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ss nucleus - spring 2006,  Letters

Letters

Editor,

I refer to Jeremy Franklin's article on Scripture memory in the October 2005 edition. The importance of learning Scripture by heart cannot be over-emphasised. The followers of some pagan religions are often required to learn their sacred writings by heart. For instance, no one can teach in a Muslim mosque until he has first memorised the entire Qur'an! One missionary tells that for 21 hours she heard a group of Buddhist priests quoting their devotional literature from memory, seldom if ever making a mistake.

A Christian once gave a Bible to a humble villager in eastern Poland. Returning a few years later, he learned that 200 people had become believers through using it. When the group gathered to hear him preach, he suggested that before he spoke he would like each person to quote some verses of Scripture. One man rose and said, 'Perhaps, brother, we've misunderstood you. Did you mean verses or chapters?' The missionary was astonished. 'Are you saying there are people here who could recite complete chapters of the Bible?' That was precisely the case. In fact, 13 of them knew half of Genesis and the books of Matthew and Luke. Another had committed all the Psalms to memory. Combined, the 200 knew virtually the entire Bible. Are you constantly hiding the Word of God in your heart? If not, begin today! If the Scriptures are, as Calvin used to stress, 'the very words of God' (1 Pet 4:11) should we not make similar efforts to know them well?

Bernard Palmer,
Consultant Surgeon, Stevenage

Editor,

I greatly appreciated Antony Latham's article on Darwinism (January 2006); its handling of the story of biological evolution is well stated. Biological evolution has happened, is happening and is demonstrably happening.

My only concern was with the move towards the end into 'Intelligent Design' (ID). This seemed to be less helpful and is an argument that makes a hazardous basis on which to encourage faith. The point is this; science is, and can be only about finding what is demonstrable repeatedly. ID has not been and can indeed never be demonstrated objectively. We must suspect there is ID, we may believe ID (as I do) but not say as its current proponents assert that it is demonstrable fact. To do this is to dress faith up to look like science and this will ultimately and inevitably discredit faith.

There is indeed the aspect of 'God of the gaps' about ID, but that is not all that is mistaken about it. In contrast, evolution does not disprove a divine creator. It may suggest that there is an alternative mechanism, natural selection, for life's development. But it can never prove that this is the only possible mechanism for life's origin or subsequent development. The origin of the universe and the mechanism of creation are similar topics, but should not be confused with one another.

In terms of medical scientific understanding there are surely better arguments for God as creator; the miracles of Jesus, for one. Many of Jesus' acts of supernatural power are inexplicable scientifically. The instant healings of the man born blind, of the man with the withered hand and the raising of Lazarus after several days' entombment show now, as they showed the numerous witnesses then, the creatorhood of God in Christ as did his own resurrection. All of these are thermodynamic impossibilities. The only way to disprove such evidence is to show that they are fabrications of the faithful. But none of this can show the past origins of life processes, though they do show who has control over them.

Duncan Vere,
Retired Clinical Pharmacologist, Essex

Author's reply

I am grateful for the comments by Duncan Vere about my recent article.

As he says, biological evolution has indeed happened and is happening demonstrably – but the only mechanism that is understood and measured is that of 'micro-evolution'. It is easily seen (as in the Galapagos finches) but is not the mechanism for macro changes. This is absolutely acknowledged by leaders in evolutionary theory. Micro-evolution only shuffles existing alleles within a species or genus. New genetic information is required for the big changes such as new organs and body plans that occur repeatedly and suddenly throughout the fossil record. This is always put down to random mutations but never actually observed. Darwinians need to show how random accidental mutations can bring about the special complexity that characterises life.

ID, contrary to what Dr Vere says, is something that can be investigated, and is a valid scientific pursuit. Some analogies may help here: scientists in the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI project) search radio signals from the universe to see if intelligent aliens exist. They are looking for patterns and if they find, for example, the first 100 prime numbers in sequence – then they can be assured that an intelligence was involved. Likewise, an archaeologist looking at an artifact tries to see if it is just some piece of stone – or whether it has the specified qualities that infer intelligence.

Mount Rushmore in the USA has, massively carved upon it, the faces of some American presidents. As one looks at the mountain one can decide whether the carvings are due to the work of intelligence or simply the random actions of nature. Other bits of mountain are just as unlikely – just as complex. It is the specified complexity (a term used by William Dembski) that makes the carvings of the presidents clearly the work of intelligence. We would not label such thinking a 'sculptor of the gaps' argument.

