The Fingerprints of God: Proving God Through Science part 4

Mt. Rushmore taught us important lessons about how to identify something that was made by an intelligent designer vs. naturally occurring randomness. The faces’ complexity, specificity, and recurrences in other places such as photographs and paintings combined with historical records—even if there was no record of their carving—tell us those presidential images did not appear in that mountain by chance. They were intentionally made by someone. They function as both “information” and evidence of intelligence. Likewise, the best explanation (abductive reasoning) of the complexity, specificity, and recurring likenesses of DNA tell us that DNA was intentionally designed by someone outside of nature. The “recurring” likeness of DNA is found in modern technology. The computer is a marvel production of human intelligence. It is no wonder that this greatest “creation” of the human mind so closely mimics the creation of God within mankind. Remember, man was created imago Dei—in the image and likeness of God.

This blog entry is devoted to building upon that foundation by looking at some examples of the similarities between DNA and technology. This one is a bit long, but if you hang in there, I trust it will be worth the effort! I put in some really interesting pictures and resources to season it for you.

dna-binary

The Code

Here again is the quote by Bill Gates, in order to complement the claim from a non-religious viewpoint (Note that I am using Bill Gates as an “authority” because he is arguably THE most well-known representative for computer operating systems.):

“DNA is like a computer program but far, far more advanced than any software every created.”

If you are a bit “rusty” on your biology and haven’t watched the video I mentioned in Blog #3, please do that now. It quickly and creatively explains some fundamental aspects of DNA. For my purposes, you need to know that the Genetic Code in DNA is comprised of four chemical bases that molecular biologists have assigned the characters, “T, C, A, and G.” My very simplified explanation is that how these chemicals are arranged within the DNA strand tell your cells what to become and what to do. In the womb, you are “built.” All of the biological components—the heart, the lungs, the brain, lymph nodes, and etc.—are formed into systems—circulatory, respiratory, nervous, immune, and etc.— needed for life are constructed. They are constructed simultaneously and interdependently.

Computers, though not self-generating like DNA (see why Bill said DNA is “far, far more advanced”), operate using a code. Computers use electrical charges, voltage, that have been assigned the characters “1” and “0” by electrical engineers. (The picture below is taken from an excellent slide show explaining DNA and computer technology. Check it out here.)

dna-binary-chart

Note that computers accomplish their myriads of tasks using two characters (binary) while DNA is made up of four characters. Mathematically, this puts the potential functionality of DNA on orders of magnitude beyond computers!)

The sequential arrangement of these 1’s and 0’s were standardized in what is known as ASCII code (American Standard Code for Information Interchange). Assigned sequences of 1’s and 0’s equate to letters of the alphabet. That means, after having loaded and opened a word processing program, when you push a key on your keyboard, a voltage is passed along to the computer such that a set pattern of 1’s and 0’s are generated internally, and put into memory, awaiting the next command.

ascii-chart

The base elements of binary logic can serve their function only because there is an internal group of systems within the computer. Where organisms have organs within biological systems, computers have components within electronic systems—power supply, input/output devices like disk drives and keyboards, the CPU (central processing unit), and memory—all interconnected through conductive traces which function like nerves and blood vessels for transport between systems.

pc-architecture-blocks

The Hardware

Thus far I’ve shown you the most basic concepts of computer architecture. Next I’ll show you the fascinating world of the hardware, the physical make-up of how this technology works. This is like the laboratory looking under the microscope at your cells, because it is using microscopes.

As a Failure Analysis Engineer, I have to get at the internal “guts” of the chip (integrated circuit). To do that, we use acid to dissolve the chip’s outer shell and expose the “die.” It looks like this:

decap-die

Those tiny gold strands in the middle are wires that connect the outside world to the electronic circuit inside. Here is what the circuit looks like under a microscope:

die-picture

You can make out some of the separate circuits by noticing the outlined sections of squares and rectangles. That shows the various circuits that are made up of sections designed with independent functions. The above chip is a relatively simple one and likely an analog, not digital, The partial chip below is more complex and shows the parts of a CPU with the blocks outlined for you:

digital-die-pic

The purpose of this detail is to simply emphasize the organization, purpose, and structure—both physically and logically—that goes into the inner workings of a computer, which mimics the inner workings of biology and DNA. The physical design shown in the previous pictures works because an electrical design engineer, trained in the principles of electronic theory, produced an electrical diagram with functionality. To most of us, the schematic diagram below means nothing and might as well be ancient hieroglyphics painted on a pyramid wall. But to electrical engineers, it is information that all makes perfect sense. (By the way, the picture below would more likely represent the simpler, analog die above and not the complex digital, computer circuit. Also, for any electrical engineers reading this, I recognize that analog circuits are in many ways more difficult than digital circuits. By “complex” I mean the number of functions that typical digital circuits perform is greater which requires more and smaller components.)

schematic

The “Guts” of the IC

My final dive into the semiconductor world is the deepest I can go with my training. For a physical reference, the dimension of the IC I showed you earlier could likely be about 5 millimeters by 5 millimeters. Now I want to show you what a single transistor looks like.

