Please, TGC, take responsibility for your site

The Gospel Coalition and their bloggers have been cranking out valuable content for a while now. TGC’s official position is that their bloggers are free to express a variety of opinions. As Carson says, “Opinions expressed in blog posts do not necessarily reflect the views of TGC.”

However, TGC states its purpose as follows: “We seek to support the church by providing resources that are trusted and timely, winsome and wise, and centered on the gospel of Jesus Christ.” If they want their articles to be “trusted,” “wise, and centered on the gospel of Jesus Christ,” it is long past time for TGC to exercise greater editorial oversight over its online content.

A great example of this is a recent article entitled “The Real Problem with 4-Letter Words,” by Karen Swallow Prior, published January 4, 2021. Most of the article is fine, but there is a single line that is critically flawed. This would be a small problem, except that this was one of the lines that was selected to be highlighted. Furthermore, it was the line that TGC decided to use for their Facebook post.

From an internet content producer’s perspective, it makes sense for TGC to highlight this line. It is the most controversial and inflammatory line in the article. It is the precisely the best line to incite people to read the article. It is the Christian version of clickbait.

And it worked. The line was the reason that I clicked on the article out of annoyance. It is also the reason I bothered to write this blog post – complete with a hyperlink back to Prior’s article – guaranteeing some more clicks and views for TGC.

What is this fatal line? Well, here goes: “The gentlest euphemisms for taking the Lord’s name in vain should give greater offense than the coarsest sexual term.”

Of course, there are Christians who, upon reading this line, would immediately agree with a hearty “Amen!’ But many others would smell something a little off.

I find this line to be a classic example of a “weaker brother” statement. As Prior herself discusses in her article, the heart is what really matters. Certainly, if in a person’s heart he intends to blaspheme and instead uses a euphemism to thinly disguise his intent, this is probably equivalent to blasphemy in the eyes of God.

However, I suspect that most people who use such euphemisms are not intending blasphemy at all. They are merely using empty expressions to convey emotions like surprise or frustration. The words mean nothing really, so the words themselves are not inherently blasphemous. The intent of the speaker is not to blaspheme. So where is the offense?

It is hard to find direct biblical support for Prior’s assertion that even the “gentlest euphemisms for taking the Lord’s name in vain should give greater offense…” As I already mentioned, Prior sounds like a weaker brother (or sister).

This is the type of issue where our direction should come from the significant discussion in Romans 14-15 and 1 Corinthians 8-10. To paraphrase Romans 14:2, “One person believes he may use a euphemism, as long as his heart is in the right place, while one who is weak thinks euphemisms are offensive no matter what.”

Of course, in these passages there are strict warnings given to the stronger brothers to avoid giving offense. This would apply to euphemisms. Stronger brothers should take the initiative to refrain from using euphemisms around those who might take offense.

On the other hand, Romans 14 also has instructions that apply to the weaker brother. The weaker brother should not judge someone who takes advantage of Christians freedom in good conscience. The weaker brother should not usurp the place of God as master and judge. The stronger brother is answerable to God for the euphemisms he utters in good faith.

For the weaker brother to follow these instructions, he must have enough flexibility of mind and humility of self-reflection to recognize matters of conscience as matters of conscience. He must recognize that his offended conscience is not the law of God. His opinions on questionable matters are not to be used as the standard for Christian living or as a whip to flog stronger brothers into compliance. There is no need to burden the consciences of others with your own guilt feelings.

Furthermore, I believe it to be foolish in the extreme to publish such an opinion in a blog post on a website that purports to provide “resources that are trusted and timely, winsome and wise, and centered on the gospel of Jesus Christ.” To paraphrase Romans 14:17, “…for the kingdom of God is not euphemisms, but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.” And to directly quote Romans 14:22: “Whatever you believe about these things, keep between yourself and God. Blessed is the one who does not condemn himself by what he approves.”

I am not shocked to discover a TGC blogger writing such a statement. After all, no human being can be perfectly aware of all of their blind spots, and no theologian can perfectly practice theological triage.

What shocks me is that the TGC editors would allow it to be published on their site. TGC supposedly is an effort to promote gospel-centered unity, but allowing a blogger to post such a strong condemnation on a matter of conscience is, according to Romans 14-15, the opposite of unifying. It is divisive and destructive. (Note that Prior does not politely discuss the pros and cons of using euphemisms, but rather directly condemns their use as greatly offensive.)

Unfortunately, though, I am really not shocked. This is something I have seen becoming common on TGC’s site. I often notice their authors offering hot takes on controversial issues and stating their opinions rather dogmatically as if they speak ex cathedra.

TGC is not a closed-room discussion for theological elites who are able to debate issues rationally and biblically without taking or giving offense or unduly burdening one another’s consciences. No, TGC operates a website viewed by unbelievers and new believers and believers still growing in discernment.

The editors of TGC need to take the initiative to filter out these types of statements. Carson’s disclaimer does not absolve the TGC of responsibility. They cannot claim to be providing trusted resources on the one hand and then claim no responsibility on the other. Their readers want to be able to trust their content. Therefore, the editors need to edit.

Prior’s article would be largely fine without that one line. It should have been deleted from the article before publishing. And certainly, that line should never, under any circumstances, have been used as clickbait. That is completely on the shoulders of TGC.

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No, You Did Not See the Christmas Star

Now that Christmas is over, I feel a little more comfortable playing the Grinch. I can safely inform you of the facts without fear of spoiling your Christmas.

Recently, the world got excited about the close conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn. Granted, the conjunction was an amazing sight to behold, but it was falsely billed as the “Christmas star.”

In my experience, when it comes to evaluating the miracles and signs of the Bible, scientists are overly committed to naturalistic explanations and not committed enough to letting Scripture to speak for itself. Furthermore, theologians and Bible scholars are often too naively trusting of the claims of scientists to be able to evaluate them properly. As a result, Christians frequently settle for less-than-adequate interpretations of passages.

A great example of a miracle with naturalistic elements is the plague described in Judges 6. The description of the plague bears remarkable similarities to a couple of known diseases, like the bubonic plague. However, the timing and localization of the plague were too convenient to be a coincidence. Those aspects of the plague must have been miraculous. These conclusions can be easily drawn from the text without having to be forced onto the text.

