Saturday, August 26, 2006

Humanity Misunderstands God, Creation

I'm currently reading a great book written by Cornelius G. Hunter, author of Darwin's God. I like this one so much that I am motivated to buy and read Darwin's God too.

Darwin's Proof: The Triumph of Religion over Science is an astonishing perceptive analysis of the Darwinian controversy. In the first few chapters, Hunter covers many of the controversies surrounding Darwinism. Chapters like Darwin's Deceptive Idea, Swallowing a Camel (part 1 & 2), and Straining at the Gnat (part 1 & 2) cover the fundamental arguments against Darwinism, as well as the fact that the traditional evidences for evolution are not very convincing.

Chapter 6, called Blind Guides covers the philosophical argument against evolution.

Chapter 7, called Another Gospel discusses the theological argument against evolution.

But it was chapter 9, What Has Been Made, that caught my undivided attention and is the chapter that I want to summarize and post today. I found it quite fascinating...startling, in fact. I found it to be information that put a lot of the pieces together for me about why much of humanity misunderstands God.

Hunter shares how the mockers and the skeptics at the cross of Jesus were a fulfillment of prophecy. Most Bible scholars and students would probably recognize this. But Hunter also reveals that such skepticism and mocking of the Christian faith (evidence of which we have seen numerous times here at this blog), could also be attributed to man's misunderstanding of creation.

One of the things that evolution believers often mock about the concept of creation is the personal, biased opinion called the "paradigm of perfection.'

Been there! Have heard that! Numerous times, in fact.

But Hunter has an absolutely brilliant answer for such mockers! However, in order to reveal it, I believe it might be necessary to start back at the beginning of the chapter. Then, Hunter's answer will make more sense and will be clearly revealed after we go step by step through what he has written.



I will begin by paraphrasing so that this post doesn't get too long.

Hunter shares that during the day of Jesus' crucifixion, many of the people mocked and insulted the dying Savior. They desired to see him "come down from the cross, if you [he] are [is] the Son of God." They jeered at him because of Jesus' previous claim to have the power and ability to "destroy this temple and build it in three days." Obviously, they didn't understand Jesus' statement was referring to his own body. They yelled at him to "save yourself!" They shouted, "Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him." (see Matthew 27:35-42).

In a previous post at my message board, I discussed that when humanity is faced with the realization of its separation from God through our sinful condition, it comes down to a battle between grace and pride. Accepting the mercy, grace, forgiveness and salvation of Christ requires recognition of our sin, confession of sin and repentance for sin. Pride of sin and self can block one's ability to humble oneself at the foot of the cross of Christ.

In that previous post I stated, "When we try to rationalize away any sin or ask for dignified recognition of "pride of self" in this life, it is like we are saying, "If you are the Christ, save Yourself and us."

This is similar to what Hunter hints at in this chapter. The chapter demonstrates the recognition of the fact that many will choose not believe because their expectations of what God should be, Who He should be, and what He should do for us, as people (who are supposed to be made) "in His image and likeness" do not match up with what we might want our own version of a "god" to be like; including our expectations of His creation and plan of salvation for us.

In reference to the skeptics and mockers at the crucifixion of Christ, Hunter writes:

They were witnessing the most profound event in history, yet they expected something more. They so misunderstood God and his plan that the suffering Messiah made no sense to them. Why would a king so empty himself? If Jesus were the Son of God, they thought, he should have made a display of it then and there. Then they would believe.

Those witnesses had very particular expectations of God. The true spiritual meaning of Jesus' suffering and death was lost on them. They had witnessed so many of his miracles, and in three days he would rise from the dead, but they still would not believe.

Jesus had even told them a revealing parable of a beggar named Lazarus and a rich man to illustrate their situation. After the two men died, angels carried Lazarus to Abraham's side, and the rich man suffered in hell. The rich man called to Abraham and asked him to send Lazarus to warn his five brothers so they would not also be put in that place of torment. Abraham replied that his brothers have Moses and the Prophets, let them listen to them. "No, father Abraham," the rich man cried, "but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent." "If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets," Abraham replied, "they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead."

Jesus had performed an abundance of miracles. he had even brought dead people back to life. But none of this would sway the skeptics. Even when he rose from the grave they would not believe. The crucifixion was for them a justification for their rejection of Jesus. If he was the Christ, then why not display his powers at that moment?

