Friday, 28 December 2007
Christmas is obviously a hard time for atheists. In his Agnosticism / Atheism newsletter (December 20) ., Austin Cline writes, “We can certainly dismiss the historical reality of Jesus' miracles and supernatural powers; we can also be justifiably skeptical that a mundane, natural Jesus existed.”
I would strongly disagree both with the premises and conclusions Mr. Cline presents. Many if not most biblical scholars regard the gospels as eyewitness accounts that were written within a few decades after Jesus’ death.
The external evidence of the Gospels for a historical Jesus is much stronger than Mr. Cline thinks. For instance, it would not be fair to a prioiri rule out the witness of Josephus by claiming Christians have “doctored” his writings. There is no convincing proof of this. Moreover, pagan Roman writers such as Tacitus, Suestonius, Plinius the Younger and Lucianos, either mentioned Christ or his followers, sometimes quite sarcastically. They would have had no reason write sarcastically about a non-existent person. The writings of the early church fathers, some of whom wrote in the first century A.D. , also speak of the historicity of Jesus.
The internal evidence of the Gospels is even more compelling. The honesty of the narrative is often strong evidence for its historicity. Why would an ancient book otherwise present its heroes as cowards? After Jesus’ arrest, Peter denied even knowing him. The rest of the disciples cowered behind closed doors after Jesus’ crucifixion. They often lacked faith, so that Jesus had to rebuke them. Time and again he told them, “O men of little faith”.
Many other details would also clearly seem to be eyewitness accounts; for instance it would be absurd to include the story of a young man fleeing naked in the Gospel of Mark if this were not true. A specially interesting detail is letting women be the first witnesses of the resurrected Christ. In the male-centered 1st century culture the views of women did not amount to much. If the gospels were not historically reliable, the early believers would surely have presented their heroes Peter and John as the first witnesses, but they didn’t.
There is another interesting detail in John’s Gospel. When John mentions Judas Iscariot, he almost without fail always adds that he was the traitor. It seems that the writer of John’s Gospel knew something about Judas that latter-day skeptics are unaware of.
The obvious conclusion of these evidences is that the Gospels are reliable eyewitness accounts of historical events.
 Cline, Austin. 2007. http://atheism.about.com/b/2007/12/20/daily-poll-did-jesus-really-exist.htm
Tuesday, 25 December 2007
The world of Fred Flintstone is not as far removed from reality as we might think. William Hanna and Joseph Barbera created the popular animation series and cartoon The Flintstones, in which Fred gets some relief from the ardours of stone age world by playing a round of golf. He also drives an automobile. And when Fred drops cooking oil on his tie, he can always get it cleaned in a washing machine.
We would not expect cavemen to drive an automobile. However, that is exactly what present-day cavemen do. Their most frequent expression is not Yabba-Dabba-Doo! But Buenos dias, since these cavepeople are Spaniards living in Gran Canaria, a popular tourist island to which millions of Europeans fly each year to escape the rigours of winter.
Some of the cavepeople live in a village called Guayadeque. These 21st century Flintstones drive automobiles and keep them in cave garages. They have electric lights and modern appliances in their homes they have made for themselves in caves.
These cavepeople are descendants of the Guanches, an ethnic group of tall, blond, blue-eyed people who have lived in the Canary isles since around 500 B.C. With the coming of the Spaniards in the 15th century A.D., many Guanches were killed by the invaders but some remained and most of them intermarried with the Spaniards.
The Guanches were by no means primitive. While their islands lacked metals and they had to make stone tools, their pottery and even clothing resemble those of the Graeco-Roman cultures. They mummified their dead like the Egyptians and performed surgical operations, for instance trepanation, or the drilling of a hole in the skull as a proposed remedy for some illnesses.
It seems that we have been conditioned to think that cavepeople are primitive. We would expect them to have become extinct hundreds of thousands of years ago. We would definitely not expect cavemen to use their leisure time on a golf course. The popularity of the Flintstones is probably due to it breaking this thinking that is obviously based on the evolution model.
However, the true history of our planet shows that the world of Fred Flintstone is closer to reality than the popular explanation of caveman culture. Even today, cavemen and urban dwellers live side by side and probably even play golf together.
