Free-Will Moral Agency 1

“For this God is our God for ever and ever: he will be our guide even unto death.”  (Ps. 48:14)

From my book The Christian Church in the Last Days

God created humans having the distinctive feature of being free-will moral agents, but this freedom has its limits.  We did not choose to be born.  We did not select in advance our unique abilities and character traits.  None of us can independently choose through free-will volition to live morally perfect, mistake-free lives.

Free-will moral agency divides into the widest possible gulfs in the practical applications of Darwinian evolution and the fiat creation of becoming Spirit-born Christians.  After Adam’s fall in the Garden of Eden, man is incapable of living a perfectly righteous life using free-will moral choice (Romans 3:23; 7:14, 19, 20, 23).  Man cannot satisfy God’s law requiring perfect righteousness on our own.  We cannot evolve to this elevated character level.  This is a discontinuous gap in the moral realm.

By accepting Jesus Christ into our lives, Christians are admitting that we are incapable of living perfectly righteous lives by our own autonomous, free-will moral agency, apart from Christ’s divine input.  This is the direct opposite of the notion of evolutionary progress by totally naturalistic causes through self-realization, or a program of self-propelled works, or things simply falling into place by mere random chance.  Like the debate between Darwinian evolution and fiat creation in the natural world, there exists an unbridgeable gap between the idea of humanistic progress through purely naturalistic means and the fiat creation of a Spirit-born Christian instantly becoming a new creature “in Christ” through salvation faith.

We do not evolve into becoming Christians over long periods of time through good works, self-effort, or self-realization.  Survival of the fittest does not produce Christ-like character traits.

Christians are born-again by the Spirit of God into becoming new people “in Christ” (John chapter three).  The new birth in the Spirit is a fiat creation of God.  Born-again Christians become sons and daughters of God, and thereby take on the nature of God through the gift of the indwelling Spirit of God.  A biblical-quality journey of faith composed individually for every follower of Christ is a highly specified life-script that accomplishes the plans of God and beneficially transforms the believer.  The biblical-quality, journey-of-faith life-scripts composed by God are discontinuous from the horizontally conventional, conforming to cultural norms life-plans conceived through agnostic self-autonomy.

The key point here is that God-crafted journeys of faith occur through intelligent design and not random chance.  To become who and what we were created to be requires the active participation of God in our lives, completely and totally contrary to the random chance model of humanistic naturalism prevalent in our present-day cynically skeptical culture.

Darwinism and a Biblical Journey of Faith

From my book The Christian Church in the Last Days

Darwinian macroevolution might more accurately be labeled as the philosophical-conjecture-of-the-gaps.  Line up similarly related mammals, birds, insects, reptiles, or plants in sequential order in their respective groups, and no matter how closely similar they match, the gaps between each living thing in terms of physical characteristics, internal organs, behavior, molecular protein variance, and uniquely beneficial survival features, are distinct and discontinuous enough to support the exercise of a useful taxonomic, classification grouping system.  The historical term used to describe the distinct uniqueness of each living creature within a similar group is “typology”…that living things stay true to type…the immutable law of the inheritance of similar characteristics from parent to offspring.  If typology did not visibly predominate in the natural living world, there would be no clear differentiation between living creatures on which to base a system of classification, for use in the fields of comparative anatomy and taxonomy.

But the naturalistic scheme that would connect all living things using continuously unbroken graph-lines presupposing gradual development from common ancestors to radically branching new species evolving over long periods of time, is entirely hypothetical conjecture.  This concept is called macroevolution.  Neither Darwin nor any evolutionist has ever produced empirical evidence for its existence.  It is a philosophical extension of microevolution, which is scientifically established and uncontroversial.  The horse series in the fossil record demonstrates microevolution…a gradually developing adaptive sequence…remains for eons of time always horses and nothing but horses.

The empirical facts about each living creature, no matter how similar or how different from other closely related creatures as classified by the human system of taxonomy, cannot justifiably be connected in a continuous series of gradual development without first articulating the hard empirical-facts methodology of how a duck and an eagle can both come from a common ancestor, or on a more general level how a reptile can change into a bird, or how an amphibian can change into a fish or vice-versa, or how a small-sized, ancestral land mammal can change over time into an elephant or a hippopotamus.

