Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Expert Testimony: Intelligent Design, Archaeology, & the Historical Jesus

“Christianity is...rarely understood by those outside its bounds. In fact, this is probably one of the greatest tasks confronting the apologist–to rescue Christianity from misunderstandings.”
Alister E. McGrath, theologian, historian, and scientist,
Andreas Idreos Professorship in Science and Religion at the University of Oxford

We've recently gone through expert testimony in six areas of inquiry, organized into the past two posts:

Expert Testimony: The Existence of God, the Problem of Evil, and the Facts on the Bible 

Expert Testimony: The Anthropic Principle, Anthropology, and Historicity 

Now we come to three additional areas of inquiry: intelligent design, archaeology, and the historical Jesus.  Expert testimony is very important to the verification of truth claims.  Is Christianity really the truth about reality?  That is the ultimate question.  If it isn't then it ought to be disregarded.  If it is, then it ought to be followed.  It ought to be the lenses through which we see reality.  The truth is so very important.  Can we know truth?  Yes indeed we can.  

Intelligent design seeks to describe the scientific case for a designer of the universe.  Archaeology is a discipline by which history may be discovered by excavating dig sites and examining artifacts for their historical implications.  The idea of "The Historical Jesus" is approaching the person of Jesus Christ from a historical angle, asking ourselves: Did Jesus of Nazareth really exist?  Is there evidence to support the conclusion that he did exist?  Let's see what some experts have to say on these three important topics: 

Intelligent Design
Is there positive evidence for design? 
(1) Biochemistry
 Natural structures contain many parts arranged in intricate patterns that perform a specific function (e.g., they contain high CSI). These include language-based codes in our DNA, irreducibly complex molecular machines like the bacterial flagellum, and highly specified protein sequences. Regarding the latter example, mutational sensitivity tests and genetic knockout experiments have shown that the amino acid sequences of functional proteins must be highly complex and specified in order to function.

(2) Paleontology
Biological novelty commonly appears in the fossil record suddenly, ‘fully formed,’ and without similar precursors or evolutionary intermediates. The Cambrian explosion is a prime example, but there are many other examples in the fossil record, including a bird explosion, an angiosperm explosion, and a mammal explosion. Even our genus Homo appears abruptly.

(3) Systematics
Highly similar parts have been found re-used in widely different organisms where even evolutionists believe the common ancestor did not have the part in question. Examples include genes controlling eye or limb growth in different organisms whose alleged common ancestors are not thought to have had such forms of eyes or limbs. There are numerous examples of extreme convergent genetic evolution, including similar genes used in whales and bats for echolocation. These examples are best explained by common design. Genes and functional parts are commonly not distributed in a “tree-like” pattern or nested hierarchy predicted by common ancestry.

(4) Genetics
Studies have discovered mass-functionality for “junk-DNA.” Specific examples include functionality in pseudogenes, microRNAs, introns, endogenous retroviruses, and repetitive LINE, SINE, and Alu elements. Examples of unknown DNA functions persist, but ID encourages researchers to investigate functions, whereas neo-Darwinism has discouraged seeking such function.

 All quotations from Evolution News: The College Student's Back to School Guide to Intelligent Design

Do archaeological findings support or refute the Biblical narrative?

 “Archaeological work has unquestionably strengthened confidence in the reliability of the Scriptural record. More than one archaeologist has found his respect for the Bible increased by the experience of excavation in Palestine.” –Millar Burrows, former Yale University professor

 “Where the data of the Gospels can be tested, they consistently have proven to be remarkably accurate, especially in John. Archaeologists have unearthed the five porticoes of the pool of Bethesda by the Sheep Gate (John 5:2), the pool of Siloam (9:1-7), Jacob's well at Sychar (4:5), the "Pavement" (Gabbatha) where Pilate tried Jesus (19:13), and Solomon's porch in the temple precincts (10:22-23). As recently as 1961 an inscription was discovered in Caesarea, providing for the first time extrabiblical corroboration of Pilate as Judea's prefect during the time of Christ. Since the, discovery of an ossuary (bone-box) of a crucified man named Johanan from first-century Palestine confirms that nails were driven in his ankles, as in Christ's; previously some skeptics thought that that Romans used only ropes to affix the legs of condemned men to their crosses....In 1990, the burial grounds of Caiaphas, the Jewish high priest, and his family were uncovered in Jerusalem. These and numerous other details create a favorable impression of the Gospels' trustworthiness in the areas in which they can be tested.” –Craig L. Blomberg, New Testament Scholar at Denver Seminary

 “It may be stated categorically that no archaeological discovery has ever controverted a Biblical reference. Scores of archaeological findings have been made which confirm in clear outline or exact detail historical statements in the Bible. And, by the same token, proper evaluation of Biblical descriptions has often led to amazing discoveries.” –Nelson Glueck, American Archaeologist and Academic.  Pioneer in Biblical Archaeology

“It is not too much to say that it was the rise of the science of archeology that broke the deadlock between historians and the orthodox Christian. Little by little, one city after another, one civilization after another, one culture after another, whose memories were enshrined only in the Bible, were restored to their proper place in ancient history by the studies of archeologists…The over-all result is indisputable. Forgotten cities have been found, the handiwork of vanished peoples has reappeared, contemporary records of Biblical events have been unearthed and the uniqueness of biblical revelation has been emphasized by contrast and comparison to the newly understood religions of ancient peoples. Nowhere has archaeological discovery refuted the Bible as history.” –John Elder, Archaeologist (Quoted in Don Stewart, The Ten Wonders of the Bible, 1990, p. 58)

The Historical Jesus
Was there a historical person named Jesus of Nazareth? 

“I am an historian, I am not a believer, but I must confess as a historian that this penniless preacher from Nazareth is irrevocably the very center of history. Jesus Christ is easily the most dominant figure in all history.” –H. G. Wells, prolific English author

“Do you believe in the existence of Socrates? Alexander the Great? Julius Caesar? If historicity is established by written records in multiple copies that date originally from near contemporaneous sources, there is far more proof for Christ’s existence than for any of theirs.” –Dinesh D’Souza, What’s So Great About Christianity, p. 296.

“The “Encyclopedia Britannica, fifteenth edition, devotes 20,000 words to the person of Jesus Christ and never once hints that He didn’t exist.” –John Ankerberg, Author & Theologian, Ankerberg Theological Institute

“That a few simple men should in one generation have invented so powerful and appealing a personality, so lofty an ethic, and so inspiring a vision of human brotherhood, would be a miracle far more incredible than any recorded in the Gospels. After two centuries of Higher Criticism the outlines of life, character, and teaching of Christ remain reasonably clear, and constitute the most fascinating feature in the history of Western man” –Will Durant, renowned historian who devoted his life to the study of records of antiquity, Caesar and Christ, in The Story of Civilization, vol. 3, 1944, p. 557.

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