The left slide shows what a simple “inverter” looks like. The leftmost image in that slide is the physical layout, the other two symbols shows the electrical schematic equivalent. An engineer sees this and recognizes that whatever logic value enters the circuit simply changes to its opposite. In other words, a “1” is changed to a “0” and vice-versa. The image on the top right is a physical cross section of a transistor taken with a Scanning Electron Microscope. The individual chemical components and their functions have been outlined for you. The lower image is just a diagram of it. Note that the scale of the physical dimension is 100nM (nanometers). A nanometer is one billionth of a meter! The width of a strand of DNA is about 2 nanometers. A carbon or oxygen atom is about 0.15 nanometers.

So, from the concepts of computer architecture, the coding of information with instructions, to the physical dimensions we see similarity between biology and technology! The similarities are uncanny, which leads us to conclude that the best possible explanation for biology is an intelligent Design Engineer!

Some Really Cool Mechanics

Just for fun, to wrap up this blog entry. I want to show you another comparison to marvel. Don’t worry, it is not as involved or lengthy. The Scanning Electron Microscope is such a cool instrument to see these things.

The technology that gave us the physical properties of transistors lead to what is called “Micro-Electro Mechanical Systems” or MEMS. When I worked for Texas Instruments at the turn of the latest century, they were producing their DLP© technology which gave the world amazing clarity in cinematic and projector technology. The specialized chip uses micrometer sized mirrors for each pixel. Those mirrors are mounted to hinges which move, directing the reflected light and turning the mirror on or off. (If you are interested, you can read more detail on TI’s website.) Here are two Scanning Electron Microscope images of the mirrors. Some mirrors (the squares with the hole in the middle)are missing, which shows their hinges:

mirrors-low-magmirrors-high-mag

Here is another cool picture I found on the internet of MEMS technology used to make micro-scale gears:

gears

Now, check out this close-up image of 20 micron (micrometer) scale gear (wait for it…) :

bug-gear-high-mag

Now, let’s zoom out and see more of this gear (wait for it…) :

bug-gear-low-mag

gear-jumping

These gears function as a cock and release mechanism that propels this tiny leaf hopper forward. According to the article in Smithsonian.com bug

The reason for the gearing, they say, is coordination: To jump, both of the insect’s hind legs must push forward at the exact same time. Because they both swing laterally, if one were extended a fraction of a second earlier than the other, it’d push the insect off course to the right or left, instead of jumping straight forward. 

(The article also mentioned):

To the best of our knowledge, the mechanical gear—evenly-sized teeth cut into two different rotating surfaces to lock them together as they turn—was invented sometime around 300 B.C.E. by Greek mechanics who lived in Alexandria. In the centuries since, the simple concept has become a keystone of modern technology, enabling all sorts of machinery and vehicles, including cars and bicycles.

 

I highlighted “the reason for” to again show that scientists are compelled to use terminology of intelligence and purposeful design. I argue they do so NOT because it has the “illusion of design” as Darwin said, but because nature actually has been designed at every level.

Concluding Remarks

I had mentioned that DNA is “orders of magnitude” more advanced than computers. I want you to try to grasp the magnitude of scale at play in this discussion. Indeed, DNA and the world of biology mimics computer technology and thereby proves the same complex and specific architecture exists in two completely different environments, proving an intelligent designer is behind it all. But that is just “scratching the surface.”

What we see in nature are complex and functional systems working from the subatomic level to the cosmological level, both ends of which appear to go on infinitely. You and I can know and observe these things because we are alive and have the brains to do so. We are alive because we have the biological systems working in concert with an environmental system arranged to sustain life. Our bodies can breathe and eat because our planet has its own complex chemistry of air, seasons, and nutrients. Our planet is able to do this because of its place within our solar system which is governed by complex laws of physics, chemistry, and things we really do not yet understand. As humans, the supreme creatures made in the image of God, we are the only creatures capable of exploring the Creation and discovering these things. We are doing what we were created to do—bring glory to God and enjoy him forever! (Hat tip to the Westminster shorter catechism question 1.)

What science is doing for us is showing the great complexity and specificity of the natural world at every level. In so doing, it is showing us that the most reasonable explanation is that a supreme, intelligent Being has designed it all and brought it all into existence. The scientific explanation of origins—randomness and chance—that has dominated the modern era is untenable and short-sighted.

There always seems to be a pendulum swing. The pendulum of enlightenment is swinging in the Christian’s favor. It would behoove us and bring glory to God if we would lay hold of these things and present them to our world. Before modernity, the world largely accepted Theism as the intuitive explanation for our world (Romans 1:18-ff). As humanism and the Age of Reason gave rise to Scientism, the world seemed to gain the upper hand in the cultural war for truth. Christianity, as Theists, appeared to be operating from “blind faith” hanging on to a passé world view, ignorant and unsophisticated. Ironically, the science of Darwinism is now passé. He, comparatively, knew nothing of microbiology, genetic codes, etc. at work within the cell. His followers today have their own “God of the gaps” to explain scientific mysteries. Theirs is “chance and time.” Post-modernity science is pointing to the conclusion that Theists had it right all along. They were just unable to explain it “scientifically.” May we Christians equip ourselves with the latest information to put us on the leading edge of the pendulum rather than the trailing edge. Let us use recent scientific discoveries to buttress the truth of God’s word and confront our world—not with medieval knowledge, but cutting-edge knowledge.

