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2018 Imperial Valley Apologetics Conference Recap

I had the great privilege of speaking at the 2018 Imperial Valley Apologetics Conference this past weekend in El Centro, CA. I feel bad that it came at the expense of my friend, Tim Barnet, getting sick. But when he asked me to cover for him, I was happy that my Saturday was open.

During the day-long conference, I gave three talks and had a Q&A session. My talks included: Does God exist? Are science and faith compatible? Is the New Testament reliable? IMG_4497

Thank you to Calvary Chapel Bible College El Centro and everyone in attendance. You all are doing an incredible work, and you made it a very special day. And thank you to the visual team for putting together this short recap video from my first talk on the existence of God. You guys were amazing!

If you are interested in having me speak at your church, camp, or youth group, click on the Endorsements & Speaking page and email me at contact@coffeehousequestions.com. You can select a topic from the list or suggest your own. I am happy to help in any way I can. God bless!

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Are Genesis 1 and 2 contradictory creation accounts?

I remember the first time a Christian told me that Genesis 1 and 2 were contradictory. He seemed to say it as if it didn’t matter. It was like saying, “There are contradictions in Scripture, but don’t worry about it and just have faith.” This, I believe, is a huge problem. It seems to limit God’s omnipotence or His goodness. It becomes difficult to explain how God, the author of Scripture, would contradict himself. Does God error?

I agree that there are apparent contradictions in Scripture, but just like other apparent contradictions, they are cleared up when understood correctly. Christians can’t avoid this issue in Genesis 1 and 2 by saying they don’t contradict. Instead, we have to give reasons why.

What is the apparent contradiction?

It has often been said that Genesis 1 and 2 provide contradictory accounts of when man was created in relation to other created things. Genesis 1:26 puts the creation of man on the 6th day after all plants (day 3) and animals (days 5 and 6). Genesis 2:5-7 seems to say that man was created before the plants and animals. So the question becomes, were Adam and Eve created near the beginning or end of creation?

In order to answer this question, we must understand the context of Genesis 1 and 2. We understand this need for context in our lives every day. For example, “The lions destroyed the dolphins,” appears crazy on the surface. Why did the lions go into the ocean? Why didn’t the dolphins simply swim away? It then becomes very clear when you realize the person talking is on the sports channel and is covering a recent football game. The context in which the person is talking or writing makes all the difference.

So, we must look at the context and perspective of Genesis 2 in order to see if it contradicts the timeline in Genesis 1. With this understanding, we are able to see that there is a change of perspective. Dr. Hugh Ross, an astronomer and President of Reasons to Believe, explains the change in perspective from Genesis 1 and 2 in his book, Navigating Genesis. He writes,

“While Genesis 1 focuses almost entirely on the physical creation–what God made or made happen and in what order, Genesis 2 begins to elaborate on the why, or purpose, of creation. The Genesis 1 storyteller describes the unfolding scene of the six creation days from a vantage point somewhere just above Earth’s surface, but below the clouds, as God prepared a suitable habitat for humanity. Genesis 2 zooms in on a small portion of Earth’s surface (Eden) and what occurred from the vantage point of one human being (the first human) in that locale, walking and awakening to the sights and sounds all around” (p. 95).

Genesis 2 is no longer talking about the whole globe. Realizing the setting allows us to understand what is meant by the different descriptions. Just like the report about the lions and dolphins. Once you realize the context, we are no longer talking about the ocean but about football. Genesis 1 offers the big picture timeline and Genesis 2 focuses on what happened during the 6th day of creation in the garden. Dr. Ross continues,

“Genesis 1 presents the major physical creation events in a time-ordered sequence… In Genesis 2 God introduces the first humans to their setting, first to the misty land itself, then to the plants, then to the higher animals and, finally, to each other. That is, God sequentially lays out humanity’s authority over and responsibility to manage different components of His earthly creation but offers only a highly condensed, non-sequential summary of His physical creation activity. No contradiction can be inferred legitimately from differences between these two versions of the creation story” (p. 95-96).

Genesis 2 never says that man was created before plants or animals. The garden in Eden was planted after man was created, but this doesn’t mean that the whole globe was void of plants. We then see in Genesis 2:19 that “the Lord had formed every beast of the field and every bird of the heavens and brought them to the man to see what he would call them.” The language here is that God “had formed” the animals and then brought them to the man. Again, this is consistent with what we see in Genesis 1.

