Where Science and Faith Converge
  • Farewell from Take Two

    by Telerik.Sitefinity.DynamicTypes.Model.Authors.Author | Jan 24, 2014

    Nearly five years ago, the two of us embarked on a journey to take what we’ve learned from the RTB scholars and apply it to our everyday lives—the ones filled with movies and comic conventions, superheroes and literary classics. By connecting science and philosophy with pop culture, we hoped to share with you, our dear readers, how “sci-phi” can connect people to a deeper understanding of God’s creation, character, and artistry.

    In these last four-ish years, the ministry of RTB has grown leaps and bounds in producing new resources in a variety of formats. This increased output means Maureen and I must pull away from writing so we can focus on editing. The trade-off is that you’ll see more resources from the scholars.

    Truth be told, there’s no way to convey how much we’ll miss writing Take Two and connecting with our readers. Still, we are editors, first and foremost. Moving back behind the scenes will allow us to join the scholars in spreading their unique voice and, through it, reaching those looking for reasons from science for faith in a personal, transcendent God.

    So, with hopeful hearts and a mountainous stack of editing on our plates, we bid thee farewell. It’s been a pleasure.

    — Sandra and Maureen

    As part of our good-bye, we’d like to share ten of our favorite posts. I, Sandra, have selected five of my favorite posts by Maureen and I, Maureen, have selected my top Sandra articles. We hope these reflections encourage you to continue exploring the science-faith integration and see how glorious is our Redeemer-Creator.

    The Inconceivable Misuse of Science Words” – Before tossing around words like “hypothesis” and “theory,” it’s important to understand how scientists use them. The clever Princess Bride reference adds a dash of fun to this noteworthy post.

    Great Is Thy Faithfulness” – Even creation testifies that whatever heartaches and trials we may face, God’s love and care for His children remain ever faithful.

    The Benefits of Fantasy” – Does fantasy detract from the Christian faith, or can it be used to convey deeper truths that fuel our faith?

    The Truth about the God of the Old Testament” – Some atheists would suggest God is a chauvinistic bully, but a closer look at the God of the Old Testament reveals an ever patient, kind God who made men and women in His image.

    Good Eats” – Here’s a little known fact about Maureen: she loves to cook (read: concoct culinary masterpieces). Moreover, she sees the connection between the art of cooking and being made in God’s image.

    Geeking and Reaching Out at Comic Con” – Sandra answers the call of the nerds at Comic Con while also answering tough faith questions from the fellow fans. She also discusses evangelism strategies with Christian ministries hoping to make an impact for Christ at the world’s geek mecca.

    The Great (and Lonely) Gatsby” – Though we may covet a glamorous lifestyle, even great wealth cannot fill the void in the human heart—that’s a job for our gracious, hope-giving God.

    Grappling with Grace” – How do we react to God’s grace? Sandra takes a poignant look at three ways that believers might struggle to accept the mercy God shows us.

    A Hot Cup of Evolution” – A discussion about evolution may conjure up images of dinosaurs turning into birds, but did you know there are at least five categories of evolution and that some of them integrate well with Scripture?

    Eat This: Zombies Are Real” – A roundup of Sandra’s articles wouldn’t be complete without a mention of her favorite mythical monsters—only these are zombies on a galactic scale.

  • Are You Looking for God in the Little Things?

    by Telerik.Sitefinity.DynamicTypes.Model.Authors.Author | Jan 17, 2014

    “Go out and stand before me on the mountain,” the Lord told him. And as Elijah stood there, the Lord passed by, and a mighty windstorm hit the mountain. It was such a terrible blast that the rocks were torn loose, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. And after the earthquake there was a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire there was the sound of a gentle whisper.

    1 Kings 19:11–12 (NLT)

    I found it ironic that this passage from 1 Kings popped up in a daily devotional email today. Within this week, Southern California has experienced howling winds, a 4.4 earthquake, and now, as I write this, a fire is raging in the hills near RTB headquarters. I’m ready to listen for that “gentle whisper.”

    Natural disasters are a common topic for RTB. They raise questions about God’s sovereignty and the problem of evil. Where is God in natural disasters, we want to know. However, in the little thought-of-the-day that accompanied the 1 Kings text in the email, author Diane Eble makes a good point: “Here God teaches Elijah to listen for the whisper. Are you listening for God’s whisper, or looking for him only through dramatic events?”

    The whole of Scripture makes it clear that God is intensely interested in the quiet, gentle, little, or everyday things of this world. He commands believers to look after widows and orphans. He defends the poor and oppressed. In the natural world, He knows every sparrow that falls and provides food for cattle and raven chicks.

    Not only does God care about little things, He also gives them purpose. One thing I’ve learned from RTB is that God’s gracious provision can be found on every level of nature. For example, sea otters are the key to limiting sea urchins’ impact on carbon dioxide-absorbing kelp forests. The backwards wiring of the vertebrate retina is ideally designed to perform outstanding image processing while also protecting photoreceptor cells from damage.

    This week may have been filled with wind, quakes, and wildfires, yet Scripture reminds us to not let the “dramatic events” of life crowd out the little things and prevent us from listening for God’s “gentle whisper.”

    — Maureen

    Resources: RTB scholars point to examples of God’s creative power and provision—such as dangerous DNA replications that may yield therapies for ALS—in the ministry’s latest booklet, 10 Breakthroughs of 2013.

  • Gentle Disagreement in the Creation-Evolution Debate

    by Telerik.Sitefinity.DynamicTypes.Model.Authors.Author | Jan 10, 2014

    In the war of the worldviews, it’s easy to dehumanize the enemy. Opposing sides remain unwilling to compromise, convinced their position is the right one. This tactic all too often finds its way into conversations about creation and evolution.

    Christians are not immune to defending our ground so uncompromisingly that we refuse to listen to the opposition, even if the opponent is on the same side of the fence. The battle over human origins comes to mind as scientists and Christians with varying perspectives on creation seek to defend the truth as they see it. Meanwhile the infighting between the faithful continues.

    But there are peacemakers among us. Trained scientists who hold a high regard for Scripture and are not quick to condemn others.

    In his book, The Adam Quest, Christianity Today senior writer Tim Stafford profiles eleven such scientists (among them, RTB’s own Fazale Rana) who he views as standing bravely at the edge of the battlefield and the rhetoric. These explorers, he calls them, embark on a journey to discover who we are and where we come from. By sharing their journeys, Stafford hopes to humanize the “Adam quest.” For good reason, too.

    As Stafford sees it, “Today’s polarized environment produces less dialogue, more sound bites.” (We can only hope the upcoming debate between Ken Ham and Bill Nye doesn’t fit this bill.) Stafford challenges believers not to focus on proving the other side wrong, but to seek to understand those with whom we disagree in an effort to gain mutual understanding.

    Here’s where it might be tempting to cut ourselves out of the conversation entirely in favor of simply trusting that God’s Word is true, no questions asked. Yet Christians’ reluctance to delve into such topics can impede evangelism and even cause believers to walk away from the faith as scientific challenges remain unanswered. Stafford saw this play out with his own son.

    Stafford makes the point that when human societies turn their backs on knowledge of the outside world, they stagnate, and “stagnant societies can’t fulfill their God-given destinies.” For the eleven scientists, their destiny is to bring the two sides together. Science and faith living together in perfect harmony.

    The Adam Quest begins with profiles of young-earth creationists Kurt Wise, Todd Wood, and Georgia Purdom. The intelligent design camp follows with Michael Behe and Fazale Rana. (To clarify, Rana sees his views on creation as distinct from intelligent design.) Rounding out the bunch are evolutionary creationists Mary Schweitzer, Darrel Falk, Ard Louis, Denis Alexander, Simon Conway Morris, and John Polkinghorne.

    Stafford’s narrative paints a picture revealing the spectrum of Christian beliefs on creation and evolution. But along the way he made clear his approach to engaging the eleven: get out of the way and let them tell their stories. That seems to be an important step when treading into conversations about science and faith. Let the other person talk. You might be surprised by what they have to say.