A philosophical worldview does not normally take the place of factual scientific evidence when critical thinking is in play.  Pure conceptual conjecture alone cannot be used as the filler material between the discreet gaps separating living things, and still credibly be labeled “science.”  Naturalism is already the commendable working hypothesis in all branches of science.  But philosophical naturalism and empirical facts are not interchangeable in the hypothetical extrapolation of Darwinian microevolution into macroevolution.  Discontinuous “types” based upon characteristic differences is still the criteria in use today in modern taxonomy as it was 150 years ago, because the hard scientific reality shows distinct animals, birds, reptiles, and fish that do not blend together in overlapping, indistinguishable continuity in our present world or in the historically ancient fossil record.

The idea that one species can radically change wholesale into another entirely different species requires clear word definitions and the clearest of understanding.  Darwin’s finches on the Galapagos Islands radiate over time into distinct species of finches, but they are still finches and they are still birds.  The concept that all of the diversity in nature is connected by continuity must be supported by the strongest observational evidence.  Scientific investigation must supply the empirical evidence for this notion.  After 150 years of intensive research, it has not.  The discontinuity in nature observed by the leading naturalists and biologists prior to 1859, and the contrasting universal continuity required by any purely naturalistic scheme like Darwinian evolution, both differ at this fundamentally critical point of continuity or discontinuity.

Why is this important for Christians today?  Darwinian evolution would be easier to prove if it described a reality in nature that consisted of overlapping relationships that blurred the uniquely distinctive features of living things to the point of making taxonomy and comparative anatomy a totally subjective exercise.  Just as continuity and discontinuity are at polar opposite ends of the spectrum, a biblical-quality journey of faith is discontinuous with worldly conventional thinking.  The same God who created animals and plants having uniquely distinctive features allowing for clear-cut, objective classification, also created God-composed journeys of faith that are divinely discontinuous with humanistic philosophies and man-made religions.

Borrowing from scientific terminology, a God-composed journey of faith is functional in a world that has purpose and meaning.  Our innate abilities in a biblical-quality journey of faith are co-adapted to interact with life events and circumstances in a coherent manner.  By contrast, an autonomous, self-directed life is partially a random, trial-and-error search strategy that is dysfunctional in terms of our ultimate direction and purpose.

In this present age in history there are a multitude of options.  Only our Creator God knows the one right, fulfilling life-script for each of us.  Darwinian evolution by random chance is the worst possible program as our guide to life.  Our optimum life-course cannot be found by chance.  The narrative stories of faith recorded in the Bible are beyond human invention and contrivance to begin with, and are too complex and directional to be the result of random chance discovery.  They require the direct participation of God to imagine, initiate, orchestrate, and to finally bring to a positive outcome.

Empirical Evidence for Intelligent Design 2

“For his merciful kindness is great toward us: and the truth of the Lord endureth forever.  Praise ye the Lord.”  (Ps. 117:2)

From my book The Christian Church in the Last Days

Assigning absolute authority to scholarly unbelief in interpreting the Bible, based solely upon academic PhD credentials, is like assigning spiritual credibility to the Pharisees and scribes immediately after instigating the crucifixion of Jesus.  In John 8:43 Jesus said: “Why do ye not understand my speech?  Even because ye cannot hear my word.”  In John 10:25-27 Jesus said: “I told you, and ye believed not; the works that I do in my Father’s name, they bear witness of me.  But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you.  My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.”

The Pharisees, Sadducees, scribes, and lawyers in first century Jerusalem saw the miracles and heard the teaching of Jesus, but they were blind and deaf as to the nature of Jesus Christ as the Son of God and promised Messiah.  In popular speech, they failed to connect all of the dots.  In the language of modern social science, they failed to account for all of the data…data that was taking place right before their eyes.  They forfeited their authority and credibility to speak on spiritual matters when their supposed “faith” in God was openly exposed through the cross of Jesus Christ to be nothing more than white-washed, hypocritical unbelief (Matthew 23:27).

