What Did Jesus Mean When He Said “This Generation Won’t Pass Away”?

 

Every so often, I run across people who pick up on a certain verse in the Olivet discourse and are troubled by it. The occasion for these troubles appears when Jesus shares a message about the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of the world and is questioned about it by His disciples on the Mt. of Olives—hence the title ‘Olivet discourse’. The sermon is found in all three synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) and one verse within it seems to give the impression that Jesus says He’s returning within the lifetime of the apostles. At first glance it can sound problematic:

“Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away” (Luke 21:32-33).

It seems as if Jesus is telling the twelve disciples that before the people of His present generation die, He will return and the world will enter into judgment. Without any surrounding context we could be forgiven for assuming this idea. However, if one practices good hermeneutics (the science of interpretation) than the aforementioned explanation encounters some serious difficulties in itself. But before they are discussed let’s look at the passage in general.

The discussion starts when Jesus walks away from the Temple in Jerusalem and says to His disciples that this famously hallowed monument of Jewish life will be utterly destroyed. Later, his inner three, Peter, James, and John approach him privately and ask when this will happen. What is also forgotten however, is that they also ask Him when the final judgment will happen: “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:3b). The first thing to note here then, might be that there are two events in question that aren’t necessarily one and the same—the first being the destruction of Jerusalem, the latter Jesus’ second coming and end of the age. Prophecy in the Bible is sometimes called ‘telescopic’ meaning that major future events that span large time gaps can be compressed into one passage, just like viewing a landscape of mountains and simultaneously viewing peaks together that are in fact miles apart. The Olivet discourse might be a good case in point.

In Jesus’ answer to the question, He lays out a harrowing description of events, ranging from a a coming city siege where women will find themselves worse off if pregnant or nursing, global mass deception, widespread lovelessness, natural catastrophes like earthquakes and perhaps tsunami’s, and finally the universal vision of His coming—”as lighting strikes in the East and is visible in the West.”

The prophecy is startling and His ultimate point is to paint a picture of what world conditions will be like before His return. So, is this multi-pronged prediction telling us that Jesus should have returned long ago? In a word, no, there are several reasons, both within and outside the prophecy that eliminate this from being the case.

The Olivet discourse in Luke (which includes the passage in question) is found in chapter twenty-one, but just four chapters earlier, Jesus is having a clear discussion about His Second coming with the Pharisees and His disciples. He’s questioned as to when the Kingdom of God, in the form of God’s visible reign, is going to manifest. He responds by saying that it is already present among them, in that He, the King of God’s coming Kingdom is presently speaking to them (vs. 21). But then He goes on to address the full meat of their question by telling His disciples that they will soon long for the full manifestation of His Kingdom to come, the time when God will make all things right, but that none of them will see ever see it because there is a time gap between when that will happen and their present generation:

“Then he said to his disciples, “The time is coming when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, but you will not see it. People will tell you, ‘There he is!’ or ‘Here he is!’ Do not go running off after them. For the Son of Man in his day will be like the lightning, which flashes and lights up the sky from one end to the other. But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.” (Luke 17:22-25).

They will yearn to see His return but their hopes will not be fulfilled. Also important to note is his description of the last day here parallels what He’s saying in the Olivet prophecies. Examine Luke 17- “People will tell you, ‘There he is!’ or ‘Here he is!’ Do not go running off after them. For the Son of Man in his day will be like the lightning, which flashes and lights up the sky from one end to the other,” alongside another common (among all three gospels) Olivet passage, “At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it … For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.” (Matthew 24:23,27). The event in question seems to be the same in both passages, but in Luke 17, Jesus explicitly tells the disciples that they belong to a different generation than the one which will see it.

Now let’s look at the Olivet discourse itself, there are several parts which preclude it from having an immediate fulfillment. In Luke 21, when Jesus is describing the destruction of the Temple, He also adds some further details that tell us there will be a considerable span of time between its destruction and His second coming:

“There will be great distress in the land and wrath against this people. They will fall by the sword and will be taken as prisoners to all the nations. Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled” (vs. 22-24).

