"AS I SEE IT" 

Volume 7, Number 10, October 2004

 

“I too will have my say; I too will tell what I know.

For I am full of words, and the spirit within me compels me;

Inside I am like bottled-up wine, like new wineskins ready to burst.

I must speak and find relief; I must open my lips and reply.

I will show partiality to no one.  Nor will I flatter any man.”

Job 32:17-21

 

["As I See It" is a monthly electronic magazine compiled and edited by Doug Kutilek.  Its purpose is to address important issues of the day and to draw attention to worthwhile Christian and other literature in order to aid believers in Jesus Christ, especially pastors, missionaries and Bible college and seminary students to more effectively study and teach the Word of God.  The editor's perspective is that of an independent Baptist of fundamentalist theological persuasion.

 

AISI is sent free to all who request it by writing to the editor at: DKUTILEK@juno.com.  You can be removed from the mailing list at the same address.  Back issues sent on request.  All back issues may be accessed at http://www.KJVOnly.org

 

All articles are by the editor (unless otherwise noted) and are copyrighted but may be reproduced for distribution, provided the following conditions are met: 1. articles must be reproduced in unedited, unabridged form; 2. the writer must be properly credited; and, 3. such reproduction must be for free distribution only.  Permission to distribute in any other form must be secured in writing beforehand.  Permission for reproduction in Christian print periodicals will generally be given.]

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The Da Vinci Code Once More

 

In our previous issue (AISI 7:9), we surveyed some of the books by Christian authors expressly written to refute or correct some of the claims--false claims--and misrepresentations about the Bible, Christianity, Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene that are part of the plot thread in best-selling novel, The Da Vinci Code (henceforth, DVC).  We noted that as of that issue, we had not had opportunity to read DVC for ourselves, a situation we have now remedied, and so we can speak directly to such matters as the premises of the novel, the plot-line, and the criticisms aimed at it.  On this   basis, we affirm that those books noted in the previous issue which were written to expose and correct the errors and misrepresentations of DVC did accurately describe Brown’s errors of fact; indeed there were several additional errors, mistakes and gaffs which I discovered which they did not mention. 

 

In addition, I completed the reading of Secrets of the Code, edited by Dan Burstein, which I had only read in part (and a small part at that) as of that issue.  Because of my spotty and limited examination of that book when I wrote the previous article, I mischaracterized it in some measure--as it were, pulling a “Dan Rather.”  When I encountered this lengthy book, I read several of the shorter essays and reprints in it, and all of them were as I characterized the entire book in AISI 7:9--“a collection of kooks, crack-pots, lunatic-fringers, fabricators and forgers.”  My mistake was in extrapolating to the rest of the book what I found uniformly in the part I did examine.  A reading of the whole requires that I revise my opinion to some degree.

 

Burstein, upon reading DVC himself, decided to investigate the factuality of Brown’s claims and presentations, and Secrets of the Code is more or less the results of his own “quest” for the truth.  Chapters, essays and such like by some 49 different writers are found here, only one of whom is clearly identifiable as a theological conservative.  The rest include radical feminist professorettes, old-line theological liberal university professors, grail buffs, reviewers and others.  Burstein’s own conclusion as given in the introduction is that there seems to be some validity in concluding, on the basis of Gnostic literature and the “scholarly” spin put on it, that there were alternative Christianities and Gospels which may be equally valid or even more valid that the Christianity and Gospels found in Scripture in the New Testament.  On this we have no doubt that Burstein is greatly mistaken.  But when it comes to Brown’s presentations concerning medieval grail legends, supposed hidden symbolism in Leonardo Da Vinci’s art, secret societies, Mary Magdalene as the holy grail, and the rest, Burstein concludes: “Dan Brown has left mainstream scholarship behind.  He has plunged into the world of the medieval and New Age myths.  Almost all of this is recycled from legend and lore documented by other writers over the last few decades.  A great deal of it falls so far below the standards of evidence for historical credibility that it’s not worth discussing as history or as fact.  To some, it is a lot of occult hogwash.  To me, and perhaps many others, it is hogwash as history.” (Introduction, p. xxv).

