Coming to Faith Through Dawkins

Years ago, I read Why God Won’t Go Away by double-Doctor Alister McGrath (retired professor of Science and Religion at Oxford University). He ends the book with a story about a young man who credits atheist Richard Dawkins for turning him to Christianity. I still count it as the best ending to any nonfiction book that I have read. The next year, I read another account in which an agnostic became a Christian and once again, Richard Dawkins was instrumental in her faith journey. Well, it turns out these aren’t isolated incidents. I recently completed Coming to Faith Through Dawkins, a collection of 12 essays from a variety of people who all see Richard Dawkins as an important part of their faith journey.

The authors of these essays are from all walks of life and hail from various countries. Two of them have science PhDs, one has a PhD in history, another a PhD in philosophy. Others include an engineer, a theologian, and an artist/writer. Three are from the U.S., three are from South Africa, two are from Australia, two are from England, one is from Egypt, and one is from Hungary. Two of them have been featured on this blog (here and here).

While I highly recommend each essay, I want to concentrate on the one I found the most interesting (and entertaining): the essay by Johan Erasmus. Growing up in South Africa, he said that he was a Christian by default, but by age 10, he started asking questions. In his community, such questions were discouraged, so he started struggling with his faith. However, a perceptive teacher gave him a book with essays by C.S. Lewis. Unfortunately, it was hard for him to read, since it was in English, and his first language was Afrikaans. He writes:

I remember thinking to myself that if I believed one day, it would probably be because of him. Imagine my surprise, then, when I was told at church camp at the end of high school that his Chronicles of Narnia was basically satanic. It turns out, the one guy who was making me hold on to my faith (if only by a thread) was supposedly in cahoots with the devil! An odd strategy for the Prince of Darkness. It seemed unfair to me (and still does, as a matter of fact), that Satan wrote the best books and songs and made the best movies.

Because of his questions and his uncertain faith, he decided to go to university to study theology. However, that didn’t work out as planned. As he writes:

…in order to be accepted by the school of theology, a student is questioned by a panel of professors. One question stood out: Why do you want to study theology? My answer was, “I want to know if it is true.” This, by the way, is the wrong answer. After a minute of awkward silence, one of the professors managed to correct the error and said with authority, “Brother, you don’t study theology to gain faith; you have faith and then you study theology.” Everyone in the room agreed that I was in the wrong place. Luckily for me, the humanities department was far less selective.

While at university, he became acquainted with the works of the New Atheists, including The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. This led him to consider himself an atheist. He tried to discuss atheist arguments with his friends, but most of them didn’t have the ability (or interest) to engage. However, he ended up finding a woman who was back in South Africa after studying theology in the U.S., and when he discussed the works of the New Atheists with her, she said:

You seriously need to get yourself some better atheists…If you are going to be an atheist, at least do it because you were convinced by the likes of Michael Ruse, Thomas Nagel, or Nietzche, but I am going to be insulted if those guys [Dawkins, Hitchens, and Harris] put the nail in your Christian coffin.

I couldn’t agree more. The arguments of the New Atheists are simplistic and come mostly from a place of ignorance. As a former atheist myself whose role model was Antony Flew, I find their reasoning insults the reader’s intelligence (with the notable exception of some of Daniel Dennett’s work). This woman put him on a path to find some seriously intelligent discussions of the existence of God, and he ended up becoming a Christian.

Erasmus’s journey from the simplistic nonsense of Dawkins (and Kent Hovind as well) to a serious intellectual analysis of worldviews led him to offer this insightful advice:

Christians as a whole, and the apologetics community in particular, will do well to respect the fact that there are brilliant minds, past and present, who ended up on the side of atheism. You would be a fool to call a Graham Oppy or a John Gray deluded atheists.

Once again, Eramus’s story is only one of 12, all of which are worth reading. When I finished the book, I wondered whether or not Dawkins had seen it and what he thought of it. As I was considering this, I recalled a quote from C.S. Lewis that sums up what Dawkins should learn from the book:

For you will certainly carry out God’s purpose, however you act, but it makes a difference to you whether you serve like Judas or like John. (C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain, Touchstone 1996, p. 99)

More Evidence Against Iron as a Preservative for Biomolecules in Fossils

Chicken femur bones after 90 days of exposure to water, sand, and the three chemicals listed. (image from the study discussed in the article)

Those who want to believe that dinosaur fossils are millions of years old are faced with two very difficult challenges. First, carbon-14 has been detected in significant quantities in all dinosaur bones that were tested for it. This is a problem, as carbon-14 should decay to unmeasurable levels in about 60,000 years. Second, soft tissue and biomolecules have been found in many dinosaur fossils (see here, here, here, and here, for example), and at least according to some paleontologists, it is a common feature of the fossils. Of course, there is no known way that soft tissue and biomolecules can withstand decay over millions of years, so fervent old-earth scientists have been trying to find one.