Here Jesus tells us that the destruction of Jerusalem will be a part of God’s wrath against the nation and that its people will be put to the sword or taken captive to all nations. This is precisely what happened in 70 A.D. when the Roman ruler Titus destroyed and burned the Temple, killed over a million Jews and took thousands into slavery throughout the Roman empire. Jesus’ words were fulfilled with devastating accuracy. But He also mentions that Jerusalem will be run afoot by Gentiles (non-Jewish people) until their “times” would be fulfilled. This means they would only have control of the city for a certain period before it would be given back to the Jewish people. A hundred years ago the idea of Jewish people re-inhabiting Jerusalem would have seemed preposterous, but today, in the reborn state of Israel where Jerusalem is under Jewish authority, we know that the times of the Gentiles are over and done with. The main point here is that It would have been impossible for the Jewish people to have been conquered, sold into slavery throughout the various nations of the world and then somehow return and re-inhabit Jerusalem with authority in a single generation. To make matters clearer, Jesus speaks of “times,” indicating different eras.

The idea that Jesus is telling His disciples that their contemporaries were going to see His second coming is eliminated by the prophecy itself.  Other passages also imply the need for an alternative explanation. Aside from His declaration in Luke 17 there are parts of the Olivet prophecy which also imply large time gaps between the present generation and that of the second coming, such as the worldwide distribution of the His message. Jesus probably knew the earth was larger than the Roman Empire, and to reach even those inhabitants would require more than a single generation. So how should we respond to Jesus’ statement that seems to imply an immediate fulfillment?

Others have answered this question by reminding us that the word ‘generation’ could refer to the Jewish nation in general (since it can also mean “people” in Greek) or to the people who would first be witness to these cataclysmic events, as in the reborn Jewish nation and surrounding world. It’s also important to remember the idea of telescoping in prophecy, seeing as how Jesus is answering the question about when two distinct events will occur. They may not be entirely distinct in the minds of the disciples (we don’t know) but Jesus is responding to a question about two different things and certain seam lines in the Olivet discourse may point to Jesus describing different time periods. For instance, He says that wars and rumors of wars are only the beginning of birth pains, and that before all this His message must first be preached to all nations; then describing the persecutions they’ll face when communicating it. He doesn’t seem to be giving a precise chronology of how things will play out. There’s also the possibility of a kind of “double fulfillment,” where the passage applied both to His and future generations. He gives an accurate description of what happened in 70 A.D. but other prophecies also paint similar pictures of a future destruction of a rebuilt Temple. The Olivet discourse is likely foreshadowing the immediate and final destruction of Jerusalem. Finally, some aspects of Bible prophecy are only intelligible after the fact. This doesn’t mean that we conform vague predictions to current events, but sometimes in clear predictions, there are other elements that only make sense within the immediate time context of their fulfillment.

I think all of the above have a part to play in understanding the Olivet discourse and its apparently difficult section. Jesus has already made clear there will be a time gap between His contemporaries and the second coming in various places, so it would be very presumptuous of us to think He’s trying to say something that He explicitly denies elsewhere. Perhaps a grain of humility is needed, along with an eye for the mystery of God’s revelation. Furthermore, Bible prophecy is still playing out before the world’s eyes today. God’s ultimate purpose and plans, displayed through such prophetic writings as Daniel, Zechariah, Ezekiel, the Gospels, Epistles, and especially the book of Revelation (written after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D.) still are doing a fairly good job at foretelling world scenarios. At the moment we appear to be on the precipice of seeing many last events come into play. How long it will take to see these end time occurrences is anyone’s guess but what we can be sure of is that the stage is being set for God’s final scenes. During that time, aspects of the Olivet prophecy, as well as many other predicition’s will be brought to life before the globe’s eyes in cataclysmic ways. Let us be ready for the return of our God and Savior, keeping our eyes on Him in the midst of any temporal troubles.

 

 

               “…in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation … But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:3-4,8-9).