 

While much of Secrets of the Code is the unsubstantiated claptrap that Brown built his novel around, some parts of it are decidedly worthwhile in their cataloguing of Brown’s errors.  Among these that can be consulted with profit are 1. Bart D. Ehrman’s list of ten major Bible-related errors (p. 130); 2. “The Plot Holes and Intriguing Details of The Da Vinci Code,” by David A. Shugarts (pp. 254-283); and 3. the glossary (pp. 329-362), which helps the reader identify people, places, things and events in some way associated with DVC or the background materials on which it depends (though some of the information in the glossary is seriously even remarkably in error); 4. some of the criticism by art critics of Brown’s claims of hidden symbolism in Da Vinci’s artwork. 

 

There are some bona fide scholars among Burstein’s 49, but not many (brief sketches of who or what these authors are is found in “contributors,” pp. 367-371).  One of these, James Robinson, the editor of and leading expert on the Gnostic texts so readily embraced by some to weave the Mary Magdalene myths that are part and parcel of DVC, and himself no conservative, says “I think the only relevant text for historical information about Mary Magdalene is the New Testament.” (p. 99).  In short, the leading expert on the subject says that whatever these Gnostic sources may say about Mary Magdalene, they have no claim to reliability or factuality.

 

Those who spend hours reading Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code would serve themselves well by setting aside a comparable amount of time for reading the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John in the New Testament.  There they will find the real Jesus, the Jesus of history.

---Doug Kutilek

 

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Superstitious Veneration for Translations: A Comment from A. P. Stanley

 

In chapter 1 of “One Bible Only?, edited by Roy Beacham and Kevin Bauder (Kregel, 2001), I traced the phenomenon of claims of the inspiration of various Bible translations and corollary claims of their unalterableness, from the pre-Christian era to the present day, involving many versions in many languages, not just English.  I recently came across a quote from Arthur Penrhyn Stanley (1815-1881), Anglican divine and sometime professor of church history at Oxford University, along the same lines.  In his book, Lectures on the History of the Jewish Church (London: John Murray, 1885), vol. 3, pp. 226-7, Stanley gives a kindred account.  Speaking of the publication of the Greek translation of the OT, the Septuagint, and subsequent Jewish reaction to it in later centuries when Christians had adopted it as their OT and its differences from the common Hebrew text had become known, he wrote:

 

“On the one hand, it [i.e., the production of the Greek version of the OT] was regarded [by later Jews] as a great calamity, equal to that of the worship of the Golden Calf.  The day on which it was accomplished was believed to have been the beginning of a preternatural darkness of three days’ duration over the whole world, and was commemorated as a day of fasting and humiliation.  It needs but slight evidence to convince us that such a feeling more or less widely-spread must have existed.  It is the same instinct which . . . in the Christian Church assailed Jerome with the coarsest vituperation for venturing on a Latin version which differed from the Greek [OT]; which at the Reformation regarded it as a heresy to translate the Latin Scriptures into the languages of modern Europe; and which in England has in our own days regarded it in the English Church as a dangerous innovation to revise the authorized version of the seventeenth century, or in the Roman Church to correct the barbarous dialect of the Douay translation of the Vulgate, or to admit of any errors in the text or the rendering of the Vulgate itself.  In one and all of these cases the reluctance has sprung from the same tenacious adherence to ancient and sacred forms--from the same unwillingness to admit of the dislodgment even of the most flagrant inaccuracies when once familiarised by established use.  But for all these venerable texts, . . . this sentiment has been compelled to yield to the more generous desire of arriving at the hidden meaning of sacred truth, and of making that truth more widely known.”

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BOOK REVIEWS

 

Brave Companions: Portraits in History by David McCullough.  New York: Prentice Hall, 1992.  240 pp., hardback.

 

