Response to Parkview Sermon Questions

Last summer, I was invited to participate in a dialogue on stage with the pastor of Parkview Christian Church during his three weekend services. (More on that here.)

Then there was a whole debacle because of a Creationism pamphlet on the church’s website. (Read about it here and here.)

Anyway, I just recently noticed that they took down the pamphlet in question from their website. Which is good to hear, since the pamphlet was just embarrassing.

There was one recent addition to the site I hadn’t seen until now, though.

Hadyn Shaw, a preaching pastor at the church, wrote this response (PDF) to some of the questions I had raised during that weekend’s sermons.

It’s wonderful to see this discussion happening. Though I do disagree on many of his answers. Let’s talk about them.

Question: Is the Bible inerrant?

I intended this question to ask whether or not the Bible was accurate and reliable, and to his credit, Shaw picks up on this. Here’s what he says to answer the question of accuracy:

… that the Bible is accurate and reliable is a matter of fact. The accuracy of the Bible has been demonstrated and is accepted by all but the most radical scholars.

First of all, it’s not that I don’t believe in the Bible because of all the contradictions. They just make the book that much less credible in my eyes.

Secondly, what exactly is accurate about the Bible? Is it the ages of the people? The talking snake? The Virgin Birth? The walking on water? A very thorough list of inaccuracies can be read here. I’d love to see responses to these points.

Shaw closes this section by stating:

Every worldview or philosophy has hard-to-answer questions. Rejecting
Christianity because all the questions aren’t answered means we have to believe more in something else. But that “something else” inevitably has its own unanswered questions.

Which is why we should go with the worldview that provides us with the greatest and most realistic answers. I would argue that Science has done a fine job of that without having to resort to the answer of “God.” Many of the Bible’s claims have still gone untested and unproven.

Question: What happens to people who don’t know about Jesus? (Will Gandhi go to hell?)

The answer Shaw provides (after two pages of rationalization) is:

Gandhi had the opportunity to accept Jesus, he admired him, studied him, but he rejected him as God. So he won’t be in heaven. It wasn’t God’s choice, it was Gandhi’s.

Yep. Gandhi’s in hell.

What about the people who never had a chance to learn about Jesus?

Shaw believes that God allows those into Heaven who would have accepted Jesus if given the chance. And, of course, God would know who those people are.

The point I wanted to make by asking this question is that I wouldn’t want to be part of a faith that condemns anyone for eternity for expressing doubt and questioning its claims. I want my proof or I want a theory that makes sense in light of what we know to be true. Christianity doesn’t cut it for me.

Question: Are Crusades justified by the religion?

Shaw’s answer is no; those who commit violence in the name of Jesus don’t understand Jesus. Sam Harris’ The End of Faith delves into why this is actually 180 degrees from the truth.

My main issue with this section are the following words:

Richard Dawkins, for example, the Jerry Falwell of naturalism, wants science to disprove religion because he believes all religion is dangerous for the planet. What gets forgotten is the Twentieth Century. Atheistic philosophy, especially from adherents of Social Darwinism, produced the bloodiest century in history.

*Hemant gets out his boxing gloves*

Now you’ve gone too far. You just compared Dawkins to Falwell. That’s blasphemy if I’ve ever heard it.

And by “adherents of Social Darwinism,” I presume Shaw is referring to those such as Hitler. Though there is ample evidence that Hitler was a religious man.

Also, there’s nothing in “atheistic philosophy” that says we should kill anyone else. These words can only be said by someone taking the principles of evolution down a slippery slope.

Question: Ten Commandments: Should they be put up in courthouses? Schools?

Thankfully, Shaw’s answer to this is no, but his reason is because “putting up the symbols in a courthouse when many people in the society don’t believe them or do them isn’t going to accomplish much.” Shaw advocates teaching people the lessons of the Ten Commandments instead. I’m not arguing that.

His answer does imply that Christians are marginalized by our laws, though, which is ludicrous. He claims our laws are “undemocratic” because they don’t respect Christian beliefs. Of course, the purpose of the laws are to address all people and just because non-Christians are in the minority does not mean we should be forced to pay homage to a God we don’t believe in. Christians have every right to say an oath to God in the courtroom, pray in schools, advocate their beliefs, etc. But the rest of us have a right to do otherwise. So respect our beliefs and let’s not force God in a courthouse or school or our laws. Its only purpose would be to send a big “F#&$ you” to those of us who don’t believe in your God.

Question: Why is Science such a problem for Christians? Why is Intelligent Design considered science?

This is getting long. I’ll skip down to the ID part.

(Actually, wait, one more thing. Shaw makes a claim that Richard Dawkins doesn’t understand what science can and cannot do. That’s a pretty bold claim for someone whose own background is in Theology and Philosophy to make of someone who holds dual doctorate degrees in Philosophy and Science and is currently “Professor for the Public Understanding of Science.” In fact, when you actually read Dawkins’ books, you understand full well what Science is and is not capable of. I’d like to know why Shaw claims Dawkins doesn’t understand Science.)