Dr. Mary Schweitzer, who was the first to find soft tissue in a dinosaur fossil, proposed a possible explanation more than 10 years ago. Based on an experiment that lasted two years, she and her colleagues proposed that iron from the dinosaur’s blood could have acted as a preservative for the soft tissue and the biomolecules that comprise it. As you can read in the post I linked, I was initially very skeptical of such an explanation. Two years later, two chemists who are much more knowledgeable than I am gave what I consider to be definitive arguments as to why iron cannot do what Schweitzer and her colleagues want it to do.

One of my readers (Victor Ferreira da Silva) recently sent me a study that can be considered the death knell of Schweitzer and her colleagues’ proposal. In addition, it strengthens the case that the fossils are not millions of years old. In the study, the authors soaked four chicken femurs in sand to mimic the conditions under which most scientists think fossils form. They then passed a different solution through the sand for each bone: pure water, water + calcium carbonate, water + iron, and water + phosphate. After 90 days, they examined the bones with three different techniques to see how much decay had occurred. They measured the amount of the most abundant form of collagen (a biomolecule) that remained. They found that iron was the worst preservative, and calcium carbonate was the best. Specifically, they estimate that the chicken bones retained 90% of their collagen when exposed to water + calcium carbonate, but only 35% when exposed to water + iron. The ones exposed to water + phosphate retained 60%, while the ones exposed to pure water retained 80%. Under realistic conditions, then, iron is a horrible preservative for biomolecules.

But what about calcium carbonate? When mixed with water, it preserved more collagen. That’s true, and the authors suggest that it’s because the calcium carbonate mineralizes the outer parts of the bone, protecting the inner parts from microbial activity that tends to break down biomolecules. While that seems reasonable, notice that in a mere 90 days, even the “best” preservative had already allowed 10% of the collagen to decay. That doesn’t provide much confidence for its ability to act as a preservative for millions of years!

Interestingly enough, even though I think this study is the death knell for Dr. Schweitzer’s proposal that iron can preserve soft tissue and biomolecules over millions of years, she was indirectly involved in the study. As the authors note:

This project would not have been possible without the support of Mary Schweitzer, who graciously opened her “Modern lab” at North Carolina State University to two of us (PVU and KKV) to conduct the ELISA and immunofluorescence assays for this project.

I applaud Dr. Schweitzer and the authors of this study for trying to figure out an explanation for soft tissue and biomolecules in dinosaur fossils. Of course, I think there is a much simpler explanation: the fossils are thousands of years old, not millions of years old. But I look forward to any more studies done on this issue. If I am right, more studies will simply strengthen the young-earth case. If I am wrong, we will discover some new, exciting chemistry.

The Motivation for Modern Science was Theological

Werner Heisenberg (December 5, 1901 – February 1, 1976), one of the most important pioneers of quantum physics.
Werner Heisenberg was a giant in the field of physics. He developed his own formulation of quantum mechanics, for which he won the 1932 Nobel Prize in physics. He later developed his famous Uncertainty Principle, which continues to guide physicists in their understanding of the behavior of atoms and subatomic particles. In short, had it not been for him, physics would be a very different field from what it is today.