David McCullough is a noted and excellent historian, chronicler of the Johnstown Flood of 1889 (see “The Reading--and Writing--of History,” AISI 4:10), of the construction of the Panama Canal (The Path Between the Seas, reviewed AISI 5:11), and of the Brooklyn Bridge, as well as author of biographies of John Adams, Theodore Roosevelt, and Harry Truman.  In this brief book of 17 chapters, McCullough has brought together “short subjects” that he wrote over a period of more than 20 years, beginning in the late 1960s.  Here are biographical or historical sketches of explorer Alexander von Humboldt; Harvard botanist Louis Agassiz (a vigorous opponent of Darwinism and advocate of intelligent design); Harriet Beecher Stowe (authoress of Uncle Tom’s Cabin and sister of famous preacher Henry Ward Beecher); Teddy Roosevelt and the Marquis de Mores during TR’s days in the Dakota badlands; artist of the American West, Frederic Remington; the building of the trans-isthmus railroad in Panama in the 1850s; the Roeblings, father and son, who master-minded the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge, and the remarkable story behind the preservation of all the original blueprints for the bridge; the glory days of early aviation in the 1920s; novelist Conrad Richter; strip-mining restoration proponent Harry Caudill; eccentric naturalist Miriam Rothschild; photographer David Plowden; personal reflections on Washington, D.C., the city (as opposed to the government there); a retrospect of the major world transformation that occurred in the 50 years from 1936 and 1986; a college commencement address on where to go, what to see, and how important it is to study, really study, history, now that the formal, structured part of education has come to a close; and an essay lamenting the general neglect of historical study of the U.S. Congress.

 

McCullough writes from a mind well stored with thoroughly-researched material.  His style is excellent and his content always instructive.  My one criticism of this book (other than some details): no documentation or bibliography.  A delight to read.

---Doug Kutilek

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Some quotes from Brave Companions--

 

“Finding my subjects over the years has been mostly a process of one thing leading to another. . . . The research has rarely been dull, for the farther one goes in the pursuit, the more fascinating it becomes, like on a detective case. . . . How can I spend so much time on one subject, I am sometimes asked.  The answer, of course, is that no subject is ever just one subject, but ten, twenty, more.  You never know.” (p. xii)

 

“Every writing task involves new problems, some larger than others.  Mainly writing means a great deal of hard thinking, the popular impression notwithstanding.  (Paul Weis, who taught philosophy at Yale, once remarked, ‘I’m not as bright as my students.  I find I have to think before I write.’)” (p. xiii)

 

“[Frederic] Remington never stays put for long in any one place, but there’s an awful lot of him while he’s around.” (p. 75, quoting Remington’s lifelong friend Has Rasbeck)

 

“The sheer number of bodies [of the approximately 6,000 men who died building the railroad across the Isthmus of Panama] that had to be disposed of became something of a problem in itself and led to a macabre solution.  Since a large percentage of the dead men had no known next of kin, no permanent address, often not even a known last name, it was decided to pickle their bodies in large barrels, then sell them in wholesale lots.  The result was a thriving trade with medical schools around the world, the proceeds going to finance a small railroad hospital at Colon.” (pp. 97-8)

 

“Indeed, [aviator Denys] Finch-Hatton is described as the most charming of companions, ‘a great man who never achieved arrogance.’ “ (p. 129)

 

“The way to see Washington [D. C.] is on foot, and I like to vary my route.  Early mornings are the best time, before the traffic takes over.  The past seems closer then.  The imagination roams freer.” (p. 196)

 

“Harry Truman used to talk of Potomac Fever, an endemic disorder the symptoms of which were a swelled head and a general decline of common sense.” (p. 207)

 

“But there is nothing inevitable about history.  The defeat of the Nazis, the war’s overriding mission, was never a certainty. . . .In the last analysis, the deciding factor in the war was America’s tremendous industrial power,. . . .” (p. 214)

 

“However little television you watch, watch less.  If your experience is anything like mine, the books that you read in the next ten years will be the most important books in your lives.” (p. 224)

 

“It was ‘Ham’ Lewis who advised a newly arrived freshman senator named Truman from Missouri, ‘Harry, don’t start out with an inferiority complex.  For the first six months you’ll wonder how the h*** you got here, and after that you’ll wonder how the h*** the rest of us got here.’ “ (p. 230)

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Unfit for Command by John E. O’Neill and Jerome R. Corsi.  Washington: Regnery Press, 2004.  216 pp., hardback.  $27.95.

 

Democrat nominee for President in 2004, Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, has chosen to make his ever-so-brief 4-month stint in Vietnam in 1968-9 THE centerpiece of his campaign for President, rather than his much longer and more recent record as Massachusetts Lieutenant Governor and especially in the U.S. Senate.  A carefully “canned” version of his supposedly “heroic” service in ‘Nam has been edited for public consumption.  In Unfit for Command, Kerry’s actual military service is examined, and often starkly contrasted to what Kerry has variously claimed in the years since.