What an incredible example of humanity misunderstanding God. But it is just an example; all humanity has made the same mistake in generation after generation. We are in no position to judge those witnesses of the crucifixion when we are just as guilty.

Humanity Misunderstands God

What lesson can we learn from this? What mistakes do we make in our generation when it comes to understanding God and his plan? Those skeptics witnessing the crucifixion may have been thinking of biblical prophecies foretelling God coming with power. They probably expected a conquering king rather than a suffering servant. But the Scriptures are full of prophecies that tell of the Messiah taking on our sins and bearing the punishment that we are due.

Centuries before, the prophet Isaiah had explained how the Messiah would come. He would be "despised and rejected by men." He would take up our infirmities and carry our sorrows, and yet we would consider him stricken by God. Isaiah could not have been more blunt:

Isa 53:5 But he [was] wounded for our transgressions, [he was] bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace [was] upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.

Isa 53:6 All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.

Isa 53:7 ¶ He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.

Isa 53:8 He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken.

Those skeptical witnesses of the crucifixion were probably not thinking of thses verses. and they were probably not thinking of a psalm of David that foretold the very events surrounding them. Written a thousand years earlier, centuries before crucifixion was used as a means of execution, David's illustration of the scene is graphic, complete with the mockers and skeptics:

Psa 22:7 All they that see me laugh me to scorn: they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, [saying],

Psa 22:8 He trusted on the LORD [that] he would deliver him: let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him.

Psa 22:9 But thou [art] he that took me out of the womb: thou didst make me hope [when I was] upon my mother's breasts.

Psa 22:10 I was cast upon thee from the womb: thou [art] my God from my mother's belly.

Psa 22:11 Be not far from me; for trouble [is] near; for [there is] none to help.

Psa 22:12 Many bulls have compassed me: strong [bulls] of Bashan have beset me round.

Psa 22:13 They gaped upon me [with] their mouths, [as] a ravening and a roaring lion.

Psa 22:14 I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels.

Psa 22:15 My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death.

Psa 22:16 For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet.

Psa 22:17 I may tell all my bones: they look [and] stare upon me.

Psa 22:18 They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture.

The mockers and skeptics were a fulfillment of prophecy. had they loved God's word more than their own opinions, then perhaps they would have understood the real meaning of the crucifixion. Perhaps they would have stood in wonder and awe rather than in contempt.

Therefore, a lesson we can learn is to be good students of God's Word. The apostle Paul wrote that "all Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness." We need to humble ourselves to God's Word, testing all things, even our own intuition, against it.

The Paradigm of Perfection

But like those skeptics at the crucifixion, modern thinkers have also imposed their own ideas about how God would work. When it comes to the study of origins, there has been a strong tendency to view God as the perfect craftsman. After all, the book of Genesis tells us that God created the world and that it was "very good." And David wrote that the "heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands."

But the story is more complicated than this. Creation may be "very good," but Paul tells of how it was subjected to frustration. That it is in bondage to decay and is groaning as in the pains of childbirth. And God tells Job of how the donkey does not hear the shoults of the driver and of how the ostrich treats her young harshly for he did not endow her with wisdom.

The Scriptures plainly tell us not to expect a perfect world. God has not made the world to be always optimal in a material sense, and the fall of humanity brought about its own destructive forces. Nonetheless, optimality is just what many believers expect from God's creation.

Hunter goes on to describe what great thinkers (e.g. philosopher, mathematician and logician Gottfried Leibniz; and Thomas Malthus) thought about the good-to-evil ratio etc. There were natural theologians before Darwin's time who described the world and everything in it as perfectly designed and arranged to work as a perfect machine. As Paley put it, God "wills and wishes the happiness of his creatures." Paley extolled creation as a perfect machine, for it was "a happy world after all. The air, the earth, the water, teem with delighted existence.

Hunter writes:

Darwin inverted Paley's bright optimism, but not his assumptions about God:

"We behold the face of nature bright with gladness, we often see super-abundance of food; we do not see or we forget that the birds which are idly singing round us mostly live on insects or seeds, and are thus constantly destroying life; or we forget how largely these songsters, or their eggs, or their nestlings, are destroyed by birds and beasts of prey; we do not always bear in mind, that, though food may be now superabundant, it is not so at all seasons of each recurring year." (source: Anthony D. Baker, "Theology and the Crisis in Darwinism," Modern Theology 18, no. 2 (2002): 192)

Darwin's point of course, was not that Paley's view was nonscriptural, but rather that God's creative acts ought to be reconsidered. Darwin proposed a mechanistic creative process, not a different view of God. And with the acceptance of Darwinism, this view of God has been, in turn, all the more accepted. Evolutionists, as we saw in chapter 6, have continued to rely on this nonscriptural view of God to justify their theory.

