Monday, July 29, 2013

Are We Investing our Talents for the Kingdom?

As I've written before, the Parable of the Talents (Matt 25:14-30) is one of the most challenging parables/teachings in Scripture to me. It is clear from this parable that the Lord will hold us accountable for what we do in life with what he gave us. He gives each of us resources and abilities to further his Kingdom, and there will be a reckoning.

Given this reckoning, I want to make sure that my remaining days in this life are devoted to Kingdom work. I am about to turn 38 years old in just a few weeks, and while this would not quite be considered middle-age by most standards, I am feeling more middle-aged than I ever have. Most people probably follow this natural tendency toward becoming more reflective as they age, and I am no exception.

Regardless of how much the Lord gives us (5, 2, or 1 Talents), we are expected to invest what we have. After almost 38 years I have come to realize and accept the abilities and gifts that the Lord has given me. I am not handy - my wife will attest to that. While I enjoy playing my guitar, I am no skilled musician. Stick figures are my idea of great art. While I greatly respect entrepreneurs and those that can successfully run a business, I don't think naturally in those terms. I run for (a perverse) pleasure and to get basic exercise, but I don't have any great athletic skill.

What I am is a scholar. I love to read, to learn, and to study. And I love to teach given the proper audience (as a high school science teacher, the "proper" audience involves those who are interested in the material - a situation relatively rare with the average American teenager). I teach in my local church when given the opportunity and have consistently received positive feedback from both adults and students.

This is how God made me, it is what I am passionate about, and how God will hold me accountable. I will not be condemned for not being able to do a slam dunk or paint the next Mona Lisa. But I will be held accountable for not being me. I am a learner and a teacher, and these are my passion. I will be judged accordingly.

Knowledge of myself causes me to act differently. I recently (in the last year) was accepted into Biola University's Master of Arts in Science and Religion (MASR) program, and I started taking classes last fall. The reason I did this was to increase my skill as a scholar and teacher. I can't teach what I don't know, and so if I want to invest my "talents" for God's Kingdom, I need to develop those talents. My long-term goal is a PhD in philosophy, probably specifically in the History and Philosophy of Science. Not because I covet being a "doctor," but because as a PhD I can have a wider impact for the Kingdom. As William Lane Craig often writes, the university drives our culture. All future politicians, business leaders, and even community organizers will pass through the university. This is a major mission field in our culture.

Self-awareness also causes me to pray differently. This last year, after beginning taking classes at Biola, at the same time I went from two jobs at my school (I used to run an evening classroom) down to just my daytime physics position. I did this to honor my family above the extra income I was making. But it also means my financial resources available for taking classes with Biola has greatly diminished. So I am praying to the Lord asking him to give me the resources that I need not only to take care of my family but also to continue developing my abilities for the Kingdom. Because I know myself and how God made me, I am simply asking him to give me what I need to be more effective at how he made me. If I were a farmer, I would pray for the Lord to bless my crops and farming abilities. I am a scholar, so I am asking him to bless my learning and to expand my opportunities for teaching what I have learned so far.

This is a matter of trust for me and simply placing it before the Lord. The PhD especially would have to be a work of the Lord because I am the sole provider for my family. Not only would I have to be accepted into a program but I will also need funding from the school. If the Lord does not provide an open door for ministry in this area, then I will seek out other ways in which I can have an impact for the Kingdom.

So, what about you, dear reader? How has God made you? Have you spent a season thinking about this and asking the Lord for wisdom to discern your abilities? Have you taken steps to develop those abilities? Are you investing your skills in kingdom work? Have you prayed, asking the Lord to give you what you need to develop yourself and for the wisdom to use your gifts? No matter your age, it is not too late (or too early) to begin thinking about how to have the most impact and how to be the most effective for the Kingdom.

If every follower of Christ in our culture made a decisive effort to engage themselves and their abilities into kingdom work, this world would be better, almost overnight.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

My Intelligently Designed Experience in Seattle

I have just returned from spending nine days in Seattle. Quirky, yet beautiful Seattle. Home to the Space Needle, Pike’s Place Fish Market, Puget Sound, Ivar’s Salmon House, and the Discovery Institute. Chances are that you may have heard of some of those places. I for one highly recommend going to the top of the Space Needle. For 20-odd dollars you can purchase a transcendent experience. Amazing.

But the reason that I left my wife and children, whom I have hardly seen this summer, for Washington state was to attend this year’s Seminar on Intelligent Design (ID) in the Natural Sciences with the Discovery Institute. Unless you have been in a coma for the last few decades, you will probably know that what I just did would be considered outright heresy in many circles. Subversive. Idiotic. Damnable.