 

“If they value their careers, they should keep quiet about their intelligent design views”- What Abuses in the Scientific Community Tell Us About Science And Our Souls

Often when trying to share something new, it involves challenging something old. In the case of science now pointing more to God than random processes, to design instead of Darwinism,[1] many have a hard time even considering that this could be true. People typically aren’t interested in the evidence surrounding such a claim because Darwinism has built such strong trenches around their epistemology. They reason that if anything even remotely like this was true, the scientific community would readily agree and grant everyone their rightful prizes. But is this necessarily true? In fact, it’s patently not. Many scientists in recent years have seen the wrath of the “consensus” when trying to either offer sound critique of Darwin’s ideas or highlight how God’s Hand appears to be very evident within the natural world; the necessary conclusion to their observations. Aside from discussing the false supposition that science cannot include talk of God, I felt it important to highlight what kind of reactions are occurring in the academic community when scientists want to offer alternative opinions. This discussion is important not merely for science, but because it highlights much deeper issues contained within the human psyche. These issues in turn point towards our eternities because our reaction to new, potentially different kinds of knowledge often serves as a barometer for the status of our souls.

Dr. Gunter Bechly, Paleontologist: Dr. Bechly is a distinguished academic in his field, publishing 150 scientific publications, writing for Cambridge University Press (on evolution from his former evolutionist standpoint) discovering 160 new species and 10 new biological groups, and has served on the editorial board for two scientific journals. Bechly originally set out to mock Intelligent Design and Creationism in a public display at the Museum of Natural History he was curating (Naturkunde Stuttgart) for a celebration of Darwin’s bi-centennial birthday. However after exploring through some of the literature he says his former understanding of the field proved to be a gross mischaracterization. Ultimately he became convinced of Darwin’s shortcomings and Intelligent Design’s more persuasive arguments but this development proved hazardous to his position. He soon lost access to necessary workspace and control over his exhibitions. He says he was  told he was “no longer welcome, and that it would be appreciated if I would decide to quit …  (so) I decided that it did not make sense anymore to continue working in a hostile environment that makes productive research and collaboration with colleagues impossible.” Bechly was forced to resign after serving for 17 years. In 2017 his “long- standing” Wikipedia page was taken down sparking controversy in the scientific community. His story is available here – https://freescience.today/story/gunter-bechly/

Dr. Richard M. Sternberg, Evolutionary Biologist: While serving as editor of the Journal “The Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington” Sternberg received an article from Dr. Stephen C. Meyer entitled ““Intelligent Design: The Origin of Biological Information and the Higher Taxonomic Categories.” While Sternberg himself was not a proponent of Intelligent Design at the time, he felt the article deserved to be published and subsequently did so. After pressure from the Smithsonian the Biological Society of Washington decided to retract the article, despite the fact that it had gone through the normal peer review process (a fact which has been confirmed and documented but is often lied about to attack Sternberg’s credibility). Sternberg then began to face severe persecution at his workplace, the Smithsonian Institution. He lost access to necessary workspaces, his keys and office were taken away, his research Associateship was not renewed; he was demoted and put under a hostile supervisor. The National Center for Biotechnology Information was also urged to fire him. Sternberg filed complaints with the US Office of Special Counsel, but due to jurisdictional issues, his pleas went unanswered. They did however respond by saying: “It is also clear that a hostile work environment was created with the ultimate goal of forcing you out of the SI (Smithsonian Institution).” Due to the hostilities he consistently faced, Sternberg ultimately resigned from his position.  Dr. Sternberg’s story is available here https://freescience.today/story/richard-sternberg/ as well as being featured in the documentary “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed”

Dr. Guillermo Gonzalez, Astronomer: Holds an impressive research record, including the discovery of  several planets. After publishing “The Privileged Planet” which argues that the universe is intelligently designed a petition was circulated among his peers trying to denigrate his work. They were concerned about him sharing his opinions in an upcoming presentation on campus. Although the petition doesn’t mention him by name it is well known that trepidation about his upcoming speech was the cause for the petition. Soon after his application for tenure was denied and Dr. Gonzalez says this: “I have very little doubt that I would have tenure now if I hadn’t done any work on intelligent design.” And then gives this advice to other scientists … “If they value their careers, they should keep quiet about their intelligent design views.” Dr. Gonzalez story is highlighted in the documentary “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed”

Dr. Robert J. Marks II, Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Baylor University, first president of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers: During an interview with Pro Intelligent Design filmmakers Marks said he was academically safe, with tenure, but complaints were subsequently made to Baylor faculty. He had his research website shut down by the university and was told to return the grant money he had received. “I have never been treated like this in my 30 years of academia … no doubt that the center of this is my work in intelligent design.” Dr. Marks story is highlighted in the documentary “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed”

