Friday, April 28, 2006


For the scientific community intelligent design represents creationism's latest grasp at scientific legitimacy. Accordingly, intelligent design is viewed as yet another ill-conceived attempt by creationists to straightjacket science within a religious ideology. I’m not buying it! In fact intelligent design can be formulated as a scientific theory having empirical consequences based upon naturalistic assumptions. So Intelligent Design is virtually devoid of any religious commitment to a supernatural reality.

In his book, Miracles, C. S. Lewis put it this way: Naturalistic assumptions ... meet you on every side.... It comes partly from what we may call a "hangover." We all have Naturalism in our bones and even conversion does not at once work the infection out of our system. Its assumptions rush back upon the mind the moment vigilance is relaxed.

Intelligent Design begins with the observation that intelligent causes can do things which undirected natural causes cannot. Undirected natural causes can place scrabble pieces on a board, but cannot arrange the pieces as meaningful words or sentences. To obtain a meaningful arrangement requires an intelligent cause, i.e., a directed natural cause.

So Intelligent Design presupposes neither a super natural creator nor miracles. In fact, Intelligent Design is theologically minimalist. It simply detects intelligence without speculating about the nature of the intelligence.

How about a little dexterity test? Try this challenging flash animation game! Click Here! It is called “Dembski’s Dozer” and is inspired by the Intelligent Design Movement. Go on… have some fun!

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Eel-catfish & the terra-firma leap!

You get it first and you get the best over at the National Geographic web site. From the Lost Gospel of Judas to more evidence for evolution: a catfish that hunts on land! You heard it right, this catfish leaps out of water and assails its victim on dry land then if flops back into the drink to consume it. This makes Kierkegaard’s leap of faith look possible! According to some over at the Unintelligent Design Headquarters (UDH), the discovery may shed light on how various prehistoric fish species evolved into land animals.

Also, other notable persons over at NPR observe that though this species isn’t old enough to be part of the evolutionary chain it may show how sea creatures transitioned to the land. There you have it! But what’s so great about terra-firma that these first creatures made this move, what were they hunting or seeking? Who cares! What ever the motivation, it gave them a distinct evolutionary advantage. Just think about it, your pedigree may be very, very fishy!

Click on this video clip (after a bit of advertising) and you will witness first hand how an eel catfish in a laboratory wriggles out of a tank of water to attack an overturned beetle (something tasty worth hunting, howbeit, the little morsel didn’t exist at the time of the first great leap) Note in the diagram how the fish's head has the rare ability to rotate to a relatively extreme downward angle (see superimposed illustration of the fish's skeleton). It can actually bow it’s head!

Want to here a bit of a fish song? On this 5:43 minute NPR recording, writer David Taylor lends Debbie Elliot his views on how Texans relate to the environment. What’s interesting here (for many hidden reasons) is a 45 second song clip of the late Mr. Townes Van Zandt’s “The Catfish Song”. The link is on RealOne Player located at 3:00 minutes into the interview. Click here, move the bar to 3 minutes, listen and enjoy!

BTW: That odd, mystical and fanciful film Big-Fish is finally making some sense!

Friday, April 21, 2006

Resurrected Rabbit!

A little post Easter humor…

A man was driving along the highway, and saw a rabbit hopping across the middle of the road. He swerved to avoid hitting the rabbit, but unfortunately the rabbit jumped in front of the car and was hit. The driver, being a sensitive man as well as an animal lover, pulled over to the side of the road, and got out to see what had become of the rabbit.

Much to his dismay, the rabbit was dead. The driver felt so awful, he began to cry. A woman driving down the highway saw the man crying on the side of the road and pulled over. She stepped out of her car and asked the man what was wrong.

"I feel terrible," he explained, "I accidentally hit this rabbit and killed it."

The woman told the man not to worry. She knew what to do. She went to her car trunk, and pulled out a spray can. She walked over to the limp, dead rabbit, and sprayed the contents of the can onto the rabbit.

Miraculously the rabbit came to life, jumped up, waved its paw at the two humans and hopped down the road. 50 meters away the rabbit stopped, turned around, waved and hopped down the road, another 50 meters, turned, waved and hopped another 50 meters. The man was astonished. He couldn’t figure out what substance could be in the woman’s spray can!!

He ran over to the woman and demanded, "What is in your spray can? What did you spray on that rabbit?"

The woman turned the can around so that the man could read the label. It said: "Hair spray. Restores life to dead hair. Adds permanent wave."

