Observations on life; particularly spiritual

Posts tagged “origin

Big history or little history?

Big History project

Big History projectA pantheistic creation story

“Big History” is a modern origins story that is being developed online for school students and is supported by Bill Gates, one of the world’s richest men. The objective is to develop a framework for learning about anything and everything that includes a deeper awareness of our past. It claims to tell a story that our children need to know. But what will they learn?

History of the universe

“Big History” is based on eight “threshold moments” when the universe increased in complexity:

  1. Origin of the universe billions of years ago as explained by the big bang theory.
  2. Stars light up from the remnants of the exploding gases.
  3. New chemical elements form when stars die and create new types of atoms.
  4. Rocky planets such as the earth and the solar system form around stars.
  5. Molecules combine to form single celled living organisms that evolve into multi-celled organisms.
  6. Human beings appear as a consequence of evolutionary processes.
  7. After the last ice age about 10,000 years ago, humans develop agriculture.
  8. The modern revolution, characterized by the use of fossil fuels and global communication.

Although “Big History” is based on humanity’s current scientific and historical understanding, the following questions come to mind.

Big assumptions

Although Big History states these as facts, it assumes that:

  • The origin and development of the universe can be explained by the laws of science.
  • The early universe was simple.
  • The universe has become more complex with time.

Once these are assumed, the rest follows as a consequence. So the course is teaching that these assumptions are facts. Instead they are scientifically unprovable.

As history trumps science when dealing with the past, the Bible surpasses science with regard to the origin of the universe and the nature of the early universe. In particular, the assumption of the uniformity of scientific laws isn’t valid past the creation of the universe about 6,000 years ago. So history shows the first two assumptions are false.

The assumption that “The universe has become more complex with time”, goes against common sense and the law of cause and effect. How can an inanimate object gain increasing complexity and increasing information by using the laws of science alone and not outside intelligence?  How can an animal or plant gain increasing complexity and increasing information by using the laws of science alone and not outside intelligence?

Big miracles

This secular origins story is based on miracles than can’t be explained by science. Yet it claims to be scientific!

Before the beginning of time it assumes there was nothing – no time, mass, energy or space. After the beginning of time a tiny particle smaller than an atom appears that contains everything in today’s universe. This means that something appears from nothing, which is not allowed in the laws of physics! In a science where there is no place for miracles, this is certainly a miracle. How was all the mass and energy within the universe created out of absolutely nothing using only the physical forces within the universe? How could the universe create itself?

According to Big History, the universe can create complexity and information. This happens as a series of stages, each of which produces something utterly new. Each of these threshold moments is a miracle as the increase in complexity and information cannot be explained by the laws of science. How could the universe increase complexity and information by itself?

How does the universe create complexity despite the second law of thermodynamics, which says that “The general tendency of the universe is to move from order and structure to lack of order and lack of structure”? This is never explained. There is just a statement that it can create complexity, but with great difficulty! So the universe builds itself, which is pantheism. The universe is god. So intelligence and intent is attributed to inanimate objects or concepts, such as “Life interjects” and “DNA learns”.

It is interesting to note that the example of increasing complexity used in Big History was our modern society and not a biological example such as the DNA molecule or the human mind.

Circular reasoning

Big History is guilty of circular reasoning. It states assumptions and ideas as facts. Its key findings are based on its assumptions and presuppositions. For example, it reveals how complexity slowly evolved. But this is also an assumption.

Big history is speculative. It says, “We can imagine the early universe breaking up into billions of clouds”.

Big history is a product of the secular paradigm or worldview that has rejected the God of the Bible.

Conclusion

Big History is certainly ambitious. It has big assumptions, big miracles, big extrapolation and big imagination. Although it claims to be big on history, it actually includes little recorded history.

As “the story of how the universe creates complexity” and the “unifying story that gives a sense of the whole of history”, it is a pantheistic creation story that replaces the Bible.

Do our children need to know this? How much better if they knew the Bible and accepted its message as the unifying story that gives a sense of the whole of history?

Written, October 2013

Also see – Using history and science to investigate ancient times
Big history


Did the Hebrew language exist before the exile into Babylon?

Siloam inscription

Siloam inscriptionI received a comment on my blog claiming that the Hebrew language didn’t exist until the Jewish exile in Babylon. So, what does the evidence say?

According to the Bible, all people spoke the same language until around 2200 BC when God caused different languages to develop at Babel and people scattered to form different nations across the earth (Gen. 11:1-9). This was the source of the diversity of human languages.