On April 24, 1973, about three years before his death, he gave a lecture entitled “Tradition in Science.” It draws on the knowledge he gained through nearly an entire lifetime of scientific experiences. The talk has been reprinted many times in publications such as the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists. Early on, he draws a distinction between descriptive science (which was championed by great thinkers like Aristotle) and mathematically-based science, which he calls the “new method.” He then writes:

Therefore two features are essential for the new method: the attempt to design new and very accurate experiments which idealize and isolate experience, and thereby actually create new phenomena, and the comparison of these phenomena with mathematical constructs, called natural laws. Before we discuss the validity of this method even in our present science, we should perhaps briefly ask for the basis of confidence, which led Copernicus, Galileo, and Kepler on this new way. Following a paper of von Weizsäcker, I think we have to state that this basis was mainly theological. Galileo argued that nature, God’s second book (the first one being the Bible) is written in mathematical letters, and that we have to learn this alphabet if we want to read it. Kepler is even more explicit in his work on world harmony; he says: God created the world in accordance with his ideas of creation. These ideas are the pure archetypal forms which Plato termed Ideas, and they can be understood by Man as mathematical constructs. They can be understood by Man, because Man was created as the spiritual image of God. Physics is a reflection on the divine Ideas of Creation, therefore physics is a divine service.

Now, of course, what he calls the “new method” is essentially the way we do modern science. In other words, science in its current form was motivated by theology, specifically the Judeo-Christian idea that man is made in God’s image.

I have written previously about the fact that science is a product of Christianity (here, here, here, and here, for example) but Dr. Heisenberg’s lecture emphasizes that fact. Anyone who tells you that “religion” (or Christianity in particular) is incompatible with science shows not only a shocking ignorance of the history of science, but also an ignorance of what science is to begin with.

Pictures and a Video from the Total Eclipse

The area where I live had a great view of Monday’s total solar eclipse. As a result, I was able to simply watch the event from my backyard. We had some friends and family over to join in the fun, and it was a great afternoon. Before showing you the images and video I shot, however, I want to show you a great picture taken by a student in my Memoria College course, Bryan Henslee. He was also in the path of totality, but he was in Texas. Here is his shot of the total eclipse:

The moon has blocked off most of the sun, but you do see its atmosphere (the corona). The pink colors are from solar prominences, which are loops of the sun’s plasma that rise from the surface but stay connected to the sun.

None of my images are nearly as remarkable as that one. I did set up a digital video camera, and here is a video of before and after the total eclipse, which is sped up by a factor of 10:

The camera doesn’t do well with the glare, so it’s hard to see the moon. If you look closely, however, once the ball of light gets small, you can see a dim disc inside it. That’s the moon. The small dot you see below and to the right of the sun is Venus. My daughter (Dawn Perdue) got a great shot of it:

While everyone was equipped with eclipse goggles, I also set up a binocular projector that allowed people to see the eclipse indirectly:

The binoculars projected an image of the sun onto the white sheet, and that image showed the first moments of the eclipse really well:

It then produced these images as the eclipse progressed:

The colors are caused by glare and the lens, so once the moon came close to completely covering the sun, looking at the eclipse through the glasses was better.

One of the people who was with us had traveled from Virginia to see the eclipse. He had experienced one total eclipse before, and he enjoyed it so much he wanted to see another. I am not sure I enjoyed it as much as he did, but if I make it to 2045, I will watch the next total eclipse that passes through a large portion of the U.S. from my rocking chair.

Talon Smith, Homeschool Graduate and Accomplished Pianist

Talon Smith at the piano. The quote is from a Gramophone review of a performance. It says:
“Talon’s two utterly independent hands and acuity in rhythmic pointing stresses line over mass evoking memories of Josef Hoffman’s 1937 legendary Golden Jubilee performance.”
(click for source)

During the 2018/2019 academic year, I had a physics student named Talon Smith. He was excellent (A’s on all the assignments), but he frequently missed class. His mother would warn me ahead of time, saying that Talon had a piano concert or recital at which he had to perform. Since he was clearly learning the material, I didn’t worry about him missing class so much. Well…several years later I was scrolling through my Facebook feed and saw a post from Talon Smith Music (I try to play the piano, so I get random piano-related posts). The post linked to an incredible video of a pianist playing four Chopin pieces at the 18th Chopin competition in Warsaw, Poland. The name rang a bell, but I thought, “That can’t be the student I had, can it?” Well, I looked up my old records, found his email address, and matched it to the Facebook page that made the post. I suddenly realized that he missed my physics classes so that he could perform at world-class music events!