The commendable goal of modern scientific investigation was to scrub away superstition, myth, folklore, magic, and error from our understanding of the causes behind the workings of our natural world.  This approach, upon completion, can leave in place a supernatural, invisible Creator God who is transcendent above yet still active in our natural world.  The search for purely naturalistic explanations behind the phenomenon of our physical world does not lead directly to the extreme philosophy that all such phenomenon must be understood only through the lens of naturalistic causes.  Scientific investigation utilizing the experimental methods of empirical research into the workings of the natural world does not and never has required the prerequisite of an accompanying, radically exclusive materialistic philosophy.

The notion that one-time, non-repeating, supernatural events are not accessible to repetitive experimental testing is acknowledged by everyone.  The extension of this reality that is unjustified is the suggestion that the philosophy of naturalism is indispensable as a sort of protective secular shell around the empirical scientific method, to ward off supernaturalism.  This has been the subject of intense, rational, and balanced debate for centuries.

One of the potential worldview overturning ironies of the last few decades of the twentieth century is that after 450 years of scientific research into our natural world, science is coming full-circle in identifying a growing body of hard empirical evidence for the existence of inexplicably ordered, complex information, well beyond the reach of chance as a reasonable explanation.  The ancient but scientifically difficult to prove gut-feeling sense of intelligent design observed in our world, is now being supported by a growing body of empirical evidence as the best explanation for the causation behind natural phenomenon.  The scale is slowly beginning to tip in favor of exposing that the elaborate theories currently hypothesized to explain away the obvious appearance of design in our natural world, are more irrational in terms of empirical science than the opposing idea of the existence of a supernatural Creator.

The “god-of-the-gaps” notion that the jigsaw puzzle pieces of scientific investigation into the workings of the natural world, replacing blank unknowns with verifiably empirical facts, would reveal a godless naturalistic world is turning out to be false.  The portrait of the nearly completed picture, after enough of the puzzle pieces are fit into place, reveals an intelligent designer remarkably similar to human beings having the innate intellectual and artistic capacity to imagine and to create.

The ability to get far enough outside of ourselves and thus contemplate a subject like the study of the history of science reveals an autonomous transcendent quality separate from nature itself.  We do not see the same high quality of analytical contemplation anywhere else in the natural world.  The narrow range of innate instincts in the natural world is not the same as the elevated human ability to freely analyze the reasons explaining the rise of the modern Scientific Revolution and the culture-shaping “doctrine of progress,” for example.  There is a large gap between humans and the rest of the living world that is discontinuous and unbridgeable by incrementally gradual, small steps, in this area of intellectual reasoning.

The scientific pursuit…the ability to comprehend the workings of an orderly and intelligible universe, is itself an indirectly subtle refutation of the notion that everything derives from purely naturalistic causes produced through blind chance.  How could purely naturalistic causes produce people who have the ability to get far enough outside of nature to conduct detached, analytical investigations looking back into the workings of nature?  The independent feature of our cognitive powers is a real-world test-tube demonstration of our transcendence above and apart from nature.

Empirical Evidence for Intelligent Design 1

“It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man.”  (Ps. 118:8)

From my book The Christian Church in the Last Days

The charge by liberal skeptics that conservative Christians are gullible, credulous, and out-of-sinc with reality because we accept the miraculous accounts in the Bible, in contrast to the current modern social paradigm of cynical skepticism, on the surface seems formidable.  The irony in this charge against believing Christians accepting the supernatural in the Bible is that the philosophy of naturalism that forms the basis of this attack upon the miraculous in the Bible is itself under extreme attack.  This attack is coming from the entirely secular arena of empirical scientific evidence supporting the existence of intelligent design in our natural world.

Einstein’s equations in 1915 predicting either an expanding or a contracting universe, and the 1929 discovery by Edwin Hubble at the Mount Wilson Observatory of the red-shift in light confirming that our universe is indeed expanding, were the first beginnings of a paradigm shift away from the philosophy of naturalism.  This slow moving paradigm shift away from blind random chance and undirected causes as the sole explanations behind our otherwise observably ordered and organized natural world, yet always having the outward appearances of intricate design, is accelerating in speed and momentum.

