Apologetics: July 2006 Archives

Some people argue that contemporary science can't be right about how old the earth or the universe is, because an omnipotent being wouldn't need to take that long to make a universe. Thus the young earth must be true. Others argue from the opposite end that intelligent design arguments are inconsistent with an omnipotent being, because they involve God inputting information over a long process. (See, for example, SteveF's July 25 comment at 5:47 pm in this comment thread on this post.) I don't think this sort of argument works in either case.

If the designer is God, then God should be able to do something over a longer time or a shorter time. Young earth creationists are right that God could have created everything instantly. But the argument undermines the young earth view as much as any other, unless the young earth view holds God to have created everything instantly. It doesn't hold that but takes the period of creation to be six days. Why would God need six whole days to create everything? God could have created instantly. If it's implausible for God to do something over thousands or millions of years (because God could do it in a shorter time), then it's implausible for God to do it in six days (because God could do it in a shorter time). The mere possibility that God could have done it over a shorter time does not mean that God would have done so. A divine being with omnipotence could choose to work over a very long time or a very short time, and neither should seem more or less likely without an understanding of the purposes such a being might have for working over a longer or shorter time.

The hypothesis that there is a designer, particularly if one of the possibilities is that the designer is omnipotent, does not make it more or less likely that the designer worked over a long or short time. The length of time is not evidence against God. What's interesting is that the reverse is not true. Length of time issues may count as evidence against naturalistic explanations, precisely because they do not involve beings who can do anything (and thus can work instantly or over a longer time).

Mark Roberts gives an argument that hadn't occurred to me. Some people doubt the traditional authorship of the gospels. One thing that's strange about that view is that we have no explanation of why someone would choose the minor characters of John Mark and Luke, even if they did have some connection with Peter and Paul. Wouldn't it make more sense to choose someone who had actually met Jesus to serve as the invented author of gospels that are pretty much accounts of Jesus' life? If you're going to be inventing the authorship of the book we now call Mark, and you're going to say that the author who wrote it was Mark, who got his information from Peter, why not just say that it came from Peter? There was no Gospel of Peter at the time, so it wasn't as if the name was taken? Even if it made sense to choose a companion of someone who knew Jesus, it would be silly to choose a companion of someone who as far as we know didn't. That makes the choice of Luke extremely strange.

What Mark then goes on to argue is that this makes it far more likely than otherwise that the attributions to Matthew and John are accurate. Even if it seems really silly to question the tradition on Mark and Luke, it doesn't automatically follow that the tradition on Matthew and John is inaccurate. But it is the same tradition. These listings appear together generally, all around the same time, and we shouldn't expect it to be right on two of the four gospels but drastically wrong on the other two. That does increase the plausibility factor for Matthew and John a little.

Now I don't think much stands of falls on this issue. The only gospel of the four that makes any claim relevant to its authorship is John, and that's not exactly unambiguous (though I do think the most plausible expanation is that John is its author). But if we found out for sure that all four gospels were written by people we've never heard of, it wouldn't threaten conservative views on scripture's authority. It's just that this is a real difficulty for those who want to suspect that the tradition is unreliable. This is at least one reason for thinking of it as more reliable than many scholars, even some evangelicals, are willing to admit.

Life on Mars

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David Heddle has a brief post that nonetheless deals with a variety of issues related to the possibility of life on Mars and how a Christian should think about that. I really like David's general approach to this sort of thing.

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