I was able to catch up with Talon in the New Year, and our discussion was fascinating. He started taking piano lessons when he was 5 years old. He says his very first teacher was the perfect fit, because he did not confine Talon to a regimented way of teaching. Instead, he taught Talon as an individual, which nurtured Talon’s love for music. When Talon moved on to another teacher (at the age of 9), the new teacher noticed his obvious talent (and love for the music), so the teacher entered him into a competition. He started doing more competitions, and at the ripe old age of 13, his big break occurred. His teacher at that time encouraged him to enter The Gina Bachauer piano competition, which is international. He was hesitant, but he practiced for the audition for six weeks, and based on that audition, he was accepted into the competition (in the age 11-14 category). By the time the actual competition came around, he was 14, and he won his age category. He says that he was very surprised to have won, but decided that he was very grateful for the process, from which he learned a great deal.

He has continued to perform in concerts and competitions around the world, and has continued to receive accolades for his work. You can find several videos of his amazing performances by searching his name on YouTube. My favorite comes from the 17th Arthur Rubinstein Competition, where he plays 24 pieces of his own composition. I have purchased the sheet music for those pieces, because I think I might be able to play two or three of them (with a lot of practice).

Here is how he sums up his piano career so far:

There are a lot of pianists who probably work harder than me, but so many things have gone right for me. Not because I deserve it, or because of my efforts, but God has given me some great opportunities and great people in my life. My mom manages me and is the single most important person for me accomplishing what I have accomplished.

God willing, he is looking for a long and successful career in music. However, he primarily sees what he is doing as a way to enjoy music while glorifying God. He makes it clear that he doesn’t think he needs to be playing sacred music to glorify God. He says:

The Bible says to do whatever you do for God’s glory. So music doesn’t necessarily have to be sacred to glorify Him. What glorifies God most is excellence – trying to reflect the excellence of God’s character and His nature in what you do. That can speak louder than what is actually being done.

I wholeheartedly agree. Whether you are playing a Beethoven sonata or doing a physics experiment, you glorify God by doing it in an excellent way!

So why does he say that his mother is “the single most important person” for his accomplishments? First, she helped to developed a love for music in him by playing classical music in the house, even while he was still in the womb. Second, she provided him with a balanced homeschool education. Throughout his K-12 homeschooling experience, he took all the standard courses that students take, as well as more difficult courses (like physics) that some students avoid. Nevertheless, by homeschooling him, she gave him the flexibility he needed. He could concentrate on the academically rigorous courses at times when he wasn’t consumed with practicing for a competition or concert. In the end, he doesn’t think he would be as accomplished a pianist if he hadn’t been homeschooled.

I want to end this with one of the most important things Talon said, at least from a musical perspective. He said that when he started out doing competitions and concerts, he was focused on not making any mistakes. However, as he matured, he began to agree with a quote that is often attributed to Beethoven:

To play a wrong note is insignificant; to play without passion is inexcusable.

While Beethoven probably never said that particular phrase, one of his pupils indicates that he would agree with the sentiment. Talon said that when he doesn’t focus on mistakes and instead just focuses on enjoying the music, he likes his own playing much better. For someone like me (who often plays like he is wearing mittens) that’s a comforting thing to consider.

Do Rising Carbon Dioxide Levels Cause Warming or Vice-Versa?

Sometimes, it’s easy to determine cause and effect. Other times, it’s not! (click image for credit)
We know that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas. In other words, we know it absorbs infrared radiation coming from earth’s surface, warming the atmosphere. In fact, as far as we can tell, it’s what makes the earth warm enough to support life. It is thought that if there were not enough carbon dioxide in the earth’s atmosphere, the earth would radiate too much energy back into space, causing it to be far too cold for life to flourish here. Common sense, therefore, requires us to believe that when carbon dioxide levels rise in the atmosphere, the earth’s temperature will rise.

Unfortunately, science often does not follow common sense. I use quantum mechanics in my field of research all the time, and it violates common sense at every turn. Nevertheless, I am forced to use the theory because the data strongly support it. Thus, even though “it makes sense” that rising carbon dioxide levels will increase the earth’s temperature, we don’t know that for a fact. Indeed, the majority of the data have consistently shown that this is not the case. Several analyses of ice-core data show that on long time scales, the average temperature of the earth rises, and then carbon dioxide levels rise (see here, here, here, and here).

Now, of course, all these studies use proxies to estimate global temperature, and that can be tricky. In addition, producing the time scale involves making several unverifiable assumptions. Thus, I have never put much stock in such studies. However, others who are interested in climate change (aka Global Warming) take these data seriously. They generally say that these long-term trends are showing the effects of changes in earth’s orbital cycle, which changes the energy it gets from the sun. Thus, they aren’t relevant to what is happening right now. Also, there are at least some ice-core analyses that show carbon dioxide rising before temperature does. In other words, it’s complicated.