    And when it’s time to respond, keep Stafford’s words in mind: “The truth of Scripture is fundamental….But so is the truth, frequently witnessed to in that Scripture, that all true Christians are part of the body of Christ.

    Wouldn’t you agree it’s far more beneficial for all to exhibit “more humble listening, patient discussion, and gentle disagreement”? As Stafford puts it, “the good lives of all these scientists, along with the unconditional truth of the Bible, insist on it.”

     

    —Sandra

  • Bright Lights, Sparkling Trees, Joyful Music, Delicious Treats

    by Telerik.Sitefinity.DynamicTypes.Model.Authors.Author | Dec 25, 2013

    In case you missed it, WestJet’s Christmas Miracle video spread holiday cheer across the Interwebz over the last few weeks. The video shows Santa asking WestJet passengers what they’d like for Christmas, and they asked for everything from socks and underwear to a big screen TV. While the unsuspecting travelers were in flight from Toronto to Calgary, WestJet elves scurried to fill the requests.

    As passengers waited at baggage claim, beautifully wrapped packages glided down the carousel. One by one, people of all ages looked with wonder at the packages wrapped especially for them. Little did they know they were about to receive the very thing they had hoped for.

    Today, as we celebrate Christmas, we can’t help but think of another unexpected gift. Some two thousand years ago in the small town of Bethlehem, the world in sin and error “pined” (yearned deeply) for hope. Christ’s birth gave the soul its worth and the weary world reason to rejoice.

    But beyond the gift of grace, the whole Christmas season is a gift from God—the bright lights, sparkling trees, joyful music, delicious treats, gift-giving, and even Santa Claus (modeled after Saint Nicholas). The song “We Need a Little Christmas” sums up why:

    For I’ve grown a little leaner,

    Grown a little colder,

    Grown a little sadder,

    Grown a little older,

    And I need a little angel sitting on my shoulder,

    Need a little Christmas now

    By the time we reach the end of the year, with all its ups and downs, we need Christmas. We need the vibrant reminder of God’s gift to the world in the form of His Son, Jesus Christ. And we need everything else that comes with Christmas, too. Christ has come! Is that not cause for joyous festivities, childlike wonder, and constant chocolate eating? (Okay, maybe not the last thing.)

    Yes, there’s a lot secularization and commercialism to navigate during the holidays. And we realize it’s more likely Christ was born in the spring than on December 25, but we’re glad that the church fathers who instituted Christmas placed it on the calendar where they did. Christmastime is still a blessing. It brings healing, joy, generosity, comfort, cheer, hope. It picks us up and refreshes us as we close out the year and start anew.

    So, with hearts full of the hope that comes with unexpected grace, we wish you and yours a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

    See you in 2014!

    — Sandra and Maureen

  • Is God Too Busy for Us?

    by Telerik.Sitefinity.DynamicTypes.Model.Authors.Author | Dec 20, 2013

    Gift-giving, though a big part of the holiday season, can get mired in a lot of debate. But beneath all the hoopla, there’s something about a thoughtful gift that touches the heart. A good present shows that the giver truly understands and cares about the recipient—like the giant carton of goldfish crackers my husband, Darren, gave me for my birthday this year. Some might call that a gifting faux pas, but because I really, really like goldfish crackers, it was perfect because I knew Darren understood me.

    I asked some other RTB staff members to recall memorable (in a good way) gifts they’ve received over the years.

    Sandra, assistant editorial director: One year when I was a teenager I received a pair of black leg warmers from my grandmother. She knew they were precisely what I needed to save my shins from the stress of rigorous dancing, and she took the time to get a ride to the mall (since she didn’t drive) to buy them for me.

    Sia, publicist and ministry care manager: My husband knows how much it means to me to be able to give presents to the family, but I never have enough money. So, he gave me all the money he’s been saving for my Christmas gift so I can give gifts this year.

    Bryan, chapters manager: I’m a huge Indiana Jones fan. Several years ago, my older brother gave me a 12’ latigo bullwhip for Christmas. This was my first real whip, so I learned how to crack a whip with it. It will always have a special place in my heart.

    Hannah, ministry advancement director: Beth [a former RTB staff member] gave me book on women travelers, as she knows that I find stories of women inspiring and that I love to travel. It was a combination of two things I am passionate about.

    In the same way that a meaningful gift leaves an impression on us, so creation communicates to us that we have a thoughtful Creator who cares about our everyday lives. In a special edition of I Didn’t Know That! RTB founder Hugh Ross talks about how researching the natural world has confirmed the reality of God’s intimate care and understanding.

    Often, I think we get the idea that God is busy—always looking out for the poor people in Africa or trying to take care of the world leaders. Well, He is doing all that, but He’s not too busy to pay attention to the events that are going on in your life and He’s not too busy to direct circumstances and people in your life to bring about the maximum benefit for you.

    Hugh encourages people to look to creation whenever they doubt God’s care for them. He lists the design of the universe and solar system, animals, and other people as evidence. This idea of God’s purpose in designing creation to benefit humans is a theme throughout Hugh’s writing, particularly his books Why the Universe Is the Way It Is and Hidden Treasures in the Book of Job.

    In my own observations of creation, I’m particularly impressed by the variety of edible resources God has made available to us. Did He really need to create—or create the potential for—so many types of apples and lettuce? Did He have to make pomegranates and peaches so delectable? Was it necessary to create cocoa or coffee trees? Probably not—yet here they all are. What’s more, I often get the feeling that He knows little details, like culinary preferences, about each person. He knows that Hugh would prefer a plate of fruit for dessert while I have a fondness for dark chocolate.

    In Psalm 139, David declares:

    For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
    I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.

    So, not only is God not too busy to care, He’s not too busy to know and understand us on a personal level. If ever you struggle to believe this, just take a page out of Hugh’s book and “look at the rest of the creation.”

    — Maureen

  • RTB Is on the Move

    by Telerik.Sitefinity.DynamicTypes.Model.Authors.Author | Dec 13, 2013

    When The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey film released last year, I wrote an article about how Bilbo’s willingness to leave his cozy hobbit hole might cause us to consider stepping out of our comfort zone. Who would’ve known that exactly one year later, RTB would be in the midst of our own move?

    Last week RTB took up the daunting task of relocating over thirty staff and over twenty-five years of accumulated gear to our new facility in Covina, California (just a few miles from our previous location). Moving a large group during the holidays is enough to make anyone stressed. But instead, this has been one of the most exciting (and grace-filled) times in the ministry’s history, certainly in my thirteen years here.

    “We are in awe and so blessed to be able to inhabit such a beautiful building nestled in the trees with amazing views of the mountain to the north,” says Amy Robertson. As special projects coordinator, Amy has been involved in every step of the remodeling process. Her keen eye for design created a space to propel RTB forward in our 2015 vision.

    Our previous facility was “a converted strip mall on a crazy busy street with just eleven thousand square feet for almost forty employees.”

    Amy continues:

    Now we have twenty-six thousand square feet of potential where we will be able to stretch out and still have room for growth. Our own conference center will allow us to host events without having to rely on churches or other venues in our area. Our new state-of-the-art audio and video studio has already been used to film our newest small group Bible study on Genesis to be released in May 2014!

    According to digital outreach director Phil Chien, the new audio and video studio (top panel of the photo below) gives the team the flexibility to create sets quickly. In the past the team would have to go on location, where sound and lighting were an issue. Or they would have to use a common area in the office, which would take up to a day to set up.blog__inline—rtb-is-on-the-move

    With the new studio, “we can control the sound. We can control lighting. All of our equipment is now housed in one area. We’re now able to record straight to our servers and edit on the fly. This can now function as a seamless, singular piece.” In theory, this means the team can produce twice as many resources, Phil says, including delving into video podcasting, which is something we’ve never done before.