Having shown that science does indeed reveal the “fingerprints of God,” the next blog will show that we can know WHO the Intelligent Designer is.

The Fingerprints of God: Proving God Through Science – part 2

wizard-exposed

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain

If the skeptic demands Christians pull back the curtain and expose God, as Dorothy exposed the Wizard of Oz, then he will never be satisfied. And Christians need not “wring their hands” trying to fully accommodate them. After all, what would the skeptic say if he were required to replicate the big-bang, resurrect Charles Darwin for direct dialogue about his book, or show the world a living, breathing hominid before evolution could be believed?  Okay, that is technically a tu quoque fallacy [“thou too”: a retort by one charged with a crime accusing an opponent who has brought the charges of a similar crime] and an emotional response. Yet it does provide some measure of perspective for the skeptic—leveling the playing field to some degree. That response is intended to challenge the skeptic to consider that his demand for empirical science to prove the existence of God is not a legitimate demand. Rather, the discussion of proving the existence of God should have other criteria. Nevertheless, the skeptic is convinced of his position and believes science is the arbiter of truth—a.k.a. scientism. Therefore, as Christians, unafraid of challenges to the veracity of God’s word, we can confidently discuss these objections with some measure of science in hope to lead the followers of scientism into a fuller understanding of the true and living God.

science-lab

Scientism’s Creed and a World Run Amok

Scientific “conclusions” are rather rare. Often, the closest a true scientist will get to a “conclusion” is to posit a “theory.” When I was in the Navy learning electronics, I was taught Electronic Theory. Even though those theories have proven very consistent and they successfully propel technology to greater accomplishments, it is still considered “theory.” Scientists laud such a fluid methodology as superior to the a priori dogma of religion. Jerry Coyne, in his book Faith Vs. Fact, explains that “In the world of science, scrutiny is relentless, scary. But it’s a ‘quality control’ mechanism to expunge the dross. It’s not personal” (pg. 27). Furthermore, he states

Science comprises an exquisitely refined set of tools designed to find out what is real and to prevent confirmation bias. Science prizes doubt and iconoclasm, rejects absolute authority, and relies on testing one’s ideas with experiments and observations of nature. Its sine qua non [essential element] is evidence—evidence that can be inspected and adjudicated by any trained and rational observer. And it depends largely on falsification. Nearly every scientific truth comes with an implicit rider: ‘Evidence X would show this to be wrong.’

That is what I am calling Scientism’s “creed.” Scientism, according Douglas Axe in Undeniable: How Biology Confirms our Intuition That Life is Designed, isthe belief that science is the only reliable source of truth” (pg. 17).

I hope you see the irony in Scientism’s creed. On one hand, science has a built-in “quality control” feature meant to prevent any claim from ever becoming dogma. Yet, it relies on empirical evidence—a euphemism for “certainty.” If something is tested and “proven” in the lab, why does that not settle the case? In other words, the lab results—the “science”— which is meant to give answers, should never really be considered settled. There is always another question to ask, a better experiment to conduct. The skeptic demands that the Christian use a self-defeating, irrational system, designed to never settle a matter, to settle the matter of God’s existence.

Is it no wonder then that science has corroborated so well with postmodernism? Has science merely been swept away in the torrent of the philosophy that says “one can only know with certainty that we cannot really be certain of anything?” Or perhaps science birthed postmodernism. The Renaissance’s humanism begat a prevailing optimism for mankind called “modernism” that spanned into the Victorian era. It was thought that man’s rationalism, science, could and would indeed answer all questions of life and usher in a Utopia apart from God—enter Darwinism and Evolutionary theory. Maybe the subsequent, consecutive world wars deflated those expectations and gave rise to paralyzing doubt about everything. Whether science begat postmodernism, postmodernism influenced science, or if they were twins growing up together is insignificant; the resulting philosophically Dystopian world of the 21st Century shows there has been a sad humbling where optimism has largely given way to chaos. The passionate expectancy that science would be society’s imminent savior was doused. The aftermath is a philosophical desert. Yet the “New Atheism” of Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, Stephen Hawking, Jerry Coyne, et. al. appears to have been a revival of modernism, a pitiful attempt of CPR upon the corpse. Yet, accepting no other savior, our present world maintains its faith that science is the only path to truth which will set us free. Thus, the arguments against the existence of God persist.

forensics

The Right Science Tool for the Right Job

Don’t get me wrong. I am NOT playing into the distorted claims New Atheists make that if Christians had their way, no one would need pursue science, and the world would be satisfied with ignorance, death, and disease—e.g. Jerry Coyne’s book. I am advocating for a balanced and right use of science that can help Christians speak to skeptics.