However, a recent study (which actually builds on two previous studies) looked at the modern data that has been collected for carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere and global temperature. In other words, it analyzed what is happening right now. Of course, there are several sets of data for global temperatures, and they don’t really agree with one another, but the authors used a well-accepted one. What they found is that even on this relatively short time scale, carbon dioxide levels rise after temperatures rise. In fact, here are three graphs from the abstract:

From the graph on the left, it is clear that temperature (red line) rises first, then carbon dioxide level (green line) rises. The other two graphs show this even more convincingly. On those two graphs, changes in carbon dioxide and temperature are only correlated with one another if you consider the change in carbon dioxide level after the change in temperature, not before.

But wait a minute. How can temperature affect carbon dioxide level? Well, one of the major places the earth stores carbon dioxide is in the ocean (and, to a lesser degree, in fresh water). When temperatures go up, carbon dioxide becomes less soluble, so the oceans release carbon dioxide. From that point of view, it “makes sense” that rising temperatures will cause rising carbon dioxide levels. But once again, science doesn’t always make sense. Thus, it’s probably very complicated. Most likely, rising temperatures cause rising carbon dioxide levels, and those rising carbon dioxide levels cause more rising temperatures.

Which is more important? If you trust this study, it’s the former. In their appendix, the authors estimate that the increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels caused by increasing temperature is three times greater than the increase in carbon dioxide levels caused by human emissions. Now, of course, that still means human emissions increase temperature. However, it also means that (not surprisingly) the global climate models aren’t properly taking this into account. As a result, global climate models are exaggerating humanity’s contribution to global warming. While I think that has already been well-established, this study gives at least one of the explanations for it.

Why Ancient Sailors Knew the Earth is Round

I have written about the concept of a flat earth several times before (here, here, here, here, and here). Since before the time of Aristotle, most philosophers understood that the earth is a sphere. In fact, Eratosthenes was able to measure the circumference of the earth’s sphere around 240 BC. Thus, the idea that most ancient scholars thought the earth is flat is a complete fabrication.

Before Christ was born, even uneducated sailors knew the earth is round, because they saw something that I happened to witness myself two days ago. I am currently on a Thanksgiving cruise. Saturday, however, I was sitting on the beach. I spent most of my time reading, but I would look up from time to time to take in the view. One time, I saw this:

This picture was taken using the maximum zoom on my Android phone (30x). All of the pictures you see in this post were taken with the same camera at the same zoom setting. What is that? You might think it’s an offshore oil rig or something, but I knew it hadn’t been there the last time I had looked out at the ocean. Thus, I knew what it was – the top of a ship. So I continued to take pictures of it as it moved to my left and towards shore (where the port of Ft. Lauderdale is). After a while, here is what I saw:

Notice that now you can see more of the rigging on the top of the ship. After a while, even more appeared:

Now, even more is visible:

Even more:

And now you see most of the ship’s hull:

Now please understand that I could see this with my eyes as well. However, the camera isn’t as good as the eye, so the zoom was necessary in order to get pictures.

This is why even uneducated sailors understood the shape of the earth before the birth of Christ. They could see a ship’s mast before its hull when it came towards shore, and they could see its hull disappear before its mast when it moved away from shore. Only the curvature of the earth’s surface could explain this. On a flat earth, you would see the entire ship ship seem to grow larger as it approached. Alternatively, if it was sailing away, you would see the entire ship get smaller and smaller until it was too small to see. On a round earth, however, the bottom of the ship is under the curve of the horizon, so you can’t see it. The farther the ship is from you, the larger the portion of the ship that is hidden by the curve.

It doesn’t take any modern technology to understand the shape of the earth. You just have to be observant, like the ancient sailors were.

NOTE: Someone I respect suggested I should add a note about the Rayleigh Criterion, because some flat-earthers use it in an attempt to explain the photos shown above. Not surprisingly, only someone who doesn’t understand physics would do that. This article shows why the explanation doesn’t work.

