Yesterday, I toured the Answers in Genesis Ark Encounter with my wife and a friend. I wanted to visit the encounter as soon as it opened, but because of trips to Italy and China, yesterday was the first opportunity we had. I didn’t know what to expect, so I went in with an open mind.
I originally thought the Ark Encounter would be like the Creation Museum, with a parking lot close to the entryway. I was wrong. When we parked and got out of the car, we could see the ark, but it was a long way off. A building in the parking lot served as a “bus terminal,” where we were picked up and taken to the Ark itself.
When we got off the bus, my first thought was, “Wow. That’s big.” I have seen many models of the Ark over the years, and they all attempt to give you an idea of how big it was, usually by having scale models of trucks or elephants beside it. However, there is simply no substitute for seeing the massive structure built to its actual dimensions! Answers in Genesis bills the Ark as the largest timber-framed structure in the world, and I can believe that. *
Over the many years since I became a Christian, I have heard hundreds of sermons. Some were given by impeccably-credentialed theologians, others by intellectual philosophers, others by experienced scientists, and others by regular people who were honestly sharing what God had laid on their hearts. Most of them, of course, were given by pastors who have dedicated themselves to studying and explaining the Word of God. While I have learned from many of those sermons, only a precious few made such a lasting impact that I can remember them to this day. The sermon I heard yesterday, however, is one I will never forget. It was given by a student from Anderson University who has been leading the children’s ministry at our church. This young lady, who is still in the midst of finishing her undergraduate degree, shared a powerful message that brought me (and many others in the congregation) to tears.
The main text of her message was the parable of The Prodigal Son, which is given in Luke 15:11-32. I have heard many, many, many sermons that used this parable as its main text. This one, however, was different. It gave a personal, real-life example of a father, his prodigal son, and the rest of his family. More importantly, this young lady was the prodigal son’s sister, and her father’s actions taught her (and the congregation at our church) what it really means to show the love of Jesus.
When this young lady was 13, her brother had a sexual relationship with a foster daughter who was living with her family. The foster daughter became pregnant, but no one knew. Her brother and the foster daughter conspired to accuse her father of molesting the foster daughter. It was all done so convincingly that this young lady believed her brother’s accusation, despite her father’s protestations of innocence. She was taken away from her family because of the allegations, and a restraining order was put in place so that her father could not see her.
Because of many things that happened over the next few months, it became clear to her that her father was, in fact, innocent, and that her brother had done the unthinkable: he had betrayed their entire family for his own selfish reasons. She eventually got to live with her mother again, and her father fought to get the restraining order lifted. That was eventually successful, so she at least got to see her father, but in the end, her father went to jail (where he is to this day) for a crime that he did not commit.
I am in China right now, and I have been here for almost two weeks. However, internet access is sporadic (at best), which is why I haven’t added any articles recently. Things are a bit better today, though, so I thought I would share my thoughts on a story I recently ran across.
On September 18th, 2012 at the International Congress of Coptic Studies in Rome, Dr. Karen L. King announced the existence of an astounding 4-cm by 8-cm papyrus fragment. It contained what she thought was a 4th-century Coptic translation of a gospel that she suggested had probably been written in the late second century AD. While the discovery of any ancient papyrus that has writing on it is interesting, this particular fragment was especially interesting because it contained the following phrase:
Jesus said to them, ‘My wife…”
As a result, this papyrus fragment came to be known as “The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife.”
Since then, there has been a lot of discussion about the papyrus fragment, and a website was set up to provide all of the latest information about it. Based on subsequent tests done on the fragment and its ink, Dr. King became so convinced that the fragment is authentic that she told Time:
I’m basically hoping that we can move past the issue of forgery to questions about the significance of this fragment for the history of Christianity, for thinking about questions like, ‘Why does Jesus being married, or not, even matter? Why is it that people had such an incredible reaction to this?’
I guess this story broke when I was busy getting ready to go to Salt Lake City to speak at a homeschool convention, because I hadn’t seen it until someone emailed me the Christian Today article and asked me what I thought of it. Since then, several other people have contacted me via email and Facebook to get my thoughts. Initially, I only glanced at the article, but even with that little glance, I was incredibly skeptical. The article claims to report on the work of Dr. Michio Kaku, a theoretical physicist who had done some cutting edge research a couple of decades ago, but is more of a “scilebrity” today, promoting science and his ideas about the future on television shows, etc.
According to the article, Dr. Kaku was conducting tests on “primitive semi-radius tachyons” and decided that his tests told him that we live in some sort of “matrix” that was made by an intelligence. This bothered me a lot. Tachyons are theoretical particles. We have no idea whether or not they exist. If they exist, they travel faster than the speed of light, so it’s hard to know how in the world we could ever detect them, much less conduct tests on them. I have no idea how such particles can tell us something about the nature of the universe. I looked in vain for an article on the subject authored by Dr. Kaku himself. I then went to his Facebook page, which made no mention of this “monumental discovery.”