So when evolutionist Ken Miller asks if God would "really want to take credit for the mosquito," he is echoing a long-standing tradition, not some biblical truth. The idea that God would create only a perfect or optimal world, in a material sense, has been a dominant paradigm among naturalists and philosophers for centuries.

We might call this the paradigm of perfection. From Kepler and Leibniz to Paley and Darwin, the assumption that creation is an end unto itself and a thing that God would certainly strive to make perfect if it were possible, has driven our thinking in the historical sciences.

But this perspective has failed us. It has no basis in Scripture and has led to absurdity. We need to reconsider this view and consider replacing it with a historic doctrine that theologians have known about all along - the doctrine of general revelation.

General Revelation

The universe may have many purposes, but the church has always taught that, as God's creation, it complements God's Word. The Scriptures are called special revelation, and the world is called general revelation. As the apostle Paul wrote:

Rom 1:18
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness,

Rom 1:19
because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them.

Rom 1:20
For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse,

Paul explains that creation itself makes plain what may be known about God. And certainly throughout the Bible we find analogies in creation for spiritual truths. We are told that the blessed man is like a tree planted by streams of water, but the wicked are like chaff that blows away in the wind (see Psalms 1). God's incredible providence is displayed by the beauty and intricacy of the lilies (see Matthew 6:28), and the kingdom of heaven is like a little bit of yeast that works through a large amount of dough (see Matthew 13:33). But false teachers are like a brood of vipers (see Matthew 23:33), and the fool who comes back to them is like a dog that returns to its vomit (see Proverbs 26:11).

Did God have to search for these analogies? Was it serendipity that creation just happened to be full of analogies to spiritual truths that are given in the Scriptures? Or did God create the world to contain signs of his truth?

[Note: Please see a former post entitled The Trinity All Around You for another astounding example of the world serving to communicate some of God's revelation. ]

The eighteenth-century theologian Henry Drummond held the view that natural laws are analogous with spiritual laws. We can learn something about the spiritual world from the natural world. Before him, Johann Goethe claimed that transitory things are but parables. These are different ways of reflecting on the doctrine of general revelation. Nature has, as Herman Bavinck put it, "lain in the thought of God before it came into being."

Creation, at least in part, contains revelation for us to consider. In other words, Scripture tells us not only that God created the world, but that the world serves to communicate some of his revelation. Perhaps the caterpillar, imprisoned in its cocoon and then emerging as a butterfly is symbolic of the crucified and then resurrected Christ.

If creation serves as part of God's revelation, then why should we think it must be designed to be perfect or optimal in a material sense? Paley's premise that God "wills and wishes for our happiness" seems at odds with Scripture, which tells us to consider it "pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything (James 1:2-4).

We should view creation's purpose as communicating truths and contributing to our salvation, not as gratification of our senses. Instead of considering the paradigm of perfection, we should consider the paradigm of revelation. Of course other factors have influenced creation. We are told that creation has been subjected to futility and that the fall altered creation for the worse. Yes, the heavens declare the glory of God, but we should also expect to see creation in decay (Romans 8:21).

We should expect to find God's revelation in nature, not in material perfection. I am amazed, however, how often I see people adhering to the paradigm of perfection. If God made the world, shouldn't we expect it to be perfect? Like those skeptics at the crucifixion, we so easily hold opinions about God without carefully investigating his Word.

The paradigm of perfection is more a human tradition than a biblical concept. It has led to a great many unfulfilled expectations about creation. Consider again the pentadactyl pattern, which is considered evidence for evolution because it is said to reveal imperfect design. Darwin argued that the same pattern should not show up where the need is different. Surely the tasks of grasping, digging, paddling, and flying should call for different designs. Darwin doubted that all this was the product of God's design.

But why should we see this as a sign that these species were not created by God? Could not God's consistent use of this pattern be a sign that they were created by the same hand? After all, if the designs were all different and somehow optimized for their respective appications, then evolutionists would point to that as evidence of natural selection, just as they do with the other amazing designs in biology. If God created the species, they could argue, wouldn't we see some pattern? Instead, all we see is adaptation. Why wouldn't God leave some sign that they were created, instead of making the speicies appear to have evolved by natural processes?