Prominent New Atheist Becomes a Christian

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, an influential New Atheist who became a Christian. (click for credit)
Not long ago, I wrote about an associate of New Atheist Richard Dawkins becoming a Christian. Well, another conversion has taken place, and this one involves a more prominent member of the camp: Ayaan Hirsi Ali. At least one well-known atheist considered her “the fifth horseperson” of New Atheism, riding right alongside Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens. However, she has dismounted from that apocalyptic horse, as demonstrated by her article, “Why I am Now a Christian.”

I have to admit that she is not one of the New Atheists I have read, so I really didn’t know anything about her or her views until I read the article linked above. Based on what she wrote, I can see why her early experiences with religion drove her away from belief in a deity. At the same time, however, I find her reasoning as to why she became a Christian to be a bit unusual. In the end, she says that Western Civilization was built on Judaism and Christianity, and we must protect it against its many foes. While that is clearly true, I don’t see how it drives a person to faith in Christ. I see faith in Christ as very personal. She seems to see it in a more political light.

Now, to be fair, she does give a personal reason as well. She says:

Yet I would not be truthful if I attributed my embrace of Christianity solely to the realisation that atheism is too weak and divisive a doctrine to fortify us against our menacing foes. I have also turned to Christianity because I ultimately found life without any spiritual solace unendurable — indeed very nearly self-destructive. Atheism failed to answer a simple question: what is the meaning and purpose of life?

I think she should have led with that reason. Nevertheless, as I have said before, God calls us in many different ways. I encourage you to read her article in its entirety. If nothing else, it gives another perspective on how terribly weak the atheist worldview is.

Annie Lee Keller, A Homeschool Graduate With Many Options

Annie Lee Keller demonstrating a Taekwondo skill.
It has been a while since I updated this part of my blog, but I really want to add some more material, since I have had the privilege of meeting many incredible homeschooled students over the years. One such student is Annie Lee Keller, who was in two of my online courses (honors chemistry and honors physics).

Because she was one of my online students, she sent me her graduation announcement at the end of the 2022 school year, and I was intrigued to learn that she was earning two degrees at the same time: her high school degree and her associate degree in digital media from Marantha Baptist University. She uses the talents she developed while earning that degree to produce unique gifts that she sells at her online store. Her work is so impressive that the printing service she uses to produce her gifts selected her as one of three people to travel to Riga, Latvia (all expenses paid) to attend their largest trade show!

How did she manage to earn two degrees at once and be so successful with her online store? She has been homeschooled since the very beginning of her education, and when she reached high school, her mother suggested that she work toward a post-high-school degree in addition to her high school degree. Since she already did photography for her parents’ business (Taekwondo instruction) and her church, she decided to study digital media. She took her classes online, and homeschooling allowed her to flex her schedule so that she could easily fit the demands of those classes into the rest of her education. After earning her associate degree, she is currently working on a bachelor’s degree in business (online once again) and hopes to get a master’s in creation apologetics. She is also the ministry assistant at her local church.

What does she want to do with all this experience and education? She thinks she might work in the graphic design department at an apologetics ministry. However, she also has a black belt in Taekwondo and is an instructor. In fact, there is a charter school near her where Taekwondo is a part of the curriculum, and she teaches (along with her parents) in some of those classes. Thus, she could also continue in the family business. The point is that homeschooling has given her lots of options, a lot more than she would have had if she’d been a public- or private-school student. She says:

Homeschooling gave me the ability to learn and grow in the areas that I am passionate about, and I got to do it in my own style.

That is, of course, one of the most important strengths of homeschooling. Students are not given a “one-size fits all” education. Instead, their education can be tailored to them so that they can, indeed, learn in their own style.

What’s an example of learning in her own style? Sometimes, she would stack all her homeschooling work for the week into a couple of days so that she could spend the rest of the week concentrating on her digital media work or spending time with her friends. In fact, she thinks homeschooling allowed her to have more of a social life than she would have otherwise had, partly because of its flexibility, and partly because she didn’t have to worry about completing busy work.

I asked her what she would say to students who are being homeschooled, and if you knew Annie, you would understand that this statement really encapsulates her approach to life:

Treat each day as unique, because every day you learn something new and something different…each day is special.

She then hastened to add this wise tidbit:

Don’t leave God out of the equation. He needs to be the first variable. He needs to be the first thing you think about when you get out of bed. He needs to be first.

I couldn’t agree more.

More Evidence That the Early Church Believed in the Divinity of Christ

An early Christian mosaic found in the Megiddo church, near Tel Megiddo, Israel. Based on several clues, it is dated around AD 230.

