My previous blog, DNA Points to Design, was about some fascinating information about DNA. Scientists have also determined another factor in how incredibly fine-tuned even a cell is. Stephen Meyer, in chapter 9 of his book Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design, entitled Odds and Ends, talks about the odds of…
— Read on cyberpenance.wordpress.com/2018/08/20/the-odds-of-a-cell-forming-randomly-by-chance-alone/
After years of clinical practice in veterinary medicine (almost 33 to be exact), I am still amazed by the different perceptions pet owners embrace concerning their animals. In our humanity, we frequently elevate our pets as equals in our lives. Conversely, I observe people without pets navigating life in much the same ways as those without children. For example, our daily routine is structured around the needs of our dogs for a given day. Only a certain number of hours are available to be away from our home without their basic needs being attended. Although our guys require only a little, we have four canines so to those whom much is given, much is expected. Food, shelter, hygiene, grooming, and medical care are non-negotiable. Like children, the crew of four need constant supervision and persistent attention for their mental and physical well-being. A toddler has similar needs, but unfortunately for pet lovers, your furry children never really grow up. Occasionally we observe streaks of teenage rebellion, but afterward, they slip directly into their golden years.
Let us take this idea a little further and apply it to ourselves. Each of us has fundamental needs compounded by our rational, volitional, and emotional perspective. In our core, we all seek answers to questions such as: Who am I? Why am I here? Where did I or we come from? What is my purpose in life and gives meaning to my existence? The answers to these questions direct our perception of the world creating a “worldview.” Well of course! We so instinctively respond to life in this manner without giving much thought as to the “why.” My wife perceives that our dogs think and reason sometimes, however, the perception is only mimicking human behaviors in the context we observe. I honestly do not believe our Standard Poodle ponders the four questions above in spite of her apparent brilliance as compared to her housemates. Fortunately for all pet owners, we are the source of meaning for our pets with the fruit of the relationship being the enrichment of our lives through their companionship and affection.
Now, let us continue by placing ourselves in the dog’s paws (since they do not wear shoes). What would the culture look like if we were motivated by the desire to please others and give them affection and relationship in return? Which worldview best describes this type of sacrificial relationship? According to Naturalism or Atheism, the material universe is all that exists. All life is the chance byproduct of a biological process guided by evolution, or survival of the fittest to produce the next generation. Only that which can be observed or measured can be trusted. No soul, no spirit, no mind, no objective values or morals, just preferences are entertained as useful. Even those preferences are subject to change based on evolution. In this situation, how would we ever teach or train a dog to be obedient if our choices are always subject to change?
Consider Pantheism, or Panentheism, where only the spiritual dimension exists. Everything is either a part of a Supreme Being, or that being is in everything or everyone. Truth is an experience of oneness with the universe and is beyond all rational description. No real distinction exists between good and evil. In this scenario, my dog could not be a “good dog” or a “bad dog”- he would just be a dog.
So what about Postmodernism? Here, the idea of reality is relative and has to be interpreted in the light of society and culture at the moment. Humans are not genuinely autonomous and free, but a product of the surrounding culture. The “true for you, but not for me” paradigm exists, and the truth is only meaningful within a particular culture, making itself wholly relative and not objective. Tolerance, inclusion, and freedom of expression are universal. In this paradigm, my dog is turned loose in the neighborhood and allowed to bark all night long, because to do otherwise would inhibit his freedom and be labeled intolerant.
Ultimately, let us observe Theism or the belief in God. Even though Islam and Judaism also hold to a belief in an all-powerful God, the focus specifically here is on Christianity. God is infinite, personal, all-knowing, all-powerful, immutable, and all-good to mention only a few attributes. He created a material world and all that it contains, both living and non-living. The universe had a beginning and will have an end. Mankind is the unique creation of God, created in “His image” which provides means for biological, spiritual, personal (relational), and eternal existence. Truth is objective and valid for all persons, at all places at all times. We discover the truth through God’s revelation to us through His creation, using our five senses and our mind (rational thought). Furthermore, God has provided an instruction manual to life through special revelation in the form of the Bible. Moral values are an objective expression of God’s nature as an absolute moral being. Good follows out of imitation of God’s character, and evil is the deprivation or corruption of good that is opposed to the nature of God. From Christianity, humans are custodians of animals and accountable for their well-being because they are part of God’s creation. In this case, the care, protection, and provision for my dogs (and all other animals for that matter) are an outward expression of mankind’s respect for God’s creation and desire for a personal relationship with us.