Using scientific evidence for proving God’s existence reasonably gravitates to the matter of origins—creationism vs. evolution or old universe vs. young universe. Approaching the study of origins from a “purely scientific” perspective is a very tricky endeavor—for atheists as well—and is really “the wrong tool for the job;” that is, if one defines “purely scientific” as a laboratory experiment producing empirical results. The methodology for studying origins is not the unemotional, strictly objective, sterile laboratory, exclusively-based-on-empirical-data sort of science that people (and scientists) like to think it is. The scientific method is full of assumptions and rabbit trails. In the process of science, those assumptions have to be acknowledged and the trails have to be explored before one can determine if they lead to anything useful. Certainly the laboratory is part of the process. But that’s the point—it is a process. The laboratory, when used exclusively, is not the right tool for the origins job. Better yet, it is not the only tool for the job.

The “right tool for the job” in studying origins is Historical Science using abductive reasoning. Dr. Meyer addresses this in The Signature in the Cell. He explains that “abductive reasoning infers unseen facts, events, or causes in the past from clues or facts in the present” (pg. 153). The syllogism Meyer begins with is:  If it rains, the streets will get wet. The streets are wet. Therefore, it rained. The logical fallacy is obvious because several alternative explanations can cause wet streets—a nearby sprinkler system, a city water truck, etc. Nevertheless, we use abductive reasoning all the time to reach accurate conclusions. A case-in-point can be taken from history: we can know Napoleon Bonaparte once lived without using a time machine to return to 18th century France and see him for ourselves. We have artifacts and other evidence to observe. The best explanation for the present artifacts, records, and the European political landscape is that Napoleon existed. A past event can be proven using present information.

Abductive reasoning is used in forensics. A detective pieces together information, or “clues,” left behind from a past event; though he was not a witness to the event. He incorporates a variety of techniques from multiple disciplines. That approach to the task does not make it unreliable science. Rather, it is a different kind of science than the so-called empirical, laboratory experiment. It is really the only possible kind of science that can be used in the study of origins.

Historical scientists, including those studying origins, are detectives. They begin making observations [not yet “evidence”] like a collection of puzzle pieces. Those pieces are then interpreted by the investigator to form a hypothesis…a hunch…a theory. The theory is pursued logically and new information either proves or disproves it. When gaps in the story arise, plausible leaps are made to keep the theory progressing. The more leaps there are, the less viable the theory becomes. Eventually, if more gaps (questions) arise than connections made (answers), the theory cannot be sustained and it must be abandoned. However, when the pieces do align, they give us a great deal of certainty. In opposition to postmodernism, our world does operate in certainties. Abductive reasoning gives us a large measure of stability. We know who we are as a culture, looking back on where we’ve come (history). We govern ourselves using abductive reasoning in our judicial systems, absolving the innocent and convicting the guilty.

Concluding Remarks

The purpose of this blog entry was to lay a foundation and establish the trajectory for proving God using science. I find it helpful to first hash out some of the philosophical perspectives. Doing so communicates how I see the world and how I see other people seeing the world. Hopefully it sheds light for reader and author alike.

Another goal was to shrink the size of the foe. The “Goliath” of science can appear like an indomitable adversary to Christians who lack a background in science. By exposing some of the weaknesses of the skeptic’s demands, the Christian can be strengthened and thereby encouraged to give himself to further study and contemplation. I was encouraged to read some of my inclinations were also voiced by Douglas Axe. Whether one is an elite, walking the hallowed halls of Cambridge’s science departments or “your average Joe,” he can intelligently debate religion vs. science issues. In fact, the fundamental questions and answers remain the same, no matter what league you are in. Douglas Axe explains it this way, “We’ll see [in this book] that mastery of technical subjects isn’t at all needed in order for us to know the answer to the big question [to what or to whom do we owe our existence?]. Common science will be perfectly adequate” (pg. 10).

In the next blog, I’ll deal with the “Intelligent” part of Intelligent Design— making the connections between God, intelligence, information, and DNA.

Christian Apologetics and Homosexuality: Jesus, The Loving Lawgiver

 mt sinai

This post marks the conclusion of this series dealing with the question, “How can Christians claim the Bible forbids homosexual acts, but then ignore all the other Old Testament laws? In rebutting the question, I’ve made several negative arguments. I disagree with its implications and its presuppositions. I disagree with its theology and its mischaracterizing orthodox Christianity. So, is there anything positive I can say? There is, but nothing about the question.

Instead of dealing any more with the question, I want to offer a positive argument about the topic of homosexuality and the Law of God. If the question presents wrong thinking, then what is right thinking? What is Christ’s teaching? I touched on this in the third post when I stated, “By describing the law as ‘holy and righteous and good,’ Paul juxtaposes the character of the law with the character of the Lawgiver.” That is key. Understanding the Lawgiver provides clarity, confidence, and comfort regarding His Law.

