Monthly Archives: December 2016

Genetic entropy and the Reconstructionists’ optimism

In a recent paper[1] published in the Journal of Creation, Alex Williams explains that genetic entropy has obvious implications not only for humanity’s alleged evolutionary past but for the sustainability of the genome projected forward in time. John Sanford similarly wrote that, “The extinction of the human genome appears to be just as certain and deterministic as the extinction of stars, the death of organisms, and the heat death of the universe.” [2] So, “the inescapable conclusion”, according to Williams, “is that humans must have been created with mutation-free ‘healthy genomes’ just a few thousand years ago, and their future is likewise limited to thousands, not millions, of years.”[3]

The main point of Williams’ paper was of course to show the incompatibility of genomic decay with the mythology of Neo-Darwinian theory. I could not help but take notice, however, that as problematic as genetic entropy is for Darwinism it is similarly at odds with the eschatological future anticipated by postmillennial reconstructionism.[4] While most Christians look forward to the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ (Titus 2:13), reconstructionism (generally) predicts a future state characterized by improving conditions in both world and church for thousands of years finally culminating in the return of Christ. David Chilton, for example, asserted that the millennium will last for thirty-six thousand years.[5] Considering that this duration is six times longer than all of world history up to this point, this is quite an enormous amount of time. Worse yet, “[Francis] Nigel Lee…speaks of 100,000 years…and…Loraine Boettner, wrote about 200,000 years to Christianize the earth.”[6] Incredibly, one particular interpretation actually turns the “thousand years” of Revelation chapter twenty into three hundred and sixty thousand years![7] Regardless of the exact duration, most postmillennial reconstructionists would agree that such a supposed Christianizing of the world would of necessity be “a tedious and slow progress of many centuries.”[8] Adherents to this view will therefore have to assume that God will sustain the human genome for potentially four-hundred thousand more years.[9] Considering the bleakness of our genetic fate as predicted by Alex Williams, John Sanford and Robert Carter,[10] the thought of having to put up with many more yet unknown debilitating diseases and endure ever-increasing mutational load for multiplied thousands of years is a discouraging prospect indeed.

Ironically, the postmillennial position is often categorized as the “optimistic” eschatology because of its vision of a utopian world prior to Christ’s return.[11] Yet one can hardly see the optimism in putting off the return of Christ for potentially hundreds of thousands of years while disease and death (“the last enemy”, [1 Cor. 15:26]) continue to ravage and ruin our sin-cursed race. The Apostle Paul’s optimism (joy, actually) was the thought of departing and being with the risen Savior (Phil. 1:23). “For here we have no continuing city, but we seek the one to come” (Heb. 13:14).

Of course, the foregoing observation should not be viewed as an attempt to put scientific limitations on God’s prophetic Word. Science must not play a role in exegesis, and it has no authority over God’s pronouncements as to what the future holds. In light of His omnipotence, God could providentially sustain the human genome for as long as He likes despite the fact that calculations predict that “genome decay projected forwards points to extinction in just thousands of years.”[12] Because Scripture is the authoritative infallible and inerrant Word of God, it is not within science’s jurisdiction to refute a particular eschatology any more than it can refute the resurrection of Christ. So, if Scripture clearly taught that multiplied thousands of years are to transpire before the Second Coming, then God will suspend this decay process much like He did for the wandering Israelites.[13] God created the human genome; its mutational load can be attributed to the Fall, and our Creator, Sustainer and Savior is not bound by the “natural” degeneration of our DNA any more than He is constrained by thermodynamic processes.

Given the preceding caveat, postmillennial reconstructionism must stand or fall on exegetical grounds and not on scientific ones.[14] Millennial controversies aside, the creation was subjected to futility (Rom. 8:20) and Christ’s bride is to be looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God and the promise of a new heavens and a new earth (2 Peter 3:12-13).

Research in genetic entropy is consistent with the Apostle Peter’s hope for the future. This fallen sin-cursed world is not gradually (over multiplied thousands of years) reconstructed by sinful mutants nearing extinction but rather judged for its ensuing wickedness at Christ’s return .[15]

As Dr. Gary Parker used to say, What we see in God’s world agrees with what we read in God’s Word.

-Nick Sabato

 

[see also Jeffrey Tomkins’ article,  Genetic clocks verify recent creation, Acts and Facts 44(12):9, 2015.

[1] Williams, A., Healthy genomes require recent creation, Journal of Creation 29(2):70-77, 2015.