    The ministry opportunities continue with our new conference center (middle panel). By utilizing Polycom, we aim to create an “immersive, in-room experience” for educational purposes as well as for hosting events, allowing scholars to reach thousands more without adding travel time and expenses. And our gorgeous break room (bottom panel), located just outside of the conference center, will double as a green room for special guests and speakers.

    Amy adds that “the possibilities for use of the building are as limited as our minds—and we plan to use both to their fullest capacity for His kingdom!”

    Know that as we navigate the freshly painted halls, we can’t help but be thankful for the faithful partners who continue to support our ministry. We’re grateful, too, for those who remind us that people need reasons to believe—reasons from science for faith in a personal, transcendent God.

    We are still adjusting to this new adventure but, like Bilbo, we courageously forge ahead. The journey has just begun.

    –Sandra

  • Little Differences Show Up Big in Gene Expression

    by Telerik.Sitefinity.DynamicTypes.Model.Authors.Author | Dec 06, 2013

    “And though she be but little, she is fierce.”
    A Midsummer Night’s Dream, I, ii, 335

    I am what some of my friends affectionately call “vertically challenged.” The sun visor in my car is often useless to me and, depending on the chair, my feet don’t always lie flat on the floor. Several of my coworkers at RTB share these trials with me—but though we are short, we hope to help make a big difference in the lives of people RTB reaches.

    Likewise, though there is a possible 98–99% genetic similarity between humans and chimps, it’s the little variations that seem to make big differences. As researchers dig deeper into genetic comparisons, a more complex picture emerges.

    Biochemist and RTB visiting scholar Patricia Fanning points to FOXP2, a gene heavily involved in controlling human language capabilities, as an example of the “subtle elegance” that underlies the uniqueness of human biology.

    Humans alone carry a unique version of FOXP2 that is foundational to humanity’s advanced written and spoken language abilities. The human FOXP2 differs from the chimp FOXP2 by two nucleotides and from the mouse FOXP2 by three. The two nucleotide changes in the human FOXP2 result in two amino acid changes in its protein. Those changes dramatically alter the DNA binding activity of FOXP2. These alternations are essential to humanity’s extraordinary language capabilities.

    Biochemist Fazale Rana also frequently reports on research that demonstrates the vital genetic differences between humans and other primates. In an upcoming TNRTB article about research on induced pluripotent stem cells from chimps and humans, he writes that there is “growing recognition that gene expression is the key to understanding the biological and behavioral uniqueness of humans.”

    All these little differences add up to big factors in favor of a creation model explanation, which posits that a Creator used similar blueprints (genes) to construct different creatures as He saw fit.

    — Maureen

    Resources: There are plenty of resources, such as articles and podcasts, on the comparisons of chimp and human DNA to explore on the RTB website. Good places to start include the RTB 101 page on this issue and Humans vs. Chimps topic page.

  • Celebrating God's Goodness

    by Telerik.Sitefinity.DynamicTypes.Model.Authors.Author | Nov 27, 2013
    This week Maureen and Sandra offer a double serving of blogging goodness in celebration of Thanksgiving. We hope you enjoy these reasons for having a gratitude-filled holiday!

     

    To Whom Do We Give Thanks?

    Clouds stretched out like cotton balls wisped across a cerulean sky washed clean of smog from yesterday’s rain. I pulled my eyes away from the traffic to catch a glimpse of the display then whispered to my dashboard, “Thank you, Jesus.”

    The mid-morning horizon, which took my breath away for a second that felt like eternity, reminded me of the abundant splendors around us—in nature, in loved ones, in peppermint mochas, and in a warm bed at night. These beauties nudge us toward gratitude. But more than that, these gifts cause us to wonder: To whom do we give thanks?

    Christian theologian Cornelius Plantinga Jr. points out that “It must be an odd feeling to be thankful to nobody in particular.” Can you imagine receiving a gift and not questioning who the giver is? Neither could G. K. Chesterton. As author and Students of Jesus blogger Ray Hollenbach puts it, Chesteron’s life was “forever changed by making the simple connection between his own thankfulness and the necessity of having Someone to thank. He found his way to the Father’s banqueting table by his intense desire to say thank you to whoever was responsible for the wonder of this world.”

    Hollenbach adds that Chesterton’s intellect brought “a defiant joy” that led Chesterton to “celebrate the goodness of God wherever he found it—which was everywhere.” Perhaps even in that clear blue sky.

    As we prepare our homes and our hearts for thanksgiving, let’s (re)discover a defiant joy that points to Jesus, the Painter of cotton clouds on blue skies and Creator of a cornucopia of wonders. Let us also remember to invite others to join us at His table and dig in.

    Wishing you and yours a gratitude-filled Thanksgiving.

     

    –Sandra

    Resources:

    30 Thankful Days (November 15th) by Ray Hollenbach. For more from Ray, check out 25 Days of Christmas: A Devotional for Incredibly Busy People, The Impossible Mentor: Finding Courage to Follow Jesus, and his other titles, available on Amazon.

     

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    God as Our Shield

    The new Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. TV show frequently addresses the issue of what it means to protect people. One character in particular, Grant Ward, takes his role as the team’s “muscle” very seriously and exhibits frustration when unable to guard other team members from things like alien parasites.

    The Bible frequently refers to God as a source of protection for His people.

    • “God is my shield, saving those whose hearts are true and right.” (Psalm 7:10, NLT)
    • “He grants a treasure of common sense to the honest. He is a shield to those who walk with integrity.” (Proverbs 2:7, NLT)
    • “The Lord is good, a strong refuge when trouble comes. He is close to those who trust in him.” (Nahum 1:7, NLT)

    My mother taught me in times of trouble to picture myself running into a strong tower as a symbol of God’s guardianship over my life. (Thanks to my time in Scotland, I often envision that refuge as Edinburgh Castle.)

    I can also look to creation for examples of the Creator’s protection in action. He put shields in place to protect life from the harmful things of the solar system—e.g., Jupiter and company guard Earth from comet collisions while Earth’s magnetic field shields us from deadly solar particles.

    But the ultimate example of God’s protection goes much deeper than guarding against physical harm—the saving grace and hope offered through Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on the cross shields us from punishment for our sins. This is what I’m most grateful for all through the year.

     

    –Maureen

  • Why C. S. Lewis' Integration of Reason and Imagination Matters

    by Telerik.Sitefinity.DynamicTypes.Model.Authors.Author | Nov 22, 2013

    Today marks the 50th anniversary of C. S. Lewis’ death. In the half a century since his passing, Lewis’ keen ability to join what is assumed incompatible (reason and imagination) remains largely unmatched.

    Michael Ward, in his Christianity Today article on Lewis, elaborates on the power of Lewis’ approach:

    In Christ, poetry and philosophy have met together. Meaning and truth have kissed. C. S. Lewis understood, like few in the past century, just how deeply faith is both imaginative and rational.

    As Ward explains, since the Enlightenment of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries we’ve been told of the supposed dichotomy between reason and imagination. “Reasonable people don’t need imagination. Imaginative people don’t need reasons,” he adds. Lewis challenged that misconception, articulately weaving reason with imagination to create a faith-affirming tapestry that holds strong. And his “poetic approach to commending and defending the Christian faith still lights the way for us today.”

    “Jack,” as he was known by friends, plucked theological concepts from their lofty abodes and presented them on prose-laden platters, allowing what was once out of grasp to be reached. For instance, who could fully envision the bondage of sin before Lewis’ ghost with the red lizard on his shoulder? Or Christ’s kingliness (good but not safe) until Aslan?

    Through Lewis’ work, we see how imagination can peel back the curtain separating us from deeper Truth. Would we expect anything less from one bearing the image of a God who did the same through the Incarnation? Erin L. Naler, in her article “Image Bearing in the Creative Process,” writes that “The infinite God came into the world through a too-small space, to dwell in a too-small, finite body…The unseen became seen.”

    Christ, through His Incarnation and during His earthly ministry, set the example of using the tangible to explain the abstract. From the Vine and the branches to the lost sheep, from the moneylender forgiving unequal debts to the three workers given bags of gold, Jesus used earthly experiences to convey heavenly concepts. It makes sense, then, that His image bearers would also use story (art) to connect others to deeper truth.