 

Carefully documented and heavily dependent on eye-witnesses who were actually there in Vietnam along side Kerry, O’Neill (who served with Kerry in Vietnam) and Corsi (a Harvard Ph.D.) present a John Kerry who exaggerated his own military achievements, minimized those of others, falsified official reports, and made bogus claims regarding his three “purple heart” incidents--at least two are clearly cases of self-inflicted wounds of the slightest sort (miscalculations in the use of mortars resulted in scratches or pricks from shrapnel), and the third involved allied soldiers blowing up a rice cache with Kerry winged in the backside by another minute metal fragment.  None involved enemy fire.  Two of his “wounds” required nothing more than a band-aid, and the third involved no time lost for treatment.  He (rather than his superiors or other eyewitnesses) took the initiative to apply for the bronze and silver star awards he was given, and he gave highly fictitious “official” accounts of the incidents involved. 

 

In a widely-circulated account, Kerry claimed (and backed up by his bogus “journal”) that he was illegally in Cambodia on Christmas Day, 1968, even though President Nixon denied that there were any U.S. forces there then.  That Kerry made the whole thing up is proven by O’Neill and Corsi.  The first “tip off” that it was a lie is Kerry’s obvious blunder: Nixon didn’t even become President until January 20, 1969, almost 4 weeks after Kerry claimed he was in Cambodia with President Nixon’s full knowledge and approval!  Kerry has subsequently come up with another story of his whereabouts and activities for that day.

 

It is most telling that virtually none of Kerry’s peers in Vietnam--other swift boat commanders (or higher ups, for that matter)--have the least respect for Kerry the soldier or Kerry the candidate.  Were it merely one or two or a few who opposed Kerry, they might be dismissed as cranks or partisans, but when the great majority who served with him come to the same conclusion, we are compelled to take notice.

 

Much, indeed nearly the whole, of Kerry’s Vietnam service was orchestrated for a political career that he had planned, even then.  He repeatedly filmed re-enactments of incidents, always with himself as the hero, and kept a highly doctored journal of his “exploits.”  In reality, Kerry’s regular first reaction when faced with hostile fire was to cut and run (the authors report three specific incidents of this), fleeing instead of staying and assisting fellow American servicemen under fire, and returning only when there was no further apparent danger.

 

After he petitioned for early return Stateside from Vietnam (because of his three dubious purple hearts), Kerry, still in the Naval Reserve and therefore a member of the U.S. armed forces and subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice, became radically active in the anti-war movement.  Before the U.S. Congress in perjured testimony, he slandered those he served with in Vietnam, claiming that they--and he--had committed war crimes on a regular basis as a matter of official policy (though he NEVER has given specifics of who or where or when).  It is this betrayal of his comrades in arms that has justifiably garnered the greatest ire from other Vietnam vets. 

 

In fact, the only documentable “war crimes” at the time and in the places Kerry served were committed by Kerry himself.  The swift boat under Kerry’s direct command unjustifiably fired on an unarmed Vietnamese fishing boat killing a man and his infant child, and leaving his wife a widow with another infant in arms (Kerry claimed in the official report that this woman and her infant were “Viet Cong” and claimed them as captured enemy combatants!).  Another incident involved Kerry’s wanton and unprovoked slaughter of livestock in a small Vietnamese hamlet, and the burning of all the thatched huts of the villagers.  No weapons or Viet Cong or any indications of such had been found in the village; nevertheless, Kerry personally torched the homes and destroyed the livelihood of the people there.

 

Kerry, in violation of the UCMJ and U.S. law, as a private citizen met with and negotiated with the communist North Vietnamese delegation in Paris in 1971, and Kerry’s subsequent public positions on how to end the war in Vietnam were in complete agreement with the demands the North Vietnamese communists made on the U.S. government.

 

Is it any surprise that the communist government of Vietnam today honors John Kerry as one of their “heroes” who helped them defeat the United States?  His picture is displayed in a government museum in Saigon (I refuse to call it “Ho Chi Minh City”), along with those of other traitorous Americans who burned draft cards, resisted the draft, led protests and otherwise aided and abetted the enemies of the U.S. in time of war.

