Unnecessary Apologetic Baggage

Unnecessary Apologetic Baggage

I travel frequently for work and pleasure. Whether loading up the minivan for a vacation or packing bags to fly to a speaking event, I work hard to avoid carrying unnecessary baggage. I also apply this principle to my apologetics work at Reasons To Believe.

I officially debuted on RTB’s weekly webcast, on August 30th, 2005. I discussed the possibility of liquid water on Mars. In particular, radioisotope measurements on a set of Martian meteorites demonstrated that the temperature of the rock out of which the meteorites formed never exceeded 0oC (32sup>oF) over the last four billion years.

I looked at such evidence as confirmation that Earth was designed as the only planet that ever sustained large liquid water oceans. After all, life depends on liquid water. Thus, if no other planet ever had oceans, no other planet would have ever supported life.

Had I maintained an apologetic argument that Earth is designed as the only planet that contained liquid water oceans, a number of discoveries over the past couple of years would have challenged my position.
At least two different
lines of evidence now indicate that Mars sustained large bodies of liquid water on its surface sometime in the past. Furthermore, Jupiter’s moon Europa contains a large sub-surface liquid ocean under its outer ice crust.

However, as I reread various creation passages, I realized that the Bible seems to imply that Earth is not the only planet with water oceans. Consider the first two verses of Genesis:

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. And the earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep; and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters. (NASB) [emphasis added]

Before any explicit intervention by God in Earth’s formation, the author of Genesis describes it as covered with a liquid water ocean. The rest of Genesis 1 describes some of the miraculous work God performs to transform Earth from a structureless, dark, and empty body into a planet with diverse habitats teeming with life. It is rational to conclude that strictly natural processes can produce planets that contain substantial liquid water. In fact, that may be the starting condition of most Earth-sized planets.

I am not saying that Earth does not exhibit design. I am simply noting that one of my original ideas of how that design would be displayed was incorrect. Careful reading of Scripture helped me formulate a more accurate picture of how scientists would find Earth designed to support life. For example, further research into the water environment of Mars recently demonstrated that the salt content was far too high to permit life to originate or even exist on Mars. In other words, large liquid water oceans are not sufficient for life. The oceans must exhibit additional fine-tuning. Fuz will discuss this result further in tomorrow’s TNRTB.

By carefully studying the words of the Bible and the record of nature, I was able to put away an unnecessary piece of apologetics baggage. Perhaps it is helpful to recall past examples of unneeded arguments that hindered the church’s witness:

  1. The Bible says that the sun revolves around the Earth.
  2. The Bible says that Earth is at the center of the universe.
  3. The Bible says that the characteristics of species never change.
  4. The Bible says that the Earth and the universe must be no more than 10,000 years old.

An apologist builds a body of evidence to support his position. However, any position is much easier to support if it carries no unnecessary weight.