    Organizations like the International Arts Movement (which integrates art, faith, and humanity) and the Brehm Center (which integrates worship, theology, and arts) work to revive art as a fuel to faith. Mako Fujimura, founder of the International Arts Movement, recalls a presentation he gave to a crowd of New York artists. In mentioning beauty, and Jesus as the source of beauty, “I knew that I was transgressing against what was culturally acceptable for them. But as His follower, I needed to acknowledge Christ’s claims, to hold them up as something we can test.”

    Likewise, Reasons to Believe (RTB) embraces Paul’s call to “test everything,” holding biblical and scientific claims under the microscope, so to speak. As with art, science is often considered unrelated or perhaps counter to faith and yet the progress of science demands imaginative thought. Scripture reveals the role of both art and science.

    In the midst of His own creative work, God assigned Adam a creative task—to name all the animals in the Garden. During His ministry on earth, Christ used creative storytelling to connect those with “ears to hear” to the kingdom of heaven. And where the Bible describes physical events, it follows a pattern (establishing the frame of reference and initial conditions, the actual occurrence, and then the final condition). RTB founder Hugh Ross suggests that this pattern is what inspired the scientific method and the scientific revolution of Reformation-era Europe.

    Lewis, Fujimura, RTB scholars, and others show how art and science can be used as an expression of faith and even a means to it. Their work resonates with others because it points back to the approach in Scripture—art and science not as idols but as colors on God’s canvas. Colors with which to paint a portrait of the first Creator and Artist.

    If art and science are God-given gifts then they are not given without the obligation to use them. Recall the parable of the bags of gold. One man received three bags, another man, two. The third man received one. But rather than spend his treasure, he hid it in the ground. There the treasure is of no use to the man or his master. Perhaps then it’s time to restore art and science to their rightful standing—as God-given gifts to be used. Many today are grateful that Lewis didn’t hide his bags of literary gold.

    –Sandra

     

    Resources:

    A quick poll of RTB staff revealed many of us are fans of Lewis’ work. Krista Bontrager, dean of online learning, listed God in the Dock as her favorite. Editorial director Joe Aguirre, ministry advancement director Hannah Palpant, and yours truly listed The Great Divorce as our favorite. And editor and fellow Take Two blogger Maureen Moser lists The Horse and His Boy as her favorite. Till We Have Faces, The Screwtape Letters, and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe also made the list among staff.

    Philosopher and theologian Kenneth Samples, perhaps Lewis’ biggest fan at RTB, lists Mere Christianity as his favorite. Samples also offers a plethora of resources on C. S. Lewis.

    Articles:

    Lessons from C. S. Lewis (part 1 of 2)

    Lessons from C. S. Lewis (part 2 of 2)

     

    Podcasts:

    C. S. Lewis’ Death Plus 50: An Interview with Dr. Jack Collins, part 1

    C. S. Lewis’ Death Plus 50: An Interview with Dr. Jack Collins, part 2

    C. S. Lewis: Life and Conversion

    C. S. Lewis: Christian Apologist

    C. S. Lewis: Christian Writer

    C. S. Lewis: Strengths and Weaknesses

  • Thor and the Beginning of the Universe

    by Telerik.Sitefinity.DynamicTypes.Model.Authors.Author | Nov 15, 2013

    In continuation of the Marvel Comics movie franchise, Thor: The Dark World hit theatres this autumn. As Thor is my personal favorite of the Avengers heroes, I went to see the film for the sheer enjoyment of it (and enjoyable it was), but while taking in the entire spectacle, something in the film’s opening monologue piqued my curiosity.

    Odin, Thor’s father, explains that before the present universe began to exist there was darkness. From that darkness arose the Dark Elves, bad guys who have returned for revenge. This little tidbit got me thinking about the beginning of the universe.  

    Big bang cosmology has confirmed that space, matter, time, and energy all began to exist. Over the past 100+ years, astronomers have learned more and more about the cosmic creation event and the history of the universe (though there is always more to learn)—but what about before the “big bang”? Would it be possible for darkness to exist before the beginning of space, matter, time, and energy?

    I posed this question to RTB astrophysicist Jeff Zweerink, who replied, “It would have to be metaphorical darkness. Physical darkness requires something physical to exist.” So, darkness is something, rather than nothing. It is mind-bendingly impossible to image sheer nothingness. Yet the concept of nothing lies at the heart of the problem that naturalism faces in trying to account for the origin of the universe.

    A universe with a beginning requires a cause or source. RTB astronomer Hugh Ross explains that “the big bang denies the notion of an uncreated or self-existent universe.” In a review of physicist and atheist Lawrence Krauss’s book A Universe from Nothing, Hugh notes the problem of nothing (see part 1 and part 2).

    Krauss keeps changing his definition of “nothing.” Almost all his definitions are not really nothings but actual “some things.”...Where do all the some things come from? A fundamental principle of cause and effect is that effects always come after their causes. Moreover, effects are never greater than their causes. No human has ever seen these principles violated. They actually undergird the entire scientific enterprise.

    RTB philosopher and theologian Kenneth Samples reiterates this point from a philosophical perspective. In his book Without a Doubt, Ken observes,

    As a matter of reasonable practice, a person doesn’t typically accept the idea that information, knowledge, and truth can come from a random, accidental source. How can such rational enterprises as logic, mathematics, and science be reasonably justified when the human brain and mind are the result of a nonrational, mindless accident? Naturalism, in effect, purports that life, the mind, personhood, and reason came from a source that lacked each of these profound faculties and qualities. This would certainly be an effect much greater than its cause.

    Thus, the big bang provides some of the most powerful evidence for the existence of God. In fact, it was this very evidence that started Hugh on his journey toward Christianity—a faith that pierces darkness of a different kind and instills light and eternal life.

    — Maureen

    Resources: You can learn about Hugh’s journey to faith in Christ through these resources from RTB.

  • Who Were the Nephilim?

    by Telerik.Sitefinity.DynamicTypes.Model.Authors.Author | Nov 08, 2013

    Thor: The Dark World, the latest addition to the Marvel cinematic universe, hits theatres today. If you’re looking for a tale of other worldly warriors, look no further than the Bible.

    Genesis 6 offers a cast of characters known as the Nephilim. Little is said about who or what they were. Speculations abound.

    Some say the Nephilim were powerful humans. Yet, given the physiological limitations of the human body, the description of the Nephilim—if mere men—must be exaggerated and perhaps call into question the preciseness of weights and measures in biblical times.

    Some suggest the Nephilim were giants possessing superhuman size and strength. Others claim they were strictly human descendants of Cain and Seth.

    Still others speculate they were the offspring of fallen angels and mortal. In his forthcoming book, Navigating Genesis, Hugh Ross writes that the Hebrew root word of Nephilim (Nephal and yim) literally mean “fallen ones.” As Hugh sees it, the Nephilim were morally flawed beings who used their superhuman size and strength to fight for the ungodly Canaanites and Philistines.

    The Nephilim, identified by various names including sons of Rapha, Rephaim, Anakites, and Anakim (KJV), raise questions as to the source of their size and strength. Goliath, a champion from the Philistine camp, stood about 9 feet 9 inches tall and wore a coat of armor weighing some 125 pounds. Og king of Bashan, one of the last of the Rephaites, slept on an iron bed some 14 feet long and 6 feet wide.

    Tales of giant men are not unique to the Bible. Extrabiblical sources suggest these “supermen” sprang from the sexual union between immortal “gods” and mortal humans. “Sons of God” is used throughout the New Testament and can refer to either humans or angels. However, in the Old Testament, “sons of God” seems to refer specifically to angels. For example, in Job 1:6 and 2:1, sons of god are said to have presented themselves before the Lord, with Satan alongside them. Job 38:7 says they witnessed the laying of Earth’s foundations. Neither of these activities fit within human limitations.