The Hebrew nation settled in Canaan in the 14th century BC. They occupied Canaan until the first Jewish captives were deported to Babylon in 605 BC and the second wave were exiled in 586 BC when the city of Jerusalem was destroyed (Dan. 1; 2 Ki. 25).

According to Wikipedia, the Siloam inscription records the construction of Hezekiah’s tunnel. The NIV Study Bible states that Hezekiah was king of Judah between 715 BC and 686 BC (2 Ki. 18:1-2). The tunnel, leading from the Gihon Spring to the Pool of Siloam, was designed as an aqueduct to provide Jerusalem with water during an impending siege by the Assyrians, led by Sennacherib (2 Ki. 20:20; 2 Chr. 32:30). The inscription, which was discovered in the tunnel in 1880 and has been dated at 701 BC, is written in the “Biblical Hebrew” language, which uses the ancient Hebrew alphabet. So here we have a written example of the Hebrew language that dates at least 100 years before the Jewish exile.

Gezer calendarHebrew belongs to the Semantic family of languages which were used in the middle east. Geographically it was a Canaanite language like Phoenician, Ugaritic and Moabite. The Bible notes that Jacob’s language was different to Aramaic (Gen. 31:47). Scholars believe that Hebrew was spoken in the kingdoms of Israel and Judah during the 10th to 7th centuries BC.

Therefore, the reader’s comment seems to be inconsistent with the evidence available. It can be shown that the Hebrew language originated well before the Babylonian exile. In fact, Wikipedia claims that there is evidence of “Biblical Hebrew” as far back as the 10th century BC, which extends to the days of king David (2 Sam. 5:4). The Gezer calendar is dated in this time period.

Written, March 2013


When did the Hebrews or Israelites become known as Jews?

Star of David 200px

Star of David 400pxAccording to the Bible, Abraham left polytheism to follow the God who made the universe. Abraham lived about 2,000 BC and he and his descendants were known as Hebrews (Gen. 14:13). In fact the Pentateuch was written by Moses in the Hebrew language. Isaac was Abraham’s son and Jacob his grandson. Jacob’s name was changed to Israel (Gen. 32:28; 46:1). Since this time Israel’s descendants were known as the children of Israel or Israel or Israelites. Israel’s family moved to Egypt where his son Joseph was second in command to the Pharaoh. In Egypt the Israelites grew to 2 million people when they subsequently migrated to Canaan in the Middle East under the leadership of Moses and Joshua.

After the Israelites invaded Canaan, they were ruled by the kings Saul, David and Solomon. King David lived about 1,000 BC. After this, the kingdom was divided into two, with 10 tribes in the northern kingdom of Israel and two in the southern kingdom of Judah (1 Kings 12; 2 Chronicles 10). Samaria was the capital of Israel and Jerusalem the capital of Judah.

The Hebrew word “Yehudi” (“Jew” in English; Strongs #3064) is derived from the name Judah, who was one of Jacob’s twelve sons. Judah was the ancestor of one of the tribes of Israel, which was named after him. Originally, the word referred to members of the tribe of Judah, but later it described anyone from the kingdom of Judah (2 Ki. 16:6; Est. 2:5).

In 722 BC, Samaria was conquered by the Assyrians and the Israelites were dispersed into surrounding nations (2 Ki. 17). As they assimilated and now have no national identity, they are known as the “Ten Lost Tribes of Israel”.

In 598 BC, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylonia invaded Judah and in 586 B.C. Jerusalem was destroyed. Many of the Jews were taken to exile in Babylon. When the Persians conquered Babylon in 538 BC, the Persian King Cyrus permitted the Jews to return to their homelands and many returned to Judah. After the Babylonian exile, “Jew” replaced “Israelite” as the most widely-used term for these survivers. This was because, by that time, virtually all Israelites were descendants of the kingdom of Judah. Also, the Jewish religion was known as Judaism.

After Jerusalem was rebuilt, Judea was ruled by the Greeks, Egyptians, Syrians and Romans. Although the terms “Hebrew” and “Israelite” continued in use into the New Testament period (Rom. 9:4; 2 Cor. 11:22; Phil. 3:5), by then the term “Jew” was more commonly used. At His death, the Romans referred to Jesus as the “king of the Jews” (Mt. 27:37).