Since I couldn’t find anything written by Dr. Kaku, I decided to investigate these “primitive semi-radius tachyons” myself. I had never heard that term before, but then again, I am not a particle physicist. So today, I tried to find the term in my reference books. I could not. When I did an internet search on the term, the only hits I got were to articles about this supposed discovery. As a result, I seriously doubt that primitive semi-radius tachyons exist, even in the minds of theoretical physicists.
However, searching for that term did lead me to some Spanish websites, which show that this is actually an old story. This website posted the same story more than a year ago. Through the magic of Google Translate, I learned that this website decided the story was a hoax more than two years ago. Apparently, the hoax started on Spanish websites and has now made its way to English websites.
I think science offers a wealth of evidence to support the belief that God exists. However, as far as I can tell, Dr. Michio Kaku has not offered any.
In the article, he discusses the results of a project created by his organization, Fixed Point Foundation. The project’s participants simply asked young atheists to tell their story. They wanted to hear what caused these young people to become atheists. What they learned was no surprise to me, but I think it is worth discussing, especially for those who do not have a lot of experience with atheists.
In my opinion, the most important result that came from the project was:
Most of our participants had not chosen their worldview from ideologically neutral positions at all, but in reaction to Christianity. Not Islam. Not Buddhism. Christianity. (emphasis his)
This is certainly consistent with my experience. Most of the atheists I know were raised in the church and became atheists in reaction to what they perceived as the church’s failings. What were those failings? I suspect that most Christians will be surprised to learn them.
A couple of weeks ago, I posted a review of a book entitled, The Faith of Christopher Hitchens. I had never heard of the author (Larry Taunton), but I enjoyed his writing style and his obvious intellect. As I mentioned in a different post, part of the book deals with Sasha, his daughter who he and his family adopted from the Ukraine. As an adoptive father, his loving words about his daughter touched me deeply, and when I found out that he had written a book specifically about her adoption, I had to read it. It’s called The Grace Effect, and I have to say it is probably the best book I have read since Quivering Daughters. The Grace Effect isn’t nearly as emotional as Quivering Daughters, but it is very meaningful on at least two levels.
The first level is obvious. This is primarily a story about a family who followed God’s leading and ended up radically changing a young girl’s life for the better. The simple version of the story is that Larry’s wife and three boys went on a short-term mission trip to the Ukraine. They went there to improve the facilities at one of Ukraine’s many orphanages: #17. There, they met a young girl named Sasha, and they all fell in love with her. They felt the Lord leading them to adopt her, not knowing anything of the challenges that they would face. With the help of some incredibly generous Christian brothers and sisters, they convinced Larry to adopt Sasha. As a result, Larry, his wife, and two of his boys traveled back to the Ukraine to get her.
The long version of the story, however, is much more interesting. They knew that such adoptions were expensive, but they had no idea how expensive. Not only are the legal costs high, but the Ukrainian government is so intensely corrupt that pretty much every step in the lengthy adoption process requires a bribe. Judges cancel hearings, orphanages delay appointments, etc., and the process comes to a halt. In order to get the process back on track, the person in charge has to be given a “gift.”
While Taunton never indicates the total cost, he mentions discussing Sasha with some well-to-do Christian friends, which resulted in two incredibly generous donations of $10,000 each. In addition, he discussed Sasha with Frank Limehouse, dean of the Cathedral Church of the Advent. He only discussed Sasha to get some wisdom regarding her health issue (she is HIV positive), but a few days later, Limehouse handed him a check and simply said:
That’s from the people of Advent. You get that little girl and bring her home. (p. 184)
So we know that the adoption costs were well over $20,000, much of which went to the bribes that were necessary to get greedy people simply to allow someone else to help a little girl.
Taunton’s publisher suggested that he write the book shortly after Hitchens passed away in late 2011, but Taunton wasn’t interested at the time. He didn’t see how he could write a book about their friendship that was both interesting and uplifting. However, as time passed and he thought more about it, he realized that there was a way he could get the job done. I have to say that he was right. This book is both very interesting and quite uplifting. I have already relayed one very uplifting part of this book at the end of a previous blog post. Now it’s time for me to share more.
The most interesting aspect of the book, of course, is the friendship that developed between these two men. It’s interesting simply because it’s so rare these days. Many people spend so much time characterizing those with whom they disagree as “the enemy,” it seems unfathomable that a Christian apologist and a vocal atheist could be real friends. Indeed, as Taunton himself says:
The truth is, there were those who did not want us to be friends. This is a sad commentary on our society and the degree to which we have lost our ability to reason with one another. I speak exclusively to Christians when I say this: how are we to proclaim our faith if we cannot even build bridges with those who do not share it? (p. xi)
I couldn’t agree more. Of course, the problem goes both ways. Taunton reports on one Hitchens fan who was taken aback by their friendship:
That same night while speaking to an audience of some 1,200 people, Christopher made a passing reference to a road trip we had taken together through the Shenandoah Valley. At the book signing following the event, a man, an atheist and a devotee of all things Christopher Hitchens, asked his hero why he would undertake such a journey. “Have you ever seem the Shenandoah at this time of year? It’s beautiful.” Having signed the book, Christopher closed it, handed it back, and reached for the next one. “That’s not what I meant. I meant why would you do it with him? You know, a Christian?” “Because he is my friend, and you, sir, are an idiot. (p. 115)
I can just hear Hitchens saying that to his crestfallen fan!
