Category Archives: Nature & Space

God and Science: A Course in Due Course

Many fear to tread into culturally charged topics in an “us” versus “them” social media climate characterized by rapid escalation, rabid judgments, and character assassinations. What if a course on God and science could actually help us love one another, or at least be kinder to those who see things differently than we do?

I’ve just returned from Houston where I taught the first three lectures of an eight-session course on “God and Science.” I’m thrilled and a bit overwhelmed with the challenge and opportunity presented to me by The Bible Seminary in Katy, TX. How does one begin to develop and teach a course on two inexhaustible topics? My approach so far: prayer, perseverance, hope, humility, and lots of good authors, theologians, biblical scholars, and scientists.

The surprising thing to many, myself included, is that after the next lecture we’ll reach the halfway point—and we haven’t even covered a single piece of “scientific data” yet. What?! What kind of course on God and science is that?

Well, it’s one where I’m not trying so much to teach the intricacies of science to nonscientists or to convince anyone to see the data my way. I’m trying to help others see foundations for harmony or integration when thoughtful, committed people engage on the topic of science and faith in a culture where the two are sometimes pitted as polar opposite ways to approach life.

So, what have we looked at? In week one, we examined metaphysics and worldviews, as well as the roles of revelation and interpretation. Next, we considered the history and concept of dual revelation in nature and Scripture, ways of relating science and faith, and the types of reasoning we employ whether we’re involved in scientific endeavors or theological ones. In the third session, we spent most of our time discussing and contemplating the demarcation of science and the role of methodological naturalism in scientific research (and how critically different methodological naturalism is from philosophical naturalism).

The best part of covering this material is that I have drawn from authors who cover the gamut of interpretive positions. The next lecture will feature some of the most challenging material as we look at specific interpretive positions. In regard to the science, I am drawing from old-earth and evolutionary creationists as well as naturalists and biblical literalists. And in regard to scriptural interpretive approaches, we’ll consider those who take the creation accounts literalistically1, non-literalistically—but still historically (analogical and chronological approaches), and positions that could be described as more theological than historical (e.g., framework views, polemic views, and ancient Near Eastern mythical views). When we break it down and tackle the topics this way, we see areas of overlap in several positions and logical consistency within a variety of positions that try to harmonize God’s activities in nature and words in Scripture.

I’m not out to convince others of my position. I am hoping to help others understand how their philosophical (metaphysical) and worldview biases shape the way they interpret data (scientific and biblical) and to adopt their own view on how science and faith relate. By doing this, I also hope to help them understand that others may approach the interpretation of the data (scientific and biblical) differently. We’re all just trying to make the best sense we can out of life. We’re all just trying to fit those things we know via mathematics and philosophy, natural and behavioral sciences, human experience, and religious beliefs together in a logically coherent whole that helps us navigate and make sense of the world.

I hope this approach will allow us to be more accepting and loving of fellow Christians who have different views than we might. I hope it will allow us to view other non-Christians with a greater degree of understanding and acceptance, too. I really hope it will allow us all to dialogue with true curiosity and genuine kindness with one another.

Jesus calls us to seek truth and to be actively engaged in loving each other—and God—as we do. If we’re doing these things with a modicum of humility and a serious dose of self-awareness, I think we can build bridges and friendships with people who are very different than we are. What a beautiful vision, a kaleidoscope of diversity without character (or real) assassinations. If we could pull that off, maybe others would believe there really is a God and that Jesus is really who he claimed to be.

If we’re helping one another to consider things differently, we will likely understand our own positions better, and together, draw closer to the truth. As Christians we should never shrink back from the pursuit of truth as we trust in Jesus. Because all truth, after all, is God’s truth. On that note, I’ll close with a recent statement I heard that I wish was attributable to a fellow Christian, but is not. “In the end we’re all just walking one another home”—even in a course on God and science.

