Except in your own mind dependence on empirical evidence to …

Comment on Ted Wilson: No Room for Evolution as Truth in Adventist Schools by Sean Pitman.

Except in your own mind dependence on empirical evidence to determine all belief has very little to do with the activity of the disciples as described in Acts. They preached about Christ as the messiah they did not discuss empirical evidence; to imagine they did is to project back onto that time a modern concept that has evolved with modern science.

You forget that the faith of disciples of Jesus, as well as James (the brother of Christ) and Paul, were significantly affected by the empirical demonstration of the Resurrection of Jesus. They cited the empirical evidence of the empty tomb constantly as a primary basis for their faith and a very good reason why others should take on faith in Jesus as their Risen Lord as well. The Gospel of John is filled with empirical observations to support John’s claim that Jesus was God. Paul specifically explains the importance of this evidence in his argument, “if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless” (1 Corinthians 15:17). Peter also cites the empirical basis for his faith, “For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty.” He then goes on to explain that he personally heard the empirically audible voice of God, along with James and John, and saw the empirical transfiguration of Jesus. Then, to conclude his argument he cites the empirical evidence of prophecy as trumping everything else (2 Peter 1:16-19). Even the heathen are left without excuse when it comes to the existence of God because of the weight of empirical evidence, according to Paul who argues, “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20).

Why do you think the Bible writers consistently cite so much empirical evidence for their claims if such evidence has no necessary part to play in establishing a reliable faith? – a faith that goes beyond gestalt feelings of truth? What do you think would have happened to the faith of the disciples in Christ, in Christianity itself, if they had not seen the empirical evidence of the Resurrection? You know as well as I do that Christianity would not exist today if they had not seen such dramatic empirical evidence. I’m sorry, but the Bible is not at all fideistic. It does not promote your feelings-based or gestalt-based approach to faith free of the need for a logical empirical basis to support itself.

Yet, you write:

Somehow I dont think that Peter being filled with the holy spirit was one scientific observation away from atheism. I cannot ever imagine one who had received the spirit of God saying “I, personally, would have to go with what I saw as the weight of empirical evidence. This is why if I ever honestly became convinced that the weight of empirical evidence was on the side of life existing on this planet for hundreds of millions of years, I would leave not only the SDA Church, but Christianity as well”

Do you speak directly with God in the privileged manner of a prophet? Does the Holy Spirit directly tell you what is or isn’t true regarding all that you believe? What about the Divine origin of the Bible as superior to all other religious books? Has the Holy Spirit told you that neo-Darwinism is true? that those passages in the Bible where Jesus talks about the literal creation week, Adam and Eve as real people, and Noah’s Flood are all lies? Has the Holy Spirit told you that animals will continue to suffer and die throughout eternity because they are carbon-based life forms? When is the last time the Holy Spirit worked through you to raise someone from the dead or speak fluently before crowds of foreigners in languages that you didn’t know before (which would also be a form of empirical evidence for those witnessing such empirical demonstrations of Divine power by the way)? Does the Holy Spirit really fill you with such privileged knowledge and power as He did for Peter?

I think not. After all, if the Holy Spirit did speak to you and work through you in such a privileged manner, why would you need the Bible? You wouldn’t need the Bible at all given your very privileged communications with the Holy Spirit (which is the primary danger with feelings-based fideistic faiths where one’s feelings are always interpreted as coming directly from God).

Now, I do believe that the Holy Spirit does help to guide the minds of those who are honestly seeking after truth. However, generally speaking, the Holy Spirit does not spoon feed doctrinal knowledge regarding the credibility of the Bible’s origin or claims, the history of Jesus on this planet, the reality of the Virgin Birth or the Resurrection of Jesus, or the literal 6-day creation week. These doctrinal concepts are not discovered through emotional feelings or gestalts. They are discovered with the use of the intellectual mind based on the weight of empirical evidence as various claims are tested against that evidence.