This past weekend, I spoke at the Sioux Empire Christian Home Educators Convention. I have spoken there at least twice before, and I have not been disappointed. This weekend was no exception. I met a lot of really interesting people, including one second-generation homeschooling mother who was pregnant with her middle child at the same time her mother was pregnant with her youngest sibling. What an incredible experience that must have been!
In contrast to that situation, I had a nice, long talk with a gentleman who related his adoption story to me. Being an adoptive father myself, I am always interested in hearing such stories, but this one was unlike anything I had heard before. He and his wife had several children of their own, but they are all grown up and out of the house. Because he and his wife had “extra time” on their hands, and because they genuinely wanted to serve “the least of these,” they decided to become emergency foster parents for babies who are abandoned. In that role, they care for the infant until he or she can be permanently adopted. He told me that it doesn’t usually last very long, because lots of people are looking to adopt infants.
However, one of their emergency foster children (a little girl) had serious digestive issues pretty much at birth and spent a long, long time in the hospital. In fact, the poor little girl had to have a lot of her small intestine and all of her colon removed, which meant she couldn’t eat normally. Essentially, she had to be continuously fed through a tube. This made her long-term prognosis questionable, and as a result, the agency could not find a permanent home for her. After much prayer, he and his wife decided to adopt her.
The good news is that the girl is now 3 years old, and while she still has some special nutritional needs, she can eat normally. However, because of the way she got nutrition for so long, she actually doesn’t like to eat. Thus, they are working on getting her to enjoy eating. I rejoiced with him that his daughter’s long-term prognosis is now very good, and eventually, the conversation turned to the effects that an adopted child’s previous traumas have on her future life. On that topic, he offered me a profound insight.
Dr. O.M. Bakke has an odd name. No, really – his name is Odd Magne Bakke, and he is an Associate Professor of Church History at the School of Mission and Theology in Stavanger, Norway. For many reasons, including the fact that he is the father of three children, Bakke investigated the lives of children in ancient times. He focused on A.D. 100 to A.D. 450, contrasting the prevailing views of the Romans at the time to the developing views of Christians, as seen through the writings of the early church fathers. The result is When Children Became People, an eye-opening book that left me both disgusted and astounded. As I have pointed out previously (here and here), Christianity was absolutely essential in producing modern science. I had no idea idea, however, how essential it was in producing our modern view of the importance of children.
As anyone familiar with the Bible probably knows, there was a time during the ministry of Jesus when children were brought to Him so that He could bless them. The disciples rebuked the children, but Jesus said:
Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these. (Matthew 19:14)
Until reading this book, I had no idea what a radical statement that was in New Testament times. As Bakke documents in his book, children were not valued in Rome. Instead, they were not really considered human beings. For example, when a child was born, the father could refuse to accept him or her into the family. Indeed, the father generally had eight to nine days to consider the matter. If the father decided the child was worthy of being a member of the family, a ritual was held, celebrating the child’s good fortune. If not, the child was simply abandoned, a practice referred to as expositio. As Bakke informs us:
…as far as the Eastern region of the Roman empire was concerned, expositio was socially accepted and widespread from the time of Alexander the Great onward. (p. 29)
More than three years ago, I ran across two articles that mischaracterized C. S. Lewis’s views on creation. I wrote about both of them, but the one that distressed me the most claimed that Lewis was a “creationist and anti-evolutionist.” Since it so severely mischaracterized Lewis’s views, I asked the publisher, Creation Ministries International (CMI), to remove it from their website. At first, they did not. I wrote two other articles on the subject (here and here) and thought I was done.
Later on, however, an email correspondence led me to write a detailed rebuttal of the article and send it to the journal in which it was originally published. The journal published my rebuttal and gave the author of the article space to respond (which is the proper thing to do). However, it was clear that he could not defend what he had done to Lewis’s words. As a result, CMI eventually withdrew the article. I am pleased that they did the right thing.
Why am I telling you this? Because I recently ran across another article about C.S. Lewis, and it makes an incredible claim: “C.S. Lewis Was a Secret Government Agent.” The article was written by a well-respected Christian academic, Dr. Harry (Hal) Poe, who is also an avid collector of items related to Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkein, and other literary figures who interacted with them. While the phrase “secret government agent” is a bit over-the-top, the essence of article seems quite reasonable, and it illustrates how someone as well-studied as C.S. Lewis can still harbor a surprising secret!