Original article: A Course in God and Science

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Take Up and Read: City of God

This current blog series on Reflections is intended to encourage Christians to read more vigorously by providing a beginner’s guide to some of the Christian classics in such fields as theology, philosophy, and apologetics. Hopefully, a brief introduction to these important Christian texts will motivate today’s believers—as St. Augustine was called to in his dramatic conversion to Christianity—to “take up and read” (Latin: Tolle lege) these classic books.

This week’s book, City of God, is by that same St. Augustine and is considered by many scholars to be Augustine’s magnum opus (Latin for “greatest work”). Along with being a timeless Christian text, this work is also considered a literary classic of Western civilization. It is encouraging to know the depth at which Christian writings have influenced classical literature.

Why Is This Author Notable?

Augustine of Hippo (AD 354–430) is widely considered not only the greatest of the Christian church fathers but also, in many ways, the theological father of Western Christendom. In fact, Augustine has influenced both Catholics and Protestants. His diverse writings touch on such fields as theology, philosophy, history, and apologetics. For more about him and his unique accomplishments, see my article “Christian Thinkers 101: A Crash Course on St. Augustine.”

What Is This Book About?

Over his lifetime, Augustine wrote in excess of 5 million words, which makes him arguably the most prolific ancient author of all time. City of God (Latin: Civitate Dei)written intermittently between AD 413 and 427, is considered to be Augustine’s scholarly masterpiece. The title of Augustine’s work came directly from Scripture:

Glorious things are said of you, city of God.

Psalm 87:3

City of God stands as Augustine’s monumental world-and-life-view analysis. It is his longest (more than a thousand pages) and most comprehensive work, and it is considered by some to be his most significant contribution to Western thought. In this book, Augustine laid new foundations in the fields of Christian apologetics and worldview and in the analysis of Christian history.

City of God consists of 22 chapters and can be divided into two major parts. The first part of the work consists of Augustine’s refutation (“Against the Pagans”) of the charge made by some Roman citizens that Christianity was responsible for the decline and fall of the Roman Empire. (Rome had been shockingly sacked in AD 410 by barbarian invaders.) Augustine concludes that the Roman Empire’s demise was not the result of it becoming influenced by Christianity in its later stages but rather the result of the empire’s inability to live up to its highly exalted ideas.

In the second part, Augustine developed his own tale of two cities: “the City of God” and “the City of Man.” The City of God, represented as Jerusalem, has a divine origin and a heavenly, or eternal, destiny. The City of Man, represented as Babylon, has a human origin and an earthly, or temporal, destiny. Augustine saw human affairs, like all things, as being under the control of the sovereign and providential plan of almighty God. In this work, Augustine gave the Western world its first philosophy of history, presenting and defending a distinctly Christian linear view of history.

Why Is This Book Worth Reading?

This volume is widely considered one of the most important Christian books ever written. It seeks to explain the proper place of Christ’s kingdom (or City) in relation to earthly political powers and authorities (the Greco-Roman world). According to Augustine, the City of God is motivated by a different devotion (love) and has a different destiny than the societies that make up the City of Man. Thus, a central theme of City of God is that God’s kingdom purposes—salvation through Christ—transcend all temporal human powers and authorities.

Original article: Take Up and Read the City of God

One Uniquely Smooth, Regular, and Stable Star

In several of my speaking events, I remind my audiences that stars are like human beings: they are all unstable to some degree. Also, like humans, the most stable stars are those that are middle-aged.

A multidecade set of observations of the Sun and the most Sun-like stars now shows that the Sun may be the most stable of all stars.1 It is certainly the most stable of all stars for which astronomers have performed stability observations. That stability attests to a design and purpose for the Sun and human beings living near it.

All stars exhibit both activity and variability. By “stellar activity,” astronomers mean the flares that arise from the generation, evolution, and annihilation of magnetic fields in local regions of a star’s atmosphere and layers just below its surface. By “variability,” astronomers mean changes in the total luminosity or brightness output of a star.