The scientific establishment in the West, and particularly in our country, would assign a thoroughly dark and hideous corner of hell for ID proponents. If only they believed in hell. They certainly think they have the requisite power. It is completely acceptable in our country to “come out” as a homosexual or a conservative (although this particular unveiling will probably result in fewer invitations to cocktail parties). But the one thing that you must never do is admit to questioning Darwin. This is heresy of the first order, and it will not be tolerated.

I am a heretic. So be it.

Something like 45 of us heretics wore our little eyeballs out with piles of preparatory reading (they sent me two full boxes of books, articles, and DVDs) and then sat through nine full days from 9 AM to 9 PM with breaks for lunch and dinner. As a participant in the science track(they also had a track relating to the humanities), I had classes on understanding Neo-Darwinism, Cosmological fine-tuning, detecting design, philosophy, biochemistry and much more. We had great interaction with many of the leaders in the ID research community.

One of the greatest benefits for me was meeting and befriending like-minded design enthusiasts from all over the world. It was a fantastic experience for this community is so gracious and welcoming. Not everyone who came initially accepted ID at the same level – some were a little skeptical of various aspects of ID upon arriving. Not everyone was a Christian. All they asked of us is that we have an open mind.

I cannot speak for others, but my own experience was such that after departing I am even more convinced of the inherent design in nature. Darwinian evolution is so scientifically unlikely that few would believe it if it were not first motivated by strong metaphysical and psychological reasons to avoid a personal Creator.
ID provides empirical evidence, evidence from the natural world, that materialism is false. We are not just particles bumping together in the grim, dark night, but we have been purposefully designed. This inference is as far as ID will get you, however. You cannot reason from empirical design in nature to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. For that you need other apologetic tools.

Though ID can be used in a properly restrained argument for theism, I am not just a theist. I am a follower of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob come in human form, Jesus of Nazareth. And the design that I observe and study in nature leads me to worship. This Seminar has, among many other things, brought me to my knees in awe of our Creator. In a different context Paul erupts in a doxology (Romans 11:33-36) that I think is appropriate as a capstone on my reflections:

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
    How unsearchable his judgments,
    and his paths beyond tracing out!
“Who has known the mind of the Lord?
    Or who has been his counselor?”
“Who has ever given to God,
    that God should repay them?”
For from him and through him and for him are all things.
    To him be the glory forever! Amen.

Monday, July 22, 2013

All It Will Take Is One

Materialism is our sworn enemy.  Materialists (those who hold to materialism) believe that our universe is closed, that all of reality can be summarized thusly: in the beginning were the particles.

So begins the creed of those who hold to the supremacy of particles, of mass and energy, with all the fervency of the radical faithful. Like the barbarians of old sweeping through the city gates, the materialist Vandals have left nothing but destruction in their wake, offering nothing of value to our civilization. The idea that we just are particles bumping together in the dark night has grim consequences.

Consequences. All ideas have them. And what hath materialism wrought? At bottom, if it is true, we live in a valueless world. We humans all have this sense that when we look within ourselves to consider our own experiences that we are valuable. That we should be taken seriously because we take ourselves seriously. I have thoughts, beliefs, intentions, desires, and goals. I am about something. But particles are not about anything. How could a collection of particles have desires, beliefs, and goals?

So what’s the payoff for materialists? Why has Western civilization allowed itself to be been overrun by this metaphysical barbarian that devalues life? Because particles do not require anything of us. Particles are indifferent to my lifestyle. Particles don’t care if I give full rein to my passions. And let’s be honest: it usually comes down to sex. Particles are uninterested in what I do with my various body parts. It is often said that denial is not just a river in Egypt. Given the choice between a Creator who might make claims on my life because, oh, say he actually made me and apathetic specks of matter, many will have strong psychological reasons to deny God and to choose valuelessness.

Given these powerful psychological causes, we can now see why materialists exhibit such overt vitriol toward Intelligent Design (ID). All it will take is one bona fide demonstration of design in nature, and the materialist project will be over. Finished. And they know it.

In the ID research community we think that we have much good empirical evidence of design in nature. We infer from the evidence, for example, the existence of functionally specified information encoded in DNA in every one of your trillion cells, give or take a few hundred billion. Look around you. Every instance of functional or specified information comes from a mind, not a chance or law-like process. Observe, for example, billboards, the software in your smartphone, magazines, Mt. Rushmore, and the lyrics or melody in any song.  These are all instances of information specified for a purpose. As Stephen Meyer points out is his book, Signature in the Cell, we argue in the same way that Darwin did – we observe processes in nature that are now in operation. Chance and the laws of physics or chemistry did not create Mt. Rushmore  – an intelligent mind did.