BTW: Don’t miss seeing Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. When something strange in the neighborhood vegetable gardens is terrorizing your prize squash, who do you call? In this family friendly movie, clay-animation’s brightest stars hop to the task of saving the local produce from a night of gruesome vegetable carnage.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Pardon the Snake!

As reported by Barney Zwartz, the fallen angel is not so satanic after all! It seems we do have a devil's advocate and his name is HenryAngsmar Kelly. He has an ambitious project, namely, rehabilitating "the most maligned figure in history": the devil.

This article makes the saying “The Devil made me do it” take on a whole new meaning.

According to Professor Kelly, the devil - aka Satan, the Accuser, the Prince of this World, the Father of Lies, the great dragon, the old snake - has endured 17 centuries of unjustified character assassination.

Better the devil you know, the saying goes, but, according to Professor Kelly, we only think we know him. In fact, we don't - our image was shaped from the second century church fathers to the Middle Ages. The biblical picture is quite different.

"For 1700 years, Satan has been the enemy of God, whereas in the Bible he works for God, he's his prime minister or attorney-general, in charge of policing the world. He is one of God's angels and his job is to test people," Professor Kelly says.

The professor, 71, has been the devil's advocate for more than four decades, publishing books and scholarly articles. The former Jesuit turned University of California professor calls himself a "diabologian". He says the devil doesn't have a kingdom, doesn't rule over hell, and doesn't try to damn people.

I beg your pardon Mr. Kelly! Surely the Bible teaches that “Beelzebub, the prince of the devils” (Matthew 12:24) is “the constant enemy of God, of Christ, of the divine kingdom, of the followers of Christ, and of all truth; full of falsehood and all malice, and exciting and seducing to evil in every possible way.”

As a matter fact, although his power is certainly very great in the world, he is far from being God’s prime minister. He is a “roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Pet. 5:8). People are said to be “taken captive by him” (2 Tim. 2:26). Christians are warned against his “devices” (2 Cor. 2:11), and called on to “resist” him (James 4:7). Christ redeems his people from “him that had the power of death, that is, the devil” (Heb. 2:14).

Everywhere the New Testament sees a great conflict between the forces of God and of good, on the one hand, and those of evil led by Satan, on the other. This is not the conception of one writer or another, but is common ground. Satan is continually opposed to the gospel. He is a malignant reality, always hostile to God and to God’s people. But he has already been defeated in Christ’s life and death and resurrection, and this defeat will become obvious and complete in the end of the age (Revelation 20).

Saturday, April 15, 2006


An excerpt from N. T. Wright's Maundy Thursday sermon with reference to the Gospel of Judas (so called). Read the full text here.

"I was studying this newly discovered little tract, the ‘Gospel of Judas’, yesterday morning, and reading what some of its editors had written about it; and there crept over me the horrible sense of a lie cheerfully told, a lie which people are eager to believe, a lie which could sap the vital energy of the church and individual Christians unless we name it for what it is, see the danger, and know why we reject it. There is a willful blindness about today which is uncomfortably like what Paul was talking about in 2 Corinthians. …let me just say three things about this ‘Gospel of Judas’, and about the contemporary movement which is so eager to fasten on documents like this and to make out that they represent the hidden truth about Jesus which the church has hushed up.

First, as a historian I want every scrap of information about the ancient world, every coin, every inscription, every papyrus. I am delighted at every new find and publication. But, precisely as a historian, I have to say that this ‘Gospel of Judas’ has no historical worth at all. It tells us nothing about the true Jesus, or for that matter about the true Judas. It breathes a totally different air from that of early first-century Palestine. It is that crass.

But, second and more important, the ‘gospel of Judas’ and the worldview it represents are deeply, dangerously, damagingly opposed to the goodness of creation… Gnosticism declares, very explicitly in the ‘gospel of Judas’, that the world was made by a lesser, low-grade divinity, and that the thing to do is to find the way to escape, to get rid of this human nature which is bottling up the divine spark within us. That’s why the ‘gospel of Judas’ declares that it was Judas who truly understood Jesus, the ‘Jesus’ reinvented in the gnostic imagination, the ‘Jesus’ who wanted to be killed so that he could get rid of his body and live as a pure spirit.

And that is why the word ‘gospel’ is itself a cheat when applied to books like this. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are good news about a good God who made a good world and who loves this world so much that he has rescued and redeemed it, has defeated the evil which has intruded into it, and has launched his project of new creation.