Dr. Caroline Crocker, Immunopharmacologist: After criticizing evolution and mentioning intelligent design in her cell biology class at George Mason University, Dr. Crocker faced severe discipline. After being confronted by her supervisor she was suspended from teaching her class and reassigned to labs. When her contract expired shortly after it was not renewed and she says her academic career came to a halt. She says she never had trouble finding employment before the conflict but because potential employers are now aware of what took place she has had considerable difficulty finding work in her field:  “I was only trying to teach what the university stands for which is academic freedom.” Dr. Crocker’s story can be found here https://freescience.today/story/caroline-crocker/ as well as being featured in the documentary “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed”

Dr. Michael Egnor, Neurosurgeon: After writing an essay stating that doctors didn’t need to study evolution in order to practice medicine, he was subsequently pressured to resign and became the target for what he calls “a lot of very nasty, nasty comments” with “unprintable words that were printed.” He also says he was surprised by the “viciousness and baseness” of the comments he received. Dr. Egnor’s story can be seen in the documentary “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed”

Dr. Scott Minnich, Geneticist: While serving in Iraq as a scientist in the Military survey group looking for biological weapons, became hesitant about the paper he was going to co-publish paper with Dr. Stephen Meyer on how the Bacterial Flagellum is best explained by intelligent design. He remembers thinking “what are the consequences, am I going to lose my job and be able to support my family?” During this particular moment of trepidation right before the deadline of his paper, mortar rounds were going off near his location, the Perfume Palace. He realized that they were becoming substantially closer with each round states that he thought: “I may not be here tomorrow” and pushed the send button on his email. Complaints from anonymous faculty about him followed, and he says his peers tried to get him fired by labeling him as incompetent: “I was censored.” Dr. Minnich’s story can be seen here https://freescience.today/story/scott-minnich/ or in the documentary http://www.Revolutionarybehe.com

Dr. Michael Behe, Biochemist: After becoming disillusioned with Evolution’s explanatory power Dr. Behe published his now landmark “Darwin’s Black Box.” Soon after he received hostile reactions, ridicule and subversion from his faculty peers and believes that if it weren’t for his tenure he would be in danger of losing his job. He’s often accused of trying to bring religious views into his science (as if this were actually detrimental to his work), but says this: “I don’t have a theological dog in this fight. I’m just trying to do my job as a biochemist” – https://triblive.com/x/pittsburghtrib/news/s_384626.html

This statement is further justified by his welcome attitude toward common descent, but his refusal to believe Darwinian mechanisms could play a role.

In the film “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed” 5 scientists were interviewed who chose to disguise their physical appearance for fear of losing their jobs. They all voiced similar concerns about the dangers of publicly questioning the evolutionary paradigm. One said “you use intelligent design to get the research done, but your not allowed to speak about it in public.”

In 2009 a non-profit group called the American Freedom Alliance, signed a contract with the California Science Center regarding their use of the Imax Theater. When it was discovered that they were going to screen the documentary “Darwin’s Dilemma” which critiqued evolution and portrayed Intelligent Design in a favorable light, the CSC cancelled the event and disregarded its contractual obligations. When the matter was taken to court, the AFA won their suit and it was revealed that the CSC cancelled the event after severe pressure from the Smithsonian Institution, the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, and other local academics. https://evolutionnews.org/2011/08/evidence_revealed_in_californi/

This list is not exhaustive, it was compiled through memory and only a few hours of online research. If one were to direct more effort, even scholarly research into this area, I’m sure more stories wouldn’t be hard to find. I’m well aware that this information is going to be hard to digest for some, and will be met with various methods of circumvention, nevertheless the pattern is clear. Many scientists feel unsafe in discussing what they believe to be valid scientific thoughts, ideas they claim actually help their research and provide more explanatory power than certain standard paradigms. Many I’m sure will say that these institutions were simply trying to protect science, but keep in mind the science here was never discussed. Distinguished scientists were simply harassed, abused and forced to resign for disagreeing with the status quo. Their reasons for disagreement were never addressed, just that they disagreed. And so we see a different kind of dynamics that doesn’t simply involve good science doing away with bad science, but spiteful people doing away with dissenting, potentially groundshifting opinion. Hopefully in the future more and more people will begin to shoot directly for the science itself and be wary of blindly adopting the idea that “it’s true because everyone else believes it.”