[2] Sanford, J.C., Genetic Entropy and the Mystery of the Genome, p. 83, FMS Publications, New York, 3rd edition., 2008. Such predictions are here acknowledged in terms of probability, though one would be wise to consider the frequently overlooked fallacy of induction committed by empiricists generally and scientists particularly in formulating predictions and universal propositions.

[3] Williams, ref. 1, p. 76.

[4] Two points of clarification are in order: 1) ‘Reconstructionism’ is often conflated with ‘dominionism’ for their many commonalities despite the latter’s variations (Dager, A.J., Vengeance is Ours, Sword Publishers, Redmond, WA, 1990); 2) The older form of postmillennialism was not ‘reconstructionist’ in nature (Berkhof, L., Systematic Theology, pp. 716-718, The Banner of Truth Trust, Edinburgh, UK, 1958), and since the term ‘amillennial’ is a relatively recent term, theologians prior to the twentieth-century were often called postmillennial though their position did not resemble the modern form of postmillennialism (Molles, B., The Beast and the Bride, p. 227, Lulu, 2004).

[5] Chilton, D., Paradise Restored, p.221, Reconstruction Press, Tyler, TX, 1985, cited in Cooke, R.N., and Hill, K.C., Reconstructionism: Is it Scriptural?, p. 39, Truth International Ministries, Max Meadows, VA, 1989.

[6] Cooke, R., The Jesuit Kulturkampf in the United States, p. 69, Truth International Ministries, Max Meadows, VA, 2008.

[7] The justification for this idea comes from applying (wrongly, I believe) the prophetic year-day principle established elsewhere in Scripture to the “thousand years” of Revelation chapter twenty. See Barnes, A., Notes on the New Testament: Revelation (1884-1885), Frew, R. (ed.), p. 420, Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, MI, 1983.

[8] Erdmann, M., The Millennial Controversy in the Early Church, p. 40, Wipf and Stock Publishers, Eugene, OR, 2005.

[9] See, for example, Lee, F.N., John’s Revelation Unveiled, pp. 282-283, Lamp Trimmers, El Paso, TX, 2001.

[10] Carter, R.W., More evidence for the reality of genetic entropy, Journal of Creation 28(1):16-17, 2014.

[11] Erdmann, ref. 8, p. 207; Molles, ref. 4, p. 194

[12] Williams, ref. 1, p. 70.

[13] “And you shall remember that the Lord your God led you all the way these forty years in the wilderness…that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord. Your garments did not wear out on you, nor did your foot swell these forty years” (Deuteronomy 8:2-4).

[14] “The fundamental idea of the doctrine [postmillennialism]…is not in harmony with the picture of the end of the ages found in Scripture. […] The modern idea that natural evolution and the efforts of man in the field of education, of social reform, and of legislation, will gradually bring in the perfect reign of the Christian spirit, conflicts with everything the Word of God teaches on this point.” Berkhof, ref. 4, pp. 718-719.

[15] “[The] final Judgment will be at the end of the age, when this world passes away at the appearing of the Lord Jesus Christ in power and glory.” Patterson, D., On the Final Judgment, Protestant Truth, 20(6):120, 2014.

John Gill on Revelation 18:4

“‘And I heard another voice from heaven,….’ Either of another, or of the same angel, or rather of God, or Christ himself, since the persons addressed are called his people:

‘saying, come out of her, my people;’ meaning either his elect ones, till now uncalled, being such whom God had chosen for his people, and were so by virtue of the covenant of grace, were given to Christ as his people, and were redeemed by him, though, till this call, in an unconverted state; or else such who had been secretly called by the grace of God, but had not made a public profession of the Gospel, nor bore an open testimony against the Romish idolatry; for as the Lord had a righteous Lot in Sodom, and saints where Satan’s seat was, Rome Pagan, so he will have a people in Rome Papal, at the time when its destruction draws near; and these wilt be called out, not only in a spiritual sense, to quit the communion of the church, to forsake its idolatries, and not touch the unclean thing, separate themselves from her, and bear a testimony against her doctrines and worship, but in a literal sense, locally; they shall be bid to come out of her, as Lot was ordered to go out of Sodom before its burning, and the people of the Jews out of Babylon before the taking of it, Jeremiah 50:8 to which reference is here had: and as the Christians were called out of Jerusalem before the destruction of it: this shows the particular knowledge the Lord has of his people, be they where they will, and the gracious care he takes of them, that they perish not with others; and that it is his will they should be a separate people from the rest of the world; and this call of his sufficiently justifies the Protestants in their separation from the church of Rome, and every separation from any apostate church;

‘that ye be not partakers of her sins’: by conniving at them, or committing the same; and all such are partakers of them, and have fellowship with these unfruitful works of darkness, that are in the communion of that church; and those that dwell at Rome are in great danger of being so, and cannot well avoid it: yea, even those that only go to see it, and stay but for a time in it, and that not only through the strength and influence of example, but through the force of power and authority:

‘and that ye receive not of her plagues’; or punishments; the seven last plagues, which belong to her, the vials of which will be poured out upon one or other of the antichristian states, and the fifth particularly will fall upon Rome, the seat of the beast, and is what is here referred to.”

