Christians, Conservatives, and Climate Change.

Christians, Conservatives, and Climate Change. Oh my! For some odd reason, scientific consensus has become a bipartisan and/or religious issue. The idea of empirical evidence being rejected for political or religious reasons saddens me.

As someone who identifies himself as “Right-wing”, I think our side has quite a bit of pseudoscientific ideas. When a fact is presented, regardless if we don’t like it, we need to accept it if we value honesty and intellectual integrity.

I realize that someone who knows X is true and rejects it for other reasons knowingly is rare. Obviously, if you thought X was true, you’d believe X is true. I do not question that people are sincere in their beliefs and truly believe they’re on the side of the evidence.

Scientific Consensus

I want to get this part out of the way before we get into the evidence. The idea of scientific consensus gets throw around on various social media posts, but consensus is not the same thing as an appeal to popularity or authority. An appeal to popularity would be saying because it is popular, it is true. An appeal to authority would be because they’re scientists, they’re right and you’re wrong. Neither of these should be occurring when someone brings up the scientific consensus, though I’m sure you could show me an unreasonable lazy thinker who just points out the percentage of scientists and then mocks you.

Scientific consensus is not a part of the scientific method, it is a consequence of it. It is not an opinion poll. Just like the term “theory” means something different than the colloquial usage, “consensus” means something different than its colloquial usage.  Consensus isn’t a popularity contest in Science, rather, it is a weighting of the evidence. This is why when fringe scientists disagree, they’re ignored unless they bring up a weightier evidential justification for their disagreement.

Climate Denier One-Liners

There are a few pithy one-liners that climate deniers use that aren’t particularly helpful. Sharing memes on the internet about how cold it is this winter is not a refutation of climate change. Blaming Al Gore won’t get you anywhere either.  The dismissive attitude towards such an important issue is alarming to say the least.

Myths Against Climate Change

Myth #1 It’s not happening

Former Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah Palin once stated: “…these global warming studies that we’re now seeing (are) a bunch of snake oil science.”

Contra Mrs. Palin, the 2009 state of the climate report of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (released mid 2010) came to the conclusion that the independent lines of evidence all point to the fact that the Earth is warming. This layman accessible 10-page summary of their conclusion can be found here.

Myth #2 The Climate’s Changed Before

This popular objection to climate science fails to take into account the reality of the effects of Greenhouse gases. CO2 and methane were huge contributors of most of the climate changes in Earth’s history. When CO2 increases, the temperature increases. When decreases, the temperature decreases. Humans have increase CO2 production by a large margin. So, it logically follows that anthropocentric climate change is occurring.

Abrupt vs Slow Change

Life was flourishing in the Eocene and other times of high CO2 in the atmosphere because the greenhouse gases were balanced with the carbon in the oceans.

Lush life in the Arctic during the Eocene, 50 million years ago (original art – Stephen C. Quinn, The American Museum of Natural History, N.Y.C)

When Global warming did happen in the past, it was destructive to the species of that period. (Triassic, Mid-Cambrian)

So yeah, obviously the climate has changed before humans, that is not in dispute. What the problem is that the symptoms of these destructive events in certain periods are the same symptoms we see with the increase of Co2. (Increase in Global Temperatures, rising sea levels.)

Myth #3 It’s All The Sun’s Fault

The Sun has actually shown a cooling trend while temperatures are increasing. The Sun cannot be the main controlling factor when the energy levels are lowering while the temperature is rising.

Below is a chart that shows the sun’s 11 year cycle of energy compared to the temperature.

credit: Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics LISIRD site.

 

Myth #4 Animals and Plants Can Adapt

Southeast Asian extinctions projected due to habitat loss (source: Sodhi, N. S., Koh, L. P., Brook, B. W. & Ng, P. K. L. 2004)

A large amount of extinctions have been causally linked to global warming.[i]

Theological Objections to Climate Change

In reality, there really isn’t a theological objection to climate change. The Concordist can easily fit it into their model and the ANE non-concordist has no need to defend it on biblical grounds. The rejection of climate change seems purely political. It’s what “my party” believes, what my friends believe etc. rather than an actual objection. I recommend a very interesting work that evaluates the relationship between Christian theology and Climate Change.[ii]

Conclusion

Since 1950, the atmospheric carbon dioxide has never been above around 300 parts per million. After 1950, the carbon levels are now closer to 400.  [iii]It is 95 percent probable that humans are involved [iv]in this carbon dioxide increase.[v] Politics are more at play than theology in the Christian rejection of Climate Change.