The Big-Bang explanation for the beginning of the universe (I believe a 13.7 billion-year old universe is consistent with the Genesis creation account according to a flexible interpretation of the word “day” or “days” as used in ordinary, commonplace every-”day” speech), the unaccountably huge amount of information contained within DNA, the previously unimagined complexity we now observe within microscopic living cells, the inexplicable fine-tuning of the laws of physics and chemistry to support complex life, the interrelated and balanced factors in our solar system that make the earth uniquely habitable, and the sheer mathematical improbability of  random search strategies to arrange by blind chance the functional components for complex systems of any sort, all argue persuasively for the existence of a brilliantly creative intelligent designer.

Even something as basic as the reality of the symmetry of our human exterior body plan for enhanced locomotion and the asymmetrical plan of our interior organs having no relationship to locomotion, reveals two different design functions intelligently integrated, similar to the intelligently engineered design of a modern automobile having required exterior symmetry for locomotion yet unrequired interior asymmetry “under the hood.”

This intelligent designer of our natural world possesses very similar but eminently superior attributes to ourselves.  The recent discoveries in the last three to four decades of empirical scientific evidence for a transcendent intelligence behind the physical workings of our natural world, unhooks the philosophy of naturalism from its dubious and unfounded connection to empirical scientific investigation, which it never deserved.  The foundation for a radically skeptical approach to the interpretation of the Bible based upon the philosophy of naturalism has itself been undermined by the recent emergence in the physical sciences of empirical evidence for vast amounts of brilliantly ordered complex information to achieve functional programs, the unmistakable signature of a supernatural intelligent designer of unimaginably creative capacity.

The point of this post is to suggest that Christians today do not have to accept the premise of our modern culture that a supernatural walk of faith following Jesus Christ is not rational because the supernatural is inconsistent with the worldview of philosophical materialism.  We do not have to accept the negative pronouncements of radical liberal biblical scholars regarding the factual historicity of the supernatural elements in the lives of faith in the Bible, according to their revised, humanistically biased historical re-constructions.  Theological liberalism based upon naturalism is purely philosophical and not at all empirical.

The Intelligent Designer 2

“But our God is in the heavens: he hath done whatsoever he hath pleased.”  (Ps. 115:3)

From The Christian Church in the Last Days

The fact that our natural world is orderly and intelligible leads to our ability to study phenomenon to the outer reaches of the cosmos and to the smallest microscopic world of living cells.  The fact that we possess the intellect, judgment, and cognitive skills to understand moral issues opens up the potential for the discovery of right and wrong through God-composed adventures of faith.

These two concepts…intelligent design of the natural world and the active participation of God in the lives of contemporary Christians through biblical-quality journeys of faith…are coalescing into complementary supporting revelations into the openness of God’s invitation to know Him through His creation and His participation in our lives.  This confirms from two entirely different directions that we do indeed live on a privileged planet designed and created for a purpose.

Our unique location as Spirit-born Christians in this broken world is the equivalent experiential platform for making discoveries in the world of absolute morality that closely parallels the discovery by Guillermo Gonzalez and Jay Richards that the factors in our natural world both support complex life and provide an optimum platform for scientific investigation.

God did not create evil, but He is so brilliantly imaginative that he can take flawed and imperfect people like Abraham and Paul, and craft them through unique life-scripts into spiritual sons of God who can understand and appreciate the aspects of truth and righteousness, at the same deep level as we are now beginning to scientifically understand the superb craftsmanship behind the workings of our physical world.  A biblical journey of faith following Jesus Christ through the cross, invites us to discover the eternal workings of righteousness, holiness, and faith in the areas of character and truth, in the same way that God invites mankind to discover Him through the accessibility and intelligibility of the natural world.