Conclusion

Understanding the context and change of perspective allows us to read these two accounts in harmony. They are not both offering a big picture timeline of the creation event. Instead, they are each describing a different aspect of creation. This apparent contradiction becomes clear when understood in this new way, and Genesis 1 and 2 become complementary creation accounts.

What are other apparent contradictions that you have a difficult time with? Comment below!

What is the evidence for evolution in the fossil record?

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My “fun read” since the semester is over.

“Evolution gives us the true account of our origins, replacing the myths that satisfied us for thousands of years. Some find this deeply frightening, others ineffably thrilling… But it is more than just a good theory, or even a beautiful one. It also happens to be true.” These are just two statements from the introduction of Dr. Jerry Coyne‘s book, Why Evolution Is True. If the title of the book wasn’t clear enough, the introduction makes his position even clearer. In fact, his book is also an attack against creationism and anyone who believes that it should be taught in schools along with evolution. Coyne says, “Why teach a discredited, religiously based theory, even one widely believed, alongside a theory so obviously true?” So, is creationism discredited? Can it stand up against a theory so obviously true like evolution?

When I teach on evolution, I always make sure to emphasize the three Columbo questions from Greg Koukl‘s book, Tactics. It is always good to respond with questions instead of statements if someone comes up to you and says, “Evolution is a fact. Do you believe in it?” After this question you could say…

  1. What do you mean by evolution? Are they defending change over time, micro-evolution, or Darwinian evolution (macro-evolution)? Make sure you are both discussing the same definition of evolution.
  2. How did they come to that conclusion? What evidence do they have to support their view of evolution?
  3. Have you considered…? This is when we can answer their question by presenting another option that agrees with the evidence. The goal is to get them to think rather than simply stating facts that can be dismissed.

When I go through these questions with students, especially the second question, they almost always respond by saying that fossils are evidence for evolution. What is the evidence for evolution in the fossil record? This is the first question Dr. Coyne addresses in his book after defining evolution in the first chapter, and for this reason, it will be the first topic we discuss. Dr. Coyne says,

There are several types [of evidence]. First, the big evolutionary picture: a scan through the entire sequence of rock strata should show early life to be quite simple, with more complex species appearing only after some time. Moreover, the youngest fossils we find should be those that are most similar to living species (Why Evolution Is True, p. 25).

Second, when we find transitional forms, they occur in the fossil record precisely where they should (p. 53).

Finally, evolutionary change, even of a major sort, nearly always involves remodeling the old into the new (p. 54).

Dr. Coyne gives many examples to support his first piece of evidence that species move from simple to complex. He covers fossilized evolution and speciation, the “missing links,” evolution of fish to amphibians, the origin of birds, and the evolution of whales. Each example starts with an ancient species and shows a gradual evolution to what we have today. And when you begin to be overwhelmed by the amount of evidence, Coyne says, “If at this point you’re feeling overwhelmed with fossils, be consoled that I’ve omitted hundred of others that also show evolution” (p. 51). With hundreds examples proving evolution to be a fact, why am I not an evolutionist?

Why I’m not convinced

Dr. Coyne has given many examples of similar fossils that appear to be evolving slowly, but this doesn’t frighten me. Showing similar fossils moving from simple to complex does not prove that evolution is true. Within an atheistic or naturalistic framework I can see why this makes sense. It seems to line up so perfectly and is the only option. However, naturalism isn’t the only framework in which to understand the evidence. The Christian worldview presents another possibility; God created each of those species. Even Dr. Coyne admits that, “It is easier to document evolution in the fossil record than to understand what caused it” (p. 31). We see fossils that appear to be so similar, but we cannot know, from fossils alone, what caused them to be so similar. This still leaves two options on the table.

Have you considered that the fossil record could be the result of a common creator?

Fossils are always used to prove evolution, but couldn’t they be explained by both a common creator or a common ancestor? Dr. Coyne gives two answers as to why the common creator option doesn’t make sense. First, “No theory of special creation, or any theory other than evolution, can explain these patterns” (p. 29). This really confused me, and I was upset to see that this statement came without explanation at the end of the section. Why can’t special creation account for the simple to complex patterns we see? Why couldn’t God create different kinds of animals with similar body forms? If natural selection acting on random genetic mutations (a mindless process), can produce those results, why couldn’t an intelligent creator?