[i] Botkin & Saxe et al. “Forecasting The Effects of Global Warming on Biodiversity” BioScience Vol 63 Issue 12 published in The American Institute of Biological Science.

[ii] https://www.macalester.edu/religiousstudies/wp-content/uploads/sites/42/2016/10/Daniel_Rocklin_2011_Thesis.pdf

[iii] B.D. Santer et.al., “A search for human influences on the thermal structure of the atmosphere,” Nature vol 382, 4 July 1996, 39-46

[iv] Gabriele C. Hegerl, “Detecting Greenhouse-Gas-Induced Climate Change with an Optimal Fingerprint Method,” Journal of Climate, v. 9, October 1996, 2281-2306

[v] B.D. Santer et.al., “Contributions of Anthropogenic and Natural Forcing to Recent Tropopause Height Changes,” Science vol. 301 (25 July 2003), 479-483.

Thou Shalt Not Spank: Why Spare the Rod and Spoil the Child Is Unbiblical

In approaching this difficult and emotionally charged topic, I want to lay my cards on the table. Though I have some experience babysitting children, I do not have any of my own. My assumption is that if the Bible teaches anything prescriptive about how to discipline a child, we should take heed. (As opposed to a descriptive text, that just explains what a person did or what the practices of the time were.)
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Why Everybody Should Be Pro-Vaccine

Anti-Vaxxers, they’re everywhere. From religious people on Facebook, to actors who were married to former playmates, people have had their suspicions on vaccination for a long time. This is especially sad to see in the Christian community and the Reformed Christian community (a subset of the christian community.) Because of this, I have sought to answer the two major objections to vaccines that I see repeated all the time. It is my hope that if whether you’re religious or not, you consider what is being presented instead of angrily typing in the comments about how I just want your children to have autism.
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Why the Apostle Paul Thought Women’s Hair Was Too Sexy

Now I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you. But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God. Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head, but every wife who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, since it is the same as if her head were shaven. For if a wife will not cover her head, then she should cut her hair short. But since it is disgraceful for a wife to cut off her hair or shave her head, let her cover her head. For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man. For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. That is why a wife ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels.Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God. Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a wife to pray to God with her head uncovered? Does not nature itself teach you that if a man wears long hair it is a disgrace for him,1but if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? For her hair is given to her for a covering. If anyone is inclined to be contentious, we have no such practice, nor do the churches of God. (1 Corinthians 11:2-16 ESV)

According to a peer-reviewed study, the reason that the Apostle Paul said these words in the verses above was cultural. Like the rest of the Hellenistic culture that surrounded the Apostle, it is probable that Paul believed that Women’s hair was too sexy. Traditionally speaking, interpreters have said that Paul was arguing that women should wear the veil according to the Jewish custom.[1]

Paul’s logic seems hard to follow at first glance, he talks about head-coverings an then says the long hair is given to her for her covering. This alone would cause the modern reader to question why Paul spends so much time talking about them if they’re no longer necessary. While defenders of Head-Coverings will use just that (That he spent some time explaining it) as a reason to believe head-coverings are still important today.  Troy Martin in the Journal of Biblical Literature writes:

Since peribovlaion is contrasted with hair, which is part of the body, the
physiological semantic domain of peribovlaion in 1 Cor 11:15b becomes particularly
relevant. Euripides (Herc. fur. 1269) uses peribovlaion in reference to a
body part. He casts Hercules as complaining, “After I received [my] bags of
flesh, which are the outward signs of puberty, [I received] labors about which I
[shall] undertake to say what is necessary” (ejpei; de; sarko;” peribovlai! ejkthsavmhn
hJbw’nta, movcqou” ou}” e[tlhn tiv dei’ levgein). A dynamic translation of the
first clause would be: “After I received my testicles (peribovlaia), which are the
outward signs of puberty.” In this text from Euripides, the term peribovlaion
refers to a testicle. Achilles Tatius (Leuc. Clit. 1.15.2) plays on this meaning of peribovlaion in his erotic description of a garden in which Clitophon seeks an amorous
encounter with Leucippe. Achilles Tatius describes the entwinings of the flowers,
embracings of the leaves, and intercourses of the fruits (aiJ tw’n petavlwn
periplokaiv, tw’n fuvllwn peribolaiv, tw’n karpw’n sumplokaiv). He portrays this
erotic garden by allusions to male and female sexual organs. The term
periplokaiv alludes to the female hair, the term peribolaiv to the testicles in
males, and the term sumplokaiv to the mixing of male and female reproductive
fluid in the female. Achilles Tatius’s description of this garden associates female
hair and the testicle in males.Ancient medical conceptions confirm this association. Hippocratic authors hold that hair is hollow and grows primarily from either male or female reproductive fluid or semen flowing into it and congealing (Hippocrates, Nat. puer.20).9 Since hollow body parts create a vacuum and attract fluid, hair attracts
semen. Appropriately, the term kovmh refers not only to hair but also to the arms
or suckers of the cuttlefish (see Maximus of Tyre, Phil. 4.5). Hair grows most
prolifically from the head because the brain is the place where the semen is produced or at least stored (Hippocrates, Genit. 1)[2]

Hippocrates and the medical literature at the time viewed hair as part of the female genitalia.

Now, I understand if you’re seeing this for the first time you might be thinking that this is some crazy liberal theory seeking to destroy the inspiration of the Bible, or at least that’s how some people portray it. But in reality, this presents a historical backing for people who already believe head-coverings are personal preference or conviction based, rather than mandatory for all women. It is no secret that head-coverings have been used to cover some thinly veiled sexism. This is not to say that women truly don’t want to wear them and find themselves blessed and happy to do so, because they surely do exist.

You might run into some well-meaning people in the Lord who argue that this position put forward by Martin, Heiser and others calls into question biblical inspiration and inerrancy. This is either a strawman or a misunderstanding of what is actually being argued. The objector usually mistakes the claim as God held this now proven false scientific belief and the Bible is just wrong. However, that isn’t at all what they’re claiming.

There are several ways you can look at this. Two of them in particular I find fruitful in their explanatory power. The first is that Paul is teaching modesty and is adopting the culture’s false scientific beliefs to explain the God-given teaching that applies to all cultures but applies differently to each culture is modesty. The second way to look at it is that Paul did believe the science at the time and God used this false scientific belief to teach his people something true about modesty. In reality, whether Paul believed in Hippocratic science or not is irrelevant to the question of biblical inspiration and inerrancy. Paul wasn’t perfect and it is perfectly reasonable to assume he was wrong about things. We don’t need to add his grocery list to the canon.

My fellow Reformed folks like to cite a passage from John Calvin to defend head-coverings as John Calvin did defend them. But to their dismay, John Calvin was more right than they think. Calvin states:

So if women are thus permitted to have their heads uncovered and to show their hair, they will eventually be allowed to expose their entire breasts, and they will come to make their exhibitions as if it were a tavern show; they will become so brazen that modesty and shame will be no more; in short they will forget the duty of nature…Further, we know that the world takes everything to its own advantage. So, if one has liberty in lesser things, why not do the same with this the same way as with that? And in making such comparisons they will make such a mess that there will be utter chaos. So, when it is permissible for the women to uncover their heads, one will say, ‘Well, what harm in uncovering the stomach also?’ And then after that one will plead for something else; ‘Now if the women go bareheaded, why not also bare this and bare that?’ Then the men, for their part, will break loose too. In short, there will be no decency left, unless people contain themselves and respect what is proper and fitting, so as not to go headlong overboard[3]

I have three initial thoughts on what Calvin is saying here. First, what he is saying here is true that overtime the cultural standards of modesty will change and anyone living today can attest to that fact. Secondly, at first glance, you might think Calvin is making a slippery slope argument, applying a causal link between showing the hair and showing the breasts. Last but not least, Calvin is more right than he may have known himself. Since today (despite feminist backlash) men do view breasts as a sexual thing, even if their original design isn’t for procreation rather it was for feeding babies. In the same way, men at the time Paul wrote this viewed a woman’s long hair as a sexual thing, it indicated she was ready to get married and have lots of babies. While short hair indicated the woman was a prostitute or sexually promiscuous. These cultural standards have obviously changed overtime, as you probably don’t see a short-haired woman and assume she’s a prostitute.