Shaw says he is “agnostic” about what Biology textbooks (pro-Evolution) say. He says this for the following reasons:

1. The fossil record is very spotty even after the past hundred years. Darwin admitted that his theory explained how there might be diverse species but there was no fossil evidence to support his claims that it explained how one life form developed into another.

Here is a plethora of responses to the “spotty fossil record.”

Furthermore, as the (apparently scientifically-illiterate) Dawkins wrote in The Ancestor’s Tale, “The fossil record could be one big gap, and the evidence for evolution would still be overwhelmingly strong. At the same time, if we had only fossils and no other evidence, the fact of evolution would again be overwhelmingly supported. As things stand, we are blessed with both.” (He goes on to explain why this is the case.)

2. The anomalies that people have been pointing out for years have still not been explained. I’ve seen respected evolutionists talk around them or chalk them up as exceptions or anomalies that we may never understand, but they still need explanations.

Not sure which anomalies Shaw is referring to, but here’s the full list of responses to Creationists. It’s a good read.

3. Finally, Michael Behe is on to something with his term irreducible complexity. (See Darwin’s Black Box.) We still don’t have plausible explanation for how the eye could develop, or for the thousands of examples of orchestrated chemical processes.

Excuse me. My eyes just popped out of their sockets when I read that. Let me put them back in.

Ok. I’m better now.

Watch how the eye developed. Or read Dawkins again. And if you don’t trust Dawkins, surely you trust Wikipedia.

What about the chemical processes?

Here’s a scientific explanation of the evolution of the blood clotting cascade. Here’s a collection of several other explanations.

4. Random mutation and the mechanism of natural selection is not an explanation of how one type of animal evolves into another type of animal. As an explanation, it is based on circular reasoning. See the paper on the church website I wrote in the early 80s detailing how leading evolutionists themselves admit as much.

This is mere ignorance of what Evolution is. One species does not give rise to a brand new species. Shaw makes it sound like for Evolution to be true, a monkey needs to give birth to a human. Evolution is all about small changes accumulated over large amounts of time.

But for what it’s worth, here are examples of “one type of animal evolving into another type of animal.”

I’m sure if you read the document (PDF), you’ll have plenty to say as well. I really was glad Shaw responded, but this type of response does nothing to sway my beliefs. Perhaps he can respond to what is written here and in the comments.


[tags]atheist, atheism, Christian, Christianity, Parkview Christian Church, Creationism, Hadyn Shaw, Bible, talking snake, Virgin Birth, Science, God, Jesus, Gandhi, Crusades, Sam Harris, The End of Faith, Richard Dawkins, Jerry Falwell, religion, Social Darwinism, blasphemy, Hitler, Ten Commandments, courthouses, schools, Intelligent Design, Theology, Philosophy, agnostic, fossil record, evolution, The Ancestor’s Tale, Michael Behe, irreducible complexity, Darwin’s Black Box, Wikipedia, blood clotting cascade, Random mutation[/tags]

  • Susan

    “Random mutation and the mechanism of natural selection…” At least he didn’t say anything about evolution being a random process. It warms my heart to see someone who doesn’t commit the scientific equivalent of misusing the appostrophe–we’ve got to take the small victories we can!

  • Karen

    Interesting that they took the time to refute your positions/answer your questions. But why didn’t they notify you (apparently they didn’t?) that they were doing so? Maybe this response is to answer your questions for their own congregation who asked for follow up?

  • Karen

    Finally, Michael Behe is on to something with his term irreducible complexity. (See Darwin’s Black Box.) We still don’t have plausible explanation for how the eye could develop, or for the thousands of examples of orchestrated chemical processes.

    Oy vey. I went to a presentation yesterday given by Nick Matzke of the NCSE. He did a lot of the research that was presented at the Kitzmiller v Dover trial during Behe’s cross-examination. Behe made an utter fool of himself on the witness stand and his “irreducible complexity” idea was totally demolished under a mountain of scientific evidence. The judge pointedly blasted Behe specifically in his decision.

    Anyone who’s still pointing at Behe as a credible person is way behind the times.

  • GH

    The accuracy of the Bible has been demonstrated and is accepted by all but the most radical scholars.

    Surely he can’t really believe this. The vast majority of scholars know the exact opposite of what he states here.

  • Steve

    What a shame; he really seems to respect science, but he’s so ignorant.

  • http://inthenuts.blogspot.com King Aardvark

    I often wonder just how many good, smart people we lose from society because they are religiously indoctrinated at a young age and end up, like this pastor, with his head up his posterior. It’s a shame.

    I think the South Park movie already had Gandhi in hell. At least the pastor didn’t beat around the bush on that one: most of the greatest people in history are going to be in hell.