On the other hand, some miracles defy naturalistic explanation of any kind. The resurrection of Jesus is the prime example of this. Jesus was decidedly dead. A short while later he was very much alive, and his body had been transformed into something greater. There is simply no naturalistic element to his resurrection. To impose any naturalistic element would do injury to Scripture.

So, when looking at the star of Matthew 2, we should be seeking to draw out an explanation of the star from the text. If that explanation yields some naturalistic elements, then so be it. We are not trying to search for a known astronomical phenomenon that we can shoehorn into the text.

To understand the star, we first need some idea of the magi. Matt. 2:1 says they are magi from the east. I have seen several different theories for who these magi might be. Perhaps they were people from the area of Persia or Babylon. These civilizations had a history of accomplished astrologers.

From the account, we would assume that they were familiar with the stars. Here our chronological snobbery can blind us. We have a tendency to think that our ancestors were stupid and ignorant. However, in previous generations, the average person was probably far more familiar with the stars in the heavens than the average person today.

A habitual stargazer like one of the magi would know the patterns of the stars, the way they travel nightly across the sky, the way they change throughout the seasons, and the way the planets would weave their way through the constellations.

Now the magi tell Herod that they have seen a “star.” Note that it is a singular star. Of course, we probably do not have the full text of their conversation with Herod, and the conversation has been recorded by the Gospel writer, who may not have been as knowledgeable about astronomy. However, we cannot really make arguments from silence either. All we have is the text itself. The text says “star.”

I am certain the ancients probably used the word “star” to refer to a whole variety of astronomical phenomena, just as we today still call meteors “shooting stars.” We should not apply our contemporary categories anachronistically to the magi. So the magi have seen some kind of glowing light in the sky, whatever the exact nature of the source of the light.

Notice they call the star “his star.” It is the star of the king of the Jews. This would seem to imply that the star is a unique phenomenon – something the magi had not seen before. It is doubtful it was simply a familiar planet in an interesting position in the sky.

A final thought from v. 2 is the oddity of the aorist tense of the verb “saw.” It is difficult to draw conclusions from the aorist tense in Greek, but it is very possible that the star is no longer visible in the night sky by the time that the magi visit Herod.

Just the above data makes a conjunction very unlikely. The magi would have seen a conjunction coming for weeks. In fact, they may have been able to predict it well ahead of time. They would have known it was more than one heavenly body. They would not have considered it to be a unique phenomenon. Furthermore, once they had determined the meaning of the phenomenon, they might have had plenty of time to make it to Jerusalem while it was still in the sky.

Another interesting implication of the text is that the Jerusalem court does not seem to be aware of the existence of the star. It is possible they were aware, but it does not appear to be so. There are a couple of possible explanations for this. One possibility is that the phenomenon was not visible in Jerusalem. If the magi lived some distance away, they would be looking at slightly different stars. I think a more likely explanation is that the star was visible, but not as prominent in the night sky as a planet or comet. In other words, the casual observer might not have noticed it, but the trained observer would.

The second set of data concerning the star comes from Matt. 2:9. Here we see that the star appears again. The experienced star-gazing magi identify this object as the same object they have seen before. It had previously gone away, but now it has once again appeared.

Then comes the really weird part. The star appeared to lead the magi to Bethlehem, and particularly leading them to the house where Jesus was.

The problem is this description defies comparison to any known celestial phenomenon. This has to do with the fact that the night sky rotates slowly from east to west over the course of a night. Bethlehem is roughly due south from Jerusalem. Any normal heavenly body would appear to lead the magi westward, not southward.

Furthermore, the star appears to stop above the very house inhabited by Jesus and his family. In other words, if the magi moved past the house, the star would appear to be behind them. No celestial object is like this at all. The distance between earth and any object in space is far too vast for a few minutes’ walk to make much difference in its apparent position in the sky. Every child knows this from the days of watching the moon “follow” them out the window of the car.

Therefore, when we collect all of the data from the account in Matthew 2, it is rather evident that the Christmas star does not correspond to any known celestial phenomenon. That leaves us with three options: (1) either we have to accept the text as is and acknowledge that the star is either a complete miracle or an unknown phenomenon miraculously timed and positioned, or (2) we have to say that the author and perhaps even the magi were stupid, ignorant buffoons who neither knew how to identify celestial phenomenon nor how to describe them accurately, or (3) the entire tale is a fabricated legend.

I personally cannot accept the second or third options, so I firmly hold to the first option. The true star of the king of the Jews was like nothing we have ever seen or identified. It is nothing like anything seen by astronomers or other scientists. As far as we know, it was a completely unique phenomenon appearing only upon the occasions described in Matthew 2. Perhaps one day we will discover something analogous. However, I think it unlikely. I think it is far more likely that this was a miraculous phenomenon.

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Letter to a Worship Leader (version 1)

Dear D___,

 I am a concerned fellow worshiper just writing to let you know of my experience at the recent worship event you led. I am certain that as a worship leader you are curious as to how the regular worshipers felt.

 First, I found it difficult to join in the singing. I was not provided with even the lyrics, never mind any kind of musical notation. Furthermore, I think you sang all new music, maybe even written by you. I have not heard any of those songs before. Couldn’t you have thrown in a more traditional song or two for people like me?

 Second, I could not understand the purpose of the worship band. It was a lot of loud instruments and percussion. It sometimes drowned out the singers. Isn’t the important thing the human voices and the lyrics? Couldn’t we just have a few accompanying instruments – just enough to support and carry the singing?

 Third, speaking of singing, that was quite a worship team you assembled. It was a very impressive group of singers – almost professional. In fact, maybe it was a bit too professional? At least to me, it came off as something of a performance. Was your goal to encourage us to join in, or to make an impression? Who were you trying to impress anyway?

 Fourth, speaking of impressions, I am not certain why you felt the need to dance in front of everyone. Don’t get me wrong. Those were some pretty sweet dance moves. I’m just not sure what you were trying to accomplish by that display. It might be great for a party or celebration, but was this the appropriate occasion?