Christianity makes it possible for me to care whether my dogs have their basic needs supplied. The provision, care, training, and even veterinary medicine itself is a consequence of the moral obligation mankind has for animals. Objective reasoning and truth allow decisions and choices to be possible, and in following after God’s character will provide beneficially toward the reality we experience as “good.” So, it is true– the way we see the world makes a world of difference and can make ALL the difference in the world.
Dogs fascinate me with their diverse personalities and preferences. Take, for example, our brood of canines and their daily routine. Their world revolves around the basic necessities of life: food, sleep, and playtime. We have a motley crew of four, including a Standard Poodle, a Toy Poodle, a Maltese, and a Cavalier Spaniel. Since each breed of dog has its specific qualities and skill sets that were selected over generations of selective breeding to serve a particular purpose, each individual is driven by their unique mission: squirrel chaser, food connoisseur, ball chaser, or guardian of the door. Unfortunately, two of our pets require daily medication as a result of some really unfortunate diagnoses. Lily, our standard poodle, has epilepsy, and Claire, our toy poodle, has Addison’s disease. Lily started having clusters of seizures beginning at three years of age, and Claire has a deficiency of hormones that regulate her entire metabolism. As a result, we must be diligent in our monitoring and administration of their medications because failing to do so places their livelihood in jeopardy. Lily is ecstatic about taking her medicine, but Claire (the little one), well not so much. Now granted, I am a veterinarian and am skilled in the subtler arts of patient care and pill administration. However, my first attempt at giving a tablet to Claire was more like throwing it into a blender with the lid off. Compounding the medicine into a “palatable liquid” faired even worse, as she feigned collapse and remorse with drama worthy of an Oscar nomination. Finally, after exhausting the inventory of flavored treats to disguise the remedy, we found her love language in the form of peanut butter. Not just any peanut butter, but a specific pill pocket with a particular softness and texture. Really? Could it have been that simple?
In reflection, Claire’s response to our efforts to “help” her was not unlike the response many people demonstrate to me when making a case for Christianity. Like my pets, each individual has basic needs and desires. Those needs are frequently tempered by generations of family history and experience. Each person is “driven” by their perceived mission or purpose, filtered through their view of the world. Even further, some of us require daily treatment for our needs to be met or our illnesses to be abated. Truth is much like the medication my dogs require on a regular basis. Even though it is frequently not palatable, it is still the truth. I can disguise it is some way to seem more acceptable, more comfortable to swallow, or even absorbed more efficiently. But to greet reality, the truth has to be consumed on a daily basis. Just like my pets’ health, we must be diligent in our monitoring and administration of facts every day.
Here is a true story, a real-life example that I experienced in the exam room with a pet owner recently. The conversation started like this:
Client: “Hey, Doctor, Fluffy has been scratching and chewing herself to pieces, and she is not better from the last time she was here.”
Me: ” She had a really severe flea infestation and allergic reaction to the flea bites along with a secondary bacterial infection. I still see some fleas on her. Did you treat her with the flea medication, treat your house and yard, and give her the antibiotics and allergy medications?”
Client: “Well, not exactly. ”
Me: “What do you mean by ‘not exactly’ ?”
Client: “What I mean is we still have some left. We gave it to her, and she was not getting better on Monday after we saw you on Saturday.”
Me: “I understand. So what you did not do, did not work, and you are unhappy that what I prescribed for you did not provide immediate results, though it was prescribed for two weeks to accomplish what you did not do.”
Client: “Well you said it doc, not me.”
Me: “Have you ever heard of Abbott and Costello?”
Client: “No, are they doctor friends of yours?”
Me: “Excuse me, I’ll be right back.”