The objector will point out that Paul seems to be talking about the natural order. So when Paul says “nature” he isn’t referring to the natural sciences but to the Genesis texts. This is plausible, however, It is possible that Paul is talking about both. Hear me out. If Paul is talking about the natural order only, what is the point of the comment “because of the angels”?

If you accept the sethite interpretation of Genesis 6, you might have trouble figuring out what this means. Look to the ancient literature, such as the book of Enoch, though it isn’t canon it is a wonderful book full of helpful information and provides cultural context to Genesis 6. Dr. Heiser talks about this in-depth in his book, Reversing Hermon. The argument can be summed up as follows.

The sons of God are angels and the daughter of men are human women. Angels (presumably fallen ones) are attracted to human women. So, if the cultural belief at the time was that women’s hair was a sexual organ, it’d be the modern equivalent of going topless in front of a bunch of lonely men.

In the end, I’m not against head-coverings, I have friends who rock it and love it. What I am against is forcing women to wear something on their head because of your interpretation of 1 Corinthians 11. So, if you want to wear that hear-covering and post pics on instagram with #moddestishottest you do you, boo.

[1] Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza In Memory of Her: A Feminist Theological Reconstruction of Christian Origins

[2] Troy W. Martin Journal of Biblical Literature Paul’s Argument From Nature for the Veil in 1 Corinthians 11:13-15: A Testicle Instead of a Head Covering

[3] Seth Skolnitsky, trans., Men, Women and Order in the Church: Three
Sermons by John Calvin, (Dallas, TX: Presbyterian Heritage Publications,
1992), pp. 12,13.

Recommended Resources
Reversing Hermon by Dr. Michael Heiser
“A Testicle Instead of a Head covering” Video by Dr. Michael Heiser

Book Review: Faith vs. Fact by Jerry Coyne

Faith Vs. Fact, a provocative title to catch the attention of the reader. Like clickbait, I found that this book was all style and no substance. Now, to avoid the impression that this college freshman is critiquing someone well-studied in their field as if he knows better, I’m not purporting to know more than Dr. Coyne as he is a Harvard graduate and a great biologist, his book Why Evolution is True is great! However, this book doesn’t live up to the hype that Richard Dawkins and online atheists seem to indicate.

While reading the introduction, you get the false dichotomy that it is Science vs Religion, and while Dr. Coyne mentions other religions, he intentionally focuses on Christianity to narrow the focus of his thesis but also because in America, Young-Earth Creationism is prevalent, making Christianity an easy target to a learned biologist.

He mentions in the introduction that any vague idea of God that he may have had was taken away by listening to the Beatles Sergeant Pepper album. I decided to play the album as I’m writing this review of his book. The problem with this quick anecdote is that it’s subjective and I could make the same argument that listening to “God only knows” by the Beach Boys convinced me out of any vague idea that I had about God not existing.  This is equivalent to someone who changes their entire soteriology in a day.

On Page 1, Dr. Coyne reveals his power level by stating “Science is the only field that has the ability to disprove the truth claims of religion” This is patently false. You’d think since Jesus mythicism is so popular, you’d consider history.  Unless you’re using a very broad definition of science, you’ve revealed that you ironically have an excessive faith in science’s capabilities, which would make sense in light of your later statements that reek of the scientism of a past generation.

On page 54 Dr. Coyne reveals a shockingly simple view of hermeneutics. He argues that when scientists disprove a religious claim taken as literal, the religious will run away from the literal meaning and go to allegory. This is painting with a brush way too broad, for there are at least three types of thinkers when it comes to this. There are those who believe something is literal and won’t back down on the issue, there is some that can be convinced out of literalism and do go for the metaphor or allegory and there are those who already adopted the metaphor or allegorical approach on their own evaluation of the ancient near-eastern studies and study of the original languages.  Painting all religious people merely as maintaining an unfalsifiable hypothesis is only partly true and only tells half the story, this story needs an ending that Dr. Coyne hasn’t given us yet.