 Fifth, speaking of appropriate, what were you doing taking off your clothes? It seemed to me to be a total lack of propriety on any public occasion, especially a worship event. Were you trying to turn this into some kind of exhibition? Were you trying to make a total fool of yourself? Who were you trying to draw attention to – yourself? I know I certainly noticed you.

 Anyway, those are just some thoughts from a conscientious observer. I know you will appreciate hearing my opinion. I have tried to be objective, and I hope you will try to bring your public worship into conformity with accepted, proven, best practices.



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Sherlock Holmes and the Current Trinitarian Debate (The Sign of the Three-In-One?)

One of the most quoted lines ever penned by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is the immortal axiom of Sherlock Holmes: “…when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth…” In other words, in your investigations into truth, you may begin with the hypotheses that appear most reasonable, but once such possibilities are demonstrated to be impossible, you must go where the evidence leads you, even if the evidence leads you in an improbable direction.


Although Doyle lived and wrote long after the Council of Nicea, the principle voiced by Holmes in The Sign of the Four was a foundational guiding principle of the formulation of Trinitarian theology. Many (most? all?) non-orthodox formulations of theology proper initially appear more reasonable and sensible than the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity, but views like modalism have been eliminated by the biblical evidence. We are left with “whatever remains, however improbable” – that God is simultaneously both one and three.


We need to apply Holmes’ principle to the current debate concerning the possibility of submission being an integral element in the eternal, internal relationships between the Persons of the Trinity. Initially it appears nonsensical that the Persons of the Trinity can be equal and yet relate in relationships of authority and submission. But Trinitarian debates have never really been resolved by what appears most reasonable. Trinitarian debates have been beholden to the biblical evidence – even when such evidence takes us in improbable directions.


Isn’t it odd that theologians defending God as both One and Three will in the same breath declare equality and submission to be irreconcilable?sherlockholmes

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Star Wars: The Force Awakens? A Spoiler-Filled Review

I am writing a fluff paragraph introduction in order to give people a chance to avert their eyes from this spoiler-filled post. I went to Star Wars: The Force Awakens with very little prior expectations. I think I watched one of the trailers once. I did not read or listen to very much of the commentaries, predictions, etc. I heard that Abrams had re-signed all of the major cast members, but I tried not to let that color my expectations (especially when the trailer showed a lot of new characters). I also want to say that I went to see the movie with a couple of good friends of mine, and I had an awesome time hanging out with them. In that sense it was a worthwhile evening for me.

So I came to the theater with kind of a blank mind. I do not go see movies in theaters very often, so usually I am overwhelmed by the big screen, big sound, etc. I enter right into the movie and have a good time. Episode VII was different for me. I was not mentally analyzing the movie at all until about two thirds of the way through the movie, when I surprised myself with the realization that I was feeling bored. Please note that this was a feeling, not an overly analytical rational conclusion. I was at a Star Wars movie, and I was feeling bored. As the movie reached a climax, so did my boredom. Except for a few moments of laughter, I only got more bored as the movie went on. The force may have been awakening, but I was having trouble staying alert.

So after the fact, I began to analyze why it was that I was feeling bored. This analysis mostly stems from the time period after watching the movie, but some of it did come to mind near the end of the movie. I do not have time to organize this post, so it is going to be somewhat stream of consciousness. What follows is almost completely negative. This is not because my impression of the movie was completely negative. It is because I am trying to explain my boredom.

The main reason for my boredom was that the movie is “derivative,” as a lot of critics have said. It was basically a retread of elements from the original movies. I think this was a combination of fan service and fan reassurance – sending the not-so-subtle message that they were returning to what everyone loved about the original Star Wars. It may have been reassuring, but it was also boring.

I mean, c’mon, the Starkiller is essentially Death Star 3. I thought the second Death Star was redundant when I watched Return of the Jedi for the first time. Why would I not feel the same about Death Star 3? Saying it was bigger didn’t help. Saying it was a modified planet only made it harder to believe. Why is there ANOTHER trench scene? Why is there ANOTHER fatal weak point in the defenses? Actually, Death Star 3 seemed the easiest one to destroy yet. No bullseye-ing of womp rats necessary.

And that is just one of a multitude of ways in which the movie is just a regurgitation of past Star Wars elements. I could go on at great length. Unlike other fans, I was not geeking out by all of these obvious plagiarisms. What made Star Wars great was its originality, not its traditionalism. And by originality, I mean coming up with better ideas than Jar Jar.

I also thought the director/writer/whomever-is-to-blame made some classic errors. The timing was painfully slow at critical moments. Nothing is more boring than watching a psychic interrogation from the outside…for second after second after second. We all knew Ben was going to kill Han, so why did we have to stare at the lightsaber for twenty minutes? And speaking about staring at lightsabers, what is up with the ending? How long did Rey hold out that lightsaber for anyway? My arm was getting tired for her. It was painful to watch.

Major surprises were telegraphed. As soon as people came for Han on his smuggling ship thing, we all knew the problem was going to be solved by releasing the scary cargo. We just had to wait for it, and wait for it… As soon as Han said “meet back here” we all knew he was going to bite it. Again, we had to wait for it, and wait for it, and stare at the lightsaber, and wait for it…

They tried to throw us into the middle of the action, but I had to work too hard to understand things, especially the political situation. Who is the First Order? How is the Republic different than the Resistance? How is the Resistance different than the Rebellion? When the Starkiller blew up a planetary system, who did they blow up and why? And why does nobody know what happened 30 years ago? Tattoine – I mean Jakku – was the location of a decisive battle against the Empire. I would think most people living there would have some idea of what happened. How did Kylo Ren turn evil? That seems pretty improbable to me.

And then the movie explained things that did not need explaining. For instance, we had to hear the explanation of the force…again. Who in their right mind was watching the new movie without seeing the old ones? It’s a continuing story! It’s not a franchise reboot on an alternate timeline like Star Trek. Explain to us the stuff we don’t know, not the stuff we do know.

The movie too often settled for telling us rather than showing us. How do we know that the First Order is scary and strong? Because Finn told us so. I certainly wasn’t impressed with them from what I saw otherwise. How do we know that Han and Leia loved each other but were in a fight? Because everyone kept telling us. When I saw them together, I did not feel any vibe.