Of course, one could argue that the Holy Spirit suggests to us, and even to the heathen, that there is something bigger than we are – that a Divine power of some kind exists beyond ourselves. The very existence of the Moral Law written on our hearts from early childhood is evidence along these lines which has convinced a number of atheists of the existence of a Law Giver. However, this internally-derived evidence for the existence of a God of some kind isn’t the same thing as evidence that the various claims of Christianity are true or that Jesus was all that He claimed to be or did all that the gospel writers claimed He did.

After all, you yourself do not believe or have faith in many of the claims of the Bible. Why then do you believe that Jesus, in particular, was God incarnate? – beyond a gestalt feeling? Did an angel show up and explain this truth to you? Or, do you just have some deep-seated feeling very similar to the “burning in the bosom” that my LDS friends have when they “hear the truth”? I’d really like to know how your gestalt feelings of truth are based on something superior compared to theirs? Yet, you’ve never responded to this question. So, I’ll ask it again:

How do you know that you are moved by the Holy Spirit in a reliable manner when it comes to your faith in some of the claims of the Bible? – while my LDS friends are not? Why are your feelings of truth so much superior to theirs?

Until you address this question, I’m really not interested in continuing this discussion with you.

Sean Pitman Also Commented

Ted Wilson: No Room for Evolution as Truth in Adventist Schools
As I’ve pointed out before, there are a lot of books claiming to be “The Word of God”. How do you know that the Bible’s claim, among so many competing options, is true? – based on a feeling? That’s how you know? Did an angel show up and tell you that the Bible’s claims are true? – or how to interpret it? Were you born with this knowledge? or did you have to learn it? If you had to learn that the Bible’s claims are true, upon what did you base your learning? – and how did this basis of your learning help you distinguish the true from the false?

At first approximation, the Bible is just a book making a bunch of claims. How can you tell the difference between the origin of the Bible and the Book of Mormon or the Qur’an? In order to determine that God had anything to do with its creation, you have to read it and make judgments about it. If you base your judgments on some kind of deep feeling or gestalt sensation of truth, I say that this isn’t a reliable basis for a leap of faith. However, if you base your acceptance of the claims of the Bible on rational arguments that make sense given what you already think you know to be true, then you have yourself a much more useful and helpful basis for faith… as the Bible itself recommends.

God does not expect us to believe or have faith without sufficient evidence to establish a rational and logical faith in the claims of the Bible. Have you not read where the Bible challenges the honest seeker for truth to “test” even the claims of God? (Judges 6:39; Malachi 3:10; John 14:11; etc…). We are not called to blindly accept anything as true, not even the Bible. The claims of the Bible must be tested to see if they truly are what they claim to be – i.e., the Words of God.


Ted Wilson: No Room for Evolution as Truth in Adventist Schools
I haven’t changed my mind. I still see atheism as the most logical alternative to Christianity and any other view of God if such views of God are only based on a wishful-thinking type of fideistic faith. Why should one be a Christian or believe that the Bible is anything more than a good moral fable? – or believe that God exists any more than Santa Claus or the Flying Spaghetti Monster exists? For me, it’s because I see real empirical evidence for God’s existence as well as His Signature within the pages of the Bible and within the universe and the world in which I find myself.

You see, we are called to have an “intelligent trust” in God’s Word – a trust that is based on something more than a deep feeling or internal gestalt. Otherwise, you’re really in the same boat as my LDS friends with their “burning in the bosom” argument for faith in what is or isn’t true.

Now, it is possible to doubt the Divine origin of the Bible while still recognizing the Divine origin of the universe – based on the weight of empirical evidence. This is where quite a number of modern physicists are in their view of God. And, it is a reasonable position given the honest conviction that life and its diversity can evolve via the Darwinian mechanism of random mutations and natural selection over long periods of time to produce what we have today on this planet.