In 70 AD, the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and in 134 AD the Romans attacked again and the Jews were killed, enslaved and dispersed to surrounding countries including Europe and North Africa. Since this time, Judea has been ruled by the Byzantine Empire, the Islamic Empire, the Crusaders, the Mamluk Empire, the Ottoman Empire, and the British Empire. The Jews were persecuted and driven out of many regions culminating in the holocaust. Despite these difficulties, the Jews maintained their identity, even in foreign lands. The need to find a homeland for Jewish refugees led to the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948.

How amazing – the Jews survived 1,900 years of exile! No other people has ever gone into exile and survived this long and returned to re-establish a national homeland. And the Jews went into exile twice! They also survived the persecutions of the the Hamans and Hitlers of this world (Est. 3:1-15). Surely this is evidence of the Bible’s inspiration, and of the existence of the God who promised to preserve the Jews, return them to their homeland, and bring them to a time of great national blessing in the last days.

In common speech, the word “Jew” is now used to refer to all of the descendants of Abraham and those who adhere to Judaism.

Written January 2013


What makes the Bible so great?

The Bible is a collection of books which were written over a period of over 1,500 years with unique origin and content.

Unique origin

We will look at three statements about the source of the Bible. “All Scripture is God-breathed” (2 Tim. 3:16NIV). When written in ~67AD by Paul, this statement mainly applied to the Old Testament as not all the New Testament books had been written. But when Paul quoted from the book of Luke, he called it Scripture (1 Tim. 5:18) and Peter referred to Paul’s letters as Scripture (2 Pet. 3:16). So today we can apply the statement to the whole Bible. This means that God is the source of every verse in the Bible.

“Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things (mind). For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Pet. 1:20-21). The men who were given the message were called prophets. This passage emphasises that the words of Scripture were given by God via the Holy Spirit; and they didn’t originate from the prophet’s mind.

“This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words” (1 Cor. 2:13).  Once again, the Bible contains God’s wisdom, not human wisdom (1 Cor. 2:6-15). It’s “the thoughts of God” and the amazing things that “God has prepared for those who love Him”, which can only be understood with the help of the Holy Spirit.

As the Bible is the only book with God as the author, it is unique. The Bible is God’s message to us. The supreme God who created the universe and continues to sustain it has communicated with us. This also means that:

  • The Bible has authority – coming from the ruler of the visible and invisible universe.
  • The Bible is infallible. It is “completely reliable” as the source of truth, being absolutely true (2 Pet.1:19). The original text was without error and only minor copyist errors have occurred over the passage of time. When interpreted correctly, it never deceives us, never contradicts itself and can be trusted.
  • The Bible is profitable. God has told us what we need to know. It’s like our instruction manual for life.

Unique content

The Bible tells us the history of the universe from beginning to end. It begins with the creation of the universe and contains a history of mankind from Adam and Eve to the end of history. It describes the global flood that has shaped the earth and gives a detailed history of the Jewish nation, which is confirmed by archaeology. There is also a history of God’s dealing with mankind, a history of human failures, an accurate record of human behaviour and information about heaven and hell.

The Bible answers difficult questions, such as the following. Why do we exist? Why does anything exist? What can we hope for in the future? What is our destiny? Where has humanity come from? Why are we male and female? Where does marriage come from? Why is there suffering?

The Bible deals with our greatest problem (being God’s enemy instead of His friend) and our greatest need (to be reconciled with God) and how that was addressed by Jesus. God’s plan of salvation through Jesus is the theme of Scripture. We learn the way of salvation through the Bible (2 Tim. 3:15). It also provides assurance of salvation.

The Bible tells us what to know about the unseen world, including: God, angels, Satan, and demons. It describes the interaction between the unseen and seen parts of our world. It reveals what is God like; what has God done; God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit. It also reveals that humans are comprised of spirit, soul and body.

As the Bible is the only reliable source of this information, it is unique (Eccl. 3:11).

Powerful

The Bible uses the following powerful images to describe itself:

  • A sharp sword that penetrates and judges our thoughts and attitudes (Heb. 4:12-13). It is the sword of the Spirit (Eph. 6:17).
  • A light that shines in darkness (Ps. 119:105; 2 Pet. 1:19). It illuminates the way ahead and guides us.
  • A mirror that shows our true condition (Jas. 1:22-25).
  • Food (milk and solid food) that sustains us (1 Cor. 3:1-2; Heb. 5:12-14).
  • Water that purifies us as we obey Scripture (Eph. 5:25).
  • More precious than gold (Ps. 19:10).
  • Sweeter than honey (Ps. 19:10).