    So, if “sons of God” refers to angels, then how does that fit with what Christ said about the angels in heaven: “When the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.” Hugh suggests that the distinction “angels in heaven” implies that sons of god refers to fallen angels. He points to Jude 1:6–7a for further clarity. These rebellious angels “abandoned their proper dwelling” and “gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion.”

    According to Hugh, “the sons of God in Genesis 6 were humans invaded and possessed by fallen angels in such a way as to alter the genes transmitted via intercourse. In this way they produced offspring with the physiological characteristics associated with the Nephilim.” However, Hugh adds that this alternative view warrants further development and discussion.

    In a recent episode of I Didn’t Know That! Fuz Rana and Kenneth Samples add their perspective to this controversial topic. Fuz comments that we remain uncertain about the identity of the Nephilim and even adds that some now speculate they were the product of human and Neanderthal interbreeding.

    Ken continues:

    There are things that we don’t quite fully understand about the Bible, and the Nephilim are one of those things. And I think that that should lead all of us to say our knowledge of Scripture and our knowledge of the book nature is provisional. We’re working at it and I think it should lead us to be more humble or more accepting.

    What a great reminder to remain patient (both with ourselves as others) as we continue to work at gaining a deeper understanding of Scripture.

     

    –Sandra

     

    Resources:

    Look for Navigating Genesis this Spring 2014. For more on the Nephilim check out

    I Didn’t Know That! podcast – Did Whales Evolve; Has RTB’s Model Been Peer Reviwed; Could the Nephilim Have Been Neanderthals?

    Creation Update, March 15, 2005 episode

    Creation Update, March 14, 2006 episode

  • Secrets of Tyrannosaurus Rex

    by Telerik.Sitefinity.DynamicTypes.Model.Authors.Author | Oct 31, 2013

    Though horror movies and haunted houses give me nightmares (literally), this Halloween I’ve got a monster on the brain, namely that ancient bone-cruncher the Tyrannosaurus rex. First named and described in 1905, this toothy fellow is one of the best loved dinos as well as one of the most researched, thanks to a high number of fossil finds. Yet according to a recent Nature news feature by Brian Switek, T. rex “has kept some secrets.”

    The article discusses four T. rex mysteries that paleontologists are currently striving to solve.

    1. Murky evolutionary origins: In the 1990s, paleontologists scrapped the decades-old view of T. rex’s evolutionary history, which pegged the giant predator “as a descendent of Allosaurus.” New research places T. rex in a family of tyrannosaurids, many of which were much smaller than their famous relative. Switek observes, “The question for palaeontologists is how tyrannosaurs rose to power from such humble beginnings.”
    2. Juvenile specimens—or different species: Debate abounds about whether a dinosaur known as Nanotyrannus lancensis may actually be a juvenile T. rex, rather than a distinct species, with researchers falling on both sides of the issue.
    3. Fuzz, feathers, or scales: Though Jurassic Park depicts T. rex (and other dinos) as scaly beasts, some researchers argue that T. rex may have been covered in fuzz or feathers. Fossils of other tyrannosaurs indicate that these creatures “had a coat of ‘dinofuzz’” while Yutyrannus huali was covered in plumage. Some researchers believe that the evolutionary link between these animals and T. rex could suggest that the latter also sported fuzz or feathers. However, other scientists point out that, as of yet, no actual T. rex fossil has shown signs of this coating.
    4. Stubby arms: Let’s be honest, many of us enjoy poking fun at T. rex’s ridiculously tiny arms—but we’d all stop laughing if we were staring a living specimen in the face. Scientists suggest T. rex’s odd appendages may have served such purposes as mating and courtship displays, gripping prey, and rising from a resting position.

    So, where do these conundrums fit in the dialogue between evolutionary and creation models? From my layperson’s perspective, it seems that T. rex does not necessarily support evolution as solidly as some may believe. Indeed, a creation model may provide a more complete and robust explanation for the T. rex data.

    I took this question to RTB biochemist Fazale Rana for his opinion. He pointed out that the issues in T. rex research are not unusual. Piecing together an accurate picture of life history is no easy feat. He explained,

    Our understanding of life history as based on the fossil record is very fragmentary—more than people are led to believe. These models are easily overturned even though they’ve been around for decades and are, in some cases, orthodoxy. For example, we just did a Science News Flash on a fish fossil find that overturned the standard evolutionary story for the history of fish.

    Fuz also pointed out that the term “transitional intermediate” (sometimes called “transitional forms”) is more ambiguous than many people may be aware. In one sense, transitional intermediates are a clear, traceable pathway from creature A to creature B. This is usually the definition that creation advocates refer to when they point out that there are no transitional forms to prove Darwinian evolution.

    However, transitional intermediates can also refer to organisms that simply existed between creature A and creature B (such as the smaller, earlier tyrannosaurs), though without a clear pathway of evolution. Take hominids for example. Between the appearance of the first hominid (creature A) and modern humans (creature B) there existed a number of hominid species. There is no obvious pathway uniting all of these animals on a common family tree—yet they are often cited as evidence for human evolution. Fuz stated, “What’s not communicated is how speculative it is.”

    T. rex’s case appears similar. There is speculation about how this monster arose via evolution, but the support for this view is not as strong as it is often portrayed to the general public. A creation model, on the other hand, easily explains the appearance of T. rex as the work of a Creator. And even if paleontologists do someday find the “missing links” in T. rex’s history, it’s still not unreasonable to interpret these creatures as the products of common design, rather than common descent.

    As Fuz put it, “There are other legitimate interpretations of the data. The fossil record doesn’t negate evolution, but we can also account for fossils using a creation model perspective.”

    That’s something to chew on along with the Milky Ways and Starbursts this Halloween.

    — Maureen

    Resources: Just for fun, here’s a collection of Halloween-themed posts from Take Two.

  • IT'S ALIVE! ALIVE! But Should Scientists Play God?

    by Telerik.Sitefinity.DynamicTypes.Model.Authors.Author | Oct 25, 2013

    If ever there were an RTB book to read around Halloween, it would be Creating Life in the Lab. Author and biochemist Fazale Rana focuses on scientists’ attempts to create a novel life-form—to find the elixir of life. The connection to Frankenstein is obvious, and Rana refers to Mary Shelley’s classic book throughout his own. In light of scientists’ fascinating quest to create synthetic life, Rana poses a provocative question: Should humans play God?

    This question is at the forefront of people’s minds once again with the recent news that scientists from Harvard and Yale created an organism with a new genetic code. The story even made its way to the opening monologue of Jimmy Kimmel Live! last night. The (questionably) funnyman spared a moment of seriousness to discuss the scientific breakthrough. “This is probably the most important story of the year. These scientists have created life.”

    Then, reverting to his usual antics, he introduced the “the lead researcher of the project.” Cue a frazzled scientist standing in the smoky remnants of his demolished lab.

    “Nothing’s wrong,” the scientist lies. Meanwhile a large creature lurks in the shadows. “This is an amazing day…for science. Everything’s going great. We have definitely not sinned against God here.”

    Like the title character in Frankenstein, this faux-scientist refuses to acknowledge that he’s created a monster that’s turned on its master. Viewers might laugh at the dramatized scene, but it sheds light on key questions about synthetic biology. Will scientists lose control of whatever life they create? Will this new life somehow wreak havoc on the world as we know it? On the surface, these are not unreasonable concerns, Rana writes. “However, at this point, work in synthetic biology is safe. Furthermore, there is no reason why advances in this field should ever pose a genuine threat to safety.”

    Furthermore, Christians ought not fear scientific advances in this field. Rana even urges believers to become active in the discipline, or at the very least, to shed our fear that scientists’ creating life in the lab will pound “another nail in God’s coffin.” It’s quite the opposite, as Rana says:

    If God is the Creator of life, then it is just a matter of time before we try to create life as well. Our ability to even attempt to create artificial life stems from the image of God. And if our desire is to use synthetic biology to take better care of the planet, to use resources more wisely, to help the sick, to improve the quality of life for people all over the world, then I maintain that there is nothing wrong with playing God….The problem occurs when we try to usurp God’s authority.