We know so much more now than we did 20 years ago about molecular systems. That knowledge can be studied scientifically and lead us to conclude that an intelligence is behind the universe: this should not surprise any Christian. Scientists such as Dawkins rubbish this – only because of a naturalism that forbids miracles. As Christians, we know the risen Christ, the God that acts supernaturally. To expect no evidence whatsoever of this in the study of life is very close to deism – a non-Christian theology.

Antony Latham

Editor,

Whilst Dr Latham has obviously undertaken a lot of research I do not believe the facts were clearly stated. He begins by citing the 'Big Bang' as if it were fact, rather than an unproven and unprovable hypothesis. Historical science, by its past nature, is not something that we can definitively quantify, measure, or experiment on.

The scientific evidence about origins is the same for theist or atheist: we are left to consider the best, most reasonable hypothesis. I agree that we don't see species changing to become completely different (finches remain finches) and no mechanism is known to produce such macro-evolutionary changes. However the present scientific establishment is particularly secular/atheistic and therefore bias comes as no surprise.

Whilst there is great pressure on Christians to reconsider the Genesis account, my concerns about doing so are as follows:

i) Evolutionary ideas come from outside Scripture and it requires significant 'theological gymnastics' to rewrite Genesis 1-11. The first few chapters of the Bible are fundamental for doctrine, particularly the need for the gospel of forgiveness of sin and eternal life. A number of biblical authors quote from it as literal, and Jesus himself quotes from the first two chapters. The Bible is the unchanging word of the omniscient God; 'science' is the changing word of fallen human beings. Why then are we so quick to dismiss a straightforward reading of Genesis? And which other parts of the Bible shall we throw out when we don't like them?

ii) How can God create a universe that he describes as 'very good', yet, according to theistic evolutionists, has had millions of years of death, disease and bloodshed? Is the Genesis account a mistake or deception by God? How can a loving God create via such a cruel process? If death as a result of sin only refers to 'spiritual death', perhaps heaven will just be more of the same - nature red in tooth and claw! I believe this skewed philosophy dishonours the loving and just character of God.

What about an article in Nucleus from a young earth, six day creation perspective? This would offer medical students the wider picture and clarify the facts - that they can believe in a straightforward historical reading of Genesis.

Rebecca Moss,
GP registrar, Nottingham

Author's reply

I have a great deal of sympathy with the thoughtful views of Dr Moss. I too hold Scripture to be God's inspired Word but believe in a non-literalist approach to Genesis 1. Many Christians, including Augustine, and evangelicals such as myself, would see the first chapters of Genesis as allegorical. Not unlike a parable, these magnificent words say all that we need to know about the creation. It is not a scientific explanation or chronology, nor should we expect it to be. Henri Blocher's commentary In the Beginning has been helpful to me in this.

The 'Big Bang' theory may or may not prove to be correct – but there is much evidence for it and it seems to point very powerfully to an almighty Creator who made all out of nothing. The great age of the universe seems in little doubt and the light emitted from galaxies ten billion years ago is visible with the Hubble telescope.

Where I live there are no fossils in the sedimentary rocks, simply because they are all over 600 million years old. Dating methods in geology are sometimes a bit inaccurate but the general correlation of all the forms of radiometric dating is impressive. The fossil record accords well with this – the successive forms of life consistently appearing in the correct sequence. Modern man is never found in any sediments much older than 100,000 years. To deny this is to ignore good scientific evidence, and makes our case for ID hopeless in academic circles.

I am not at all convinced that the predation and death seen in nature are in themselves bad, cruel or evil, despite the suffering involved. There is every reason to believe that the lion, for example, is wonderfully made by God as it is (see Ps 104:21 where its prey is provided by God) and there is a delicate and beautiful balance seen within the food chains that make up the earth's ecology. In the Bible, man is required by God to sacrifice animals – not least Mary and Joseph when they brought Jesus to be circumcised. Jesus also encouraged the catching and eating of fish, which presumably suffered.

As for heaven; the Bible says there will be no suffering or death there and surely it need not be a copy of the pre-fall earth.

Antony Latham
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