So we have evidence. Positive, empirical evidence for design. Many more evidences could be given, but this is sufficient to make my point: one single instance of design in nature and its nah, nah, nah, nah, hey, hey, hey…good-bye materialism.

And good riddance.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Discovery Institute Seminar on ID in the Natural Sciences - Opening Day

I am in Seattle, Washington for this year's Seminar on ID in the Natural Sciences at the Discovery Institute. I arrived here last night after midnight (local time) with a guy from Europe who rode the same shuttle as I did. Of course, something got screwed up and they didn't have a room for me, so we waited for awhile until everything was put in order.

My new friend from Europe - I'll call him Stefan. This is not his real name, and I won't be identifying his home country because we are under very strict guidelines not to "out" anyone as an Intelligent Design (ID) advocate lest careers be ruined. Yes, Victoria, there is real hatred out there in the world, and some of that is directed toward those who, in an ironic twist, have the temerity to bring competition to the intellectual landscape to see which idea is the fittest to survive.

In this contest for survival there is no question in my mind that Intelligent Design will win the day. Not this year, probably not in 5-10 years, but in the next generation or two, some version ID will be the standard view in biology and the hard sciences.

Why am I so confident? Because we live in God's world. God is, among other things and at the very least, intelligent. And since he actually did design life and the world in which it flourishes, then the evidence will continue to pile up and pile up. Evolutionists and died-in-the-wool naturalists will be wading in rivers of design evidence so high that they will need their metaphysical snorkels to breathe before they give in, but it will happen.

Giving in to ID does not mean, however, that suddenly the world will fall down and worship the Creator. As one of my professors at Biola, Dr. Keas, recently quipped, humans are creative in their sinfulness, and so some other lie will take its place to steal the hearts of those who continue to suppress the truth. The emperor still will not have any clothes on, but his tailors will at least provide a new suit for him.

(By the way, for those of you who are interested in answering questions regarding the Christian faith - fellow apologists by interest and training - we will need an apologetic prepared and waiting for when this transition begins. For my money I think that some sort of pantheistic, New Age-ish deception will be the reigning paradigm in time.)

So, anyway, here I am to sit at the feet of the experts in the various aspects of ID. My hope and prayer is that I can take what I learn through this experience and through my graduate work at Biola and use it to a) encourage the faith of other believers, b) equip other believers to engage the culture, and c) to advocate for ID in the public square.

To loosely quote Paul, pray for me that God may open doors for ministry in this area.

ID is not creationism, but it is an important tool in our defense of the Christian worldview.

Now, I've got some reading to do for my upcoming sessions so...ciao!

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Waging War on an Enemy in the Camp

An enemy has overrun the camp.

We are captives, POW's, from a series of battles that was won decades ago by an enemy that is at once both hidden and obvious. It is obvious, because we can see its affects all around us. It is hidden because we all have patterns of thought influenced by this enemy that we don't even realize.

Worst of all, we have allowed this enemy to overtake us. In a sort of spiritual Stockholm Syndrome, we have come to admire and adore this enemy that has no good plans for the Church.

We have not been vigilant and have ignored Paul's admonition to play defense in Colossians (2:8) by not being taken captive by deceptive philosophy. In another passage Paul switches from defense to offense, still using this key word, "captive." In 2 Cor 10:3-5, he tells us to "take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." (As an aside, this verse is usually taken out of context to mean we should capture impure thoughts, etc., but in context it is clear that Paul is referring to arguments, speculations, and cultural strongholds that hold sway over people's minds)

From this moment on I am hereby declaring war on this enemy that has infiltrated our ranks in the Church and in our culture.

We have been overrun by naturalism and materialism - the idea that the only thing that exists is the physical universe and no such person as the Christian God exists. (Materialism does not mean too much shopping, but that the world is only made of material with no spiritual aspects)

Now, I said before that this enemy is both hidden and obvious. The obvious aspects are, well, obvious. All of the major influential organs of our culture are committed to this worldview: the universities, Hollywood, major media outlets, legal system. We hear the message in a thousand different ways that all we are is body without soul. My purpose in this post is not outline all of the various and sundry ways that the overriding philosophy of our culture is naturalistic.