On Page 160, he addresses the Fine-Tuning argument but instead of interacting with a sophisticated form of it, he goes for the apologetic hack version he probably saw on the internet. The “If the numbers were changed just a little bit” type isn’t exactly accurate. I covered this here.

On page 177-178 he addresses Plantinga’s argument that certain truths are properly basic beliefs and that God existing is one of them, Dr. Coyne goes on a strange rant about how sensus divinitatis could prove any god, not just the Christian God, as if that answered Plantinga. (Hint: It doesn’t.) He goes on to point out the inaccuracy of human perceptions of the world and self-deception to nullify Platinga’s epistemology not even interacting with Plantinga’s objections to that idea.

On Page 186, Dr. Coyne confirms his scientism when he states that other methods can be used to arrive at truth, such as philosophy and mathematics but they can only do so when they’re “science broadly construed”. He then conflates logical positivism with the scientific method.

Throughout the book, Dr. Coyne attacks the weakest targets (i.e. Neo-Ussherians, Climate Change Deniers, Anti-Vaxers) while barely covering scholarly material such as Alvin Plantinga and William Lane Craig. This is the equivalent of me citing an undergrad biology student and equating his answers and beliefs with those who have a doctorate in biology like Dr. Coyne.

Eating Rocks on a Gas Giant: An Analysis of Kent Hovind’s Doctoral Dissertation.

“Hi, I’m Kent Hovind” (p.4/102) [1]

Yeah, that’s how it starts.

Kent Hovind, love him or hate him, has been a polarizing figure in the creation/evolution debate. An ardent Neo-Ussherian leads people to be very interested in the scholarly nature of his doctoral dissertation.

Hovind maintains his controversial status in the Christian community as well. He has followers for sure, but many Christians, of the Old Earth Creationist or Theistic Evolution variety, heavily critique Hovind’s ideas. This is to be expected, however, even fellow Neo-Ussherians (Young-Earth Creationists) are distancing themselves from Hovind as of late.

Without any further ado, let’s analyze some select portions of Hovind’s dissertation.

Hovind has an interesting origin story for the theory of Evolution. He states:

“Satan, in the form of a serpent, brought the doctrine of Evolution into the garden of Eden.” (p.15/102)

Contextually, he is referring to Satan’s statement “ye shall be as gods” (Genesis 3:5)

Needless to say, this is not a helpful comparison. Hovind has to imagine that evolution in some way or another teaches that we shall become gods. This is nonsensical, sure you can say perhaps atheists use evolution as a reason not to believe in God, but to attribute the origin of a scientific theory or the seeds of it to such a specific area is hyperbole and/or rhetoric at best, fear-mongering at worst.

When talking about Augustine, Hovind states:

“He would be the equivalent of a theistic evolutionist today”(p.28/102)

There really is no way to determine that as developments in evolutionary theory were not exactly as they were today. We can speculate what Augustine would believe, but to just straight out say “Augustine is basically a theistic evolutionist lol xd” is shoddy scholarship.

He consistently refers to Evolution as a religion, again, anyone can treat any idea with religious devotion but his use of terms only confuses the reader instead of elucidating the points in a succinct way.

“Bring me a Mars rock or a Jupiter Rock, I’ll eat it or lick it”(p.74/102)

Contextually, he is referring to the idea that there is no life on any other planets, therefore there wouldn’t be any harmful bacteria on the rocks. However, you can still be harmed by substances that aren’t living, so it’s still probably not a good idea to lick or eat something from another planet that hasn’t been tested. Also, to point out the obvious, there are no rocks on Jupiter, it’s a gas giant.

 “Jesus would be a liar if Evolution is true” (p.102/102)

This is an unhelpful false dichotomy. We need not put immediate stumbling blocks in front of unbelievers. I have no problem with someone really studying objections to evolution, in fact, scientific dialogue is a good thing and we should encourage it.