If God does not in actuality and in reality speak to Abraham to leave Haran and travel to Canaan, then the story of Abraham is merely a flat, conventionally bland tale in antiquity of a person going from one location to another.  If the conversion and ministry of Paul is interpreted through a humanistic lens alone, without the supernatural participation of Jesus Christ crafting Paul into a world-class apostle of the faith, then what is the value of what Paul has to say to us about surrendering and yielding our lives to the leading of Jesus Christ?  Jeremiah 31:31-34 calls for believers to personally know God from the least to the greatest.  This claim is absurd if God does not exist in actuality, but the larger point is that this concept lies outside of human imaginative origination.  What is our frame of reference for inventing the idea we can get to know personally the living God if in reality He does not exist?  No one would or could invent the narrative stories of faith in the Bible.  How or why would someone invent the idea of knowing God personally through a journey of faith if such a journey of faith would quickly be dispelled by the non-participation of a non-existent God?

One of the key points of the Bible that validates its supernatural content is that God does actually call people to know Him personally in every century of human history.  God skillfully maneuvers events and circumstances in a humanly unimaginable way so that people reach the point where they recognize their need for God’s help in the midst of their calling, brought into clear investigative focus through faith and trust.

The logical extension of the revolutionary discovery that many of the factors that support complex life in the universe are also the same factors that set up an observational platform optimum for conducting scientific investigation of the natural world is the recognition of an intelligent designer of enormous foresight and cleverness.  This in turn validates and confirms the significance of a biblical journey of faith from an entirely new direction.

If we can comprehend the craftsmanship of God through an understanding of the intricate workings of our natural world, we can also begin to appreciate the brilliance of the totally unconventional apprenticeship program of Joseph’s training to become governor of Egypt, or David’s challenging character growth route to the kingship of Israel.  We can begin to appreciate the unimaginably creative foresight in refashioning the forgiving grace extended to Paul on his way to Damascus, into the evangelical missionary gospel message of love-filled grace preached through Paul to the idol-worshipping, polytheistic Gentiles in the first-century Greco-Roman world.

The Intelligent Designer 1

“The Lord is high above all nations, and his glory above the heavens.  Who is like unto the Lord our God, who dwelleth on high.”  (Ps. 113:4-5)

From The Christian Church in the Last Days

The ingenious discovery by two scientists Guillermo Gonzalez and Jay Richards, documented in their 2004 book The Privileged Planet, leads us to one of the final great truths to be discovered at the end of the Scientific Revolution and of human redemptive history.  In their book, they make the argument that there is a surprising relationship between the physical factors that make our earth habitable and the same identical factors that also provide the best platform for making scientific observations of the universe.  The 20 or so physical factors that make our planet earth uniquely habitable in our solar system, and the prime location we enjoy within the Milky Way Galaxy that provides an open window to investigate the cosmos, reveals a creative God of superb craftsmanship and precision who actually invites us, through a natural world that is orderly, intelligible, and accessible to investigation, to pursue a full and mature understanding of His creation.

Guillermo Gonzalez, an astrophysicist, observed a full solar eclipse in 1995 in India, and then connected the novelty of this occurrence to other similar physical evidence in the universe in collaboration with Jay Richards in their book.  Together they reached the inspired conclusion that the factors that make our planet habitable in our solar system and in our Milky Way Galaxy, at the same time also provide the optimum environment for human observers to make scientific discoveries of the cosmos.

For example, our distant sun is four hundred times the size of our moon but also four hundred times farther away, creating a nearly perfect lunar eclipse of the sun and thus the conditions accessible to investigation by modern man.  A full lunar eclipse of the sun blocks out the harsh glare of the sun while leaving exposed the outer atmosphere, enabling scientists to study the “flash spectrum” of light observable only during an eclipse.  This information opened up our modern understanding of the composition of stars and formed the basis for the current-day study of astrophysics.

The theological implication from science is that God is experientially close enough to us to design ahead of time the tight size and distance specifications of our sun, moon, and earth in such a way to create solar eclipses, in full anticipation of the emergence of the modern study of astrophysics in the early twentieth century.  The same God also brilliantly sets up the tight specifications of a journey of faith modelled for us through the narrowly channeled life-script circumstances of an Abraham, Joseph, Moses, David, Joseph and Mary, Peter, Paul, and Jesus.

