Tag Archives: Origins

Using Natural Selection as an Excuse

This lesson involved a lot of ideas about morality and how it’s affected by our origins. (This is a reaction to the January 31 bible study lesson at http://ssnet.org/lessons/13a/less05.html.)

This quarterly has mentioned a few times that some people do cruel things and justify their actions by saying that they’re imitating natural selection. We saw that especially with the Nazis, but some other people must still hold that view.

But it doesn’t make sense. It’s just an excuse for people with power to dominate those who are less fortunate. Why? Because natural selection doesn’t directly support cruelty. It just says that those who are able to reproduce pass on their genes; it doesn’t say “be cruel.” Since humans have free choice, a cruel person is choosing to hurt those who don’t have the means to defend themselves. People can choose to dominate and hurt and exploit, whereas Nature can’t make those choices.

And when people do that, there’s no natural selection involved, since many immoral actions have nothing to do with anyone’s genes being passed on. So it’s just an excuse. People can say, “Look at Nature doing that brutal stuff, so I’m going to do the same thing.”

But is that even logical? How do we know that we should imitate Nature at all? We don’t. There’s no logical reason why people with free choice should imitate Nature.

Morality from every culture all around the world is based on the idea that benevolence comes first. Benevolence means being good toward other people, seeking to benefit other people. That’s been agreed upon as the foundation of morality for millennia, and suddenly people think that because of natural selection we should just throw that all away?

Also, the logic of saying that you should imitate Nature admits that there are shoulds in life. If that’s true, then humans are called on to follow certain rules or ideals. And it makes sense, then, to follow the rules that work the best, that have the most wisdom in them.

And doing good to other people, no matter what their status or their power to defend themselves, has been accepted for millennia in every culture as the first rule. It makes a lot more sense than being cruel to less fortunate people. That has no good support. What successful culture puts cruelty first?

~Lemuel Bach
(Praise Team Leader at New Horizons SDA Church in Republic, MO)

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God: Two Arms, Two Legs, and a Head?

(This is a reaction to the January 28 bible study lesson at http://www.ssnet.org/lessons/13a/less05.html.)

Yes, the Bible says we’re made in the image of God. But does that mean we look like Him? That doesn’t make sense in the context of the rest of the Bible. The Bible says over and over how different God is from us. He is in the midst of fire and turning wheels and eyes and beasts. David says that He is everywhere at once.

All the New Testament writers say that God is three Persons at the same time but one Being. So that doesn’t sound like He looks like us, like a guy with two legs and two arms and a head. And how could a Being who existed before time and who exists even now outside of time and space look like a human?

Now, that isn’t to say that He is a cloud, something indefinite. C.S. Lewis points out that God is actually more real than we are, more solid. He is reality itself, and He has a definite shape and form that is unique to Him. Maybe that’s why in the Old Testament He says that He has a specific name (YHWH); the name shows that He is not just a cloud of energy.

So in one sense, it seems like He could be human-shaped for all we know, but at the same time, He is a Being who is outside of our universe of shapes altogether.

Well, we know that Jesus is a human now, and He’s God. So maybe that’s what the image of God means? Maybe it’s part of it. Along with that, the Bible, especially the book of Revelation, rejoices in the fact that God will live on our planet now forever. No other race will have that privilege, and no other race will have God become one of them in the flesh.

But it also makes sense to say the image of God is in our moral and relationship qualities. We have a sense of what is right and wrong that the animals don’t have. We have a moral responsibility to take care of totally different species; animals can’t think that way in general. And we have loving relationships chosen through intelligence and will rather than animal instincts. God created humans not to live as individuals but as pairs and groups.

OXYGEN VOLUME 13

And it’s amazing that God Himself has existed as a group in all eternity outside of time. Their relationship has always been, and always will be, the Son being subordinate to the Father by loving choice and the Holy Spirit being the servant of both.

So God is not a lonely Being wishing He had some friends; no, He has always been, and always will be, in an environment of perfect harmony and love. And that type of experience is what He has for us – one of the main purposes for which He created us.

~Lemuel Bach
(Praise Team Leader at New Horizons SDA Church in Republic, MO)

 

The Serpent and the Sabbath

(This is a reaction to the January 27 bible study lesson at http://www.ssnet.org/lessons/13a/less05.html.)

God is powerful and we’re dependent on Him, but those aren’t the best reasons to trust and obey Him. Yes, we’re created so we only have life when connected to Him. But it’s not like there’s an unfun life without Him and a fun life with Him. No, He is life, and we only have any life in Him. He’s infinite, and there’s nothing outside of Him.