 

After his slanderous testimony before Congress, in an act of pure grand-standing, Kerry publicly threw away his military medals (or was it just the ribbons, or what it someone else’s medals?--Kerry’s explanations have changed more often than Kansas’ weather).  He posed as an anti-war activist when he thought it was to his political advantage, and then as a war hero when that was more expedient.  And unlike such anti-Vietnam war radicals Joan Baez and Jane Fonda, Kerry has never in anyway apologized for his anti-war rhetoric or actions.

 

While demanding that a full disclosure of George W. Bush’s National Guard service records be made, Kerry has steadfastly refused to grant full disclosure of his military records, including the medical records (which would describe exactly how insignificant his “wounds” were) and the official recommendations for his commendations.  If he has nothing to hide, why does he continue to hide these records?

 

In sum: Kerry is exposed as a colossal liar, as prolific but not nearly as convincing or accomplished at it as Bill Clinton.  While Clinton’s driving principle was gratification of his bodily lusts, Kerry has been driven by a lust for power and prominence, and has shown himself willing to tell any lie at any time that will serve that end.

 

Let us pray that this man NEVER has the responsibility as Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. military.

---Doug Kutilek

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The Women in Lincoln’s Life by H. Donald Winkler.  Nashville: Rutledge Hill Pres, 2001.  274 pp, hardback.  $22.99.

 

As with virtually every man, various “females of the species” greatly impacted the developing or adult life of Abraham Lincoln.  Naturally this would include Lincoln’s mother, Nancy Hanks Lincoln (who died when he was 9); his step-mother, Sarah Bush Johnston Lincoln; his older sister and only sibling Sarah (almost exactly two years his senior) who died very young in her first childbirth. 

 

Likewise, Lincoln was impacted by the young ladies he courted, the first of these being Ann Rutledge of New Salem, Illinois with whom, some claim, Lincoln was deeply in love and to whom he was reportedly engaged, but the relationship was cut short by Anne’s death at age 22 and Lincoln was overwhelmed with grief Exactly how serious the relationship was and how devastating Ann’s death was to Lincoln is strongly disputed.  Billy Herndon, Lincoln’s later law partner and biographer was the first to publicly describe the relationship of Lincoln and Rutledge.  Historians in the early and mid-20th century tended to dismiss Herndon’s claims as largely unsubstantiated rumor; more recent historians have tended to grant them more credence.

 

The sudden and early deaths of three women close to him--his mother, his sister and Ann Rutledge--could not but contribute to the world-view of Lincoln, and deeply influence his character.

 

A year after Ann’s death, Lincoln showed some interest in an increasing plump Mary Owens, somewhat older than Lincoln at 28; the relationship ended by mutual agreement.

 

Finally, Lincoln met, courted and married Mary Todd of Lexington, Kentucky.  Interestingly enough, Mary in her courting days had also been wooed by Stephen Douglas and John C. Breckinridge, who some twenty years later with Lincoln, made up three of the four major party candidates in the presidential election of 1860!

 

Mary was, to cast the truth in the best possible light, “difficult.”  Stories from their Springfield days of her yelling at Lincoln, throwing things at him, driving him out of their house by her frequent tirades abound.  His frequent absences from home traveling the months’ long county court circuit were not so much a burden for Lincoln as an escape from the wildcat at home, as were his long hours in the law office when in town.  Her embarrassing behavior continued in the White House years, focusing on lavish spending, including misappropriation of government funds, and raging and unfounded jealousy of all other women who came into Lincoln’s presence.  This none too stable woman was finally driven over the edge by the cumulative effects of the deaths of three sons--Eddie in 1850; Willie, 1862; and Tad, 1871; and especially, the assassination of her husband as they sat side by side in a Washington theater.

 

Winkler gives some account of all these women and their impact in the life of Lincoln (as well as of other women of more minor import), and seems to be up on the latest research and relevant literature.  However, Winkler tends to give too much unquestioning credence to oral reports two and three generations removed from events, especially in the matter of Anne Rutledge, and seems guilty of too readily impugning the reputation and morals of Lincoln’s mother and “the Widow Bixby” of Boston, and in one case even Lincoln himself.  Likewise, though the volume contains several photos of “New Salem,” Winkler never notes that the New Salem in the photos is the reconstructed village dating from the early 20th century, not the original one from the early 19th century.  There are, besides, a number of drawings “reconstructing” events in Lincoln’s life, some of the drawings being rather inept and historically anachronistic.