If it takes the Intelligent Designer God to set up for us the physical conditions in our solar system to be able to observe a lunar eclipse of the sun leading to a scientific understanding of the larger universe, it is timely for modern Christians to now also officially recognize that it will take God to likewise engineer the unique conditions of a journey-of-faith life-script of tightly specified events and circumstances, to lead us into “all truth” (John 16:13).  The extremely narrow specifications that set up the precise conditions to open up the way for the scientific investigation in the natural world, as evidenced through the unique phenomenon of a solar eclipse, are a quantitatively measureable, empirical revelation of the master craftsmanship of God.  This same intricate precision is mirrored in the equally tight specifications of a journey of faith leading to the revelation of moral and spiritual truth, as recorded in the narrative stories in the Bible (Ephesians 2:10).

The empirical scientific evidence for the notion that our planet earth is special and privileged through the common factors that support complex life and at the same time provide a prime observation platform to make scientific discoveries, translates seamlessly from the natural world over into the biblical concept of a journey of faith leading to the highest levels of discovering eternally valid and applicable moral truths.

God designed the exact size of our earth, its location within the “habitable zone” in our solar system to permit liquid water, the size and type of our sun, the large size of our moon that maintains the uniform tilt and rotation of our earth for a stable weather environment, and the transparent nature of our atmosphere that supports both complex life and scientific investigation.  This same creative God is composing and orchestrating journeys of faith for Christians through this current spiritual, moral, and intellectual environment of our world today (Jeremiah 31:31-34).

Why the Cross in a Journey of Faith is Important Today

“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth his handiwork.”   (Psalms 19:1)

From The Christian Church in the Last Days

The uniform experience of every positive character in the Bible is that the course of their lives proceeds not according to their own plans but according to God’s will and way.  In a life that is totally surrendered to Jesus Christ, the scheme of events and circumstances will lead to an unconventional and supernatural trajectory to open up the way to exercise faith, so that God has a practical means within reality to reveal His true character to people (Judges 7:2).  One theme throughout this book is that God alone has the divine perspective, a thorough knowledge of each of us, and the creative brilliance to write life-scripts that will achieve this objective.  A God-guided journey of faith is a revolutionary concept that rises above the modern naturalistic worldview of skeptical cynicism toward the supernatural God of the Bible.

The current secular paradigm of philosophical materialism does not acknowledge or admit a brilliantly creative, transcendent God who wants to beneficially participate in our lives according to the unselfish model of divine love.  The world views this concept of the real, living God active in our lives with incomprehension, suspicion, and unbelief.  Unique to any previous period in human history, these two contrasting worldviews…actualized faith and skeptical unbelief…are now polarized into diametric opposites like never before.  Multitudes of people today buy into the idea that the Bible is not reliable because of its “non-modern” element of the supernatural, without even knowing where this skeptical thinking originates from and whether or not it is valid.

A great social and cultural battle of these end-times will be over the facts surrounding the existence and nature of God (Daniel 7:25).  The empirical evidence from science is beginning to weigh-in on this issue from a surprising direction.  Who Jesus is, and the true nature of a journey of faith through the cross lies at the center of this world-splitting debate.  The stakes in this conflict are enormous beyond reckoning.

Our technologically advanced, modern western culture now has innumerable career options, greater access to education, less gender and ethnic discrimination, and fewer economic class barriers, which were not so favorable even a few decades ago.  The great irony in all of this is the corrosive presence of cynical, skeptical unbelief in the God of the Bible.  Present circumstances place our modern world in an ideal position to rediscover the biblical message of God revealing His true character and nature to people, through the tight specifications of a precisely crafted adventure of faith.  God has many more varied options to work with than ever before in history.

But modern skeptical unbelief, based upon the philosophy of naturalism, undermines a biblical journey of faith at its source…the existence of the one true God active in both the physical and moral realms of our world.  This question…whether we rely upon self-determinism to find ultimate purpose and meaning in life, or exercise faith and trust in a more knowledgeable and capable Jesus Christ to lead the way…lies at the heart of the upcoming challenging events facing the Christian church and the broader world in the last days.