I can’t put my finger on the reason, but I did not feel very emotionally attached to any of the main characters. I didn’t care about the new characters. The return characters didn’t grab me either. R2D2, a perennial favorite, basically wasn’t in the movie. Did they not know that C3PO and R2D2 (for good or for ill) are critical to the success of a Star Wars movie? C3PO just didn’t talk or act like C3PO. Saying “Thank the Maker” once just doesn’t cut it – especially now that we know who his maker was. I felt like Harrison Ford and Carrie Fisher were playing nostalgia rather than acting.

Let me run through some of the characters and stuff from the movie.

Kylo Ren/Ben: OK, so maybe the actor was better than Hayden, but he is almost the same character…maybe worse. I was not intimidated by him from the get-go. He was too scrawny and too much of a Vader rip-off. That of course was the point. He is supposed to be like that. Which makes it all the more annoying. We didn’t get a “good” villain. I think from the way he treats Rey he is more of a creeper than Anakin, and he is even more of an emotionally uncontrolled adolescent. Childish tantrums are not necessary to being a dark Jedi. Look at Palpatine, Vader, Dooku, etc. The Sith were supposed to be sneaky and devious even though they used hate and rage as weapons. What kills me is that the Star Wars expanded universe is chock full of very interesting villain material. Why did Episode VII have to use the despised Anakin as its model? As a side note, I really liked the idea of his lightsaber in concept, but I thought it was kind of dumb in the movie, especially because when it was onscreen it was all you could see.

Supreme Leader/Gollum: A large hologram does not a scary villain make. A big scar does not a scary villain make. After Palpatine, the Supreme Leader seemed tame to me. What does he have that makes him such a big deal? The next couple of movies better have some big reveals.

The First Order/The Empire Lite: I found the First Order less than impressive. We saw one base the size of a planet. But this one base seemed to be almost completely lacking in defenses. There are a few hundred storm troopers. We also saw one large super-star destroyer type thing. When the General called out “all” of the squadrons, the resulting 25 TIE fighters were laughable. Does the Supreme Gollum have a huge fleet hiding up his flaring nostrils?

First Order General guy: No Grand Moff Tarkin. He’s not even any of the various guys that Vader chokes. I can’t remember his name. All I know is that he was stupid enough to build Death Star 3 with a weak spot larger than Beggar’s Canyon, nevermind a womp rat. And he was stupid enough to barely guard it. And he was stupid enough to put the energy of a star inside a planet. And he was stupid enough not to evacuate immediately. Again, I am not scared.

Silver Stormtrooper(ess): Is her armor functional or just a fashion accessory? Apparently the scariest thing about her is that she sent Finn to remedial training, and then she is so pansy that she shuts down the shields for the entire base at gunpoint without a fight. If she is the best and brightest of the First Order, then why hasn’t the Republic sneezed them into submission?

Poe: Who is this guy? OK, so he’s a great pilot, but if we are not really going to get to know him, why tell us much about him at all? And I’m sorry, but I didn’t buy the instant bond between Poe and Finn. Introducing a character is different from developing a character.

Finn: Apparently all you have to do to get this guy to like you is not be First Order and tell him your name. His main role in the movie was to whine, sweat, and tell us how scary the First Order is (because otherwise we wouldn’t have been scared).

Rey: I know more about the force than Luke knew by the end of the original trilogy…totally by accident…

BB8: Relatively lovable. I am not sure why we needed a new R2 when R2 is still around. And what’s with the bobbing head? Either his method of moving works, or it doesn’t. I would think they would be able to keep his head from continuously falling, or else they never would have made a droid like that. If his head controls need to be recalibrated, then why didn’t Rey fix him?

Some other comments.

Where did all of these new force powers come from? So Ben is able to interrogate people telepathically? Somehow if that were possible with the force, I think Vader would have used it on Leia. And Ben is able to stop and hold a blaster bolt in mid-air? Really? I mean, cool visually, but I found it distracting. And again, why was Vader not able to do this?

Do the guys who made this film know anything about science at all? Of course it’s supposed to be a fictional space opera, so we shouldn’t expect too much in the way of science. But the original Star Wars tried not to get too far out with its science. On the other hand Episode VII trampled all over science. How was Han Solo able to see the Starkiller beam and the resulting explosion? Those things should have been light years away. And the Starkiller sucks the energy from a star? Does that mean the whole planet moves from star to star? If so, how does it move? How does the atmosphere stay intact? How is this any easier than building a space station? Did they realize how devastating it would be to a planet to lose its star? We are talking meteorological disaster! And when the star gets sucked up, where is all of the ambient light coming from? Why is the planet not pitch black? The lightsaber battle should have been happening in the dark. And then when the planet explodes it turns into a star? Really? Again, cool visual effect, but totally absurd! And by the way, how in the world did the Millennium Falcon survive atmospheric re-entry at light speed? Did they watch Han Solo’s explanation of the hyperdrive in the original Star Wars? And since when did travel times in the Star Wars universe get so compressed?


Apparently the point of this movie was to be so much like the originals that it would scour Jar Jar from our minds (if that were only possible). It accomplished this by blatantly repeating much of the originals. I felt it made it boring as a movie in its own right. I also thought it was unnecessary in light of the fact that this is supposed to be a continuing story. However, we have yet to see the next two episodes. Maybe when we watch the next movies Episode VII will be proven to be worthwhile. Or at least, maybe Episode VII may be the boring setup movie that we endure watching in order to complete an otherwise exciting series. Episode VIII, you are our only hope.

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Are Adam and Eve Myths?

Hero and Villain,

You raise a lot of questions surrounding Adam and Eve and the first chapters of Genesis, and I would like to deal with all of them.

Before I start, though, are you aware that there are a lot of Bible-believing, Christian scholars and scientists who think that the first few chapters of Genesis are intended to be symbolic/poetic accounts rather than factual/historical accounts? To these people, what is most important is not the factual details, but rather what those details mean and teach us.

I do not agree with that position, but I do not have a lot of problems with it as long as the main ideas are maintained. For instance, a lot of Bible-believing scientists would say that God created the universe billions of years ago by means of the Big Bang, and then God created life by means of a lengthy evolutionary process. Scientists like Hugh Ross believe that they can see these scientific processes described in the symbolism of Genesis 1. What matters most to me is that these people still believe that God created the world and that human beings have value, since those are the main points of Genesis 1-2.