    This is where Victor Frankenstein failed, in his wanting the glory that rightfully belongs to Christ: “A new species would bless me as its creator and source; many happy and excellent natures would owe their being to me.” Frankenstein’s motivation (pride and recognition) was flawed, not the scientific endeavor itself. Christians, then, have all the more reason to embrace and direct synthetic biology. “If we don’t,” Rana cautions, “we will have surrendered this very important technology into secular hands.”

     

    –Sandra

    Resources:

    A Theology for Synthetic Biology Part 1” by Fazale Rana

    A Theology for Synthetic Biology Part 2” by Fazale Rana

    Scientists Create an Organism for a New Genetic Code.” For the journal article, see Marc J. Lajoie et al., “Genomically Recoded Organisms Expand Biological Functions,” Science 342 (2013): 357–60.

  • Viruses, Disease, and a Loving God

    by Telerik.Sitefinity.DynamicTypes.Model.Authors.Author | Oct 18, 2013

    Though autumn is largely a source of joy, it also brings a few drawbacks, namely colds and other “bugs.” Flu shot reminders sit next to Halloween displays and hand sanitizer is a must-have. In my own family, sickness arrived in the form of head colds, sore throats, pink eye, and, for one family member, a nasty stomach ailment. Things are yucky.

    Disease and the suffering it produces often come up in problem-of-evil discussions. Why would an omniscient, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent God create even the potential for such distress in the lives of His creatures? It’s an issue that has troubled people for millennia and it’s a frequently cited reason for disbelief in God.

    RTB scholars Fuz Rana and Jeff Zweerink tackle the topic of disease, specifically viruses, on a recent episode of I Didn’t Know That! A listener asks if viruses can be considered “God’s design or flawed design.” Fuz suggests that, even though viruses are destructive, they are still part of God’s good creation.

    For example, viruses help keep plant and animal populations in check; ecosystems would collapse without them. This brought to my mind an episode of Planet Earth that documented the gruesome death of jungle ants via spore infestation. Initially it seemed like a cruel way to die, even for ants, but I later realized that the spores acted like a natural bug spray. Without them, the ants would go unchecked and destroy the sensitive jungle environment—thus, resulting in even more suffering.

    Viruses can also influence global geological processes such as rain distribution by providing nucleation sites for rain water. They can even benefit humans on a more personal level. They mediate the bacteria populations in our gut and offer opportunities for potential medical breakthroughs. Fuz points out that viruses’ ability to transfer genetic material could facilitate gene replacement therapies. In fact, a few years ago Fuz reported on a successful attempt in France to use HIV-1 to treat a deadly disease in two young boys.

    So, Fuz and Jeff conclude that it’s possible pathogenic viruses are part of God’s good design for creation, but that their negative impact on humans began only after the fall.

    While I consider these explanations helpful on a logical level, it must be acknowledged that the issue of disease is still very difficult to deal with on an emotional level. Many people wonder why God couldn’t just create a disease-free environment. In Why the Universe Is the Way It Is, in a chapter titled “Why Not a Perfect Universe—Now?” RTB founder Hugh Ross (no stranger to disease-related suffering) suggests that God has good reasons for allowing suffering because He has purposes that extend beyond the present realm.

    In Romans 8, the apostle Paul explains that when we put our hope in Christ “our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” In other words, our troubles, including disease, need not be pointless. It’s always amazing to me when I see fellow Christians face illness with the courage and strength that come from faith in God. Just this week, my sister, the one who is suffering a debilitating stomach ailment far away from home (and from her family who longs to help her), told me,

    God is teaching me in this stillness and as much as I hate it, I know I need it. I am frustrated because I don’t like being the weak one...but I know that’s something God will sift through me.

    This isn’t an easy topic with a simple solution. Yet answers and comfort can be found in the God who offers us a future where “there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

    — Maureen

    Resources: Hugh also addresses the issue of suffering in “Why Would a Good God Create Parasites?” (article) and Hidden Treasures in the Book of Job (book).

  • Hope for the Forever Empty

    by Telerik.Sitefinity.DynamicTypes.Model.Authors.Author | Oct 11, 2013

    Perhaps you’ve seen the clip, or perhaps you’ve heard conversations ‘round the Internet’s water cooler (Facebook). But here’s the scoop in case you haven’t: A few weeks ago comedian Louis C.K. offered a brilliant, albeit colorful, rant on how smartphones are impacting our culture.

    “You need to build the ability to just be yourself and not be doing something. That’s what the phones are taking away. The ability to just sit there.”

    Instead of being present, we text, tweet, update statuses, and, in the end, miss out. We’ve grown so accustomed to not looking at people when we talk to them that we might not even notice that they’re missing out too.

    What exactly is the payoff in staying plugged in, yet disconnected? Louis C.K. suggests it’s to avoid the realization that “underneath everything, there’s that thing: that forever empty…that knowledge that it’s all for nothing and you’re all alone.” Pretty depressing if that’s your worldview. I’ll take scrolling Reddit over sitting in that sad state any day.

    In contrast, the Christian perspective offers an optimistic worldview. In his upcoming book, Christian Endgame, philosopher and theologian Ken Samples writes,

    The good news is that Jesus Christ is hope incarnate. His incomparable life in this time-space world testifies to the goodness and value of being made in the image of God. Christ’s atoning death on the cross of Calvary instills confidence to believe that God loves sinners and has indeed forgiven the sin that weighs on the human conscience. Jesus’ amazing bodily Resurrection from the grave gives assurance that not even physical death can crush a living hope in God.

    This promise of Christ’s Second Coming ought to permeate a believer’s life—especially those quiet, still moments—with joyful hope of being in His presence, which is the ultimate connection. On the other hand, Ken is quick to clarify that “It is possible to become so preoccupied with future things that one neglects one’s responsibilities in this present age.” In other words, believers are not in the clear to Candy Crush our lives away simply because our real life begins in the new creation.

    I recall a moving panel discussion from the Inhabit conference in New York last week. Andrea Lippke, a Brooklyn-based editor and writer and mom, talked about time being “sliced so thin” she could see to the next moment. I know the feeling. Chances are you do, too. The ability to “just sit there” is a lost art when there are clothes to fold and meetings to attend and notification alerts to answer.

    Andrea shared how a look from her daughter set everything into perspective. “Be here now, mama,” her daughter’s eyes pleaded. The visual picture hit harder than a loss in Words with Friends and left me wondering how God, too, wants us to be present in the here and now.

    If hope in Christ shouts louder in the quiet moments, why not invite them a bit more often by unplugging and reconnecting with God and with those around us? In contrast to that “forever empty” feeling, believers experience hope in this life that we are promised eternity with Christ, being “forever full” in the next life.

    As Ken puts it, this future hope “can fuel believer’s passion to begin the everlasting worship service now.” Maybe then we can find deeper appreciation for “future things” and, better yet, share the hope we have with those struggling with the “forever empty” feeling. Assuming we can put our phones down for a second.

    –Sandra

    Resources:

    Christian Endgame: Careful Thinking about the End Times by Kenneth Samples (Releases November 2013)

    “Thinking about ‘Future Things,’” 12-part series

  • Do We Suffer from Nature-Deficit Disorder?

    by Telerik.Sitefinity.DynamicTypes.Model.Authors.Author | Oct 04, 2013

    Some say mine is the last generation to know what it means to engage in unstructured outdoor play. Though I grew up in the city, I enjoyed plenty of endless summer days on my cousins’ farm in Missouri. My favorite childhood memories include building hay forts in their barn, riding dirt bikes on back roads, and jumping off the dock into the muddy pond. Limited adult supervision and vast woods to be explored assured that the words “I’m bored” never crossed our minds.

    Nighttime brought new adventure. We often camped outside with nothing but our sleeping bags and a million stars hanging over us. The darkness of the open Missouri sky may as well have been a whole different world—this Southern California girl had never seen such a spectacular display. I took it all in as my cousins pointed out various constellations and planets, even satellites.