Indeed, there are multitudes of incredible designs in nature, perfectly fitted to the need. Consider Anableps anableps, a fish that swims with eyes half in and half out of the water. As with bifocal lense, its eyes are divided into two parts, giving it the remarkable abiltiy to look simultaneously above and below the water line. Or again, there is the ancient trilobite. It had eyes that were perhaps the most complex of all. One expert called them "an all-time feat of function optimization."

There certainly is an abundance of perfections to be found in nature that reveal the glory of God. Literally volumes upon volumes could be written on biology's designs that can be said to be optimal or perfect. Whey then are repeated designs, such as the pentadactyl pattern, such strong evidence for evolution? Is the vast abundance of perfections and contrivances insufficient to believe that God made the species? Do we need yet one more proof?

At the crucifixion they called for yet one more proof. Jesus was to save himself. Then, they declared, they would believe. But as Jesus had pointed out in the parable of Lazarus and the rich man, this was not true. There already was an abundance of reasons to believe. One more miracle would change nothing. Three days later Jesus would prove it.

[Source: Darwin's Proof - The Triump of Religion over Science by Cornelius G. Hunter; Brazos Press, 2003 pp. 109-115.]

Coming soon: Report and analysis of Darwin's Deadly Legacy broadcast.


Boo said...

I can agree with most of what's in this post except the notion that God must necessarily be placed against evolution:

"Consider again the pentadactyl pattern, which is considered evidence for evolution because it is said to reveal imperfect design. Darwin argued that the same pattern should not show up where the need is different. Surely the tasks of grasping, digging, paddling, and flying should call for different designs. Darwin doubted that all this was the product of God's design.

But why should we see this as a sign that these species were not created by God? Could not God's consistent use of this pattern be a sign that they were created by the same hand?"

Could not God's consistent use of this pattern be a sign that God used evolution to create biological diversity?

"After all, if the designs were all different and somehow optimized for their respective appications, then evolutionists would point to that as evidence of natural selection, just as they do with the other amazing designs in biology."

Actually, if designs in all species were radically different, that would argue strongly against common descent, which is a point evolutionists have made.

"Evolutionists, as we saw in chapter 6, have continued to rely on this nonscriptural view of God to justify their theory.

So when evolutionist Ken Miller asks if God would "really want to take credit for the mosquito," he is echoing a long-standing tradition, not some biblical truth."

One must take care to distinguish between rhetorical devices someone might employ to make a point and actual scientific evidence. Scientists believe in evolution because of the evidence, not the rhetoric.

And interestingly enough, I've known many creationists who use the "paradigm of perfection" argument against evolution. God surely wouldn't have created in such a messy way, they say.

Phronk said...

Yeah, why did God give us an appendix and tonsils that constantly get infected? Or is that something we chose with our free will?

Anyway, this book might be a nice theological discussion, but it's obviously not science, so there's not much I can say about it.

Christinewjc said...

Wow Boo! That's amazing that we actually agree about something for a change!

There is a lot more detail in the book that deals with our obvious areas of disagreement, however.


It's funny that you mentioned the appendix and as to why God gave us that. Hunter covers that in his book. But I must run some errands right now so when I get back, I will look up what he said about it and post it here.

Since you got through this long post, it must have interested you in some way. What did you think about the general revelation statements? Did you read the "The Trinity All Around Us" link? Doesn't that show how scientific/mathematical evidence can point to spiritual/metaphysical evidence? I thought that was fascinating!

limpy99 said...

I thought that this was an interesting theological argument. I hadn't heard of the "perfection paradigm" before, at least by those words, but in my experience it does sound contrary to the Creationist argument that God created the world a few thousand years ago as is.

The part about people mocking Jesus on his way to, and on, the cross was a valid one. People always demand more proof, "You're the Son of God, save yourself", but then, Creationists seem to do the same with evolution, "if it's true, show us a missing link", as though scientific proofs just fall from the sky in one complete piece.

Still, interesting things to think about on several levels.

Boo said...

"Wow Boo! That's amazing that we actually agree about something for a change!"

We agree about a lot of things. I just haven't really made a habit of pointing them out. I probably should have tho.