    In general, Hamant, your discussion with this guy is very similar to the discussions I had with my wife’s pastor before we got married. Except my guy brought out the moon dust argument. He just didn’t know any science to speak of. He got confused and called radiocarbon dating “carbon fibre dating”. Out to lunch these guys.

  • Anonymous Creationist

    Well…I certainly find it interesting to read theist/evolutionist blog comments. Not that I agree with what you’re saying, but I do find it good to see what your point of view really is (at least, what you say that it is).
    Anyhow, I know plenty of good arguments for the Bible’s inerrancy, infallibility, accuracy, divinely inspired revelation,etc., and I’m only 15 years old. I find it rather sad that you all don’t and won’t recognize the truth of God’s Holy Word. I don’t even really need all the evidence (although there certainly is plenty of it!) of the Bible’s accuracy to believe it. Did you ever happen upon the verse that says, “Thy Word is truth”? Would God say that if the Bible was in error? I should hope not! I know that the Bible is true and do not doubt God’s word. As to you being atheists, I must say that there is so much evidence in the world for a God and for a Creator. You don’t even have to look past the nose on your face to see the wonder of God’s creation. There is absolutely no way that any thinking individual in their right mind could believe that their nose just evolved by random chance, that they themselves evolved by random chance from something, a loooonnnggg time ago that was floating out in outer space and randomly went BANG. Uh uh. You don’t even have to look at your nose. Did you ever stop to notice how complex the human eye is? Something that complex HAD to have a Master Designer. I think you should work on observation a bit more before you jump into believing in blind chance.

  • Karen

    King Aardvark:

    I often wonder just how many good, smart people we lose from society because they are religiously indoctrinated at a young age and end up, like this pastor, with his head up his posterior. It’s a shame.

    A lot. We lose a whole lot of people with good brains, if they’d just use them, from rational, thinking society.

    Look at the comments we’ve been getting on here recently from young people (like Anonymous, above) parroting that very indoctrination word for word. I could spout it myself without any trouble, that’s how strongly the teaching is embedded in my own mind, even though I started thinking for myself and rejected the indoctrination a few years ago.

    But ignorance – enforced, taught, “sacred” ignorance – is all around.

    And I can say from personal experience that it absolutely is a crying shame.
    :-(

  • MTran

    I know plenty of good arguments for the Bible’s inerrancy, infallibility, accuracy, divinely inspired revelation,etc.

    Most atheists have heard all of the best of those arguments, but even the best ones are completely unconvincing.

    You may not believe this, but nearly every atheist in the US was, at one point, a Christian, often a literalist fundamentalist. So the reality is that most atheists have experienced the same, or similar, teachings that you have. Those who ultimately reject those teachings tend to do so only after a great deal of study and contemplation. Much more study than the typical believer ever attempts.

    When you say:

    There is absolutely no way that any thinking individual in their right mind could believe that their nose just evolved by random chance, that they themselves evolved by random chance from something, a loooonnnggg time ago that was floating out in outer space and randomly went BANG

    It sounds as if you are hurling a deliberate insult for some reason. But the real insult is that you have apparently been indoctrinated into an utterly false vision of what evolution theory is all about. You have been cheated and misled.

    Where do you get the idea that those who accept the modern synthesis of evolution theory propose that their noses evolved solely as a consequence of random events? No legitimate biologist will tell you that evolution is a completely random process.

    It would take a great deal of time and effort to educate you properly about the theories of evolution, but the primary obstacle to your understanding is that you have a grossly erroneous preconception about the processes. Unlealning can be much more difficult than learning from the ground up.

    You may want to check out the TalkOrigins archives that describe the various processes and evidences of evolution in a clear but thorough manner. They include links to creationist web sites, such as AnswersInGenesis, too.

    Good luck, anonymous creationist. You will need plenty of luck to counter balance the disinformation that has been fed to you.

    When you learn that evolution is not incompatible with faith, you will find that the world makes much more sense.

  • http://mollishka.blogspot.com mollishka

    Well, I was going to comment to say that I would love to hear the response to why science is such a problem for Christians, since, personally, the whole evolution/ID thing is rather hackneyed. (ID isn’t just bad science; it’s bad theology.)

    And then I see our 15 year old creationist visitor, and I just cringe from the sadness. Ah, well, hopefully be reading up on this stuff now they will perhaps start thinking for themselves someday. Hopefully.

  • Liberal Christian Person

    Not all Christians are crazy literalists who are rigid-minded in their thinking. I personally embrace evolution (not ID or theistic evolution) but I guess I’m a minority among Christians. I mean, how many Christians do you know who are liberal to the core? Just b/c I am a person of faith doesn’t mean I can’t think for myself or have rational reasonable logic. And evolution is FACT. The Bible is fact, too, but only evolution can be scientifically proven with empirical evidence. Believing in the truth of the bible (which is always interpreted way too literally and therefore no real truth can be found in fundamentalist doctrine anyway) requires a leap of faith; believing the truth of evolution only requires looking at solid evidence and coming to logical conclusions. Just my 2 cents…

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