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God doesn’t want us to be Vegetarians April 12, 2011

Posted by Daniel Benjamin Smith (dsmith77) in Favorite Verses.
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Psalm 104:24-30 (NIV)

24 How many are your works, LORD!
In wisdom you made them all;
the earth is full of your creatures.
25 There is the sea, vast and spacious,
teeming with creatures beyond number—
living things both large and small.
26 There the ships go to and fro,
and Leviathan, which you formed to frolic there.

27 All creatures look to you
to give them their food at the proper time.
28 When you give it to them,
they gather it up;
when you open your hand,
they are satisfied with good things.
29 When you hide your face,
they are terrified;
when you take away their breath,
they die and return to the dust.
30 When you send your Spirit,
they are created,
and you renew the face of the ground.

God Creates. God Destroys. God Creates Anew. Blessed be the Name of the Lord.

In other words, many people (Christians included) have an incorrect view of death. It is typically believed that (1) animal death came as a result of the fall and (2) therefore, death is inherently sinful. Yet in this passage, God causes the death of creatures that He created. But God is perfect, holy, and cannot do wrong. Therefore, it must NOT be inherently sinful to kill animals.

After all, it’s His creation and He can do what He wants with it. He’s the one who killed the animals to clothe Adam and Eve after they ate the fruit. Adam and Eve made a covering of leaves but God brought them fur clothing. How else did he get it except by killing some of His own animals?

Far be it from us to put words in God’s mouth and make any claim in His name that isn’t backed up by scripture.

A Scientific Test for the Existence of a Creator April 5, 2011

Posted by Daniel Benjamin Smith (dsmith77) in Apologetics, Faith, Science.
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We find comfort among those who agree with us–growth among those who don’t. ~ Frank A. Clark

Last night, I attended a panel debate between Dr. Fazale “Fuz” Rana and Dr. Howard Neufeld on the campus of Appalachian State University in Boone, NC. Dr. Rana is an old-earth creationist employed by Reasons to Believe who believes that there is strong evidence for a creator and who identifies this creator as the judeo-christian God. Dr. Neufeld is a naturalist in the department of Biology at Appalachian State University, a proponent of evolution, and an atheist who believes there is no need for a creator to explain the natural world.

Despite the use of the term debate, this was not a fierce, emotional battle. It was a well-organized back-and-forth where each of the speakers was allowed uninterrupted time to showcase their arguments with time for rebuttal and audience questions at the end.

Full disclosure: I subscribe to the RTB model. I think it’s a well thought out scientific model that is above trivial arguments of being unsound from a scientific perspective. That said, Dr. Neufeld did raise an interesting point that I would like to address.

He said that science is only interested in what can be tested and I agree with him. He further said that one could not devise a scientific test for God. He invited anyone with such an argument to share it and so I am.

To get there, we must travel through a few hypotheses so let us begin:

  1. For the sake of argument and hypothesis, suppose a creator does in fact exist. What can the natural world tell us about this being? He or she would, by necessity, have to exist outside our physical space in order to create it in the first place.
  2. This is testable because we know from Einstein’s laws and their extensions that matter, energy, space, and time were all created with the creation of the universe. Thus, such a deity would have to exist independent of matter, energy, space, and time.
  3. So, assuming such a being exists and that this being has chosen to reveal himself (for the sake of simplicity, since gender cannot be inferred, I will use the masculine), which of the world’s religions, if any, describes a god in these terms? The answer is only one – the judeo-christian God. No other religion describes their god as being transcendent beyond matter, energy, time, and space.

Here is one such passage:

Luke 24:33-43 (NIV)

33 They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together 34 and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” 35 Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.

Jesus Appears to the Disciples

36 While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”

37 They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. 38 He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? 39 Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.”

40 When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet. 41 And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate it in their presence.

The above passage demonstrates transcendence beyond matter, space, and energy. Jesus had a physical body but it appeared out of nowhere. Scientists now have a theory of teleportation, but it only works on the scale of atoms and requires an enormous amount of energy which is beyond humanity’s capacity to produce.

The following passage demonstrates transcendence beyond time. It’s a lengthy passage. The example begins in verse 48, but I have chosen to include the verses leading up for context.

John 8:31-59 (NIV)

Dispute Over Whose Children Jesus’ Opponents Are

31 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. 32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

33 They answered him, “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves of anyone. How can you say that we shall be set free?”

34 Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 35 Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. 37 I know that you are Abraham’s descendants. Yet you are looking for a way to kill me, because you have no room for my word. 38 I am telling you what I have seen in the Father’s presence, and you are doing what you have heard from your father.[b]

39 “Abraham is our father,” they answered.

“If you were Abraham’s children,” said Jesus, “then you would[c] do what Abraham did. 40 As it is, you are looking for a way to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things. 41 You are doing the works of your own father.”

“We are not illegitimate children,” they protested. “The only Father we have is God himself.”

42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me. 43 Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. 44 You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 Yet because I tell the truth, you do not believe me! 46 Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don’t you believe me? 47 Whoever belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God.”

Jesus’ Claims About Himself

48 The Jews answered him, “Aren’t we right in saying that you are a Samaritan and demon-possessed?”

49 “I am not possessed by a demon,” said Jesus, “but I honor my Father and you dishonor me. 50 I am not seeking glory for myself; but there is one who seeks it, and he is the judge. 51 Very truly I tell you, whoever obeys my word will never see death.”

52 At this they exclaimed, “Now we know that you are demon-possessed! Abraham died and so did the prophets, yet you say that whoever obeys your word will never taste death. 53 Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do you think you are?”

54 Jesus replied, “If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me. 55 Though you do not know him, I know him. If I said I did not, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and obey his word. 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.”

57 “You are not yet fifty years old,” they said to him, “and you have seen Abraham!”

58 “Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” 59 At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds.

There you have it. A scientific test for the existence of a creator – provided one posits the existence of a creator in the first place which is a necessary and reasonable hypothesis. It is the nature of the scientific method to embrace all new hypotheses in order to test new theories and ultimately expand the scientific knowledge of humanity.

In summary, if there is a creator this being can be identified as the judeo-christian God. This concept is very nicely codified in Romans 1:20 (NIV):

20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.

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