What I want us to see is the more hidden aspect of materialism and naturalism, for many of you have already turned me off. For you may be thinking: I go to church. I haven't bought into this naturalism stuff. I believe in God. He's real! Well, let me ask you - a representative of Western Christianity - a few rhetorical questions (meaning I don't expect an answer - you're welcome to, but it's unlikely I'll hear you...or put them in the comments below):
  • What is your view of the universe? Is it a system that runs efficiently, sort of like a machine? Did God set it up at the beginning and then just let it run?
  • Do you think in categories of natural vs supernatural?
  • When you pray about a particular topic weighing on your heart do you secretly expect that nothing will really happen?
  • Is science the study of the natural world and physical processes within the world only?
  • Do you, or your denomination, see the Scriptures as perhaps true with regards to spiritual things, but maybe not in historical or scientific aspects?
  • Do you think that all of your thoughts are generated in your brain? 
  • When Jesus promises us things like he does in John 1:7, does the promise die a death of a thousand qualifications?
  • When you think of miracles in the Bible, such as the parting of the Red Sea or the Burning Bush, do you tend to think of natural processes that could have caused this to happen?
  • If you believe in God as Creator, do perhaps think of God doing it strictly through secondary causes or indirect means?
  • Do you listen to neuroscientists ("brain scientists") to tell you what you "really" are?
  • Do you tend to see sin as a product of bad environment or poor education or possibly as an unhealthy psyche?
  • Are psychiatrists and psychologists the key to our "sin problem?"
  • Is the presence of natural evil (i.e. earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes) just due to the natural forces at work in the physical world?
Most of us Western Christians have been trained to answer the above questions with a yes! The problem is that the answer from the Christian worldview to all of them is no! Maybe you only answered yes to a few of these. Even if you answered yes to only one question, then to some extent you have bought into materialism/naturalism, a hollow and deceptive philosophy.

The Bible knows nothing of this separation between natural and supernatural. Biblical categories are human vs superhuman (see the Introduction to Craig Keener's excellent work, Miracles). Because of naturalism we tend to devalue the work of God. Oh, we say that we believe that God is a miracle worker and that he created the universe, but what did he really do? Do we believe in a passive God who somehow only operates hands-off, by letting other things do his dirty work?

You see, in the Bible God takes all of the credit. He causes the grass to grow and waters the earth (Ps 104). He alone created the heavens (Is 40:26). God is the one who works wonders (Ps 77:14). He even creates natural disasters (Is 45:7).

Our acceptance of naturalism, even though we may not realize it, has caused us to take glory away from God. Contrary to what our culture teaches, Scripture tells us that he is the initiator and sustainer of the entire created order (Gen 1, John 1, Col 1:15-17). He is responsible. The buck stops with him, not with natural laws or created things. 

So, my challenge to you is to be open to the ways in which we have been taken captive by a hollow and deceptive philosophy. Naturalism has nothing to offer us. It is completely bankrupt as a philosophy. It makes us think less of ourselves, less of others, less of creation, and less of God. Much moral evil has resulted from the acceptance of this insidious idea. For this reason I am declaring war on naturalism and materialism, and this will continue to be a theme on my blog.

We have been overrun. Let's take back our camp for the glory of God.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Reading List for Discovery Institute's Seminar on ID in the Natural Sciences

Reading List for 2013 Seminar on ID and the Natural Sciences


·         Course Packet of Readings for Seminar on ID in the Natural Sciences
·         The Nature of Nature (Gordon/Dembski)
·         Darwin’s Black Box (Michael Behe)
·         The Edge of Evolution (Michael Behe)
·         The Design Revolution (William Dembski)
·         Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design (Stephen Meyer)
·         Explore Evolution: The Arguments For and Against Neo-Darwinism (Stephen Meyer et al.)
·         The Privileged Planet (Guillermo Gonzalez and Jay Richards)
·         Where the Conflict Really Lies (Alvin Plantinga)
·         Politically Incorrect Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design (Jonathan Wells)
·         The Myth of Junk DNA (Jonathan Wells)
·         Science and Human Origins (Ann Gauger, Douglas Axe,  & Casey Luskin)
·         God and Evolution (Jay Richards et al.)
·         Darwin Day in America (John G. West)
·         Intelligent Design: A Briefing Packet for Educators

Individual Articles (Students should find online and print out or save)

Doug Axe, Brendan Dixon, Philip Lu, “Stylus: A System for Evolutionary Experimentation Based on a Protein/Proteome Model with Non-Arbitrary Functional Constraints,” PLoS ONE 3, no.6 (June 4, 2008): available online at:

Henri Atlan and Moshe Koppel, “The Cellular Computer DNA: Program or Data,” Bulletin of Mathematical Biology 52, no. 3 (1990).