However, when you just come out and say, It’s either Jesus lied and Evolution is true, or Jesus was right and Evolution is not true you’re giving a false dichotomy. There are a wide range of beliefs about how science and the Bible reconcile, to limit ourselves to only one seems unnecessary. There simply is not enough from the text of scripture to be this dogmatic about it. You think evolution is wrong? Fine, no problem. But do not insinuate the intentions of your brothers and sisters in Christ, that they’re just a bunch of compromising Christians, but not like you who stands firm on Ussher’s chronolo….I mean the Bible.

Conclusion

I think you should read Hovind’s doctoral dissertation, it is worth reading. Not for intellectual pursuit, but for a laugh and as a reminder that anti-intellectualism in the Christian culture needs to stop. Listen to the words of Augustine.

Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he holds to as being certain from reason and experience.“Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men. If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods and on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason? Reckless and incompetent expounders of Holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books. For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although “they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion [1 Timothy 1.7].”  [2]

[1] The PDF form of Kent Hovind’s Doctoral Dissertation, released by Wikileaks.

[2] Augustine: The Literal Meaning of Genesis, Book 1 Chapter 19 Paragraph 39

You’re Not The Center of the Universe: Christianity and Geocentrism

Finding the center of the universe is like finding how many licks it takes to get to the center of the tootsie pop next to an owl. At least it was before Copernicus.

So we find ourselves in an interesting predicament, where we will look to our Reformed forefathers such as John Calvin who said

  [The Christian is not to compromise so as to obscure the distinction between good and evil, and is to avoid the errors of] those dreamers who have a spirit of bitterness and contradiction, who reprove everything and prevent the order of nature. We will see some who are so deranged, not only in religion but who in all things reveal their monstrous nature, that they will say that the sun does not move, and that it is the earth which shifts and turns.When we see such minds we must indeed confess that the devil posses them, and that God sets them before us as mirrors, in order to keep us in his fear. [1]

Calvin was a man of his time and based his rejection of Copernicus’s theory on biblical interpretation. However, in other places, like in his commentary on Genesis we see that he was not against Science.

“…Moses wrote in a popular style things which without instruction, all ordinary persons, endued with common sense, are able to understand; but astronomers investigate with great labor whatever the sagacity of the human mind can comprehend. Nevertheless, this study is not to be reprobated, nor this science to be condemned, because some frantic persons are wont boldly to reject whatever is unknown to them. For astronomy is not only pleasant, but also very useful to be known: it cannot be denied that this art unfolds the admirable wisdom of God…” [2]

To his credit, we have far more proof that Geocentrism is false than they did then, I give Calvin the benefit of the doubt that he would have examined the scientific evidence now and repudiate Geocentrism in a heartbeat.

Unfortunately, we see a few Christians and even a few professing Christian apologists who still defend this idea despite the scientific advances of our day.
Why is this? Augustine rightly pointed out some people need to stop rejecting science as a whole especially on exegetical uncertainties.

“Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he holds to as being certain from reason and experience.“Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men. If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods and on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason? Reckless and incompetent expounders of Holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books. For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although “they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion [1 Timothy 1.7].”  [3]

Scientific Problems

First, let me distinguish something. There are two types of Geocentrism that are popular. If we are talking about Geocentrism in a general sense, as in the Geocentric model providing a valid convenient reference frame, that is not so much a problem to me as the other. The other is absolute Geocentrism, where the earth stands still and everything rotates around it. I will be focusing on the latter in my critique.Since I’m a Scientific layman, I will cite scientific sources to support my claim. In the March 2017 Issue of Astronomy Magazine we read these words:

In 1610, Galileo turned his new telescope toward Venus. To his amazement, he saw the planet pass through phases just like the Moon. Galileo correctly surmised that this could happen only if Venus had an orbit closer to the Sun than Earth’s orbit.
With improved telescopes, astronomers started looking for another proof of Earth’s motion around the Sun, stellar parallax. Earth’s orbit is huge — some 186 million miles (300,000 kilometers) in diameter. If an astronomer measures the position of a nearby star, and then measures it again six months later, the star’s apparent position against the background of more distant stars should shift a tiny amount.
Observing this would prove that Earth in fact is not stationary. It wasn’t until 1838 that an astronomer finally detected this shift. That year, German astronomer Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel successfully measured the parallax of the star 61 Cygni.
And there’s yet another proof. Imagine standing still with rain coming straight down. To stay dry, you just hold your umbrella directly over your head. As you begin to walk, however, you need to tilt the umbrella “into” the rain, even though the rain is coming straight down. The faster you walk, the greater the tilt needs to be.
As Earth orbits the Sun, we can detect a “tilt” of incoming starlight. English astronomer James Bradley discovered this phenomenon in 1725 by accident — while he was searching for stellar parallax! This aberration of starlight, as it is called, is a result of light having a finite speed and Earth’s motion around the Sun.[4]

If you want to prove this by yourself, look up the Foucault Pendulum or go to Walmart and pick up a telescope.