Second, Dr. Coyne says, “There is no reason why a celestial designer, fashioning organisms from scratch like an architect designs buildings, should make new species by remodeling the features of existing ones. Each species could be constructed from the ground up” (p. 54). It is true that God could construct each species from the ground up, but why would he have to do that? Genesis 1:25-26 tells us that God made the beasts of the earth, and then made man in His image. The Hebrew word meaning “to make” in these verses can describe the creation of a new form from preexisting materials. This is confirmed in that Genesis 2:7 tells us, “God formed the man of dust from the ground.” So, even though God could have created each animal kind completely different, it doesn’t appear that He did it this way. Similar bone structures and DNA show that God used similar “blueprints” when creating animals and humans in their present form. Evolution isn’t the only explanation for similar structures.

Special creation does explain the patterns we see in the fossil record. It explains the “transitional fossils,” the “missing links,” and the origin of life. Therefore, I am convinced that fossils don’t only point to evolution but can also be explained by creation. The creation account in Genesis 1-2 should not be thrown out as a religiously based and discredited theory.

What do you think? Why do you hold to creation or evolution? Leave your comments below and check back later as we dive into other issues on this topic!

 

Are Old Earth creationists ignorant of their faith?

Back in May I wrote a blog discussing the 10 points of agreement between the Old Earth and Young Earth positions. The blog was not designed or written in order to argue for one position or the other. The goal was to show that both positions hold to essential beliefs that line up with the Bible.

Even though I didn’t not argue for Old Earth creationism, I received comments critiquing that view. The comments seemed to suggest that I hold to Old Earth creationism and then began to show why I don’t have a consistent faith. After a few short responses to the comments, I decided not to respond anymore. I felt like the reader was not trying to understand my position, but instead, he was trying to prove me wrong even though I never took a side.

Since I think this is such an important issue I decided to respond on the podcast. We have to understand the difference between essential Christian doctrines that determine a person’s salvation and other beliefs that we can disagree on. Believing that Jesus rose from the dead and forgave our sins is much more important than our view of the age of the earth.

Listen here for my full comments as I go through the reader’s response and offer my thoughts.

What do you think of my response? Do you have further questions about the age of the earth, death before the fall, or a global or local flood? I will be talking about these in a future podcast, so please comment below!

You can follow the Coffeehouse Questions Podcast and have it automatically downloaded to your device by subscribing on iTunes. You  can also find it and follow on SoundCloud or search “Coffeehouse Questions with Ryan Pauly” on your Android podcast player.

Listen to the Coffeehouse Questions radio show on Active Reliance Radio every Wednesday from 4:30-5 PM PT.

Like the Facebook page, watch live, and interact with Ryan by asking questions and commenting. You can also see who will be future podcast guests on the Facebook page and send in your questions to be asked on the show! Send in your questions on FacebookTwitter, or by text at (714) 989-6927 (Google Voice number for texts only).

10 Creation Essentials: Old Earth or Young Earth?

It is easy to get into debates on the age of the earth. Old Earth creationists (OEC) will say that the universe is about 13.7 billion years old, and that the earth is about 4.5 billion years old. A Young Earth creationist (YEC) believes that God created everything in six consecutive 24-hour days about 6,000-10,000 years ago.

I frequently hear OEC critique YEC for not being scientific. They sometimes completely ignore scientific discoveries in order to keep their YE perspective. But also, YEC criticize OEC for compromising scripture. It is said that only YEC preserve biblical authority. It is also believed by some that if you accept an old universe then you also accept darwinian evolution. For that reason, we should stick to YEC. What about death before the fall? What about radiometric dating? There seem to be so many objections and points of disagreement between the two sides.

Instead of looking at the details of each of those objections in this post, I want to look at common ground. I think the common points are often ignored or overlooked because we just want to find something to argue about. My school doesn’t take a position on this issue and so I have to refer students to their pastors on this question and other debated topics. For that reason, I tend to look more at the common ground as I present both sides in my class and let students make up their mind. So, what are the points of agreement?

  1. God is the source of all things – physical and non-physical.
  2. God created the universe out of nothing.
  3. God is both transcendent and immanent.
  4. God is eternal and stands outside of matter and time.
  5. Time and matter have a beginning.
  6. God created the universe to be a theater for His glory.
  7. Christians should worship the Creator, not the creation.
  8. God takes delight in what He has made.
  9. Adam and Eve were created in the image of God.
  10. Theories that deny God as Creator are incompatible with Scripture.