John Gill’s Exposition of the Whole Bible

 

 

Modern miracles and the failure of empiricism

Recently I was listening to a preacher on AM radio when he went on a tangent condemning what is commonly referred to as “signs and wonders.” He appeared to be quite set against the modern proliferation of prophetic utterances and so-called miraculous healings dominating “Christian” radio and television. I agree with his sentiment; my concern with his message is not that he opposed the so-called apostolic gifts of modern charismania but rather the way in which he framed his argument.

Basically, the argument was as follows: “How do we know that there are no charismatic gifts of healing today? Because we do not see any happening. Charismatics can talk all they want about gifts of healing but we do not see these miracles being performed today and so we can rest assured that such gifts have ceased.”

For this gentleman, whose opinion concerning the continuation of gifts given to the NT apostles I am in agreement with, the lack of empirical evidence was sufficient to dismiss such an alleged spiritual phenomenon. The problem with this argument, however, should be pointed out so that we do not make the same mistake in our zeal to defend against the excesses of charismania.

The premise upon which the conclusion (that miracles have ceased) is built is: we do not see them happening. First, this preacher appears to miss the fact that his opponents—the advocates for continuationism—would simply retort that we do see them happening. In fact, the epistemological method employed by both parties here is the same: empiricism. Certainly, while I have not personally observed such purported miracles myself, there are many who claim that they have indeed witnessed them. The fallacy of induction is evident because neither party is capable of observing every case in history across the globe in order to definitively say, empirically, “miracles do not happen”. If someone claims to have experienced a miraculous healing by way of a Word of Faith healer in Africa (even though the smartphone-laden generation did not take it upon themselves to document such a rare and miraculous occurence), who am I to argue against his experience? Likewise, if I insist that I have yet to observe a purported miracle by way of a Word of Faith healer, how can the WoF advocate insist that I must have in fact observed such occurrences?

The point is, in fact, that all of this is beside the point. Rather than a discourse on the flaws of empiricism (which would itself invalidate the claims of the WoF movement), I want to show that this probably well-intentioned preacher was delivering an argument against modern miracles by appealing to his experience and not by appealing to the Word of God. My criticism is not of his position as a cessationist, nor do I disagree that there is a lack of the empirical evidence you would expect to find if such miracles were happening today,[1] nor will I here attempt to exegete the necessary Scriptures to make a case for cessationism. My point here simply is that the man’s authority on this subject was his personal experience—his appeal was to the same authority as the advocate of modern miracles! Word of Faith advocates appeal to their experience which is what validates the movement, putting us in a stalemate. Only when one is willing to appeal to the only authority (Scripture) can we find a legitimate basis for either accepting or denying post-apostolic miraculous healings. If knowledge is propositional truth as revealed in Scripture and not a collection of universals formulated by a posteriori reasoning, then it is the biblical text which must be the foundation upon which our position rests, irrespective of the experience had by continuationists and cessationists alike.

-Nick Sabato

 

[1] Justin Peters’ comments are of interest here. On page 72 of his 2002 Master’s thesis (An examination and critique of the life, ministry, and theology of healing evangelist Benny Hinn) he writes: “The proof of Hinn’s purported healings is conspicuous by its absence. Even if documented miracles were common in Hinn’s ministry, they would not in and of themselves legitimize it (Matt. 7:22-23). It seems that nearly all of those on stage claiming to have been healed suffer from maladies that are not readily visible, such as stomach ulcers, cancers, or bad backs. If God is truly healing people through Benny Hinn, where are the amputees, the blind, the imbecilic, the maimed, and the crippled? They are sitting, or sometimes lying, on the back of the floor area safely away from the watchful eyes of the numerous television cameras. If some do venture forward, they are ushered away just as was this author.”