So, there are different “levels” of recognition when it comes to seeing God’s hand behind various phenomena. And, once His Signature is recognized at a different level, the implications and responsibilities change for us. It’s a “first step” toward God to recognize a Divine Signature behind the origin of the universe and the natural laws that govern it. However, once one recognizes the Divine Hand behind the origin of the Bible and the credibility of the Bible’s empirical claims, one is called to experience different responsibilities and privileges in a higher level walk with God – “in Spirit and in truth”.


Ted Wilson: No Room for Evolution as Truth in Adventist Schools
Again, there are somethings that, if seen in vision, cannot be easily misinterpreted. If you see that “there was light” then “there was darkness” and that this pattern of was used to mark off a series of seven days, that’s pretty hard to get wrong or misinterpret. Mrs. White also confirms these biblical claims by arguing that God specifically showed her that the creation week was a literal week “like any other”.

So, what needs to happen now is see which claims among competing claims are most likely true. Where does the “weight of evidence lie”? If the claims of neo-Darwinism are true, then the claims of the Bible aren’t just a matter of honest misinterpretations – they are either completely made up fabrications or they are outright lies – from God.

I will say, however, the Darwins observations did help to shed light on the Bible. For example, there were those who believed in the absolute fixity of the species – that nothing could change and that no new species of any kind could be produced by natural mechanisms. Darwin showed, quite clearly, that this interpretation of the Bible was false. So, Darwin’s discoveries did shed light on the Bible’s comments about reproduction “after their kind”. However, the Bible sheds light on Darwin’s claims by showing the clear limitations of Darwinian-type evolution – to very low levels of functional complexity over a short period of time (i.e., not hundreds of millions of years of evolution).

Again, we have science and Scripture shedding light on each other…


Recent Comments by Sean Pitman

The Sabbath and the Covenants (Old vs. New)
Response to a comment of a friend of mine posted in another forum:

    “Before the way of FAITH IN CHRIST was available to us, we were placed under guard by the law. We were kept in protective custody, so to speak, UNTIL the way of faith was revealed. The law was our guardian UNTIL Christ came; it protected us UNTIL we could be made right with God through FAITH. And now that the way of FAITH has come, we no longer need the law as our guardian. For you are all children of God through FAITH IN CHRIST JESUS.” Gal3:23-26

Faith is certainly what saves. This has always been true since the very beginning. Even those righteous persons who lived before Jesus was born into this world as a human being, even Moses or David for instance, were not saved by the works of the Law, but by Faith. The purpose of the Law was never to save, but to convict the sinner of a need of a Savior – since all have sinned against the “Royal Law.” It is faith in the Savior that saves. The work of the Law, carefully considered, is to lead us to know that our only hope of salvation is faith in what Jesus, our Savior, did for us and is doing for us. Yet, this faith does not nullify the Law or make the Law pointless when it comes to its job to constantly remind us of our need of a Savior – a saving Power outside of ourselves. Rather, the Power realized through this faith actually enables us to keep the Spirit of the Law as it was originally intended to be kept – through selfless love for God and for our neighbors.

Paul, in his letter to the Romans, makes this point particularly clear:

Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law. – Romans 3:31

For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but it is the doers of the law who will be declared righteous. Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law, since they show that the work of the law is written on their hearts… If a man who is not circumcised keeps the requirements of the law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? – Romans 2:13-15, 26

What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means! – Romans 6:15

What shall we say, then? Is the law sinful? Certainly not! Nevertheless, I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” … So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good… For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin. – Romans 7:7, 11, 22-25

For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit… The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. – Romans 8:3-4, 7

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. – Romans 13:8-10


Christians and the Sabbath
Response to a comment of a friend of mine posted in another forum:

    “Before the way of FAITH IN CHRIST was available to us, we were placed under guard by the law. We were kept in protective custody, so to speak, UNTIL the way of faith was revealed. The law was our guardian UNTIL Christ came; it protected us UNTIL we could be made right with God through FAITH. And now that the way of FAITH has come, we no longer need the law as our guardian. For you are all children of God through FAITH IN CHRIST JESUS.” Gal3:23-26