Even though I do not agree with this perspective, I bring it up because I want you to understand that some of the points you make are accepted by many Bible-believing Christians. They agree with some of what you say. Also, I want you to understand that some of your points do not trouble me as much as you might have thought. I have Christian friends who say the same things, and yet still believe that the Bible is true!

On to your actual points.

You state that Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 are contradictory accounts. Genesis 1:26-30 gives an account of God creating Adam and Eve. Then Genesis 2:4-25 gives a second account of God creating Adam and Eve. There are several options for reconciling this double account. In my view when I read Genesis 1-2, it seems clear to me that Genesis 2:4-25 is merely a more detailed account of Genesis 1:26-30. Genesis 1 gives an overview summary of the creation of the entire universe. Within that summary, the creation of Adam and Eve is also summarized. In Genesis 2, the book zooms in to the events of the sixth day of creation and describes those events again, but in greater detail.

You ask why the book would give two accounts of the same event back to back. I cannot answer something like that with absolute certainty, but I can give a couple of suggestions. First, I think it is the right question to be asking. You are supposed to be wondering why the book goes into such detail about the creation of Adam and Eve. It has to do with the central place that God has given human beings in his creation. Second, if you skim through the book of Genesis, I think you can see that it is divided nicely into small chunks designed for oral retelling. Genesis is not just intended to be read straight through. It is also organized in such a way that individual stories can be told in a standalone fashion. As a reader you can choose to read Genesis 1-2 in one sitting, or the two chapters can be divided and read separately.

You wonder about the number of ribs. The Bible does not give us any reason to believe that Adam had 25 ribs to begin with. I would assume that he had 24 just like anybody else. After God removed one of his ribs, he would have had 23. All of his children would have had 24. If you removed one of my ribs and if I had any more children, my child would be born with 24 ribs. Removing a rib does not change the genetic material.

Did God create Eve as a clone of Adam? Since God used Adam’s rib to create Eve, was Eve like Adam’s clone? Well, Eve could not possibly be Adam’s clone if only because she was female. We have no idea what God did with Adam’s rib in order to create Eve. Did he use Adam’s DNA but then change the Y chromosome to an X? The Bible does not say one way or another. Since God created Adam from dirt, I think it entirely possible that God could have used Adam’s rib in such a way that Eve was very different genetically.

Why did God make man out of dirt and woman out of a rib? Why does God change up his method of creation? Again, I think this is the right question to be asking. God doesn’t do these things because he is an absent-minded mad scientist. He has a reason. There are reasons why God makes man out of dirt. It teaches humility, the circle of life, etc. There are reasons why God makes woman out of a rib. Some possibilities are that since she is taken from the side of man, she is his equal and companion. She is taken from region of the body associated with feelings and the soul, implying that the relationship between man and woman is close and personal. She is made of the same stuff as man, so again she is equal. Paul comments on how it makes a beautiful symmetry, since every man after Adam was born of a woman, but the first woman came from a man – another circle of life thing.

Was there incest in the Garden of Eden? You have mentioned incest in the Garden on several occasions. I think you have two reasons for mentioning it. First, if Eve is Adam’s clone, then is it incestuous for Adam and Eve to have intercourse? Again, Eve could not be Adam’s clone, and she may not have even been a female version of Adam’s exact genes. Even if she was, what I have to say below, applies.

Second, I believe you may be implying the common problem of where Cain got his wife. How did Adam and Eve’s children find husbands and wives? Did they all marry siblings? It is actually nowhere stated where Cain or Seth found their wives. It is theoretically possible that God created wives for both of them. I kind of doubt that, however. We do know that Adam and Eve had other children besides Cain, Abel, and Seth (see Genesis 5:4), so I would assume that both Cain and Seth married their sisters.

Wait, what? Isn’t that incest? Well, if it is incest, then there is a good chance that even according to atheist scientists the human race is the product of incest. There is some possibility that scientists can prove that all human beings trace back to a common mother known as Mitochondrial Eve (and perhaps even a common father). Whether or not this can be proven scientifically, it just seems obvious that in an evolutionary scheme a new species must initially multiply by “incest,” or else they cease to be a unique species. The issue of incest is as much a problem for people who do not believe the Bible as it is for people who do believe the Bible.

But why does the issue of incest not bother evolutionary biologists? For one thing, there is a matter of necessity. If you are the only two homo sapiens and you want to perpetuate your species, you must procreate and have your children procreate with each other. For another thing, there is the lack of danger of genetic issues. One of the main reasons for banning incest is that excessive inbreeding causes genetic deformities and other genetic problems. However, early on in the history of a species, there has not yet been enough inbreeding to make this an issue. As portions of the population divide up and only breed within their isolated group, the gene pool becomes more and more limited, and then genetic issues are more likely in incestuous relationships.

You can actually see this in the Old Testament. God does eventually put a stop to incest, but it is only after the gene pools in the various people groups have become more limited. Although God does not entirely explain why he bans incest, I think he was well aware of the genetic dangers involved, and I think that would have been one of his reasons.

So, a question for you, how do you explain the “incest” among your early ancestors?

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Why Do You Doubt Miracles?

Hero and villain,

Before I respond to the specific issues you raise, I wanted to respond to a common thread that runs through your comments: skepticism concerning miracles.

Are you writing off the Bible as a fairy tale simply because it contains stories of miracles? In other words, are you assuming that miracles cannot ever happen under any circumstance, and that any account of a miracle must therefore be false? If so, then why do you believe that way?

In your comments, I can find at least three reasons why you are skeptical of miracles. I am doing my best to represent your ideas, but please correct me if I have misunderstood you!

First, you have trouble with the miracle stories because they are unique. You say, “Have you ever seen a talking snake?…I have never seen anyone split a river. I have never seen a burning bush talking to me.” In other words, you are troubled by the fact that some of the accounts of miracles are foreign to the experience of most human beings throughout history.

It is true that the Bible records events that are historically unique, but that is the point. The uniqueness of these events is what makes them important and what makes them worthy of recording in written form. The Bible does not record all of the normal, everyday, boring things that happened to every human being who has ever lived. Miracles were not happening all of the time or all over the place. Miracles were important, landmark events in biblical history.