I wanted to keep this post short but also show you the amount of agreement between the two sides. Both OEC and YEC believe that God is the creator of all things, there was no pre-existing material, Adam and Eve were historical figures, and Darwinian evolution doesn’t account for advanced life (Each species was created in its present form). This can remain a friendly debate and we can have fun talking about it, but don’t forget that both sides believe in the same God who created all things and will one day restore us into right relationship with him.

What do you think about these common points? Do you think this is a salvific issue? Leave your comments below.

I have responded to the comments below in my podcast here.

*These 10 points were taken from a lecture by Krista Bontrager. This lecture was part of the Creation and the Bible course through the Reasons Institute.

Evangelism and the Big Bang with Dr. Jeff Zweerink

Dr. Jeff Zweerink, an astrophysicist and research scholar at Reasons to Believe, joined me to talk about what Christians need to know about Big Bang cosmology. It was interesting that he was able to show how the Big Bang can be useful when it comes to Evangelism. Listen and see how he connected the two!

You can find last week’s interview on the integration of science and faith here.

What are your thoughts on the Big Bang? Make sure to leave a comment below!

Are you a student who is interested in studying science in college? Or may you’re a parent who has a student who is interested in science. If so, you should check out this promo for The Lab, where their goal is to equip students for careers in different scientific disciplines.

You can follow the Coffeehouse Questions Podcast and have it automatically downloaded to your device by subscribing on iTunes. You  can also find it and follow on SoundCloud or search “Coffeehouse Questions with Ryan Pauly” on your Android podcast player.

Listen to the Coffeehouse Questions radio show on Active Reliance Radio every Wednesday from 4:30-5 PM PT.

Like the Facebook page, watch live, and interact with Ryan by asking questions and commenting. You can also see who will be future podcast guests on the Facebook page and send in your questions to be asked on the show! Send in your questions on FacebookTwitter, or by text at (714) 989-6927 (Google Voice number only for questions).

Is it wrong to reinterpret Scripture?

How should we interpret Scripture and what should we use to do it? Should we use science to help better understand the Bible or should theology help us better understand science?

I think it is necessary to start with a very important point. There is a difference between data and interpretations. God has revealed two “books” to us. He has given us the book of nature and the book of the Bible. The words of the Bible and the record of nature is the data. This data does not change. However, our interpretation of this data, which is theology and science, might change and may be wrong.

So I want to suggest that it is possible to reinterpret Scripture without changing the words of the Bible. Instead of reinterpretation changing the Bible, it is us correcting our theology and something we misunderstood about Scripture.

But isn’t science man’s knowledge and the Bible is God’s word? Doesn’t this mean that God’s word is always right and science is the one that is wrong?

It is common for people to raise objections to the record of nature and the words of the Bible being in agreement. They say that these two records are contradictory because at the surface we see two different messages. Two reasons are generally given as to why these two records seem to contradict. First is the fact that Genesis 3:17-19 and Romans 8:20-22 teach that the ground has been cursed. Since the fall of man in Genesis 3, the world has been broken, groaning, and corrupted. The second reason is that man is fallen. Jeremiah 17:9 says that the heart is deceitful and wicked. We also see in Ecclesiastes 7:20 that there is no righteous man who never sins and always does good. So, the argument is made that sinful, deceitful, and fallen men cannot correctly understand a broken world. The Bible is the uncorrupted, true, and eternal word of God. Therefore, the record of nature cannot compare to the perfect, inspired word of God.

3 Ways Science and Theology Relate

The first view called compartmentalism. This view teaches that science and theology are completely different areas of knowledge and that they need to stay separate.

A second view is called Biblicism. This view teaches that the only source of reliable knowledge is the Bible. This is usually argued for based on what I mentioned before about the world being broken and man being corrupt. In this view, we have to study the world through the lens of the Bible.

The third view is dual revelationsim. This view teaches that both God’s word and God’s world are consistent and complementary revelations when properly interpreted. These two revelations are also referred to as general and special revelation.

Image result for dual revelationWhen we recognize that both nature and the Bible are revelations from God, then we need to understand that each one should be taken with equal weight. By equal I mean
that we have to recognize that the two revelations are different and that we have to understand each one the best that we can. Both revelations are used to understand God more because they are two different ways that God has revealed himself to us.