Surely the boldest statement I’ve made thus far in the series is this: “The New Testament firmly upholds the prohibition [of homosexuality] as seen in the teaching of Christ….” This is primary not because I said it, but because it points to the only begotten Son of God. If Jesus Christ has revealed His position on a matter, then it is forever settled.

Who is Jesus and why should I listen to Him?

This may come as a shocking revelation to some: Jesus is God. Actually, it should shock each of us. Try to take in the severity, meaning, and implications of that. I will take it even further. Jesus is Yahweh. That is right. Jesus is the Covenant-making, Law giving God of both testaments. There are some who erroneously speak of God by addressing the Father as Yahweh and the son as Yeshua. Don’t misunderstand me here, I know that God the Father is not God the Son. I am saying that the names Yahweh and Yeshua refer to the same Person, the Son. Where is the proof of that? We have to look at both the Old and New Testaments.

Exodus 3. Moses approached a bush that was on fire but was not consumed. The burning bush was a theophany, a tangible manifestation of God. God instructed Moses to remove his sandals for he was on Holy ground. God did not pick a holy place, suitable for Him to appear. No. The ground was made holy because of the very presence of the thrice-holy God upon it. God is impeccable, utterly righteous. At this occasion God commissioned Moses to be His spokesperson. He ordered Moses to return to Pharaoh and demand Israel’s release. Moses then asked God a question: “Now they may say to me, ‘What is His name?’ What shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM”; and He said, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” God revealed His covenant name “YHWH”, the Tetragrammaton (“four letters”) from which our English Bibles translate the Hebrew “Yahweh” as “I AM.”

Now fast forward to the New Testament. John 8 records Jesus’ confrontation with the Jewish leaders, the scribes and Pharisees: “Jesus said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am.’ Therefore they picked up stones to throw at Him, but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple.” Why did the Jews pick up stones to kill Him?  Because they were carrying out the punishment of blasphemy from Leviticus 24:10-16. Jesus indeed made His point and they got it. By saying “I am,” He laid claim to the covenant name of God that had been revealed to Moses in the burning bush. Perhaps it could be translated this way, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born YHWH.” It is a double entendre communicating His eternal self-existence and His identity as Yahweh. Philippians 2:9-11 says it well “For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

All of this proves the importance and the profundity of the truth, Jesus is the Lawgiver. Jesus is King of kings and Lord of lords. He is the Sovereign who makes the Laws. He is the one who established the Moral, Ceremonial, and Judicial Law of Moses.

God’s Law is delightful

What is the correlation to our topic? I merely have to connect these dots: just as the Lawgiver is holy and benevolent, so are His Laws, including those about sexuality. Surely most, Christians and non-Christians, agree that at a minimum Jesus was holy and good. The Bible is filled with descriptions of the utter benevolence and lovingkindness of God demonstrated by the giving of His law. Just read Psalm 119.

Since Jesus, the Lawgiver and Creator, has made men to marry and have sexual relations with women exclusively—one man married to one woman—then this is what is noble, good, holy, and right. It is not restrictive, it is best. The Psalmist writes, “How can a young man keep his way pure? By keeping it according to Your word.”

For my final conclusion, I say that I can understand how the biblical truths conveyed here can be utterly frustrating to someone struggling with same-sex attraction. The truth may defy your “natural” feelings and even conflict with your understanding of God. But I want to encourage you to consider that while such emotions are real, they are sinful, and they can be changed into peaceful conformity of righteousness through the saving and sanctifying work of God in Christ. And we all have equally deep struggles against sin. These same things apply to every boy, girl, man, and woman who struggles with heterosexual promiscuity as well. You are not a worse sinner than any other. The God of Romans 8 can forgive you too by paying your penalty, removing the curse of the Law, and changing you by giving you a new heart, making you a new creation  with a renewed mind, “created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.” Flee to Him by faith and with repentance. Jesus says to you even now, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.”

 

 

Christian Apologetics and Homosexuality: I know who doesn’t ignore the Old Testament Law.

three greats

The entire purpose of this blog series is to address the question “How can Christians claim the Bible forbids homosexual acts, but then ignore all the other Old Testament laws?” If its logic and implied conclusion is valid then the LGBTQ apologist has succeeded in correcting the traditional Biblical Christian’s error, removed the moral obstacle, eased the consciences of Christians and homosexuals, and progressed in gaining universal acceptance of homosexuality as not only an accepted practice, but even a good and moral practice.  The question at hand is worthy of critique because embedded within its foundational premise is a widely believed but somewhat distorted evangelical doctrine taken from Romans 6:14 and Ephesians 2:8, “We are saved by grace and not by law.” This popular doctrine is shared by traditional, evangelical Christians and LGBTQ Christians alike. The LGBTQ apologist is saying that traditional evangelicalism simply needs to apply the truth consistently. If evangelicals were only consistent, non-hypocritical, then they would see what we see—that homosexuality is okay. It is a powerful, emotive proposition. Liberal, Protestant churches accepted homosexuality long ago, and now with “gay marriage” being the law-of-the-land, some evangelical Christians are being persuaded as well. The reasoning in this question seems to satisfy some in their quest for a biblical justification for homosexuality. It is a monumentally important question.[Please note that I am in full agreement that salvation is by grace alone through faith alone. My contention is that the distortion arises from convoluting this doctrine of salvation with sanctification.]