Needless to say, the truth will reveal itself in the strangest ways. Although my client was genuine and well-meaning, his expectations for results were immediate, and he missed the overall goal we had in mind. Sometimes in the busyness of practice life, I have to remind myself to walk the client through the process and let them see the endpoint that we mutually wish to arrive. Where I failed in this process was in “throwing the ball where my client could catch it.” Sometimes in our attempt to convey knowledge, which in essence is our understanding of multiple truths, we forget to inform others where we are traveling. In making our case for Christianity, it is crucial to convey wisdom in the context of knowledge. Of course, we must have the ultimate goal in mind of the Gospel. To get to the particulars of that conversation, the skeptical person must be given the opportunity to understand not only what we believe, but why we know it to be a valid assertion.
For my client, the presence of fleas or infection may be secondary to the simple persistence of his dog’s constant itch. Today’s culture demands immediate gratification. We microwave our meals. We use search engines to acquire information instantaneously. Facetime and texting provide real-time communication. In fact, I have experienced instances where I prescribe or recommend a product to a customer, and before I can print the prescription label, the client has already compared prices and cross-checked my recommendation on Google or Amazon. So why are we not surprised that a skeptic will want instant validation of our assertions concerning Christianity?
The primary solution to this problem is in the preservation of relationships. The old medical adage of “no one cares how much you know until they know how much you care” is just as valid for apologetics as for medicine. Genuine care and authenticity are the answer. We can disagree in principle but still maintain “humility and grace.” Clients return to my hospital because of our relationship, trust, and honesty. People with unanswered questions, especially our youth and the millennial generation, are seeking answers to the problems and the brokenness apparent around them. The relationship with skeptical people is identical in principle. Our goal is to relieve the”itch” that is making the skeptic so uncomfortable. We do not have to wrap it into something analogous to peanut butter to make it more palatable. Our relationship with them combined with honest, authentic answers to their questions will reveal the truth of Christianity as the medicine they have been seeking all along.
Dr. Potter’s analysis is a great read.
Many students I teach in Bibliology come from Christian schools, homes or have been in the Church awhile. Yet, I quickly discover they have major misconceptions about the doctrine of biblical inerrancy. One popular misconception is they think biblical inerrancy is based on an ancient reading of the Bible. That is, they think some old man or council, after collecting the biblical manuscripts read through them all, and upon not find any errors (or corrected them if they did), pronounced the Bible inerrant. Another one is that inerrancy is true simply because the Bible says so. However, neither misconception could be further from the truth.
I recognize there are things in the Bible we do not yet fully understand. Some passages are hard to interpret. Some interpretations are hotly debated. However, many things in the Bible are plain and simple. Indeed, the essential teachings or doctrines are readily agreed upon…
View original post 1,560 more words
Inertia. The irresistible urge to stay precisely where you are. Many people refer to this phenomenon as staying in their “comfort zone.” Pastors are always trying to get you away from it. Even a visit to the veterinarian can cause you to move, especially when the doctor approaches your pet (or if too close, you) with a syringe and needle approximating the size of your dog. Isaac Newton had a lot to say about it. In fact, to Newton, it was of first importance when he gave us Newton’s first law of motion. Sometimes referred to as the law of inertia: “An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.” In a world overflowing with information and compressing time into smaller increments, we must ask ourselves what force outside of ourselves can cause us to move?
In the practice of veterinary medicine, I have to be ready to move at all times. Otherwise, I could be wearing a Chihuahua like a bracelet. An angry Chihuahua lunging at you as a consequence of being poked with a syringe will always qualify as an “unbalanced force.” In this regard, I get it. A wake-up call in the form of a vicious snark will energize your morning. As an apologist, objections and questions startle us in much the same way. The question remains, how do you overcome inertia and begin to run the race that is set before you? How do you exchange ideas about why you are Christian, and someone else should be one too? After all, the Great Commission commands every believer to go forth and make disciples (Matthew 28.19). Besides, we are commanded to always be prepared to give a defense for our convictions (1 Peter 3.15). I propose three methods to assist you to leave the porch: Prepare, Train, and Race.
First and foremost, educate yourself about topics that you are passionate about or are the “hot button” issues in culture. Commit to research, read, and reproduce all the details of a topic. You must anchor every thought to biblical authority and the words of Jesus. In doing so, know your strengths and weaknesses. Immerse yourself in the genre and filter daily experience through the lens of scripture. Prepare to share your testimony as an example and remember to emphasize the contrast from before and after your acceptance of Christ. In my own experience, veterinary medicine has provided an avenue to sift everyday life experiences in light of my Christian worldview and parallel those events with the truth of our Christian convictions. Continuously, medicine conveys insight into problem-solving and conflict resolution. With proper preparation, use your unique personality to communicate authenticity and authority.