 

In sum: an instructive contribution to the corpus of Lincoln literature, but by no means a work of the first water. 

---Doug Kutilek

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The Stones and the Scriptures: an Evangelical Perspective by Edwin Yamauchi.  Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1972.  207 pp, hardback.

 

Dr. Edwin Yamauchi is and has long been professor of history at Miami University, Oxford, Ohio, specializing in ancient Near Eastern and Mediterranean history, making him eminently qualified to write on the subject addressed in this handy volume, viz., the light that archaeology in the Middle East has cast on the Bible.  Yamauchi marshals example after example of archaeological findings that confirm the general integrity of Scripture regarding nations, geography, chronology and customs, and has provided specific confirmation of individuals, rulers, and events.  E.g., numerous Kings of Israel and Judah are mentioned in Assyrian and Babylonian documents, and one is even pictured on an Assyrian stone monument!

 

Of course, archaeology cannot be expected to provide express confirmation of every person, place or event in the Old and New Testaments, but the very small percentage of Near Eastern ruins that have been excavated and such relevant things as have come to light have consistently tended to confirm (and never to contradict) the historical reliability of the various Biblical books, and should lead objective observers to give the Bible the “benefit of the historical doubt” in places not yet expressly confirmed. 

 

Even so, in spite of this consist pattern of repeated vindications--some utterly remarkable, such as Daniel’s representation of Belshazzar--hyper-critical doubters still insist on questioning, even rejecting whatever has not yet been directly substantiated by extra-biblical findings.  These same critics, however, would be far less demanding when it comes to Egyptian, Persian, Greek or Roman authors and antiquities, demonstrating that they have a philosophical agenda--an anti-biblical bias--driving their interpretations.  It is notable that “mere” historians of the ancient world are far more inclined to look favorably upon the historical reliability of the Old and New Testaments than theologians and philosophers who have an anti-supernatural bias that colors their perspective.

 

Though this book is now more than 30 years old (as far as we know, no up-dated edition of this book has appeared), and therefore lacking in some of the most recent discoveries, what is here is still valuable, and though in a few matters I differ from the professor (he favors the Church of the Holy Sepulchre as the site of the crucifixion and tomb of Jesus, while I find Gordon’s Calvary and the nearby Garden Tomb more convincing), I can recommend this volume without hesitation to anyone interested in the question: what light does archaeology shed on the credibility of the Bible?

 

Yamauchi has written numerous other books on Bible-related archaeology and history, among other topics, and a good many scholarly articles.  Worthwhile stuff.

---Doug Kutilek

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The Case for a Creator by Lee Strobel.  Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2004.  340 pp. hardback.  $19.99.

 

We very favorably reviewed two of Lee Strobel’s previous books, The Case for Christ and The Case for Faith in AISI 7:8.  In them, this one-time atheist legal news reporter turned evangelical Christian examined the credibility of the Biblical accounts of the person and work of Christ, and the answers of the Bible to the questions of skeptics, respectively.  Here Strobel turns his attention to the question of the Bible and science.

 

Secular scientists, along with some misguided Christians in scientific professions, have sought to separate, isolate and encapsulate science/knowledge/truth on the one hand and the Bible/religion/faith on the other as mutually exclusive (and antagonistic) matters.  Religion has no place in science, and of course, science has no need for religion.  Such a perspective ignores the fact that even secular scientists are “religious,” that is, they have a belief system that accepts by faith what it cannot prove; it just happens that their religion is atheistic naturalism and materialism, rather than theistic supernaturalism.

 

Though it is a given of secularism that real science is antagonistic to the claims of religion (meaning the Bible and its supernatural creationism), Strobel consults experts in various academic and scientific disciplines to demonstrate that what is assumed by secular science--that scientific naturalism has ruled out the need for a Creator and thereby discredits the Bible’s foundational claims--is contradicted by real science, and that the scientific evidence requiring a supernatural Creator (always large, but largely ignored) is substantial and growing, while that alleged to support pure naturalism is highly flawed, subjective, and in not a few cases out and out fraudulent.