This fourth installment of the series continues my analysis and rebuttal of the primary question above. I maintain that the question itself is full of erroneous presuppositions, theological error, and should therefore be dismissed altogether. This series will hopefully serve to correct the LGBTQ apologist and to give the evangelical Christian assurance that his theological heritage, resting on its biblical foundation is solid and must not be abandoned. I fear though, that he does not know his theological heritage.

The Evangelical-Reformed Connection

One error in the question is its sweepingly false notion that it properly identifies and represents orthodox Christian doctrine. It begins, “How can Christians claim…?” Though, the questioner identifies and represents a popular Christian doctrine, zie has not identified and does not represent historic, Protestant, Christian doctrine. (See the third blog post which addresses the doctrine.) The popular doctrine is novel within the scope of Church History. This should cause the Christian to pause. As Paul warns in Galatians Ch. 1, “I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.”

Modern, Evangelical Christianity is Protestant. Its branch of the Christian family tree forked at that major division known as the “Protestant Reformation.” Like it or not, your doctrine was forged by the likes of John Calvin, the father of Presbyterianism. For instance, that bastion of evangelicalism, Dallas Theological Seminary, was started by a Presbyterian, Lewis Sperry Chafer. It’s safe to say Chafer was not thoroughly Reformed, but “DTS stands on the shoulders of great men [Reformed Theologians] like Spurgeon.” I cannot cite the quote, but I recall hearing it during a chapel service I attended sometime between 1993 and 1997.

 The Tripartite View of the Law in Church History

John Calvin’s teaching on the division of the law into Moral, Civil (Judicial), and Ceremonial may be the most recognized statement of the “Reformed” tripartite view of the Law, (See section 14 here from Institutes of the Christian Religion.), but it’s not the first. A look at Calvin’s footnote shows that he draws upon the teaching of Thomas Aquinas’ Summa Theologica. That places the doctrine back to the 13th Century. Yet, Aquinas was not the originator either. He drew from the well of theological thought that had even much earlier origins. One of the most recognized church fathers, Augustine of Hippo, expressed similar doctrine in the late 4th century. I can recommend this article from the Westminster Theological Journal 61:2 (Fall 1999): 175-207 for a more thorough source treating the historical development of Aquinas’ view of the Law. Another excellent resource is Jonathan Bayes’ article  from Reformation Today, Issue 177. To be fair, I will include this blog from the Gospel Coalition and this interview of Dr. Thomas Schreiner for opposing views. However, my purpose here is not to defend the doctrine so much, but rather to prove that the doctrine of the threefold division of the law has a long and distinguished pedigree in church history.

Returning to John Calvin (1509-1564) as my historical place marker, I now move forward chronologically. The great Reformed confessions of Protestant doctrine that stand as faithful, though not inerrant, expressions of biblical truth consistently teach the tripartite division either formally or practically. By “practically” I mean they may use the alternate phrase “the three-fold purpose of the Law” which expresses how the Law pertains to the daily life of the New Testament Christian. Namely, the Law is to be a mirror, a restraint of evil, and a guide of what pleases God. Some of the confessions of faith and creeds include the Reformed Church’s Belgic Confession Article 25 (1618); the Presbyterians’ Westminster Confession of Faith (1646) chapter 19; The Congregationalists’ Savoy Declaration (1658) chapter 19; and the Reformed Baptists’ 2nd London Baptist Confession of Faith (1689) chapter 19.

In addition to Augustine, Aquinas, Calvin, and these confessions of faith, the threefold division of the law is supported by such stalwart theologians as John Owen, Jonathan Edwards, and Charles Spurgeon, to name only three of many. I know there are other great theologians who differ. But again, my point is that the doctrine has a rich tradition with highly regarded proponents and is shared by vast numbers of Christians now and in times past. And it is also my point that this tradition is arguably representative of historic, orthodox, Protestant doctrine. For the LGBTQ apologist or the evangelical Christian to represent the popular, contrary doctrine as normative Christian doctrine is simply an error.

In conclusion, it is clear that the modern evangelical Christian—be he either unsympathetic to or embracing of the LGBQT perspective—should be aware that to be among those who think negatively about Old Testament Law is to be out-of-step with much of historic Christianity, with the Apostle Paul, and with Christ who said of Himself, “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. ‘For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished….’”

Christian Apologetics and Homosexuality: The Role of the Old Testament Law for the New Testament Christian

Should Christians embrace homosexuality as normative since they ignore the rest of Old Testament Law?

The significance of this question is huge. LGBTQ apologists are attempting to entice Christians away from orthodoxy by arguing for Biblical precedence on this very point. And the angle by which they approach this is the popular evangelical doctrine, “We are not under the Law but under grace.” Why do I call this a “popular evangelical doctrine” and not “biblical doctrine” since it is a quote of the Apostle Paul in Romans 6:14?