This is similar to what we find in any history book. History books do not record every time that George Washington stopped to take a sip of water or adjust his wig. No, only the memorable and significant events are recorded, and the most memorable and significant events of history are all unique. This does not cause us to doubt that the events happened. It is their uniqueness that has made them so memorable.

Second, you have trouble accepting miracle stories because you yourself have never witnessed a miracle. I am in the same boat. I would have to say that I have never personally witnessed a miracle. Does this make me doubt that miracles have happened? Not really. As I said above, it is the uniqueness of miracles that makes them so significant. Furthermore, I have never personally been an eyewitness to any significant event of history, but this does not cause me to doubt any of those historical events.

Third, and perhaps most foundationally, you reject miracle stories because miracles violate the laws of science. There is a sense in which I agree with you. Miracles are by definition events that appear to us to contradict, supersede, or bypass the normal ways that we have observed the world to consistently behave. This is exactly what makes miracles so unique. If the events of the Bible could all be explained by a simple appeal to the laws of science, what would be the point of the Bible?

I would like to put forward four thoughts about miracles and science. First, miracles affirm the laws of science. Miracles are only special if the world generally operates according to a set of predictable laws. The fact that the Bible bothers to record miracles demonstrates that the Bible assumes that the miracles are far outside of the norm. The Bible assumes scientific law. That is why the Bible records miracles.

Second, miracles actually do not “violate” scientific law. Let me explain what I mean by using an example. If I were to drop a book, we would all predict that according to the law of gravity, the book should fall to the floor – all things being equal. In other words, as long as nothing interferes with the book’s fall, the book should fall all the way to the floor. But suppose when I drop the book, someone steps in to catch it. Since someone catches it, the book does not fall to the floor. Has the law of gravity been violated? No, because the law of gravity predicted that the book would fall to the floor only if nothing else interfered. Something else did interfere, so everything happened as the law of gravity predicted.

This is how things work with miracles. The laws of science always operate as long as nothing else interferes. With a miracle something interferes. God steps in and acts. God does not violate the laws of science any more than catching the book violates the law of gravity.

Third, there is a sense in which the laws of science are themselves miraculous. The Bible teaches that God created the universe with all of its “laws.” The Bible actually takes it further. God not only created the laws of the universe, but he also is the one who maintains them (see for instance, Genesis 8:22). The reason the universe is such an orderly, predictable place (scientifically speaking) is because God works tirelessly and vigilantly to keep it that way. From this perspective, miracles are a lot less troubling.

Fourth, without the perspective of God-maintained order, how is anyone able to put such faith in scientific law? The reason I am so confident that gravity will continue to work is that I believe in an orderly God who maintains the law of gravity. How does anyone who doesn’t believe in God have that same confidence? How can anyone believe that the laws of science have always been and will always be? There is no reason to believe that way without God. It is merely wishful thinking or a philosophical assumption.

So, I am very comfortable with both the laws of science and the historicity of biblical miracles. I believe that the existence of the God of the Bible adequately explains both scientific law and miracles. But I am curious, how do you explain your belief in scientific law?

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The Lord Reigns: Thoughts on Psalm 93

God is king. He doesn’t just hold a title. He is not just a figurehead or a holdover from a past era. He actively reigns.

God’s kingship is not just a brute fact. It is glorious. He is a king who reigns in majesty and beauty. He deserves not only obedient allegiance, but also awe and worship.

God’s reign is universal. There are no boundaries to his empire. His territory extends the full limits of time and space…and beyond. Every force of nature, every object, every living thing, every human nation, and every human being are within his rightful domain.

God’s reign is eternal. He has always been king. There was no coronation ceremony. No one died to give him the title. No one crowned him. No one voted him into office. No political movement propelled him to the throne. No historical document began his reign or enshrined his dynasty.

God will always be king. He will never die. No rebel movement can overthrow him. No challenger can usurp his power and authority. No plot can bring him down. His reign is not dependent on the will of his people.

God’s justice is inescapable. No evil is hidden from his sight. No wrongdoing will go unpunished. His judgments are final, and his wrath is total.

God’s power is limitless. His strength is not measured by the number of his soldiers or the technology of his weapons. His might is in his own hands. There is nothing that can stop him from accomplishing all that he desires and has planned. There is no obstacle he cannot overcome. There is no vow that is beyond his ability to fulfill.

God is truthful. He never lies. He always keeps his promises. He never hides from his people information that they need to know. There are no surprise skeletons in his closet.

God’s laws are perfect. His decrees aim towards justice and peace. His commands can be trusted to lead to life of goodness and joy.

God is holy. He is neither corrupt nor corruptible. There is no tarnish on his record. He himself is the standard of perfection. Only people who reflect his holy perfection may come into his presence without fear.

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In Space No One Can Hear You Scream


I was asked my opinion of a video on YouTube: I would not recommend watching the video, but if you happen to watch it, I have written out some thoughts in response. The video is produced by TBU News, which is not exactly a credible news organization. It seems to have a bent towards parascience and conspiracy theories.

I could not make it through more than 1 out of the full 5 hours of the video. I ran into quite a lot of factual inaccuracies and facts presented in misleading ways. I happen to be a little bit of a science buff, so I was able to detect a lot of problems. My science explanations may not be perfect, but I think they are closer to the truth than the explanations in the video.

I go through some of the categories of ideas in the video, explaining various inaccuracies, and then I offer a couple of concluding thoughts.

Sound: Not all vibration is sound. Sound is almost a side-effect of vibration. The old advertisement for the movie Alien said, “In space no one can hear you scream.” In space, you may be able to get your vocal chords to vibrate, but that vibration does not become sound unless there is an atmosphere with particles to be compressed by the vibrations of your vocal chords. The vibrations of extremely small particles do not produce any sound. The particles are too small. Furthermore, sound cannot cause these particles to vibrate. No sound can occur at a high enough frequency or small enough amplitude.