But we trust and obey Him not just because of His power, but because He is wise and good. Someone who just has power without love isn’t worth obeying. The Bible says that we obey Him out of love. And demons know His power but don’t put their faith in Him.

Anyway, I don’t think Adam and Eve saw rules and obligations. He was their everything, their whole lives: they knew nothing else. And the things He commanded them to do were things they wanted to do anyway, such as multiplying and eating.

Of course they would want to multiply, because they would be expressing their boundless love for each other; and of course they would want to eat, because everything would be indescribably delicious.

So He gave them natural desires and then commanded them to do things that would simply be following the desires He gave them. But that one prohibition against eating that one fruit was the only command that would seem more like a modern rule, because it would be the only one against their natural desires.serpent tree

And actually my understanding from reading C.S. Lewis’ book Perelandra is that that test actually gave them a benefit: they gained the knowledge of good and evil by not eating from the tree, because they experienced the battle between trusting self and trusting God above self that they wouldn’t get if they were just following their pleasant natural desires all the time.

God gave them a chance to step outside of their own will and more deeply into His by resisting a fruit that seemed desirable to eat and just obeying Him without understanding why.

And we need that experience, too. Maybe that’s partially why the Sabbath is so important, because there’s no logical reason for it to be on a particular day. But if we obey God’s command in spite of that, we step outside of our own will and into His.

~Lemuel Bach
(Praise Team Leader at New Horizons SDA Church in Republic, MO)

Seeing Science in the Wild

The things this lesson claimed about science aren’t all true. For example, it’s not true “science has a difficult time dealing” with events that only happened one time. Scientists have theories about things that happened just once, like their theory that a meteorite or comet caused the extinction of the dinosaurs, which happened only once, according to theory. (This is a reaction to the January 25 bible study lesson at http://ssnet.org/lessons/13a/less04.html.)

An event that happened only once can’t be tested or repeated. But scientists can form a theory about the event and then test and repeat certain experiments to decide whether that theory makes sense. For example, they can test the soil for levels of minerals that would be there if a meteorite had hit the Earth. They can search fossil layers for a level of meteorite dust.

Not that I believe that theory necessarily. Not that I’m saying science is perfect. I’m just saying that scientists can make theories about events that have only happened once. And we’re not going to help anyone by putting down science based on misunderstandings of what science is.

It pretty much never makes sense to say, “science does this” or “science can’t do that,” because it’s really all just people: there never is a thing called “science” out there in the wild on its own doing things. It’s people doing things, investigating the world, trying to do a better and better job of understanding nature while following certain rules.

I’m getting this partly from Del Ratzsch’s book Science and Its Limits, an excellent book by a Christian who also has a PhD in the philosophy of science. One insight from that book is that there actually isn’t a single definition of science. We think there is because there are definitions in textbooks and dictionaries. But human beings made up those definitions. Human beings can change them. Human beings can study nature in various ways.newton5

If science is the search for truth, why can’t we include God and revealed truth in that? Who has the authority to make rules stopping us? Of course, we don’t want anyone to be lazy when searching for truth, giving up easily and stating, “God did it.” But allowing God into science doesn’t have to lead to laziness. Many scientists in history have studied nature as a way to glorify and worship God. If that’s your motivation, instead of being lazy, you could work really hard to honor Him.

~Lemuel Bach
(Praise Team Leader at New Horizons SDA Church in Republic, MO)

God’s Rule that Doesn’t Make Sense?

(This is a reaction to the January 16 bible study lesson at http://ssnet.org/lessons/13a/less03.html.)     

Resting on the seventh day? Did God really take a day off? My understanding is that God wouldn’t take a day off because He is actually transcendent to time; well, time is inside of Him. He is not inside any particular day at all in which to rest or work. Instead, He created a day in which we could rest, and He “rested” only in the sense that He didn’t create anything new that day.Image

One thing that’s significant about the Sabbath in relation to the Creation is that without the literal Creation story, God just chose to make us do this special day of rest on this particular day for no reason at all if Creation was just a series of giant epochs spanning millions of years. But if there was a literal rest day at the end of Creation, then we’re commemorating that and remembering God as the Creator. Ellen White, in her book Patriarchs and Prophets, writes that a rule that makes sense like that is much more in God’s style of dealing with mankind than the idea that He would give us a day of rest that is supposed to commemorate a day that never even happened.

When someone sees the literal days as actually being symbolic of millions of years, everything else fits into that view. They can even say that we are now currently in the seventh day of rest still, in the seventh epoch of millions of years. Some people even draw comfort from that. I heard people after a speech being glad about that idea.

