check. Move on from the four horsemen to the Fifth Seal which represents persecution? Yep that one too.

Most Bible prophecy teachers believe the Seals of Revelation are world-wide problems, of course, not merely local Middle Eastern events.  Still, it’s a little spooky.

The big change for the West has been the rise of an aggressive populist atheism, and social changes including same-sex marriage and the view among almost all media that the Bible, and those who believe in it, are no longer anywhere close to the mainstream.  From movies, to books, to talk shows, traditional Christian beliefs are increasingly being viewed as morally wrong, or intellectually bankrupt. Ironically, this comes at a time when the arguments in favor of Biblical Christianity are at their strongest.

In recent times, atheism surprised Christianity with a deluge of new and old arguments, and fresh styles of attack. The culture, which today values the style of debate over the substance, is often swayed by fierceness of the attack. Christianity is not argued against as much as ridiculed, scoffed at, and laughed away.  And as we’ve seen in presidential debates that award someone the win based on how well they interrupted or talked over or laughed at their opponent, so the new atheism uses a new attitude as much as any new argument.

Nevertheless, because of evidence of design the arguments for Creation have never been stronger.  Genetics has also presented what I consider insurmountable hurdles for macro-evolution, and even paleontology has challenged, of all things, the age of the dinosaurs.  Despite these and other advances on the evidence side of defending the Bible and the existence of God, the debate is as much about style now.  In fact, I get the distinct feeling it’s a lot like a fashion show, and what is “in style” now currently isn’t the Bible.

Personal.  There are lots of things we can say have changed on a personal level. We may have gone through triumphs or tragedies or both.  Kids grow up, we grow older, new opportunities come, and sometimes we leave things behind. This being a blog about spiritual things, however, let’s talk about where our views have gone, perhaps some things we’ve learned along the way, and definitely where God has led us.

For me, a few things stand out.  A trip to Kenya opened my eyes to the role of the rich in this world. And yeah, it’s we Americans who are rich.  It was in Kenya when God showed me our role was to give it away. Someone has recently said we need to be more ruthless in giving away our material blessings.  I couldn’t agree more, but I didn’t really GET this until Kenya.

While there, we gave away clothes, we gave away our reading glasses, our shoes, our spending money, and whatever else was needed. We didn’t do it at random mind you, but like any accountant at any business, we wanted to know where, why, and if it was a good idea to give in this way or that.  As managers over a trust fund, we invested as wisely as we could, but we made sure we invested.  God opened doors for us to purchase food, Bibles, medical treatments, pay for school fees, and even, before it was over, give a family a new home.  Going back to the Bible, we realized the role of rich believers is simply this: to give it away as good stewards of God’s money.

Not only was that big for me in regards to doctrine, it was a time that opened a door for the Gospel. With the help of two on-fire local pastors, we met with people, sharing with them about Jesus. Many already attended a church but believed they were “saved” because they were a member, or because they followed a particular preacher.  We didn’t try to get them to change churches, we simply wanted to tell them about Jesus, and shared with them the basics of the Gospel.  The Bible says that the wages of sin is death but the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ.  It didn’t say the gift of God was eternal life in Church XYZ, or Preacher So and So.  It said Jesus.  And Romans 10 says if we confess with our mouth Jesus is Lord and believe in our heart God raised him from the dead we will be saved.

There’s just no getting around it, the Bible preaches salvation through Jesus, not religion or anyone else.  And through the ministry that began with our little group, 42 people who already attended a church, accepted Jesus for the first time.  Today, a church is forming, one that preaches Jesus instead of religion. That was just cool.

There’s more to say on the Personal side of things.  A new understanding of what worship is, what living by the Spirit really is all about, will impact the new year.  What about you? Hope you’ve had a good one, too.

Bill O’Reilly versus John Jay?

OReillyJohnJay

One of our founding fathers, a guy by the name of John Jay, was very open with his belief in Jesus and the Bible. He also happened to be, at one time or another, the president of the Congress, a diplomat, the author of the Federalist Papers, the original Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, and the governor of New York.  That’s quite a resume. He once wrote:  “The Bible will also inform (people) that our gracious Creator has provided for us a Redeemer in whom all the nations of the earth should be blessed – that this Redeemer has made atonement ‘for the sins of the whole world,’ and thereby reconciling the Divine justice with the Divine mercy, has opened a way for our redemption and salvation;”

You don’t hear that from the Supreme Court very often, even less from the governor of New York, but John Jay believed in a Creator, in Jesus’ sacrifice for our sins, and in the need for everyone to be forgiven and saved from judgment.   God’s judgment.

These days, even conservatives and professing Christians like Bill O’Reilly won’t go that far.  Continue reading

Cool People Saying Christian Things: Mike Fisher

OTT0205-sensjl“I take it very seriously,” Fisher says. “We’re both doing this thing together, but I take it seriously that we make sure we’re encouraging each other and praying together and growing spiritually. That’s such an important thing. The closer we feel to God, the closer we feel to each other. When we’re in the Word and growing and doing things we need to be doing, it makes the relationship so much better.”

-NHL star Mike Fisher talking about his marriage with country music singer Carrie Underwood and their faith in God.

Signs in the Heavens?

meteoriteThe meteorite that hit Russia on February 15, entered the atmosphere less than 24 hours before the asteroid 2012 DA14 was to make the closest recorded pass of an asteroid to the Earth — inside the orbit of some satellites. The asteroid is described as “skimming the atmosphere” by some.  With two events such as these happening so close together, it would seem they were related, but astronomers say it’s just a crazy coincidence.

The European Space Agency tweeted its experts had determined there was no connection between the two big rocks that came flying at the earth.  Not only did they come from two different directions, but arriving 12 hours apart means they were also half a million kilometers apart.  The Daily Mail Online reported the meteorite that hit Russia “doesn’t seem to be at all relevant to tonight’s close asteroid flyby.”

They are right.  It’s a bit early to use the word “relevant”, but it’s at least “eerie”.

These are two EXTREMELY rare events happening less than a day apart, with evidently no connection to each other.  Soooooo…. hey God, how’s things uh…going?