    These sweet summer memories flooded back to me when I stumbled across the book Last Child in the Woods by child advocacy expert Richard Louv. The author’s thesis is that as children spend less time living in natural surroundings and more time interacting with electronic media, their senses narrow, physiologically and psychologically. This broken bond between children and nature produces a deficit and that must be addressed, he says. Louv even goes so far as to say that our mental, physical, and spiritual health is at stake. He calls this state the “nature-deficit disorder.” The author’s remedy for this lack of exposure to nature is simple: build tree houses, explore gullies, experience the outdoors.

    Though Louv’s ideas are not widely known among mainstream culture, aspects of his thesis are shared by other education researchers, such as Neil Postman. Louv’s book caused me to reflect on the differences between urban and unindustrialized people groups and their views about the existence of a Creator. From a Christian worldview, God has revealed Himself two ways: through nature (Psalm 19:1–6; Romans 1:27–29) and Scripture. I wonder, then, what effect city living has on people in terms of their appreciation of general revelation (nature).

    Is the percentage of belief in God higher among those living in rural areas (closer to God’s creation)? And is the percentage of atheism higher in urban areas? Does urbanization cause a lack of general revelation awareness? On the surface, the idea that nature—not just a theoretical knowledge of it but an experiential interaction with it—is foundational to facilitate humanity’s proper spiritual development seems compelling. It makes me curious about whether this has actually been studied. (A cursory Google search didn’t turn up much.)

    When I read words in Psalm 19 that “the heavens declare the glory of God,” there is a part of me that is swept away once again to those warm summer nights sleeping outside in my cousins’ homemade fort, looking up at the stars. But I came to realize (after working at Reasons to Believe for several years) the breadth of the ways that being a lifelong city dweller had stunted my knowledge of general revelation. My experiential knowledge of the night sky is severely limited. I’m not in tune with the movements of the sky because I spend almost zero time outside.

    Without agrarian experiences, our appreciation of the record of nature becomes increasingly stunted—even our understanding of Scripture can become truncated. Unlike the authors of Scripture, many of us (myself included) have virtually no firsthand knowledge of even the most basic agrarian experiences. Growing up, the ancient Israelites likely would have witnessed the birth of a calf, experienced the death of a loyal work animal, walked a worn path in the woods, seen a bird nested in the rock crags, waded into the Jordan River, slept on their roof on a hot summer night, and gazed into the night sky. Observations based on nature permeate Scripture, especially the wisdom literature.

    The author of Proverbs repeatedly calls on readers to consider the world around them. The author of Job includes a wide array of descriptions of animal behavior. And so on. Consider how you can take time to dwell in the outdoors and expand your experiences of God’s creation. A family trip to the beach or camping can become much more meaningful when it’s viewed through the lens of general and special revelation.

    –Krista

    Resources:

  • The Good News about Comet ISON

    by Telerik.Sitefinity.DynamicTypes.Model.Authors.Author | Sep 27, 2013

    We could be in for a celestial treat this holiday season thanks to a visitor from the distant Oort Cloud. First detected in December 2011, Comet ISON is believed to hold the potential to become the comet of the twenty-first century—if it can survive its trip around the Sun, that is. As I write, this much-anticipated traveler is approaching Mars and can be seen through most backyard telescopes.

    Comet ISON is garnering attention in the Christian community for other reasons as well. Some believers claim that the comet’s path—which could take it through the constellation Virgo (the Virgin), the Crown (if it makes it past the Sun), and others—illustrates the story of Jesus. In essence, this idea is similar to the “gospel in the stars” concept that is sometimes attributed to the Christmas star.

    RTB’s own Hugh Ross (astronomer) and Jeff Zweerink (astrophysicist) discussed Comet ISON’s supposed theological importance on a recent episode of Praise the Lord on Trinity Broadcasting Network (starting around 36 minutes). Both Hugh and Jeff cast doubt on the idea of a gospel-in-the-stars scenario for scientific and biblical reasons.

    Hugh compares Comet ISON to the star of Bethlehem. Though the wise men took the unusual star as confirmation, they likely culled their knowledge of the timing of the Messiah’s arrival from a prophecy of Daniel. And when they asked the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem for help in determining the location, the answer was found in the book of Micah, not in the star itself.

    So, if Comet ISON is really meant to be theologically significant, Hugh states, “I would expect to see something in Scripture to guide me, just like there was something in Scripture to guide the wise men.” Hugh further cautions believers against buying into the idea that Comet ISON will tell the story of Jesus because people can read whatever story they’d like into this event (similar to the concept of numerology and the Bible code).

    Though some may be disappointed that this celestial event isn’t a sensational gospel-confirming phenomenon, Hugh and Jeff point out that Comet ISON should inspire plenty of awe—even without the questionable hype. To Jeff, this comet is a reminder of God’s hand in creation. He explains that God used a period of intense bombardment by asteroids and comets to prepare Earth’s surface and atmosphere for the arrival of advanced life and, eventually, humans.

    Now the just-right placement and size of our gas giant neighbors protect us from devastating impact events. For example, if Comet ISON were to hit Earth, Jeff says, “It would, in all likelihood, release more energy than the simultaneous detonation of the world’s entire nuclear arsenal—that’s bad.”

    Fortunately, we get to joyfully cheer Comet ISON on its journey, rather than fear it. Astronomers anticipate the comet will make its perilous encounter with the Sun on Thanksgiving Day (November 28). Only then will we know for sure if we’ll get a stunning holiday light show or disappointing fizzle. NASA lays out three possible scenarios for Comet ISON: (1) evaporation caused by the Sun’s heat; (2) a breakup of the comet into smaller pieces; and (3) survival and emergence with brightness so intense the comet will be visible to the naked eye in broad daylight.

    Here’s to hoping for scenario number three! As Hugh says, “It could be spectacular—I wouldn’t miss it.”

    — Maureen

    Resources: Jeff explains cosmic signatures that substantiate the Bible’s declaration that the universe is designed for habitability in RTB Live! vol. 11: Signature of the Creator (DVD).

  • Are Earthquakes God's Fault?

    by Telerik.Sitefinity.DynamicTypes.Model.Authors.Author | Sep 20, 2013

    It was a typical post-church brunch at the local IHOP. The din of countless conversations and forks clanking against plates filled the restaurant. Then, without warning, the floor beneath us began to quiver. Forks and pancake-stuffed jaws dropped as we waited for the trembling to increase or cease. Breaking the silence, an anxious eater proclaimed the shaking’s cause:

    E A R T H Q U A K E !!!

    With that bellow the tiny temblor ceased and the rest of us sat in awkward silence before finally digging in to our meals.

    Southern Californians know all too well about the initial moment when a quake hits. In that eternal second we try to decipher whether this is just another lame aftershock or “the big one”—the one that will transform homes in the valley into oceanfront properties. We had such a moment yesterday in the early morning hours. Nature’s alarm clock hit at 4:43 AM measuring in at a magnitude of 3.7. Then, as if someone had hit the snooze button, another alarm sounded (a magnitude-3.8 quake) a mere twenty or so minutes later. A 3.8 earthquake—for Californians—is hardly enough to motivate most people out of bed (and, for some, out of slumber). I can’t say the same for the 5.3-magnitude earthquake that hit Japan yesterday.

    Whether large or small, earthquakes remind us that we’re essentially standing on floating plates. When these plates slide past and underneath one another, we get what’s called tectonic activity. As we’ve seen in Haiti (2010) and Japan (2011), such activity can cause widespread destruction—leaving countless people homeless, mourning, and perhaps orphaned. How, then, could anyone view natural disasters, like earthquakes, as anything but evil? And if they’re evil, how does one explain these disasters in light of a good Creator? If God does exist and He is good, why would He allow natural evil in His creation?