A Background of Controversy

I do so because the popular doctrine skews the balance of biblical doctrine by having one truth eclipse another. Prominent Dispensational theologians from my alma mater, Dallas Theological Seminary, were engaged in a highly visible, public debate with John MacArthur in the late 1980’s and 1990’s in what is known as the “Lordship Salvation” vs “Free Grace” controversy. At stake was the centerpoint of Christianity, the Gospel. One side accused the other of “easy believism” and “antinomianism” (without law) while the other accused “legalism” and “works-based salvation.” The debate affected arguably millions of Evangelicals. As John MacArthur states about his book that launched the debate, The Gospel According to Jesus, “There are now [2003] about half a million copies in circulation, and the book is still in print. That is almost unprecedented for a polemic book dealing with a theological issue.” Evangelicals were faced with a decision to make: which side are you on? Is the Law good or is it bad? Does it have a place for Christians or not?

The Free Grace controversy was such a hot topic for the Dispensationalists for the same reason it concerns our question about there being a biblical argument for homosexuality. The topic hit very close-to-home on a fundamental tenet of Dispensationalism, namely the duality of, or separation between, the Old Testament and the New Testament. That foundation was part of the backdrop for stressing “saved by grace alone through faith alone” and “once saved always saved” but at the expense of any expectation of personal holiness (see Hebrews 12:14). The practical effect in the pew was a very pejorative view of Old Testament law. For them, to view the law favorably was tantamount to being a Pharisee, Jesus’ earthly antagonist. The doctrine communicates that there is absolutely no place for the Old Testament Law for the New Testament Christian. And this doctrine now finds welcome support by the LGBTQ apologist. The “Free Grace” doctrine, with its staunch opposition to the Law, is now being used by LGBTQ apologists to promote a theological argument favorable to homosexuality. I’m not making an ad-hominem argument against my Dispensationalist brothers’ doctrine.  The point is, you can see the doctrine residing in the question: “How can Christians claim the Bible forbids homosexual acts, but then ignore all the other Old Testament laws?” It is no wonder that the LGBTQ apologist can stump some Christians by asking the question; because a large number of Christians do indeed ignore all the “other” Old Testament laws.

The Ten Commandments are for Today

The Covenantal position, in my view, provides the best biblical theology for addressing the  role of the Law for the Christian. I point to Reformed theologian John Calvin’s statement of the doctrine of the Law, not as proof, but for a definition: “We must bear in mind that common division of the whole law of God published by Moses into moral, ceremonial, and judicial laws.” (See section 14 here from Institutes of the Christian Religion.) With the Law of Moses divided into parts, we are able to make better sense of the Apostle Paul’s multiple uses of the term “law” in the book of Romans. It helps us understand which laws remain and which do not. While Romans 6:14 seems to support the LGBTQ / Free Grace position and disfavors the Law: “you are not under law but under grace,” Romans 7:12 speaks favorably of the Law, “So then, the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.”

In Romans 7:12, Paul juxtaposes the character of the law with the character of the Lawgiver. The Law is holy and righteous and good, because God is holy and righteous and good. It is that quality of the Law that gives it the nomenclature “Moral Law.” The Ten Commandments are uniquely set apart in Scripture, written in stone by the very finger of God amidst smoke and fire and fear. They serve as standards, transcending the 613 civil and ceremonial laws that governed ancient Israel socially and religiously. It is not hard to make the connection that the 613 laws were detailed, specific out-workings of the ten. Christ had this perspective too it seems, evidenced by His further summarizing the Law of Moses this way:“…you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘you shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”

The point being made here is that the Moral Law is eternal. It cannot and must not be ignored today. It expresses what is holy and righteous and good for all of mankind, God’s preeminent creature, made in the very likeness of God. The Moral Law existed prior to its being codified on Mt. Sinai; it permeated the temporary Mosaic Covenant laws; and it continues to govern the consciences of the New Testament believer. For example, it was sin to murder before Moses, during Moses, and after Moses. As to the new covenant believer, what other Law could God have meant when He spoke through the prophet Jeremiah saying, “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the Lord, ‘I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.’”?

For the above reasons, it is evident that the question posed:  “How can Christians claim the Bible forbids homosexual acts, but then ignore all the other Old Testament laws?” perpetuates a wrong, but popular, doctrine that Old Testament Laws are to be dismissed. They are not. The Moral Law remains.  Let us go forward with confidence in the manner Paul writes in Ephesians 5:3 “But immorality [porneia-sexual sin] or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints….

Christian Apologetics and Homosexuality: Both the Old and New Testaments Prohibit Homosexuality

Since I’m writing in the public square on the topic of homosexuality from a Christian apologetic, the first blog post (below) addressed the “elephant in the room” in order to hopefully get the obstacle of “homophobia” out of the way. My aim was to point out the following: the duplicity of those who falsely accuse Christians of hate—ergo “the separation of church and hate”; to show that I am not a ranting and myopic blowhard, nor am I like many Christians who are now capitulating to the culture and embracing homosexuality with apologies. I also aim to prevent Christians from being lulled into apathy by the poppy seed field of cultural immersion. That, I fear, is the most dangerous possibility for the Church.