Second, realize intellectual knowledge alone is limited. Before running, we must remember to stretch. Write everything down. Consider writing a blog. Post on social media, “like and share” compatriot ideas. To train well, consider a pastor, mentor, or accountability partner. These prized people in your life will keep the guard rails up to keep moving in the right direction. Proofread everything in contrast with scripture. After stretching, begin warming up by teaching others. Practice, practice, practice. Some days will be arduous and long, yet others short and inspirational. Athletes call this practice “interval training.” For example, a day in veterinary practice, or any profession, can explode in productivity when least expected. The anticipation of this explosion encourages us to be persistent toward sharing our Christian convictions.
Finally, after preparation and training, we must move. At this point after stretching our knowledge and warming up our skills through writing and teaching, we must engage the culture. Each opportunity is a divine appointment. You may only share this information with one person. The difference created by one exposure to the truth of the Gospel is our reward. We must listen to understand, discern to reach the facts, and defend our convictions with the truth. Ultimately the finish line will be in sight. The finish line is the Gospel or at least the opportunity to share it. However, a word of caution is warranted. Engaging the current culture is wrought with peril. Social media and the internet are littered with trolling and cowardly attacks behind a keyboard. This circumstance alone makes our preparation and training essential. More importantly, we must continue to run the race.
Sometimes when running, you may get cramping muscles, or even stumble and fall. In the 1968 Olympics, John Stephen Akhwari of Tanzania experienced this very thing. At just about the halfway point of the 26-mile marathon, he fell and dislocated his knee. Nonetheless, he continued to run, finishing last in the race. He completed the race over an hour after the other runners, entering the stadium after the medal ceremony at sunset. When interviewed at the finish line, he was asked why he continued to run. He told the reporters:
“My country did not send me 5,000 miles to start the race; they sent me 5,000 miles to finish the race.”- John Stephen Akhwari
Likewise, in spite of adversity, we persist to the run the race. Hebrews 12 reinforces this premise when the author says,
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, we must get rid of every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and run with endurance the race set out for us, 2 keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith.”
So what if we stumble, what if we fall? Get up, and rerun the race.
It was Saturday morning, AD 33, just outside the gates of a small part of the Roman empire. Only one week ago, the people were looking for a hero. A king was hailed on Palm Sunday as He rode into town on the back of a young donkey colt. He was to be the one to deliver them out of the hands of Roman oppression. Just the day before, these same people change their cry for a king to a call for a crucifixion. The cross of his crucifixion is now empty, with their deliverer buried in a tomb behind a huge stone, affixed with a seal of Roman authority, and guarded by centurions sworn to defend the tomb with their lives. His followers, especially the twelve closest to Him were scattered, defeated, and one even committed suicide. They had seen, heard, and touched this man in his walk upon the Earth. They must have thought, where is our hero now? What will become of us? What will happen tomorrow? If they only knew then that Sunday was coming. They sought a king to overthrow Rome physically and politically. However, the battle was not physical but spiritual. Deliverance was to arrive not by the sword, but by the cross. The Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 1.23-24:
“22 For Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks ask for wisdom, 23 but we preach about a crucified Christ, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles.”
In this narrative, how can we today understand this occurrence nearly 2000 years ago? How can we know what tomorrow brings? In 33 AD, tomorrow brought the resurrection of Jesus. How do we know the story the Bible delivers is valid and reliable?
Consider the acronym: HERO.
No other event has more corroboration of history in antiquity than the resurrection of Jesus. Based on the scholarship of Dr. Gary Habermas and Dr. Michael Licona, as well as the investigation of other scholars, the basic facts surrounding the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus are agreed upon based on historical attestation without citing the Bible as a reference. Even so, the facts correspond directly to the account of the events as recorded in 1 Corinthians 15:3 ff. Furthermore, history supports at least 84 specific events recorded in the book of Acts concerning the persons, practices, and doctrines of the early church immediately after the resurrection. 