A team of five astronomers headed up by Richard Radick of the National Solar Observatory—located in the appropriately named town of Sunspot, New Mexico—reported on a study comparing the Sun’s activity and variability with that of 72 Sun-like stars over the time period spanning from 1992 to 2017. While such comparisons had been done before 1992, the new observations have been achieved with unprecedented precision. Much of the credit for this greatly enhanced precision is due to the Solar Radiation and Climate Experiment (SORCE) satellite (see figure below). This satellite was able to measure the total solar irradiance (TSI) to 0.001 percent precision.

Data from SORCE shows that solar flares manifest at least two orders of magnitude (at least a factor of 100) higher levels of variability than does the Sun’s TSI. The amplitude of TSI variability is only 0.1 percent, and this variation is in lockstep with the sunspot number and the corresponding 11-year sunspot cycle. The reason why the TSI varies so little is that it reflects the slight imbalance between the luminosity deficit produced by dark sunspots and the luminosity enhancement produced by bright faculae (solar “faculae” are short-lived convection cells that form bright spots on the Sun’s surface).

Radick’s team determined four conclusions from their comparative study:

  1. The variability of Sun-like stars younger than the Sun is dominated by dark starspots, which is unlike the Sun, where the facular spots dominate the variability.
  2. Sun-like stars older than the Sun show a direct correlation between total luminosity variation and chromospheric emission variations. (The “chromosphere” is the region beyond a star’s atmosphere where flaring activity is especially prominent.)
  3. The Sun is unique in that, unlike the Sun-like stars, it exhibits a smooth, regular activity cycle.
  4. The Sun is unique in that it manifests a low TSI variation relative to its chromospheric activity level and variation.

Radick and his team deduced that the two unique features they had found for the Sun perhaps show “that facular emission and sunspot darkening are especially well-balanced on the Sun.”2 What they did not comment on is that the Sun’s two unique features that they discovered especially benefit human civilization on Earth. The extreme climate stability that we have been enjoying for the past nine thousand years is due, in large part, to the Sun’s low TSI variation by its smooth, regular activity cycle.3 Without our current and recent past extreme climate stability, billions of humans could not live on Earth at one time, nor could billions of humans achieve the technology for billions to hear and respond to Jesus Christ’s offer of salvation and eternal life. Thank God for the Sun!

Original article: One Remarkably Smooth and Stable Star

The Fool and His Folly

An atheist ensconced in two-thousand years of Judeo-Christian culture who actually believes the rights, liberties, and freedoms he enjoys every day just materialized out of the ether and in no way owe their origins and continuance to the very faith he mocks…

Is like a lazy son who lounges year after year, decade after decade, in the house of his billionaire father, and actually believes his inactivity, his laziness, built the great wealth that surrounds him at every turn.

From such unvarnished apathy flee.

Seriously, this is the kind of stupid you can’t fix.

Leave them alone. Walk away. It is outside your jurisdiction.

Maybe a lightning bolt or two might work, but nothing reasonable coming from the mind or mouth of Man can mend such narcissism.

No Private Interpretation

Legitimate science is just like legitimate Christianity:

Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation.

2 Peter 1:20

In other words, you don’t get to make up your own special exemptions to the facts, whether they are the facts of the Holy Ghost or the facts of physics.

If some mystic stands up and tells you some rogue angel gave them a special revelation (a private interpretation) that no one else will ever have…

Run! You are not in the presence of a prophet but a charlatan (heretic) just a few more debauches away from starting a cult.

Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world. They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them.

1 John 4:1-5

If some scientist stands up and demands a special exemption from the well known Laws of Physics, experimentation, falsification, or peer review in order to make his hypothesis work…

Run!  You are not in the presence of a prodigy but a fraud just a few more fake graphs away from getting another grant.

Any theory that violates conservation of energy laws, ignores entropy, cannot be observed, cannot be replicated, cannot be measured, cannot be modeled, violates all other scientific canon, or is routinely blasted apart by mathematical, statistical and probability analysis…

is just another false religion posing in a lab coat.