So, the Bible is not just another book, it’s God’s unique powerful message to us. Let’s read it, study it, memorise it and obey it.

Written, September 2011

Also see: Read the Bible in one year


The Idol Of Evolution: Part 2

Evaluating a common belief

In part one we applied three tests to determine that evolution is inconsistent with the Bible. In part two we will look more closely at the error of evolution and the truth of creation.

Did God Use Evolution?
It is clear that the theory of evolution, as taught in schools and universities and applied across the world, has no need for a Creator or God. But what about the possibility that God used evolution to create life after all? Can an evolutionary model be accommodated with the Bible? When we apply the three tests, this possibility may appear to pass the Jesus test. But the second question in the gospel test presents a challenge: Does it acknowledge our sinfulness?

The Bible teaches that sin entered the world through Adam and Eve, and that it brought death to mankind (Rom. 5:12; 6:23). Adam was told “to dust you will return” (Gen. 3:19). This was the origin of decay and death in our world. It affected all of God’s creation, so that it was “subjected to frustration,” is “in bondage to decay,” and is “groaning as in the pains of childbirth” (Rom. 8:20-22). This is suggested in God’s words to Adam, “Cursed is the ground because of you,” and “It will produce thorns and thistles for you” (Gen. 3:17-18). The implication is that before this time in history there was no decay or death. This is consistent with the statement that the creation was “very good” (Gen. 1:31).

In contrast, the evolutionary explanation of life assumes death has existed from the beginning of life, long before mankind was present. In fact, the theory of evolution relies on the death of many generations and claims that this is supported by fossils.

I can see no way of fitting the origin of sin and death as described in the Bible into the evolutionary explanation for life or vice versa, without disregarding essential parts of either. The Bible teaches that death is a consequence of mankind’s sin, whereas according to evolution death is merely a characteristic of the natural world.

The Bible and the theory of evolution also differ concerning the last point in the gospel test, the restoration of all things. Scripture states that Christ “must remain in heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything, as He promised long ago through His holy prophets” (Acts 3:21). Although this may refer to the restoration of the nation of Israel (Acts 1:6), it is also consistent with the liberation from decay that all creation anticipates; a return to a time of no more sin or death, like it was before Adam and Eve sinned (Isa. 25:8; Rom. 8:21; 1 Cor. 15:26; Rev. 21:4). Christ called this the “renewal of all things” (Mt. 19:28). It has also been described as “paradise,” a word that is linked via the tree of life to the garden of Eden and to heaven (Gen. 2:9; Rev. 2:7; 22:2).

On the other hand, according to the theory of evolution there was no paradise at the beginning of time. This is inconsistent with a “restoration” or “renewal” to paradise at the end of time. So one can believe in either “evolution” or “paradise” but not both, because they are contradictory.

So to believe that God used evolution is inconsistent with either the Bible or the evolutionary model. It usually results in compromising the Christian faith and leads to a “different gospel,” where the words of “sin” and “Savior” have a different meaning from the Bible (Gal. 1:6-9). The Bible warns that those who add to or take away from the true gospel will be eternally condemned (Gal. 1:8-9).

Some debate as to whether Genesis 1 and 2 are literal or symbolic. This is answered best by comparing them with what the rest of the Bible says about the topics raised in these chapters. Scripture should be used to interpret Scripture whenever possible.

Adam is included in Joseph’s genealogy (Lk. 3:38) and is referred to as a real man like Moses, Enoch and Christ (Rom. 5:14; 1 Cor. 15:22,45; 1 Tim. 2:13,14; Jude 14), while Eve is also mentioned as a real woman in the New Testament (2 Cor. 11:3; 1 Tim. 2:13). The description of the creation of Eve in 1 Corinthians 11:8-12 and 1 Timothy 2:13 is consistent with Genesis 2:21-23. The Bible teaches that sin and death came through one man, Adam; just as salvation came through one man, Jesus Christ (Rom. 5:12,15-19; 1 Cor. 15:21-22). The origin of marriage described in Genesis 2:24 is quoted in Mark 10:7-8 and Ephesians 5:31. Peter’s description of creation in 2 Peter 3:5 is consistent with Genesis 1:6-9. These examples show that the New Testament writers treated the events and people in Genesis 1 and 2 as being true history and not poetic or metaphoric.