No other event in history has the volume of evidence in such detail and corroboration as the resurrection of Christ. As Dr. Gary Habermas puts it, ” …no other historical person has the volume of early data as that relating to the resurrection. If the resurrection is true, then the teachings and doctrines of Christianity logically follow.”  Also, no other persons in history have the quality of data to support the historical events surrounding their lives. According to Drs. Frank Turek and Norman Geisler in I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be An Atheist, the New Testament testimonies can be categorized by what they call the six “E’s”:
Early (To within as few as 5 years or less of the event),
Eyewitness (Persons who were actually alive and present at the time of the incident),
Embarrassing (Details included that preclude any fabrication or embellishment),
Excruciating (The eyewitnesses were willing to die and did not recant their testimonies),
Expected (Over 300 predictions were made by prophecy concerning the coming of the Messiah some 500 years before the event), and
Extra-Biblical (also called Enemy testimony, sources outside the Bible describe the death, burial, and resurrection as historical events). 
Some detractors will state that since we have no original copies of the New Testament (autographs), then how can we know that the manuscripts are authentic, or really say what the author intended? How can we trust that the resurrection accounts are factual? Obviously, we want to know that the Bible we hold in our hands is the same as the one Apostles had in the first century. According to New Testament scholar Dr. Daniel B. Wallace, the goal of New Testament Textual Criticism (the discipline to achieve this goal) is to study the copies of any document whose original autograph is unknown or non-existent, for the primary purpose of determining the exact wording of the original.  In the case of the New Testament, these copies are handwritten. Handwritten copies imply that changes could have occurred, known as variants. Although there are more than 200,000 variants, fewer than 0.25% are viable and do not change any meaning, or affect any doctrine or Christian belief. The sheer number of manuscripts, totaling over 6800 for the New Testament alone as well as church letters and quotations from early church fathers, reconstruct all but just a few verses. Just like a jigsaw puzzle, the more individual pieces you possess then the more closely you can visualize the entirety of the picture on the box top. Summarily, the majority of variants affect the only spelling, wording, or syntax, and do not affect understanding at all. As a result, we can be assured that the accounts recorded about the resurrection are authentic.
Orthodoxy can be defined as authorized or generally accepted theory, doctrine, or practice. The doctrine of the resurrection of Christ as mentioned previously was expounded by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:3-8 :
“3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. 8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. ” (ESV)
The importance of this scripture is immense as it represents one of the earliest creeds of the church. In considering the transmission of the events surrounding the resurrection, it is helpful to think logically about how information could be related immediately afterward before anything was written down. Also, many people were not literate. If you think of a creed much like a hymn, it makes sense that reciting a creed repetitively and consistently was a great value. One does not have to know how to read or write to remember the words to a song, and it makes sense especially in light of the oral traditions of the first-century culture. An interesting side note relates to the specific time when this creed was written. Junius Annaeus Gallio was the Roman proconsul of Achaia when Paul was at Corinth, A.D. 53, under the emperor Claudius.  Paul appeared before Gallio according to Acts 18:12-17. These events place Paul in Corinth around 20 years after the crucifixion (AD 33). Once again, early, eyewitness testimony establishing Paul in Corinth and testifying through his first letter to the Corinthians of the resurrection event.
In closing, how do we understand, know, and rely on the account of this one Sunday in AD 33? History demonstrates the event was early, corroborated by eyewitness testimony and with support intrinsically and extrinsically verifiable by reputable sources. The transmission of the message is supported by multiple sources of evidence. The reliability is confirmed by correlation and agreement of numerous authors from varied backgrounds, occupations, and geographic locations. Furthermore, as Paul reminds us, the church doctrine is unchanged from what he received which was of “first importance.” The question remains ultimately when faced with the certainty of Christ’s resurrection, how then will you respond?
 Turek, Frank and Geisler, Norman L. I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2004. pp. 256-259.
 Habermas, Gary. The Risen Jesus and Future Hope. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2003.
 Turek, Frank and Geisler, Norman L. I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2004. Chapters 9-11.
 Wallace, Daniel B., in Credo Courses: New Testament Textual Criticism Workbook. Columbia, SC: The Credo Courses, p. 11, 18.