M.B. Foster, an Oxford Philosopher during the 1930’s writes about how our presuppositions about God ultimately trickle down into our study of the natural world. Our heavenward thoughts direct our earthly scientific views. That’s why this discussion transcends the data itself, it, as the bible says of scripture “penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). In other words our position in the search for scientific truth will also be indicative of the nature of our souls. A virtuous heart will find no frustration in being proven wrong, as scripture says, “rebuke the wise and they will love you” (Proverbs 9:8).  but an immoral one will often flee from truth in the form of denial, ignorance or abuse. Are our hearts thirsty for knowledge, or are we simply interested in confirming our own biases?  An honest answer to this question, especially in relation to the natural world and its impact on our understanding of God and the Bible, often points towards our inner, eternal habitation.

This Blog owes much to the documentaries “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed” which is available for free on youtube, and “Revolutionary”  which is also available for free at http://www.revolutionarybehe.com

[1] Darwinism here simply refers to the idea of macroevolution, or large changes in animal forms thought to take place through mutations and natural selection.

Addressing Ijaz and Islamic Apologetics

Ijaz Ahmad is a respected contemporary Muslim apologist, he’s also a good friend of mine. There’s no shortage of polemics on his Facebook page or throughout his blogging activity, well versed in textual criticism and the basics of Christian theology he makes for an interesting conversation partner.  That said I’d like to address the substance of his thoughts, and in doing so will be addressing the Muslim community at large.

Ijaz’s focus seems to be on discussing the reliability of the New Testament. He tends to use a certain methodology that narrows in on minor details about the text and then extrapolates extraordinary and unrealistic hypotheses about either the historicity, or integrity of the Bible. Another issue that Ijaz and others overlook is that when they cite what they believe to be arguments against the Christian faith, the arguments themselves bounce much harder back against Islam itself. Ijaz’s latest blog about the ending of Mark belongs to the latter category.

Mark’s Evocative Ending

To recap, most early manuscripts of the Gospel of Mark end at 16:8, however later manuscripts have an added 11 verses[1]. Most scholars agree that the longer endings are likely not original, although some writers have made plausible suggestions for their inclusion.  Ijaz notes that vs. 8 ends with the word “gar” or, in English “for”, as in “the flowers were for Diane”. Some then conclude then that vs. 8 ends mid-sentence with a word that is pointing towards more, and therefore the NT has lost the ending in Mark. There are several problems with this assumption.

Although there are those who claim that the word “gar” is out of place at the end of vs. 8, those familiar with Greek know that it is a word that, although used as an explanatory conjunction, can be placed at the conclusion of a sentence or a discourse unit. This is why Mark 16:8 is translated as “for they were afraid”, not “they were afraid, for”. Mark’s writing style tends to be choppy to begin with and scholars suggest he may have ended his gospel at vs. 8 to intentionally try and evoke a response in the reader. If for some reason we discover a previously unknown ending to Mark, the argument, from an Islamic perspective, still holds more detriment to one’s own faith than whatever accusations are aimed at the Bible. Furthermore, Islamic apologists often like to cite the shorter ending of Mark as not including a resurrection, but this simply isn’t true. Part of Ijaz’s argument is that the real reason the women were afraid (vs. 8) is because of an unknown ending to the text, however the reason they were “bewildered”, as the text clearly implies, is because they just encountered an angel who told them that their once crucified friend and Lord, has now been raised from the dead:

“Don’t be alarmed,” he said. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.’ Trembling and bewildered, the women went out and fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid”-Mark 16:6-8. 

When the Shoe is on the Other Foot

Now, If one were to point the same finger that Ijaz is pointing  towards the Quran we’d find that, unlike the speculation lodged at the NT, Islamic history does explicitly tell us about lost parts of the Quran. Aside from the controlled destruction of textual variants and abrogated portions (which for all intents and purposes practically “destroy” certain passages) there are actual cases where Quranic verses are stated as having been lost before the final collation and therefore removed forever from the text.[2] If these Islamic records are true, then one has to ask what was the purpose of Allah revealing certain revelations from his heavenly tablet, only to have them lost before they could ever make their way into the text? The same logic applies to the abrogated (or annulled) verses in the Quran, why (or how?) were they revealed if their ultimate purpose was to be overthrown a short time after? Does this really constitute truth derived from an all knowing omnipotent Creator, or is it more feasible to say that mere humans were in ultimate control of these ‘revelations’?