If you are inclined to tune me out because of the title of this installment, I urge you to reconsider and please allow me the opportunity to state my case and then determine if it has merit—even if you disagree. It is a difficult balance in this world of ours to walk the tightrope of showing that we really do care about people while also saying, “But God says homosexuality is sin.” If I say it, you may either run away or hold up your fists. But if I don’t say it, then I’m being disingenuous and unfaithful to the Word of God. Any Christian who sacrifices the “sin” part of the Gospel on the altar of so-called “love” or “political correctness” abandons the message of the Gospel. Conversely, any Christian who does not approach people with grace AND truth is not being like Jesus. Do you see the difficulty—that loving your enemies acknowledges the Christophobe is an enemy (that’s Bible language) but an enemy to be loved and shown genuine kindness?

The Question

I will now finally get to the point of this second post which is to analyze a common biblical and theological question about Christianity and homosexuality:

How can Christians claim the Bible forbids homosexual acts, but then ignore all the other Old Testament laws?

The quick answer to this question is, “They can’t.” or “They shouldn’t.”

That begs the next question, “Why not?”

My hunch is those of the LGBTQ would also answer it that way. They would do so because they see duplicity (hypocrisy) between Christian doctrine and practice. That accusation sometimes takes the form of, “You say the Bible forbids homosexuality, but it also forbids eating shellfish and you don’t have a problem eating shrimp.” I first heard this argument in a blasphemous video circulating on the internet during California’s Proposition 8 vote. In their mind, all would be right in the world if the Christian would simply be consistent and ignore the Old Testament law prohibiting homosexuality too. But consistent Christianity is not their true concern. What is really being stated is, “Since Christians ignore Old Testament laws, then they have to ignore (accept) homosexuality.” The agenda is clearly to demand universal acceptance.

I also answer the question in the negative, but for a very different reason. The question simply does not accurately represent historic, orthodox Christian doctrine. Here’s my analysis of the question:

  1. Christians claim the Bible forbids homosexuality. Check. The questioner and I agree here.
  2. Correlating homosexuality with “other” Old Testament law infers it is strictly an Old Testament law and is not prohibited in the New Testament. That’s a failure in the question.
  3. Christians ignore Old Testament laws. There’s the major error. It’s bad doctrine and it simply isn’t true of Christians, from the past and in the present.

Some Answers

Let’s look at the first two of those three points.

First: Christians claim the Bible forbids homosexuality. Indeed the Bible does. The clearest prohibition is found in Leviticus 18. In the context of prohibiting incest, adultery, child sacrifices, and bestiality, verse 22 states, “You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female.” You cannot get any more direct than that.

Recent objections to this claim include a notion that King David and Jonathan, the son of King Saul, were gay. This stems from the Bible’s clear account of their uniquely close friendship. 1 Samuel 18:1 “…the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul….Then Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul.” Then following this verse, it recounts “And Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was on him and gave it to David….” It is assumed here that Jonathan was naked and made a sexually provocative act.

Such an interpretation is a clear case of reading a desired viewpoint into the scriptures (eisegesis) rather than extracting what the Scripture says for itself (exegesis). The fact that this is a modern interpretation indicates that Biblical scholarship for the last two millennia and beyond never saw it— and that’s because it just isn’t there. I am aware of no credible extra-biblical sources, rabbinical sources, nor of any evidence in Judaism that supports this aberrant view. My cultural argument is that such an interpretation once again shows the double standards of our society. It is highly offensive and sexist to not allow men to have dear, close, and thoroughly non-sexual friendships.

Secondly, the position that the prohibition of homosexuality is relegated to the Old Testament exclusively is an easy fallacy to rebut. The New Testament firmly upholds the prohibition as seen in the teaching of Christ and the Apostle Paul. For your reference, this brief video of Pastor Voddie Baucham provides succinct and lucid arguments supporting the case of Jesus’ position on homosexuality.

Granted, Jesus never said “Homosexuality continues to be a sin in the New Covenant.” But neither did He say, “Homosexuality is no longer a sin.” Nor did He say, “Homosexuality was never a sin.” So then, how did He address it? Jesus prohibited it by affirming the opposite, the thoroughgoing Biblical principle that men and women were created to marry for life. This was said in the context of disallowing easy divorces. Jesus prohibited divorce except for cases of infidelity (porneia in Greek), more broadly, all sexual immorality, as set forth in Old Testament. (Hat tip again to Pastor Voddie Baucham and The Village Church’s article on this which cites several Greek Lexicons for reference.)

In the next installment, I will contend that it is false to say Christians ignore Old Testament law; but if any do, they are simply out-of-step with historic, orthodox Christian doctrine, the Apostle Paul, and Christ Himself.