The movie shows lots of cool patterns created by sound waves. These images are very misleading. They are actually interference patterns created by sound echoes. Acoustics engineers are very familiar with such patterns when designing sound systems for theaters, churches, etc. If you produce sound from one location in an enclosed space, the sound waves will bounce off the walls, ceiling, and floor of the enclosed space creating patterns of interference. Positive interference is created in places where the crests of more than one sound wave meet, causing the sound to be louder. In negative interference, a crest meets a trough, causing the sound to be cancelled out. So those cool patterns are just the patterns of positive and negative interference of sound passed through a medium.

What makes it so misleading is that the people are not “discovering” these patterns. They are creating the patterns. The patterns are determined by the frequency of the sound, the make-up of the substance they play the sound through, the shape of the enclosed space in which they play the sound, etc. An acoustics engineer could design all kinds of such patterns.

Something else that is misleading is the idea that sound could have similar effects on any substance, but that is not the case. Playing sound at a stone wall will have negligible impact on the shape of the stone. Directing sound at the human body will make little permanent changes in the shape of any structures in the body.

Finally, the concept of patterns is in the mind of the beholder. The people running the experiment only stop at certain frequencies. This is because they do not think that the intervening frequencies create patterns. In other words, it is the human mind that declares one thing to be a pattern and something else to not be a pattern. This principle explains why some of the sound patterns match the geometric patterns in ancient art. It is not that the ancients knew about secret, fundamental patterns in nature. Rather, the people running the sound experiment stopped at frequencies that produced recognizable and aesthetically pleasing patterns.

Emotions: It may be that our brains place emotions into two general categories: positive and negative. The video calls these categories love and fear. However, it is a gross oversimplification to say that we only experience two different emotions. I think we are all able to distinguish between hate, anger, and fear. We are also able to distinguish between the enjoyment of a video game and the love we feel for a wife/husband.

I do not believe that the brain waves produced by our emotions can be described as a simple frequency. It is my understanding that brain waves produce patterns across the surface of the brain, and I use the term “pattern” loosely.

Furthermore, brain waves are not very powerful signals. It is doubtful that brain waves have much significant (if any) impact on the surrounding environment. In fact, brain waves do not have any significant direct impact on the body of the person producing them. Brain waves are too weak to alter the chemical make-up of a substance. That kind of alteration requires relatively powerful radiation.

DNA: DNA probably does not have any unused segments. Those segments probably serve some purpose – if only as placeholders. It is like saying the spaces between words are not useful. The truth is that spaces, even though they are not letters, assist the reader in decoding the meaning of the letters. Or it is like the pauses between the dots and dashes in Morse code. Morse code would be completely meaningless without the brief moments of silence between sounds.

I would be extremely surprised if DNA could be modified by means of emotional brain waves. I doubt the frequency of brain waves is high enough or the amplitude of brain waves is small enough for brain waves to connect with a DNA strand more than once. Even if a brain wave could connect in the patterns shown on the video, I would find it hard to believe that a brain wave would be strong enough to alter that DNA strand in any way. And even if a brain wave could alter a DNA strand, chances are that any changes made would be harmful – in the same way that the sun’s UV rays cause cancer.

The Phantom DNA experiment sounds like a hoax to me. I am not sure about the science behind detecting the arrangement of photons in a contained space. Photons travel in the wave-particle duality of light. What does it mean for them to be in a pattern? How would you detect that pattern?  How would you insert DNA into a vacuum? How would you detect changes in the pattern of photons as a result? My guess is that if the photons “clung” to the DNA, there is probably a simple explanation for it, such that photons would behave in a similar way when interacting with any molecule. Furthermore, even if there truly was some sort of phantom effect when the DNA molecules were removed (again, how would you remove DNA molecules from a vacuum?), it probably also has a pretty simple explanation such that photons would behave in a similar way when interacting with any molecule. I can’t even say why the makers of the video found this experiment so important. I looked the experiment up, and I discovered that there were other even stranger parts of the experiment that sound even more far-fetched. It is the kind of research that sounds so ridiculous that no serious scientist would even bother taking the time to respond to it. Sort of like if I claimed that my wife gave birth to a mermaid – no one would bother wasting the time to expose such an obvious hoax.

Matter: The video repeatedly made certain misleading statements about matter. It often reminded us that matter is mostly empty space. In one sense an atom is mostly empty space, but in another sense, it is not. A race track is mostly empty space, but I would expect that if I walked out on the track on race day, I will get run over. Much of the empty space of an atom is like a race track for extremely fast-moving particles. My understanding is that the particles are moving so fast that they are almost considered to be in all places within that space simultaneously.

Another way of looking at it is that the particles exist in all places within that space and do not have a defined location until they are observed. Think about a railroad track around the base of a Christmas tree. The train moves around the track at a relatively slow speed. You are able to slide the presents safely across the track as long as you are careful. However, if you speed that train up to the speed of light, it moves at such a speed that it becomes a blur. It is almost as if it occupies the entire track simultaneously. If you try to slide anything across the track, it will hit the train. In other words, the train moves so fast that it almost becomes a wall. Sure, on the one hand the track is mostly empty space, but on the other hand, the track is fully occupied. It even becomes impossible to reach the empty space in the center of the track, since the train keeps everything out, just as the walls and roof of a building keep everything from passing through to the empty space inside. Cinder blocks are hollow and porous, but they make very solid walls.

Another misleading statement is that there is no such thing as solid matter because matter is just held together by forces. It is the forces that touch. The particles themselves never come into contact. This is just a matter of perspective. In other words, they are defining matter as particles only. However, if you define matter as the whole package (particles and forces), then matter is solid. If you apply their thinking to building materials, a wall is bricks, but not mortar, or a structure is lumber, but not nails. That is not how I think of a wall. I think of a wall as both the bricks and the mortar. When the bricks and mortar are combined, the wall is solid. I think of a structure as wood, nails, screws, brackets, etc., so the structure is solid. Matter is not just made up of the building blocks of particles. It is also made up of the forces that hold the particles together. When you view the whole package together – both particles and forces – the result is solid matter.

One of the things that I find disturbing is the idea that the microscopic perspective somehow negates the macroscopic perspective. Just because something looks different when magnified does not mean that how it looks without magnification is false. Planet earth from far away looks relatively spherical. From standing on it, it looks relatively flat with a very gentle curvature. Neither perspective is incorrect or false. It reminds me of the old postage stamps which were printed with dot matrix printers. Under a magnifying glass they looked like just a bunch of differently colored dots. Without the magnifying glass, they looked like a picture. Neither perspective is wrong. You can’t say about the old postage stamps, “Those aren’t pictures, they are just a bunch of dots.” They are both pictures and a collection of dots. They are pictures made up of dots. It’s like those new pictures made up of smaller pictures.