Keith Baverstock, “Only DNA? Really?” at:

Robin Collins, “The Fine-Tuning of the Cosmos: A Fresh Look at its Implications,” available online at:

W. Ford Doolittle and Eric Bapteste, “Pattern pluralism and the Tree of Life hypothesis,” PNAS 104 (2007).

Iris Fry, “Are the Different Hypotheses on the Emergence of Life as Different as they Seem?” Biology & Philosophy 10 (1995).

Eugene Koonin, “The Biological Big Bang model for the major transitions in evolution,” Biology Direct 2 (2007).


·         Unlocking the Mystery of Life
·         The Privileged Planet
·         Darwin’s Dilemma
·         Metamorphosis

Supplemental Reading Packet for Seminar on ID in the Natural Sciences      

Axe, Douglas. “The Limits of Complex Adaptation: An Analysis Based on a Simple Model of Structured Bacterial Populations”

Gauger, Ann, and Douglas Axe, “The Evolutionary Accessibility of New Enzyme Functions: A Case Study from the Biotin Pathway”

Gauger, Ann, et. al. “Reductive Evolution Can Prevent Populations from Taking Simple Adaptive Paths to High Fitness”

Meyer, Stephen. “The Origin of Biological Information and the Higher Taxonomic Categories”

Minnich, Scott and Stephen Meyer. “Genetic analysis of coordinate flagellar and type III regulatory circuits in pathogenic bacteria”

Plantinga, Alvin. “Methodological Naturalism?” (Parts 1 & 2)

Richards, Jay. “List of Fine Tuning Parameters.”

Richards, Jay. “When to Doubt a Scientific Consensus.”

Talbott, Steve. “Getting Over the Code Delusion.”

Talbott, Steve. “The Unbearable Wholeness of Beings.”

Talbott, Steve. “What Do Organisms Mean?”

Talbott, Steve. “Evolution and the Illusion of Randomness.”

Talbott articles are online at:

Steve Talbott, “Getting Over the Code Delusion,” The New Atlantis (Summer 2010), at:

Steve Talbott, “The Unbearable Wholeness of Beings,” The New Atlantis (Fall 2010), at:

Steve Talbott, “What Do Organisms Mean?” (Winter 2011), at:

Steve Talbott, “Evolution and the Illusion of Randomness” (Fall 2011), at:

Can Science Prove that God Doesn't Exist?

Science is limited. It is like a strong dog on a chain. It rules its own area legitimately, but no more. Science is powerful and has brought us a tremendous amount of knowledge about the way in which God has set up the regularities of nature. Yet it is on a leash...

Scientists of the modern era, however, think that the dog has been let loose to roam the neighborhood. Many in our culture will claim that science is, in fact, the only way to gain knowledge. For example, Alex Rosenberg, in his book The Atheist's Guide to Reality, defines scientism thus, "....the conviction that the methods of science are the only reliable ways to secure knowledge of anything; that science's description of the world is correct in its fundamentals..."  If science didn't tell it to you, you can't know it according to those represented by Rosenberg.

If I may be permitted to switch my metaphors, we may think of science as a metal detector. A young boy goes down to the beach with his metal detector and comes back with a delightful collection of soda tabs, lost earrings, and spare change. Is anyone in his family surprised that the boy found metal with his metal detector? Of course not! Notice,though, that his collection did not include sea shells, beach balls, or sand crabs. A metal detector finds what is within is capabilities.

The same is true for science. It can only find what is within its capabilities. Science goes down to the beach to study the natural world, and low and behold!, when it returns it reports to us regularities and elements of that natural world. For a scientist to proclaim that there is nothing beyond the natural world would be just like our young boy to insist that the whole world is made of metal.

Amazing how we would quaintly pat the young boy on the head with a knowing look to the other adults in the room, yet we listen to some scientists or thinkers who say the logical equivalent and nod our heads up and down in deferential agreement.

The next time you hear someone say that science is the only path to knowledge, simply pat him on the head and tell him (or her) how quaint he (or she) is.

So, can science prove that God doesn't exist? Well, is God a physical being? Not according to orthodox Christianity. And if God is not physically a part of the natural world, then he is beyond the capabilities of science and cannot be ruled out by science. Returning to the dog metaphor, science cannot investigate anything outside of its territory. It may bark threateningly, but it is restrained no matter how hard it tries not to be.

I do think, however, that God has inscribed in the regularities of nature evidence of his having designed it, and that science can detect these inscriptions. But that is a topic for another day...