Faith is certainly what saves. This has always been true since the very beginning. Even those righteous persons who lived before Jesus was born into this world as a human being, even Moses or David for instance, were not saved by the works of the Law, but by Faith. The purpose of the Law was never to save, but to convict the sinner of a need of a Savior – since all have sinned against the “Royal Law.” It is faith in the Savior that saves. The work of the Law, carefully considered, is to lead us to know that our only hope of salvation is faith in what Jesus, our Savior, did for us and is doing for us. Yet, this faith does not nullify the Law or make the Law pointless when it comes to its job to constantly remind us of our need of a Savior – a saving Power outside of ourselves. Rather, the Power realized through this faith actually enables us to keep the Spirit of the Law as it was originally intended to be kept – through selfless love for God and for our neighbors.

Paul, in his letter to the Romans, makes this point particularly clear:

Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law. – Romans 3:31

For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but it is the doers of the law who will be declared righteous. Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law, since they show that the work of the law is written on their hearts… If a man who is not circumcised keeps the requirements of the law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? – Romans 2:13-15, 26

What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means! – Romans 6:15

What shall we say, then? Is the law sinful? Certainly not! Nevertheless, I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” … So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good… For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin. – Romans 7:7, 11, 22-25

For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit… The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. – Romans 8:3-4, 7

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. – Romans 13:8-10


Updating the SDA Position on Abortion
Again, most people, including most non-Christians, consider late-term abortions (abortions within the third trimester of otherwise healthy viable babies) to be murder. There is relatively little argument about this. One doesn’t have to know the “precise point” to know that, after a certain point, abortion is clearly murder. The argument that a baby isn’t alive or really human until the moment that it is born is nonsense in my opinion.

Of course, before the third trimester, things start to get a bit more grey and unclear. Some define the beginnings of human life with the full activity of the brain’s cortex. Others define it with the earliest activity of the brain stem. Others define it as the beginnings of fetal movement or the fetal heartbeat. I might have my own opinions here, but the question I ask myself is at what point would I be willing to convict someone else of murder? – and be willing to put them in prison for it? For me, I wouldn’t be willing to do this until things are overwhelmingly clear that the baby is functioning as a full human being and is viable (which would include full brain activity).

As far as rape or incest is concerned, the resulting pregnancy should be terminated as soon as possible within the first trimester. Waiting for the third trimester is simply not an option because, at this point, it would still be murder to kill a fully-formed baby regardless of its origin…


Updating the SDA Position on Abortion
I agree with you up until your last sentence. It seems very very clear to me that a baby becomes human before it takes its first breath. A baby born at 40 weeks gestation is not somehow inherently “more human” than a baby that is still inside its mother at 39 weeks gestation. At 39 weeks, such a baby is indistinguishable from a baby that has already been born. The location inside or outside of the mother makes absolutely no difference at this point in time and development.

I think, therefore, that we as Christians should avoid both obvious extremes here in this discussion. There are two very clear ditches on both sides of the road here. We should avoid claiming that a baby is not really human until it is actually born at full term, and, at the same time, we should also avoid claiming that full humanity and moral worth is instantly realized at the moment of conception…


Updating the SDA Position on Abortion
Most would agree with you that the baby John the Baptist, before he was born, was, at some point, a real human being who could “leap for joy” (Luke 1:44). Even most non-Christians would agree that a third-trimester abortion is murder. However, this isn’t the real problem here. We are talking about if a single cell or a simple ball of cells is fully “human” and if ending a pregnancy at such an early stage of development is truly a “murder” of a real human being. After all, when conception first takes place a single cell cannot “leap for joy” – or for any other reason. It’s just a single fertilized cell that cannot think or feel or move and has no brain or mind or intelligence of any kind. The same is true of an embryo that consists of no more than an unformed ball of cells for quite some time. Upon what basis, then, is it “murder” to end a pregnancy at this early point in embryological development?