It is good to remember that the Bible also talks about people who lived in caves. For instance, Abraham’s grandson Lot lived temporarily in a cave with his daughters after their escape from Sodom about four thousand years ago (Genesis 19:30).
dos Santos, Arysio Nunes. 1997. The Mysterious Origin of The Guanches. http://www.atlan.org/articles/guanche_origin/
Walker, Amelie A. 1999. Beyond the Beaches of Gran Canaria. Archaeology, Oct. 29, 1999. http://www.archaeology.org/online/features/canary/guayadeque.html
Sunday, 23 December 2007
Why do we celebrate Christmas? The answer can be seen in the early chapters of Genesis. The Good News of the New Testament cannot be understood without the tragedy of Genesis chapter three.
God created a perfect world but the first humans wanted to have their own way. By trespassing against God’s clear commandment Adam and Eve brought about chaos into a perfect creation.
However, God did not leave man to his own devices but promised a Redeemer who whould suffer the penalty of sin. Thus, 2000 years ago Luke recorded these consoling words, ” Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.”
Thus the Son of God began His earthly journey that would take Him from Bethelem to Calvary – for our sins.
Have a blessed birthday of our great Creator and Redeemer!
Sunday, 9 December 2007
Scientific American is a popular science magazine. It has a 60-second science blog that explains scientific features for laypeople. Recently, Ted Alvarez reported biogeochemist Graham Logan’s hypothesis of the reason for complex life. Logan speculates that in the beginning bacteria gobbled up all the oxygen.
According to Alvarez, “Plankton produced oxygen slowly, but bacteria would consume most of it in order to digest dead plankton. The dearth of oxygen didn't allow for much multicellular development.” 
Then poop came to the rescue. Creatures that produced feces consumed plankton instead of bacteria. Thus, bacteria populations dwindled as they had less plankton. This turned out to be a blessing since there was more oxygen for all other creatures.
Alvarez points out that Logan’s hypothesis is not based on wild guesses. Logan studied the carbon 12 –carbon 13 isotope ratio in Cambrian rocks, suspecting that animals that ate other animals had more C-13 in them.
Logan thinks that C -13 levels were very high before the Cambrian period because “bacteria were eating large amounts of dead plankton. Once crapping animals arrived, however, C 13 levels dropped since there was less food for bacteria to eat.”
Logan’s idea is reminiscent of the explanations that have been given for the extinction of dinosaurs. The Natural History Museum in London, for instance, gives some more or less tongue-in-cheek hypotheses, all the way from mass suicide to slipped disks. But does science cease being science when scientists have to rely on storytelling?
It seems that since evolution is not supported by facts, scientists have to resort to “just so” stories. No wonder the late creationist pioneer Henry Morris gave his last book the title Some Call it Science.
 Alvarez, Ted. 2007. What gave rise to complex life on earth? Poop! (maybe). Scientific American. 60-second science. http://www.60secondscience.com/archive/biology-news-articles/what-gave-rise-to-complex-life.php?sc=WR_20071204
 Morris, Henry. 2006. Some Call It Science. The Religion of Evolution. Santee, CA: Institute for Creation Research.
Thursday, 6 December 2007
You can never know in advance what great “truths” you might learn by reading Christian webpages. Christianity Today’s blog claims that young earth creationists are a “movement that keeps raising its head to the chagrin of Christians and evolutionists alike”.
The post is a comment on New York Times’ report on the First Conference on Creation Geology and it seems to support the NYT stand on the age of the earth.
Young earth creationism has certainly not made life difficult for me. I am in good company. Jesus (Mark 10:6) and Saint Paul (Romans 5:12-14) were also YECs and I suspect that they weren’t very miserable either.
There are perfectly valid scientific reasons for believing in a “young earth” , such as the discovery of soft tissue in a T-rex bone, the rapid formation of canyons, the discovery of carbon 14 in diamonds and the very existence of short-term comets.
But even more valid is the Bible’s own testimony. Advocates of a 4.6 billion year earth cannot consistently believe that death is a consequence of sin or that the flood of Noah’s day was global. In effect, we are thus faced with a choice: should we trust God’s opinion (as revealed in Scripture) or man’s fallible view?
 Moll, Rob. 2007. Young Earth Creationism Makes Life Difficult for Everyone. Christianity Today Liveblog (4 December). http://blog.christianitytoday.com/ctliveblog/archives/2007/12/young_earth_cre.html
 ”Young earth” is really a misnomer. Why should anyone regard a 6000-year old earth as young?