Look, I can understand that people want to make the Bible fit with science. It’s like if the Bible said that the Moon is made of cheese, and it’s clearly not, we would want to make the Bible’s statement fit with observation somehow–or give up on the Bible (as some people have done). To many people, the idea of life being 6,000 years old is as crazy as saying that the Moon is made of cheese. It seems so obvious that the fossil record and carbon dating and theory say that life is millions of years old, produced by evolution, etc. But the Bible doesn’t agree with that, so we either abandon it or say that the Bible really does agree with observation, that the Bible teaches millions of years. And that’s totally understandable that we want to deal with it that way; we want to be smart and consistent.

So then the question is, if the Bible and our observations disagree, where do you want to put your trust? Does it make sense to trust the Bible above science? The worldly way of thinking says that’s crazy and old-fashioned. But the Bible says that the Gospel is foolishness to the world.

When I was a kid, I once debated with a man who was an atheist and an evolutionist. He told me at one point that, because of the nature of science, if a better theory than evolution came along, he would believe in it instead of evolution. So I think if you put science first in your mind, you’re trusting something that could change at any moment based on observations and theories. But the Science of Salvation revealed in the Bible stays the same and gets more wonderful as more is understood throughout eternity.

~Lemuel Bach
(Praise Team Leader at New Horizons SDA Church in Republic, MO)

The Weight of a One-Verse Idea

creationg earth

How can it be that the sun, moon, and stars were created after light and ocean and land and plants were created? It’s interesting that the correct answer is that we don’t know which of a few different interpretations is right. You can say which one you like the best but not which one is actually right. (This is a reaction to the January 13 bible study lesson at http://ssnet.org/lessons/13a/less03.html.)

Well, at least if the plants were created on the third day and the Sun on the fourth day, that doesn’t lend support a millions-of-years interpretation of the days of creation, because the plants couldn’t have waited millions of years before the sun showed up.

I definitely tend toward a literal creation of the sun, moon, and stars on the fourth day, because the Bible says that God created them on that day. But I can see why some people say that that doesn’t make sense, partly because it doesn’t seem to line up with what we know of the physical world.

I love the idea of the Earth being a lump of ice in space that then gets warmed up by this warm glow on day one; the waters evaporate in the heat and make an atmosphere on day two; then the land rises and God creates plants on day three; and finally, on day four, God sort of steps back and places the Earth in a larger context of motion and celestial bodies. That’s my opinion and imagination.

But a main principle that you can use for the rest of your life when hearing about controversial Biblical issues is this: don’t give the debate more significance than the Bible gives it. The Bible mentions this issue one time. So if we spend a long time arguing over it, we aren’t being faithful to how much the Bible talks about it. This applies to other issues that are only mentioned in a verse or two. Be on the lookout.

~Lemuel Bach
(Praise Team Leader at New Horizons SDA Church in Republic, MO)

The Great and Powerful Sloth

(This is a reaction to the January 10 bible study lesson at http://ssnet.org/lessons/13a/less02.html.)

This lesson talks about how incompatible natural selection is with the ideas of God being in control, reminding of us of His generosity, the power of His word, and the defense of the weak…and that evolution is a story of competition being set up so that only the strong survive and the weak die.

It’s good to be accurate if we want to criticize other people’s beliefs, and the way the lesson describes the idea of natural selection is a little inaccurate. Natural selection isn’t about creatures becoming more complex, as the lesson claims, nor is it about the strong defeating the weak, as the lesson implies.

The idea of natural selection simply states that the creatures who are able to reproduce the most in a particular environment naturally pass on their genes where other creatures that weren’t as good at reproducing in an environment don’t pass on their genes as much.

So natural selection doesn’t demand that creatures become more complex, as the lesson claims. An evolutionist would say that sometimes a less complex creature might be the best at reproducing in a particular environment. That happens; think, for example, of extremophiles, creatures living in extreme conditions such as in high-temperature natural water vents. Those creatures, often microbes, are very simple compared to us.

And also, a creature doesn’t have to be “stronger” to pass on its genes; it simply is whatever happened to reproduce most. Think of the various types of sloths. Do you think that a sloth is a strong, dominant predator that preys on the weak? No, the evolutionist would say that they just happened to be the ones who worked best in a particular environment: the canopy layers of some forests. Image

Anyway, my point is that we have to study these issues to know what evolutionists really think; otherwise, we’re criticizing points that they don’t even hold. And that could make us look less intelligent, and that could hurt the work of the gospel. So let’s not criticize others, and if we have to disagree with them, let’s make sure we understand what they really believe.

~Lemuel Bach
(Praise Team Leader at New Horizons SDA Church in Republic, MO)