For some reason, I missed the discovery of this amazing mosaic when it was announced. However, a pastor friend of mine recently shared this article, which indicates that the mosaic might be coming to the Museum of the Bible here in the U.S., so I looked into it and decided some of my readers might be interested.

The story begins in 2004 when a prison in northern Israel was planning some new construction. Archaeologists came to ensure that the construction wouldn’t destroy any historically-valuable material, and it’s a good thing they did, because they found that the prison had been built over an ancient Christian house of prayer. It is now thought to be the earliest known Christian prayer hall, dated to be from approximately AD 230!1

More importantly, a portion of the mosaic (shown above) says, “The God-loving Akeptous has offered the table to God Jesus Christ as a memorial.”2 The table isn’t there, but it probably functioned as an altar. However, the message of the mosaic is clear: Jesus Christ is God. This is important, because some popularizers of Christian scholarship claim that the early church didn’t believe in the Divinity of Christ. For example, in her book, A History of God: The 4,000-Year Quest of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, Karen Armstrong claims:3

After his death, his followers decided that Jesus had been Divine. This did not happen immediately; as we shall see, the doctrine that Jesus had been God in human form was not finalized until the fourth century. The development of Christian belief in the Incarnation was a gradual, complex process.

If that sounds familiar to you, you might recognize it from Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code. No serious scholar of early Christianity believes such nonsense, because there is ample evidence that says otherwise. Nevertheless, since it was in the popular book-turned-movie, I encounter a lot of people who believe it. Well, here is a mosaic that predates the fourth century by about one hundred years, and it says that at least those who came into this prayer hall knew that Jesus is God.

Of course, we don’t need this mosaic to tell us that the early church believed in the Divinity of Christ, since lots of early church fathers are on record about it. Here is a sampling:

Ignatius of Antioch (c. AD 50 – c. AD 110):

I Glorify God, even Jesus Christ, who has given you such wisdom. For I have observed that you are perfected in an immoveable faith, as if you were nailed to the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ…
[Epistle to the Smyrnaeans]

Hence every kind of magic was destroyed, and every bond of wickedness disappeared; ignorance was removed, and the old kingdom abolished, God Himself being manifested in human form for the renewal of eternal life.
[Epistle to the Ephesians]

Justin Martyr (AD 100 – AD 165):

And that Christ being Lord, and God the Son of God, and appearing formerly in power as Man, and Angel, and in the glory of fire as at the bush, so also was manifested at the judgment executed on Sodom, has been demonstrated fully by what has been said.
[Dialogue with Trypho]

…but now you will permit me first to recount the prophecies, which I wish to do in order to prove that Christ is called both God and Lord of hosts…
[Dialogue with Trypho]

…the Father of the universe has a Son; who also, being the first-begotten Word of God, is even God. And of old He appeared in the shape of fire and in the likeness of an angel to Moses and to the other prophets; but now in the times of your reign, having, as we before said, become Man by a virgin, according to the counsel of the Father, for the salvation of those who believe on Him…
[First Apology]

Irenaeus of Lyons (c. AD 130 – c. AD 200):

For I have shown from the Scriptures, that no one of the sons of Adam is as to everything, and absolutely, called God, or named Lord. But that He is Himself in His own right, beyond all men who ever lived, God, and Lord, and King Eternal, and the Incarnate Word, proclaimed by all the prophets, the apostles, and by the Spirit Himself, may be seen by all who have attained to even a small portion of the truth. Now, the Scriptures would not have testified these things of Him, if, like others, He had been a mere man…. He is the holy Lord, the Wonderful, the Counselor, the Beautiful in appearance, and the Mighty God, coming on the clouds as the Judge of all men;—all these things did the Scriptures prophesy of Him.
[Against Heresies]

Like many things we learn from our culture, then, the idea that the early church didn’t believe in the Divinity of Christ is demonstrably false. This Mosaic simply adds more evidence to the huge pile.


1. Yotam Tepper and Leah Di Segni, A Christian Prayer Hall of the Third Century CE at Kfar ‘Othnay (Legio), Publication of the Israel Antiquities Authority, p. 50, 2006.
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2. Ibid, p. 36.
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3. Karen Armstrong, A History of God: The 4,000-Year Quest of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, (Ballatine Books, 1993), p. 81
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