Pyramids: Like most such videos, they couldn’t resist talking about the pyramids of Egypt. Of course, the pyramids were amazing, but I want to put it in perspective. I used to think the pyramids were a lot more amazing until I saw kids playing with Legos. It does not take a 4-year-old long to “discover” the pyramid construction shape. Pyramids are not a brilliant innovation of a genius architect. It is a basic fact discovered by many small children that the easiest way to build something tall is to give it a wide base. The taller the structure, the wider the base. The structure is more stable if it gets smaller as it gets taller. If you give small children square blocks, they will eventually figure all of this out. It is no wonder that many ancient civilizations built pyramids. It’s not because of aliens. It’s because of children playing with blocks.

One of the most amazing facts about the pyramids is the precision with which they were built for something so large. Again, I used to be more amazed at this until a saw good carpenters at work. A good carpenter has a lot of simple tricks for building structures straight, square, and even. They can often do it without performing much mathematics. In fact, I have found that the more mathematical calculations made during construction, the greater chance of error. I once had a carpenter with no knowledge of advanced trigonometry solve a difficult trigonometric problem with a set of basic tools like a pencil, paper, compass, and straight edge. When difficult math problems are put into the real world, there is often a real world shortcut to solving them.

What the pyramids show is that Egypt had some skilled foremen who were able to direct large groups of people to meet high building standards. That is an impressive feat, but it is not unreasonable to expect from people in any time period.

The pyramids have lasted so long because they are made of stone, they are built in the extremely sturdy pyramid design employed by any child with blocks, they are in a climate that is ideal for preservation, and apparently there was never an invader who saw the point in tearing them down.

There is a lot about the pyramids that remains mysterious. This is just because they are so old. Archaeologist and historians do not want to admit it, but they know precious little about the ancient world. What they do know has been pieced together from scant, unhelpful evidence. This does not mean that our imaginations should run wild. It means we should be skeptical of any theory about ancient civilizations

Math: Is everything in nature mathematics? To me, this is kind of a silly question. It’s like asking if everything can be measured. Of course you can measure anything in the physical world. How tall is Everest? How long is an inch worm? Just because you can measure things doesn’t mean that measurement reveals some deep secrets of the universe.

The same applies to math. Of course you can put together a mathematical model of most things in the universe. Some things are going to have simple models, like the pattern of petals in a flower. Other things are going to have exceedingly complex models, like the pattern and shape of clouds in the sky. There is no way that we could have enough information at our disposal to create a mathematical model of even a single cloud, but if we did have enough information and computing power, it is theoretically possible to do it. But just because it is theoretically possible to make mathematical models of many things, it does not mean that math reveals some deep secrets of the universe.

The shell of a nautilus grows in an approximation of a certain mathematical spiral because that spiral is a simple, practical pattern to accommodate a growing animal. It is not because that spiral is tied to some deep secret of the universe. That spiral may be in flowers, but it is not in every flower. Some flowers grow according to other patterns. That spiral may be according to a ratio that approximates the average proportions of the human body, but that ratio is not in every living thing or in every part of the living things it is found in.

Furthermore, even if you do find the Golden Ratio in many places, it is never exactly right. No sunflower or nautilus shell has a perfect spiral. No human being has a “perfectly” proportioned body. In fact, the proportions of the average male are different than that of the average female. The proportions of an adult are different than the proportions of a child. All mathematical models are only approximations.

Besides, not everything is mathematical. In fact, many of the most important things are not mathematical. I am convinced that there is no mathematical model for love, and I even believe that love transcends even theories of brain chemistry.

So, to pull it all together, I think it is hard to make a scientific case for the idea that everything is an interconnected consciousness or that our thoughts and emotions directly influence the universe or vice versa. Just because things are in constant motion, or held together by forces, or part of a matter-energy and space-time continuum does not mean that they are part of some cosmic consciousness. It just means that things interact with each other according to certain observable laws.

The fact that there is a high degree of order in the universe, the fact that there are observable patterns which we consider to be beautiful, the fact that we can use math to explain so many things, the fact that everything is extremely complex beyond our understanding, the fact that everything is held together by immense and precise forces are all evidences that the universe was designed by God. However, I wouldn’t say that vibrations/oscillations/motions of particles are left over from the “voice” of God. As I already pointed out, these are not sounds. Also, the forces that hold together particles are not necessarily best explained as the direct intervention of the power of God holding everything together. It could be that we will find something else that directly explains these forces. Of course, whatever explains them will probably be even more mind-bending and complex. God is the ultimate explanation behind everything, but it seems he has made the universe with layer upon layer of increasing complexity. At some point humanity may reach its limit of potential understanding. I just don’t think we have reached that limit yet. Science is still coming up with new explanations for things. We do not yet need to leap to pseudoscientific explanations.

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An Unexpected Question and an Unexpected Statement

The following is a reply to a comment by “the hero and the villain” under another post below.

Dear “the hero and the villain”:

I apologize for taking so long to get back to you. It was not intended as a slight against you, but rather it is an indication of my inability to quickly craft a suitable reply. In reply to your comments, I would like to ask an unexpected question and to make an unexpected statement.

First, the question: Do you really want me to respond? Do you really want me to go through your comments point by point? Your basic thought is that the Bible is unreliable as a source of truth. Is there anything I could say to change your mind? Is there any proof or evidence I could offer to convince you? What is your standard for deciding if the Bible is true or false, reliable or unreliable?

Second, the statement: The Bible is not as important to followers of Christ as you think it is. Ultimately, Christianity is not about the Bible. It is about Christ. What matters most is whether or not you believe Jesus. The goal of the Bible is to introduce you to Jesus. Jesus himself said it to the Jews in his day: “You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.” (John 5:39-40)

I hope that at some point you will come to trust the Bible as the reliable Word of God, but in the end, what I care about most is whether or not you trust in Jesus. True life is only found in him.


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