A Modern Idol
As shown above, the naturalistic view of origins is in conflict with the Bible and it undermines Christianity. As such it is a “deceptive philosophy” that is “falsely called knowledge” (Col. 2:8; 1 Tim. 6:20-21). Unfortunately it has deceived many and has caused many minds to be led astray (2 Cor. 11:3). It is a modern myth and false worldview that is based on false assumptions.

The consequence of rejecting the truth of the gospel is to believe a lie, such as evolution, and worship part of God’s creation (Rom. 1:18-25). An idol is a false god or a false idea that lacks substance (Gal. 4:8-9). Although we may not worship images as was done in Athens, idolatry is prevalent today and the idea of evolution is a major idol of our times (Acts 17:22-23). Idolatry and the widely-held theory of evolution are both substitutes for the concept of the Creator God. Christians are warned to “Keep yourselves from idols” and “flee from idolatry” because they enslave us (1 Cor. 10:14; Gal. 4:8-9; 1 Jn. 5:21).

Furthermore, the leading evolutionists are particularly opposed to Christianity. In fact, evolution functions as a rallying point against Christianity. In view of the above, if we could be addressed by two New Testament figures, Paul and Christ, I could imagine Paul saying, “People of 2001, I see you are devoted to the theory of evolution,” and Christ warning, “Be on your guard against the cancer of evolution” (Acts 17:22; Mt. 16:6).

The Evolution Of Words
The English word “evolve” is derived from a Latin word that means to unroll or to unfold. In this sense it means to grow or mature, which involves no change in genetic information. However, the wide acceptance of the evolutionary explanation of the origin of life has led to the use of the word “evolution” to replace words such as “change” and “development.” For example, “the evolution of the airplane.” This is an example of a change in the meaning of a word over time.

Another word that has changed its meaning is “science” which comes from the Latin word for “knowledge.” The meaning of “science” has changed over time, from dealing with things that are observable and testable, to mean “naturalism” – a mechanistic view of the world. As a consequence, some science is only loosely based on what is observable and testable, and claims are often made in the name of “science” that go far beyond the available evidence. This has led to aspects of modern science becoming increasingly tenuous and speculative by including conjecture and dubious hypotheses.

Although we live in a “cause and effect” universe, ultimate causes, such as origins, are outside the realm of reliable science. Science can only reliably deal with the present world, and some aspects of the past and the future. It can’t reliably deal with the distant past, such as origins, or the long-term future, such as ultimate destinies, as it cannot directly observe these. All scientists should be wary of their assumptions, as these can largely determine their findings. They should also be wary of extrapolations outside the range of their observations. The further the extrapolation the less reliable the prediction, because changes made in the assumptions outside the range of observations will change the prediction. This applies in particular to boundary conditions, such as those involving initial conditions or origins. Therefore, scientists can only speculate, imagine and guess about the origin of life.

The Truth
The complexity of life on earth points to an intelligent designer and creator. The Bible says that Christ is the author of life; He made all things and continues to sustain everything (Jn. 1:3; Acts 3:15, Col. 1:16-17; Heb. 1:2-3). Evolution begins with matter, but where did this come from? The only reasonable answer possible for those following this viewpoint is to say that matter has always existed and is eternal. On the other hand, the Bible begins with God who is eternal and has the power to create matter out of nothing and to create the complex design that is evident in life and the universe. After all, “By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible” (Heb. 11:3).

The Bible implies that there are clear genetic distinctions between the groups of creatures on earth. God created them “according to their kinds” and “All flesh is not the same: Men have one kind of flesh, animals have another, birds another and fish another” (Gen. 1:21,24-25; 1 Cor. 15:39). It emphasizes that humanity is unique in the sense of being made “in the image of God” (Gen. 1:27). There is no suggestion of all life having a common ancestry.

It is not surprising that not all will accept the biblical account of origins, as Christians are warned that some will “distort the truth” (Acts 20:30), and others suppress and reject the truth in order to promote lies and myths (Rom. 1:18,25; 2:8; 2 Tim. 4:4). We should be alert as “even Satan can disguise himself as an angel of light” (2 Cor. 11:14). Don’t be deceived or accept explanations, ideas or philosophies without checking them against the Scriptures. Seek the truth by asking questions such as those in the three tests outlined in part one of this article. Be a critical thinker, have a discerning mind.

Published: June 2001

See Part 1 of this article:
- The idol of evolution: Part 1


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