Dr. Ronald Cooke on miracles

“It surely is noteworthy that the scriptures tell us that one of the characteristics of the false prophet is this: ‘Through covetousness they shall with feigned words make merchandise of you.’ That is he finds out what it is people want to hear and then pretends that is his message in order to get money. True Christianity has had to battle not only secularism and agnosticism but the erroneous teachings of those who claim to be her prophets.

“To claim to heal someone miraculously is quite a claim to make. To claim to heal someone who has abused his body is an ever bigger and more impossible claim to make.

“One of the problems never discussed on our Charismatic forums is the problem of abusing the body. The question needs to be asked and answered, ‘If we abuse our physical bodies is God going to miraculously intervene to heal them?’ We have seen grossly overweight people complaining of back problems and leg problems going forward to be healed by Faith healers. Now is God going to do for us miraculously what we refuse to do for ourselves by heeding his command to let our moderation be known to all men? If God miraculously healed those who have become broken down in health by intemperance, he would be working contrary to His Word.

“Gluttony is a sin seldom mentioned by biblical preachers, and yet someone has said that over-eating is the number one sin in the church today. Another speaker once said that we know the fundamentalist preachers by their pot-bellies. So with pot-bellied preachers filling our pulpits (no pun intended), it is no wonder that we hear nothing about the number one sin. Fat preachers blast smoking and drinking, but if they were honest, they would blast the sin of intemperance in eating also, but their own sinful intemperance silences their tongues.

“To watch while a faith healer tries to heal the sore legs and knees of a grossly over-weight person is one of the most pathetic sights in the church. God’s fixed principles demonstrate that if a person eats too much, his legs will not be able to support his body and also his heart is being strained and his back is being strained to support all the weight. So God is not going to heal that person of sore knee caps, back spasms, and heart strain in some miraculous way. The only way that person will be genuinely helped is if they take off about 100 pounds. Even Christ is never reported to have removed 50 or 100 pounds of excess obesity miraculously from the human body.

“The miracle workers of today are trying to do what we might call ‘miracle impossible.’ If a person uses tobacco and has ravaged the fixed principles by which man breathes, is God going to give him new lungs or restore his old ones? One of God’s fixed principles is you reap what you sow. Now it is possible to stay the harvest if the bad sowing is changed into good sowing soon enough, but if it is allowed to come to full fruition then the fixed principles which God has ordained in this situation demand that the harvest is reaped. God cannot change the harvest no matter how much faith we may exercise if it has come to full fruition.

“Some people who have smoked have stopped and their bodies have not suffered. But the person who continues to smoke may contract lung cancer or emphysema and the damage is irreparable.

“To tell people to come to a meeting and expect to be healed through the touch of a fallible man, when it is apparent that not even God would heal them if He still was performing miracles for they ignored His precepts, is surely one of the most deceptive practices going on in the name of Christianity.

“God imposed his principles on the world after the Fall and nowhere does it indicate in the Bible that He sets aside those principles to come to the miraculous aid of those who ignore His principles in the first place. In fact, that is the very thing the second part of Christ’s three-fold temptation teaches. Christ did not tempt the [Father] by casting Himself down and ignoring the principles of gravity which God made a part of His creation. Christ refused to cast Himself down from the pinnacle of the temple for He knew in so doing that He could not expect miraculous aid if He carelessly and presumptuously ignored the normal principle of gravity. He answered the devil plainly and firmly, ‘Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.’

“Man at best is an erratic creature. Even the best of men are fallible. They are susceptible to being deceived even by their own hearts, as well as their own sense perceptions. Therefore it stands to reason that we need the more sure Word of Prophecy to keep us straight and not the alleged miracles of fallible men.”

-Ronald Cooke, Do Miracles Then Continue?, Manahath Press, Hollidaysburg, PA, 1984, pp. 108-111.

Dr. Cooke’s books are provided on a free will offering when you contact Truth International Ministries

Human ability and the imperative mood

While I was struggling with issues relating to Calvinism, I often repeated an assertion that I had picked up from my Dispensational brethren which was essentially this: God’s giving of a command to fallen man necessarily implies that man has the ability to respond to the command. In other words, responsibility necessitates ability. For God to demand something that His creatures were innately incapable of responding to would not have sat well with the non-confessional, non-denominational Dispensational church I was brought up in, and it did not sit well with me.