The Bible never claims to be a direct dictation from an eternal heavenly tablet. Although God’s word does likely exist in some form in heaven, the reliability of the Bible doesn’t ultimately rest on the continuance of every original verse in the canon. Rather it rests on the substance of which it is composed, the revelation of Jesus’ supernatural life, the power of His resurrection, and the culmination of God’s salvation story as foretold in the Hebrew prophets -facts which would be deducible even if we only had one gospel. Many Christians throughout the world have survived in their faith on only portions of the NT, if any. Jesus is still the same, history is still the same and He still saves to this day. The same cannot be said of the Quran which is the object of faith for Muslims and is said to have been sourced verse by verse from a heavenly tablet. In this case, lost portions, annulled portions, destroyed portions, actually do affect the basis of faith since it reflects on, and demonstrates inconsistency in, the one who allegedly intended it to be transcribed verbatim from heaven.

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A Few Questions For My Friends

My question would be whether my friends in the Islamic faith allow themselves to think as critically about their personal faith as they do about the Bible. If one were to question their own faith as vehemently as they question Christianity, do they think that Islam would withstand the onslaught? What if one ponders the fact for a follower of Islam to criticize the Bible is inconsistent in itself, since the Quran tells its followers to reference the Torah and Gospel in order to validate itself[3] (a fact which makes little sense given the obvious discrepancies, perhaps a subject for another future article). My hope in writing this is to encourage Muslim and Christian alike to investigate their beliefs openly, and think as critically about their own beliefs as they do about the beliefs of others. If anyone desires to seek the truth about God or His nature, whether they’re Muslim or Christian, double standards will only serve to delude the people who hold them from any semblance of reality. There is much more that could be said about the reliability of the Bible, the transmission of the Quran, or other blog posts from Ijaz, but my aim was to be as short and succinct as possible. Again I’d like to restate that I value my friendship with Ijaz and enjoy conversing with him over various issues. May God bless him and the rest of my Muslim friends and family who would consider these issues, May God increase their health and bless their families and spiritual lives. Salaam.

Endnotes

[1] This variant, along with the Pericope Adulterae in John 7:53-8:11 are the most significant variants we know of in the NT. Both however do not affect any Christian doctrines and are well known for being possible additions to the original text.

[2] See Sahih Muslim 5.2286 and C.G. Pfander, The Mizanu’l Haqq., 256. The so called “Satanic Verses” also constitute a portion of the Quran which has been lost.

[3] See S. 10:94 and other similar verses in the Quran.

A Sequel to the Syllogism: more thoughts on why God is the Creator of all life

In my earlier blog, I posited a syllogism, or logical formula, that deduces God’s existence from the information found in DNA. It went like this:

1. All living things contain specified complexity (information) within their DNA

2. This type of complexity can only be derived from a source of intelligence

3. Therefore, all living things are derived from a source of intelligence

It’s not hard to see how premise #3 naturally follows from the first two, but some have argued against it’s validity, or whether the premises themselves are in fact true. Some suggested that premise #2 is an appeal to ignorance because, they surmise, we don’t know if information can only be derived from a source of intelligence. How, they ask, do we know that this is our only source? In response I’d like to offer the following points.

First, no human anywhere, has ever observed specified complexity, that is a type of complexity that is specified to convey a function, much like software code, or literature, occurring without having been produced by an intelligent mind. This seems obvious as it’s hard to look at a traffic sign saying “Right Turn Only” or turn the newspaper page to see the words “Boston Wins Again!” and think that these statements were somehow created without a mind behind them. So why is it an appeal to ignorance to deduce the same thing from genetic information? Not only does genetic information carry the same traits as the above mentioned messages, it’s far, far more complex and absolutely beyond anything that human intelligence could ever create. This is why secular scientists like Carl Sagan and Fred Hoyle adopted the idea of “panspermia”, or that life on earth was somehow seeded by advanced extra-terrestrial beings. This science fiction, apart from having no evidence behind it, only pushes the sequence back one step as we would be forced to then ask how their life originated.