    We’ve touched on the topic of natural evil (earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, etc.) a number of times. Still, the issue continues to come up, and understandably so. As RTB theologian Krista Bontrager puts it, “these tragedies warrant a compassionate and empathetic response, and questions about them deserve serious consideration.” Being “cold or callous about human suffering and loss,” she warns, could shut down the opportunity for meaningful dialogue.

    So how does one begin to discuss natural evil? Krista suggests first clarifying that “natural ‘evil’ is a misnomer.” She explains here:

    Phenomena such as earthquakes and hurricanes actually prove beneficial for mankind. Planetary scientists, among others, affirm that events such as hurricanes and earthquakes must occur for planet Earth to maintain the delicate balances of atmospheric and other environmental conditions mandatory for human life to exist and survive.

    Without earthquakes, for example, life-essential nutrients would “erode off the continents and accumulate in the oceans” and eventually cause land creatures to starve. Tectonic activity helps recycle those nutrients back onto the continents.

    Turns out plate tectonics played an important role in early Earth’s history as well. According to astrophysicist Jeff Zweerink, active and widespread tectonics “allowed a youthful Earth to support diverse abundant life.” The diverse abundant life then “quickly transformed Earth’s surface into an environment safe for advanced life.” Advanced life that would eventually be jolted out of bed at four in the morning, shaken (no pun intended) but grateful that the floating plates are doing precisely what they were designed to do.

    –Sandra

    Resources:

    Articles

    Good God, Cruel World

    Why Would God Allow Natural Disasters?

    Another Benefit for Life in Earthquakes

    Grappling with Natural Evil

    Purposeful Plate Tectonics

    Plate Tectonics Design

    Fine-Tuning Allows Essential Plate Tectonics to Take Off

    More Evidence for the Design of Earthquake Activity

    Natural Evil or Moral Evil

    Designed to Shake

    Why Do People Die in Earthquakes? Blame Corrupt Governments, Not God

    What If There Were No Hurricanes

    Podcasts

    “How Could a Good God Allow Earthquakes?“

    Natural Disasters Also Demonstrate Fine-Tuning

    Japan Tsunami and Natural Evil

    Webpage

    RTB 101 – Natural Disasters

    Video

    Natural Disasters

  • Extra Grace Required in Science-Faith Relationships

    by Telerik.Sitefinity.DynamicTypes.Model.Authors.Author | Sep 13, 2013

    We all know people who tend to deplete our reserves of patience and good will. (Perhaps we’ve even been one of these folks.) I’ve taken to identifying such people as "EGRs": extra grace required. This label, which I adopted from a guest speaker at my church, helps remind me to reign in my irritability and pray for an extra measure of patience when dealing with difficult people. After all, I require extra grace, too.

    Interactions within the science-faith arena provide plentiful examples of EGRs. It’s an area of debate where most participants have strong opinions. Add to that the so-called keyboard courage of the Internet and we have a perfect scenario for producing anger, resentment, and hurt.

    But it doesn’t have to be that way. My pastor recently kicked off his annual series on relationships with a list of behaviors to avoid. As I listened to him, I kept thinking, “This applies perfectly to all sides of the science-faith discussion!” I share his list below.

    1. Negativity: This behavior maintains a harsh attitude, allowing resentment to linger and build up until someone “pops.”
    2. Criticism: Critique is unavoidable in the science-faith arena, but it turns nasty when it attacks a person, instead of addressing a position. An attitude of complaining and blaming cultivates a critical spirit.
    3. Defensiveness: Maintaining an attitude of defensiveness keeps barriers up and blocks the healing potential of civility and kindness.
    4. Sarcasm: This is a biggie, especially on the Internet. As my pastor put it, “Sarcasm conveys disgust, which kills reconciliation.”
    5. Stonewalling: Of all these behaviors, stonewalling is probably the one I’m personally most susceptible to. Sometimes it seems easier to just disengage and avoid interaction than to risk getting hurt.

    Romans 12:9–21 provides an excellent remedy for these not-so-gracious relationship killers. (I’ve highlighted portions that stand out as particularly poignant for science-faith debates.)

    Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

    Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

    Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary:

    “If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
    if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
    In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”

    Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

    Verse 18 stands out the most to me: “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” We will encounter EGRs on web forums, in university classes, at work, at home, etc. While we can’t control their behavior, we can control ours. Just because someone makes a nasty remark about our beliefs doesn’t mean we need to retaliate in kind.

    So, before we give in to the knee-jerk instinct to retaliate, let’s stop and consider if our response will kill or build relationships.

    — Maureen

    Resources: RTB philosopher/theologian Kenneth Samples is a pro at maintaining his cool in the face of mean-spirited comments. Get his tips for staying cordial in debate settings from these resources:

  • Stress and the Pursuit of (True) Happiness

    by Telerik.Sitefinity.DynamicTypes.Model.Authors.Author | Sep 07, 2013

    Here’s the scoop: Our editorial team is working tirelessly to bring you several new resources—a book on the end times, a book on the Genesis creation days, a science-faith devotional for students, plus rereleases (and e-book editions) of a couple of out-of-print RTB titles.

    • Christian Endgame: Careful Thinking about the End Times by Kenneth Samples
    • Navigating Genesis: A Scientist’s Journey through Genesis 1–11 by Hugh Ross
    • Impact Events: Cell by Jeff Zweerink and Ken Hultgren
    • Origins of Life by Fazale Rana
    • A Matter of Days by Hugh Ross

    Needless to say we are stressed, and we’re certainly not alone. Stress seems to be an unwelcome guest in most households. In an effort to combat stress, people ardently pursue happiness, and in a variety of forms. My small circle of Facebook friends alone offered a wide range of answers, ranging from connecting with loved ones, to serving the Kingdom, engaging in creative endeavors, and enjoying books, coffee, and puppies (of course).

    Yet recent research indicates that the type of happiness we pursue can affect our health for better or worse. Biochemical engineer Katie Galloway explains this research in her article “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.”

    Katie explains that “the impact of stress on health can be mapped to changes at the genetic level.” She adds that stress can not only slow the healing of wounds and impair the immune system but also make infections and disease more dangerous. The T cells (“the immune system’s ninjas”) in people experiencing chronic stress will show CTRA expression, which she explains contributes to poorer health.

    Here’s where the study really gets interesting. Researchers examined the well-being of eighty subjects. Those who pursued eudaimonic well-being (“striving toward meaning and a noble purpose beyond simple self-gratification”) showed a decrease in CTRA. In other words, it seems this particular form of happiness helped combat the negative effects of stress, putting them at lower risk for certain diseases. Awesome, right?

    However, those who pursued hedonic (pleasure-seeking) well-being showed an increase in CTRA expression. That is, “Hedonic well-being biochemically strikingly mirrors the experience of bereavement, social isolation, or diagnosis with a life-threatening illness.” Not so awesome.

    “The indication,” Katie suggests, “is that people who find hedonic well-being but do not experience eudaimonic well-being develop the same health risks as those with depression and stress….In other words, happiness derived from meaningful activities—many of which involve serving others rather than just ourselves—produces greater benefits than simply seeking pleasurable experiences.”

    When it comes to pursuing happiness, it seems our bodies know what’s best. The benefits of eudaimonic well-being (serving others) ought to compel us to seek happiness through this means. Moreover, it might lead us to reflect on why our bodies react negatively to hedonistic well-being (serving just ourselves).

    Katie offers the following questions:

    What would you expect if there were a personal, transcendent God? Would you expect this God to build compassion into our very beings and physiology? Would you expect that He would transcend our world to offer us guidance on how to live? Would you expect that He would instruct His followers to act so as to promote life for others?

    If you’re like me, you need to set aside some stress and mull over the answers. They could affect our health.

    –Sandra

    Additional Resources:

    Religion and Mental Health Going to Church Is Good for You” (Article)

    Live Long and Prosper: Going to Church Increases Lifespan” (Article)

    God Makes You Glad: Positive Christian Attitude Linked to Happiness” (Article)

    The Science of Happiness” (YouTube video)

What's Holding You Back?

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About Reasons to Believe

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