There are many things about nature that the Bible doesn’t speak about and there are theological issues that we could never discover in nature. We will never learn that Jesus is the Messiah or the doctrine of sanctification from nature. Also, the Bible doesn’t speak about other planets or scientific discoveries like atoms. God didn’t reveal everything to us in the Bible. Therefore, it is important to understand where each revelations is limited.  So if general revelation gives us insight into special revelation, then it should be considered and inform our interpretation Scripture. The Bible doesn’t tell us a lot about how creation took place. So if we know things from general revelation that align with Scripture, then we should be able to us it to correct our interpretation.

Understand that we are not changing God’s word with general revelation but only our interpretation of God’s word. If fallen man can get correct interpretations of Scripture, then we should be able to get correct interpretations of nature.

Which view do you hold to when it comes to God’s revelations and our interpretations?

The Integration of Science and Faith with Dr. Jeff Zweerink

Dr. Jeff Zweerink, a research scholar at Reasons to Believe, joined me this week to talk about the integration of science and faith. He is an astrophysicist studying the multiverse theory, dark energy and dark matter, and exoplanets. In this episode he talks about what it is like being a Christian scientist, why the church should care about the scientific disciplines, and how students can stay strong in their faith while studying science.

Are you a student who is interested in studying science in college? Or may you’re a parent who has a student who is interested in science. If so, you should check out this promo for The Lab, where their goal is to equip students for careers in different scientific disciplines.

You can follow the Coffeehouse Questions Podcast and have it automatically downloaded to your device by subscribing on iTunes. You  can also find it and follow on SoundCloud or search “Coffeehouse Questions with Ryan Pauly” on your Android podcast player.

Listen to the Coffeehouse Questions radio show on Active Reliance Radio every Wednesday from 4:30-5 PM PT.

Like the Facebook page, watch live, and interact with Ryan by asking questions and commenting. Send in your questions on FacebookTwitter, or by text at (714) 989-6927 (Google Voice number only for questions).

Why the “Out of Africa” Theory Doesn’t Undermine the Literal Garden of Eden

I recently wrote the blog “Were Adam and Eve Historical Figures?” where I argued that the Bible speaks of them as being historical. It isn’t figurative language used to make a point or anything like that. Instead, both Jesus and Paul point to Adam and Eve as being historical. If Jesus believed it, then I am convinced.

This blog was met with two objections in the comments that I wanted to respond to in this post. 1) The DNA evidence pointing to the “Out of Africa” theory seems to undermine the literal Garden of Eden. 2) Evidence shows early man being hunters and gathers, not farmers and herders like Cain and Abel. So let’s look at both of these objections.

Does the “Out of Africa” theory undermine a literal Garden of Eden?

The “Out of Africa” theory states that humans originated in Africa instead of earlier theories that proposed we evolved from different areas of the globe. If this is true, then how could the Garden of Eden also be true? Well, I want to propose that the evidence for the “Out of Africa” theory actually makes the biblical view stronger. At the same time, I think this theory challenges the evolutionary model of needing many different points of evolution.

First, before this theory, it was believed that humans evolved from different species living in different parts of the world. This would be very difficult to reconcile with a Genesis account. It wouldn’t match a single location and it would discredit humanity coming from a single man and woman. However, the theory that humans originated in eastern Africa lines up closer with the biblical model.

There is also DNA evidence is showing that humanity came from a single man and a single woman which also points to a biblical view. Y-chromosome Adam and Mitochondrial Eve, the first man and first woman, were believed to live thousands of years apart. However, new studies suggest that they lived around the same time. Again, strengthening the biblical account.

Second, the exact location for the Garden of Eden is unknown. Different locations have been proposed, and even some have the garden stretching down into Africa. These two locations are closer now based on the evidence than they were with different theories. It is possible then for the Garden of Eden to overlap with the origin of humans in the “Out of Africa” theory. For that reason, I don’t see any immediate reason to think that this theory undermines the literal Garden of Eden.

What about evidence for early humans being hunters and gatherers instead of farmers and herders?

It seems like this idea is starting to change with new evidence. Dr. Hugh Ross from Reasons to Believe has written this article giving evidence that first humans were likely farmers (Check it out here). We also have to understand that the first humans lived for many years. To think that they didn’t learn over their life span stretching hundreds of years would be crazy.

What do you all think about the “Out of Africa” theory? What about evidence from Y-chromosome Adam and Mitochondrial Eve? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

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