First, then, this document is worthless historically. Second, it is opposed to the fundamental Jewish and Christian doctrine of the goodness of creation. And third, it cuts the nerve of working for God’s kingdom in the real world. Who cares about speaking the truth to power if the real task is to escape? Why bother following the real Jesus and standing defenceless before the powers of the world if you can invent a fake Jesus who panders to your inner desires?

Gnosticism doesn’t bother about healing for the body… because the point is not to heal the body but to escape from it. Gnosticism doesn’t envisage the followers of Jesus going out to make the kingdom happen out on the street, because it’s only interested in nurturing its private spiritual interiority. We are here today because we want to follow the real Jesus and seek the real kingdom in the real world."

Friday, April 07, 2006

Swoon Papers!

Today I read an excerpt at Beliefnet from a book called the Jesus Papers. In it Michael Baigent proposes that Jesus survived the crucifixion. Mr. Baigent is one of the co-authors of 1982's Holy Blood, Holy Grail (a major source material for Dan Brown's The DaVinci Code). The Book’s full title is The Jesus Papers: Exposing the Greatest Coverup in History.

Laura Miller puts to whole thing in a candid quote: “’Holy Blood, Holy Grail,’ the source for ‘The Da Vinci Code,’ is a masterwork of paranoid pseudohistory. Now its author is back, arguing that Jesus faked his own death and ran off with Mary Magdelene. Verily, there's a sucker born every minute.”

The NBC Dateline special with Michael Baigent the other night presented little that one could call new with regard to the resurrection. As a matter of fact, Baigent’s material in the excerpt and the Dateline special is mostly a rehashing of the same old stuff that contends Jesus just got beat up real bad and pretended to die and on the third day he dusted himself off, pushed a stone away and declared he resurrected.

Technically this is referred to as the “swoon” theory of Jesus’ death and resurrection. Namely, it is the idea that he didn’t die on the cross but only appeared to. Mr. Baigent’s Jesus Papers explores this idea, interprets scripture from this point of view, but doesn’t seem to take it in any new directions. His main innovation appears to be the claim that he has seen physical proof of Jesus’ survival in the form of letters written by Jesus himself dated around 45 A.D.

The letters are secret, of course. Baigent won’t reveal the name of the owner, and confesses to not being able to read Aramaic, in which the letters were written. He hasn’t had the documents validated, in fact, even the photos he took of the alleged documents have mysteriously disappeared. There was never even any discussion of why documents of such import to Western history would be in the hands of a private collector rather than available for study by scholars. Can’t you just hear Mr. Baigent saying “trust me”?

Like yesterday’s post on Jesus’ ice walking, the resurrection is a cover up. I don’t get it. Why not just say, the Bible is a lie! The future is science or the market or something… anything but the truth!

In short, Michael Baigent is an embarrassment wherever you look. Reported today, he even lost his lawsuit against Dan Brown, as foreordained, and continues making a fool of himself in all his writing.

“This Jesus God raised up, and of that we are all witnesses” (Acts 2:32).

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Ice Walking!

We know something about ice up here in MN. We have many winter sports but walking on floating ice is not one of them. Can you imagine? Why would you need the miracle of walking on ice to take the place of walking on water?

Check out this report by Alan Cooperman of the Washington Post.

Combining evidence of a cold snap 2,000 years ago with sophisticated mapping of the sea of Galilee, Israeli and U.S. scientists have come up with a scientific explanation of how Jesus could have walked on water.

Their answer: It was actually floating ice.
All right, that explains how Jesus walked on water. Jesus is ice walking but what about Peter. Just for fun check out my slightly altered version of Matthew 14.24-31. Peter and the disciples are in a boat a long way from the land, beaten by the waves (and ice chunks), for the wind was against them. And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus came to them, walking on the sea (actually ice). But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea (ice), they were terrified, and said, "It is a ghost!" and they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, "Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid." (I’m just ice walking!) And Peter answered him, "Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the (ice) water." He said, "Come." So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the (ice) water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and with the ice beginning to melt he cried out, "Lord, save me." Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?" (Matthew 14:24-31).

Here is an instance of the characteristic ardor and rashness of Peter. Beaten by the waves he didn’t even wait for a thick slab of ice. He was rash, headlong, incautious, really attached to Jesus, but he was walking on thin ice and prone to fall. He became fearful when in danger, and, sinking, cried out for help. Thus he was suffered to learn his own character, and his complete dependence on Jesus the original ice walker.

O you of little faith, why did you doubt?