 

Strobel was a secular atheist who fully embraced biological evolution as fact, beginning with the indoctrination he received as a high school student.  He remarks that a very high percentage of committed evolutionists that he has encountered bear the same testimony--it was public school textbooks in high school science courses which persuaded and confirmed them in their adherence to de facto atheistic evolutionism (that is my testimony as well).  Strobel points out that many of the “evidences” for evolution were either fraudulent and long-known to be fraudulent or irrelevant to the issue (here he interviews Jonathan Wells, author of Icons of Evolutions, reviewed in AISI 4:2).

 

Strobel notes numerous cases of leading modern secular scientists who, overwhelmed by their scientific findings, have become believers in an intelligent “First Cause” for the universe, i.e., God, and in not a few cases, Bible-accepting Christians because of the real evidence of science unfiltered through atheistic presuppositions.

 

The weakest chapter in the book is that dealing with the origin of the universe.  Yes, Strobel quotes experts to the effect that the evidence is incontrovertible--the universe had a beginning in time and space, and that since it cannot be self-caused out of nothing, then it must have been caused by an exceedingly intelligent and exceedingly powerful sufficient “First Cause.”  So far, so good.  But, though Strobel and those he has consulted thus far have repeatedly warned against uncritically accepting the “current wisdom” and accepted “truth” in the world of science, he and his experts do just that in the matter of the so-called ”Big Bang.”  Though the “Big Bang” is a theory scarcely a half-century old, and though the body of scientific evidence discrediting it is large and growing, nevertheless, Strobel and the “old-earth” creationists uncritically accept the Big Bang and many of the unsubstantiated assumptions about it that are standard textbook fare these days.  Though some questions are raised about aspects of the alleged Big Bang, and some proposed alternatives are noted (but not the ex nihilo recent creation narrated in Genesis 1) the fact of the Big Bang is not challenged (it certainly contradicts the plain narrative of Genesis 1 and all Bible passages relating to the initial creation).  Old earth assumptions are uncritically adopted and evidences (some of which are noted indirectly--the recession of the moon from earth, the existence of magnetic fields on earth and mercury) are ignored.

 

Additional chapters address the cumulative evidences of remarkable “coincidences” that allow for the functioning of the universe in general and life on earth in particular--the relative mass of atomic particles, the strength level of electro-magnetism, earth’s planetary size, chemical make up, temperature, atmosphere, size and radiation level of the sun, orbital shape, planetary axial tilt, speed of rotation, position in the galaxy (ideal for viewing the universe!), the moon and its features, etc. etc., a list so long and remarkable that it looks as if the universe in general and earth in particular were designed to be inhabited (cf. Isaiah 45:18).  To quote one expert and example: “What intrigued me was that the very time and place where perfect solar eclipses appear in our universe [i.e., on planet earth] also corresponds to the one time and place where there are observers [i.e. people] to see them.” (p. 186)

 

Strobel addresses the subject of the “irreducible complexity” of living organisms, livings cells and larger biological systems (such as the remarkably complex system of blood clotting) through interaction with the major proponent of this principle, Dr. Michael Behe.  Such complexity demands creation of such complexity all at once and fully formed and functioning.  No gradual build up by selection or favorable mutation (the proposed “omnipotent” mechanisms for biological evolution) is even possible in such cases.

 

Information theory and the discovery of human DNA (a tightly-coiled six-foot long chemical code containing more information than the entire Encyclopedia Britannica is found in every one of the approximately 100 trillion cells in the human body!) requires a master “Programmer” to create such vast information and its remarkable storage and access system.

 

Finally, the fact of human intelligence and consciousness defies any naturalistic explanation.  “Spirit” is indeed distinct from “flesh,” that is, matter cannot account for man’s intellect.

 

Each chapter has bibliography for the interested reader to investigate matters more fully for himself.

 

Strobel’s pattern for his books--the investigative reporter rushing from expert to expert to solicit their informed opinions on this and that aspect of his theme--while serving adequately as a format for his two previous “Case” books, has become shop-worn in this volume, and needs to be abandoned or dramatically altered in any future apologetic volumes he may write.

 

With the caveat about uncritical acceptance of Big Bangism and its presuppositions, we can recommend this book, to introduce the reader (hopefully some skeptics and evolutionary naturalists among them) to the most recent scientific evidences that demand a wise, powerful and eternal Creator.

 

Though retailing for $19.99, I bought my copy at Sam’s Club for $11.87, and have seen it available for sale at Wal-Mart similarly priced.

---Doug Kutilek

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