Here is what we’re left with. DNA contains information, this information clearly implies a mind, or intelligence behind it. However because this Mind implies a supernatural Creator of life, skeptics are remiss to accept the obvious and so claim that I’m appealing to only one possible cause for the genetic information whereas there could be more. Here’s the thing, we don’t know of any other cause for this kind of information, if there were I’d gladly take down my blog and recant what I’m saying. If the science didn’t destroy the naturalists worldview this wouldn’t be so hard to accept- we observe something in nature, we know of only one kind of cause for this type of observation, therefore we infer that this kind of cause is responsible for what we observe. Granted, other causes could come out of the woodworks (in some alternate dimension) and if they did we would see which cause explains our observation better, but there’s no need to posit other causes if we know of one that already exists. Far from making any appeals to ignorance, this syllogism is appealing to what is already known, which is kind of how science works.

If we’re only aware of one cause of this kind of information, then it seems reasonable enough to say that there is only one cause for this kind of information. This isn’t a situation where multiple variables could be factored in as potential causes, we don’t even have the brain power to imagine or propose any viable theories as to how DNA could have arisen naturally. It’s sad that some of the brightest minds in our world who seem so earnest about science can step over something so beautifully powerful when it doesn’t agree with their preconceived worldview. That we have a Creator is clearly evidenced in our natural world, and the more we follow His footprints the greater the depths of His brilliance will become manifest to our sight.

A SIMPLE SYLLOGISM THAT PROVES GOD CREATED LIFE

A syllogism is a helpful little tool used in logic composed of three statements. It takes place when the first two premises produce an inescapable conclusion (third statement). For example, if all men are tall, and john is a man, then it inevitably follows that John is tall. Now obviously not all men are tall, so despite the preciseness of the logic, syllogisms are essentially useless unless the premises are true. However If the premises are true then we can have confidence that the conclusion is one worth trusting in. Many syllogisms have been offered to provide proof for the existence of God, but here is one that’s based on simple, empirical evidence.

1. All living things contain specified complexity (information) within their DNA
2. This type of complexity can only be derived from a source of intelligence
3. Therefore, all living things are derived from a source of intelligence.

This sounds slightly technical at first, so here’s the breakdown.

1. DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) is the structure within all living cells that carry the genetic information used reproduce and maintain life. It is a code, or set of instructions, that operates according to the same principles used in quantifying information within language, software etc. DNA contains four characters that, when combined differently, forms the instructions for creating different proteins. Just as in binary code, two characters, 1 and 0, can create numerous different larger characters i.e. 011011 or 101010, so these four characters are used to code for all the instructions that create life. The kind of information apparent in DNA not only has the capacity to carry information (random characters with no meaning) but actually does carry messages intended for function.
2. There are no other known causes for this kind of information, which is both specified and complex, other than intelligence. Nature can create either instances of specificity or complexity, but when we see both together the only known cause is intelligence.
3. If the two preceding premises are both correct, something which nobody has reasonably disputed, then we can conclusively deduct the truth that all of life is derived from a source of intelligence.

This syllogism proves that life comes from intelligence, what else could have created the vast array of living molecular machinery that we see? The complexity of DNA is so beyond anything humans have ever been able to reproduce that even famed Microsoft designer Bill Gates says “DNA is like a computer program but far, far more advanced than any software ever created.”(Bill Gates, “The Road Ahead,” pg. 188 (Viking, Penguin Group, 1995). Where else could the transcendent code for life come from other than an infinitely intelligent mind, and who do we know that possesses an infinitely intelligent mind other than God?

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Although the logic of this argument may seem strenuous to grasp, it’s simple. All living organisms evidence a ‘code’ within their DNA, and this code is so beyond anything that even our level of intelligence could produce, that random processes are simply out of the question. In short, it demonstrates that we do in fact have a Creator. Of course to the Bible believer, this is old news. After peering through the way that God has manifestly revealed Himself throughout history, especially in the appearance of Jesus Christ, DNA can seem almost superflous. But the fact that we do see such clear signs of design and creation within life does affirm what scripture already tells us :

“For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.” Romans 1:19-20.

One can either acknowledge the clarity of such observations or disregard them, doing the latter isn’t hard. But if one does make room in their hearts for the evidence of God, they’ll be surprised at how much “information” can flow in.