Theological Problems 

The verses that people use to support Geocentrism are phenomenological language, i.e. i describes what things look like from a point of view. For example, In English we will say “I will get up at Sun rise” yet we know scientifically that the sun doesn’t actually rise, yet the statement itself is not inaccurate insofar as you’re not actually claiming the sun is rising but that merely it appears to rise from our vantage point on Earth.

“The LORD reigns; he is robed in majesty; the LORD is robed; he has put on strength as his belt. Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved.” (Psalm 93:1 ESV)

First, the genre of the psalms is poetry. Secondly, the hebrew word translated “moved” is “mowt” which is in the nihpal stem, which indicates the passive voice. Interestingly enough, the same exact word is used in Psalm 16:8 “I will not be moved” yet we obviously don’t think the psalmist was still. .

Creation.com Authors Robert Carter and Dr. Jonathan Sarfati brilliantly point out:

The few Church Fathers who discussed the issue were geocentrists. However, it is not quite fair for modern geocentrists to quote the early Church Fathers in support. First, all the pagans of their day also supported geocentrism, so the Church Fathers just reflected common sense, common contemporary scientific ideas, or common use of language. They were hardly making a principled theological opposition to geokineticism.[5]

Lastly, a common historical claim is that like all the other sciences of our day, Geokinecticism is just another hypothesis we are capitulating to instead of believing the word of God. Those types of statements are part and parcel of science denying rhetoricians who unfortunately bring stumbling blocks to the faith with their interpretative dogmatism
Conclusion 

Don’t get me wrong, some issues we need to be dogmatic about, however, Geocentrism isn’t a hill to die on. It doesn’t bother me that Calvin or Luther believed it, but we really shouldn’t believe it as Christians when there is clear evidence to the contrary.

[1]  John Calvin, “Sermon on 1 Corinthians 10:19-24”, Calvini Opera Selecta, Corpus Refomatorum,Vol 49, 677, trans. by Robert White in “Calvin and Copernicus: the Problem Reconsidered”, Calvin Theological Journal 15 (1980), p233-243, at 236-237

[2] John Calvin, Commentary on Genesis: Vol 1, Genesis 1:16

[3] Augustine: The Literal Meaning of Genesis, Book 1 Chapter 19 Paragraph 39
[4] March 2017 Issue of Astronomy Magazine “What are the accepted proofs that the Earth Revolves around the Sun? When Did This Realization Take Place?”

[5] “Refuting absolute geocentrism” article on creation.com by Robert Carter & Dr. Jonathan Sarfati

In Memory of Stephen Hawking

76 years ago, a genius was born. Stephen Hawking, beloved theoretical physicist and cosmologist passed away today.  Hawking died on Pi day, I think this was the silver lining in this otherwise horrible situation. The former professor of mathematics dying on Pi day.

It was just a month or so ago that I read “The Grand Design.” In this excellent book, Hawking dumbs down science for us laymen. Hawking was an inspiration to me, he didn’t let anything hold him back, not even his Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.

Even though Dr. Hawking is no longer with us, his contributions to science will long outlive his memory. I like to think he would be content with that. In honor of his life, I would like to celebrate my favorite contribution to science made by him.

Hawking Radiation

Hawking predicted that black holes would admit radiation due to quantum effects. Hawking’s argument provided in 1974 (Using Quantum Theory and General Relativity) is still the best possible explanation regarding this issue. Black holes have always interested me, it’s kind of like the horror story of the universe. I remember as a young teenager looking up YouTube Videos for the “Sound of a Black Hole” as if it would provide some type of creepy surreal sound.

Hawking sits at a table with Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein, placing his building block on top of theirs.