Not having a sufficiently coherent theological framework in place, such an assertion regarding man’s ability to repent seemed reasonable, especially when the “prevenient grace” of God would necessarily be bestowed upon all. It was not that man in his natural state could keep the commandments, but that God had enabled all men to do what He commands by extending His grace to all people. And all you had to do to make this case was show from the Scriptures that “God…commands all men everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30), remind objectors that only some men actually do repent, and chalk up the difference to man’s inviolable and autonomous will which sometimes stubbornly resists the grace of God.

It wasn’t until years later (and my dogmatism on this point had been already eroded by a variety of authors and pastors, including my own) that I heard a lecture by the late John W. Robbins which cut right through my objection and exposed the logical fallacy in my reasoning. It was his first lecture in a series titled, “An Introduction to Logic“. Ironically, while I was criticizing the Calvinists for being illogical on this point, I learned from Robbins that I was the one who was being illogical. Without realizing it, many of us may be regurgitating the arguments Erasmus hurled at Luther, despite the fact that the Reformer had obliterated the objections of the Romanist almost 500 years ago.

In 2010, during a sermon series addressing the five-points of Calvinism, Pastor Ed Moore contended that it was incorrect to assume that responsibility implies ability. But at that time I had my own illustrations sufficient to keep me under the delusion that he was wrong in this bold assertion. As it turns out his argument was logical and biblical and I had totally missed it.

Below I have transcribed the segment of Robbins’ lecture that struck me and showed where my logical blunder was. Following the transcription I have included a relevant excerpt from Luther’s Bondage of the Will. Links to both of these resources are also provided.

Hopefully this will be useful to anyone struggling with the issue of responsibility and ability.

-Nick Sabato

“In [The Bondage of the Will, Luther] deals with many of the logical blunders that people make in interpreting and understanding Scripture.  One of the things he deals with is this (and this will become clearer as we go on):  …You cannot draw an inference from a command. You can draw an inference only from a proposition.  You cannot draw an inference from a sentence in the imperative mood. […] The imperative mood  is something like the Ten Commandments, ‘thou shalt not do something’.  It’s a command.  A declarative mood sentence is something else. It’s a statement about something.  David was king of Israel; it’s not a command. It’s simply a sentence in the declarative mood.

“…One of Luther’s arguments in Bondage of the Will is that people are drawing inferences from commands. They think, for example, that because God tells them to be perfect, they can be perfect. And Luther says this is an elementary blunder, a blunder worthy of schoolchildren. He says it’s a logical mistake. He says, ‘God tells you to be perfect to show you that you can’t do it.’ And that’s why you need a Savior. If you can do it in your own power, there’s no point in having Christ die on the cross. But many people in that day, and in our day think that because there’s a command in Scripture, that implies we can do it. And Luther gives a little lesson in logic, right there in the Bondage of the Will about drawing inferences from commands rather than from declarative sentences.”

Robbins, J., “Introduction to logic” (lecture 1 of 18) in ‘Collection 11 Introduction to Logic’ 23:15-25-15.

Martin Luther:

“And this is the place, where I take occasion to enforce this my general reply: — that man,by the words of the law, is admonished and taught what he ought to do, not what he can do: that is, that he is brought to know his sin, but not to believe that he has any strength in himself. Wherefore, friend Erasmus, as often as you throw in my teeth the Words of the law, so often I throw in yours that of Paul, “By the law is the knowledge of sin,” — not of the power of the will. Heap together, therefore, out of the large Concordances all the imperative words into one chaos, provided that, they be not words of the promise but of the requirement of the law only, and I will immediately declare, that by them is always shewn what men ought to do, not what they can do, or do do. And even common grammarians and every little school-boy in the street knows, that by verbs of the imperative mood, nothing else is signified than that which ought to be done, and that, what is done or can be done, is expressed by verbs of the indicative mood.

“Thus, therefore, it comes to pass, that you theologians, are so senseless and so many degrees below even school-boys, that when you have caught hold of one imperative verb you infer an indicative sense, as though what was commanded were immediately and even necessarily done, or possible to be done. But how many slips are there between the cup and the lip! So that, what you command to be done, and is therefore quite possible to be done, is yet never done at all. Such a difference is there, between verbs imperative and verbs indicative, even in the most common and easy things. Whereas you, in these things which are as far above those, as the heavens are above the earth, so quickly make indicatives out of imperatives, that the moment you hear the voice of him commanding, saying, “do,” “keep,” “choose,” you will have, that it is immediately kept, done, chosen, or fulfilled, or, that our powers are able so to do.”

Luther, M., De Servo Arbitrio “On the Enslaved Will” or The Bondage of Will, Grand Rapids, MI: Christian Classics Ethereal Library, pp. 111-12.