Some Musings

I dislike when fellow religious people use the death of a popular unbeliever to posture their “boldness” which is just an unsympathetic excuse to be rude to the families of those who just passed. Some think the harsh truth is always the best option, indeed we all need the red pill in our lives. However, there is a time and place and yelling at the recent widow at the funeral is not the time or place. Didn’t Jesus say, “Let the dead bury their dead”? (Matthew 8:22)

But no, you must throw in your two cents, you must stand upon the casket and yell in your self-righteous indignation, you kick over the headstone with a smile on your face. May I say, regardless if your statement is true, that gloating at the death of someone is not an attitude filled with grace? You’re happy that someone died just because they don’t have the same beliefs as you? I even saw one comment on my Facebook today, where someone said that he was a glorified science fiction writer.

This is worse than the ones condemning him to hell the day of his death, because it’s a denial of everything Hawking stood for. The man that opened the field for the study of Black Holes to go even further, just that alone is an amazing accomplishment that is deemed science fiction by the ignorant. I don’t know why science denying people tend to also be the most need-a-ladder-for-that-high-horse arrogant people, but it’s astonishing.

These so-called theologians, they’d like to think themselves good ones, but they’re clearly not. They won’t heed Augustine’s warning and they prefer rhetoric over fact. They’d rather be comfortable in their little theological bubble instead of interacting with the science of today. I don’t understand why this is the case. John Calvin, Martin Luther, etc. were geocentrists, very few would defend their points on that. They thought the Bible taught geocentrism, whether you’re a concordist or not, you must recognize that we know geocentrism is lacking now.

These same people will call me a heretic and  compromiser of the faith for honoring Stephen Hawking, but so be it. What Hawking’s last moments, last thoughts, and last recollections I don’t know. I know what the Bible says, that those without Jesus will die in their sins. (John 8:24) But I don’t pretend to be the judge of the universe, who has mercy on who he has mercy and who will do right. What that decision is, belongs to the Lord, not the mere servants of the Lord who can’t tell the difference between science fiction and actual science. I hope the Lord had mercy on Stephen Hawking and I hope the Lord has mercy on the ignorant people disparaging him. I hope he has mercy on all of us.

“Evolution is Just a Theory”

“Evolution is just a theory!” the ignorant creationist yells at the college student passing by. Oh, how I dread that someone who claims Christ as his savior who really wants to reach people who are lost, won’t do the smallest bit of study on this issue.

The problem is that a scientific theory and the layperson’s understanding of theory in common English usage is different. When the layperson uses “theory” they usually mean guess or hypothesis. A Scientific theory is an explanation for certain phenomena that has been tested or experimented with more than once. This is usually a substantiated claim backed by evidence and is regarded as the best explanation for what it’s trying to explain.

The Big Bang is in the classification of theory as well, but it is rare for Christians to object to the Big Bang, though they do exist. The reason that the Big Bang is more widely accepted is because it serves a purpose in apologetics.  Feel free to google the evidence for the Big Bang and come back and tell me how it is convincing/not convincing in comparison to Evolution. The Big Bang is a help for the Kalam Cosmological argument, for it proves premise 2, that the universe began to exist.

I’m not here to tell you that Evolution is true or false, I’m not qualified to explain Evolution or critique it. I’m a freshman year community college student. I admittedly have a layman’s understanding of it. From that aforementioned understanding, I don’t think Evolution is necessarily in conflict with Christianity.

Now, if you’re convinced that your interpretation of certain passages is dogma for the entire christian church, something the ancient  christian creeds never mention, feel free to use that as an excuse to ignore the importance of this issue. However, for the thinking person, we have to reconcile facts with facts. We want to retain intellectual integrity, which is not based on what someone thinks of us. Rather, it is whether or not we can say with a clear conscience, I looked at all the evidence, considered all the arguments and I think X is true.

If you’re truly convinced that Jesus rose from the dead, but acknowledge this is against the prevailing materalism(though there are several models that propose these two to be consistent), you have to explain that. Having faith is necessary and good, but we need explanations. I’m not pretending to be the Holy Spirit or have any influence apart from Him, but I think it is clear in scripture that God uses means and good arguments are a means.