don't really believe that stuff, do you?"
I sometimes get asked this since returning to the Christianity I
professed when I was younger. It is worth pondering, when asked
by those who believe, as I also do, in individual rights, Constitutionally
limited government, and local autonomy. It might be especially worth
pondering during the Christmas season. After all, it hardly needs
said that with no Christian faith there would be no Christmas season.
why have I concluded that the Christianity is credible and that
the Bible really is God's revelation to mankind?
Consider the Bible a moment. It is a book with many human authors,
its origins spanning millennia of time. Yet once we look past the
myriad details, the life stories of hundreds of people and the rising
and falling of dozens of kingdoms and empires, the Bible tells a
single, consistent story: man's creation by God; man's fall because
he rejected God and tried to put himself in God's place (including
repeated attempts to reach heaven on his own from the ancient Tower
of Babel to communism in our time); and God's plan of redemption
for man through Jesus Christ. Then, it asserts that while some would
believe, by and large man would continue to reject God's plan, leading
eventually to the End Times when God's followers will have to battle
writers, some well known (Hal Lindsey) and others less so (Grant
R. Jeffrey), have argued in detail that we have almost reached the
onset of these End Times. The idea has a substantial following.
The books in the Left
Behind Christian fiction series by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins
have become national bestsellers.
Of course, no one can prove this. Not really. One of the major blunders
of Western philosophy has been its blithe assumption that man can
(or ought to be able to) reason his way to God. But if we want evidence
for the credibility of the Bible, there is plenty at hand. Consider
passages like the following. "
[I]n the last days perilous
times will come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous,
boasters, proud, blasphemous, disobedient to parents, unthankful,
unholy; without moral affection, trucebreakers, false accusers,
incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors,
heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;
having a form of godliness but denying the power thereof" (II
this or is this not a good description of the America of today?
Does it or does it not canvass the whirlwind of booming-economy
corporatists, the arrogant and power-hungry Washington culture,
Hollywood-celebrity hedonism, the so-called art world and its deliberate
affronts to Christians, proponents of so-called abortion rights,
many of our youth, and many mainstream religious denominations?
If so, the New Testament got it dead center-roughly 19 centuries
before the events it describes.
Other prophecies are astonishing in their detail. The Old Testament
book Daniel predicts "a time of trouble, such as never was
since there was a nation even to that same time
. Many shall
run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased." (Daniel
12:1, 4; emphasis mine). People today "run to and fro"
to a degree that could scarcely have been imagined in Daniel's time.
The same goes for our scientific knowledge and technical know-how.
Did the prophet Daniel simply make an amazingly good guess?
the New Testament provides an even more startling prediction of
the materialist, uniformitarian secularism that took over modern
science during the 19th and 20th centuries: "[t]here shall
come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, and
saying, 'Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the
fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning
of the creation.' For this they are willfully ignorant of, that
by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing
out of water and in the water, whereby the world that was then,
being overflowed with water, perished" (II Peter 3:3-6).
present is the key to the past, summarized Sir Charles Lyell, the
early 19th century architect of geological uniformitarianism and
immediate predecessor of Charles Darwin. All things continue as
they were from the beginning of creation. The idea that catastrophic
events could have occurred in the past was shunned. Evidence favoring
the idea was shelved or reinterpreted, as the new paradigm took
over. Today, of course, with contrary evidence having emerged that
dinosaurs and other now-extinct forms of life disappeared abruptly,
geologists have reconsidered somewhat-although their willingness
to reconsider is strictly within naturalistic parameters.
Some Biblical believers see a need to weigh in on such issues as
evolution and creation, whether something catastrophic like the
Genesis flood really happened, and whether civilized cultures in
"prehistory" were smashed by the event. Those who have read biochemist
Michael J. Behe's Darwin's
Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution know there
are at least some grounds for skepticism about the universal applicability
of the Darwinian hypothesis. Behe, professor of biochemistry at
Lehigh University, is a scientist whose credentials are not in dispute;
he is not a creationist as such, nor an evangelist out to convert
anyone. His book barely mentions God or the Christian faith. He
is very cautious, and never strays far from his specialty: biochemical
systems. What he believes, and tries to support with scientific
evidence, is that the irreducible complexity (his term) of some
of these systems militates against the idea of their having come
about through directionless, random mutations-no matter how much
time is allotted for such processes to operate.
updated version of the intelligent design hypothesis has reemerged
through the work of Behe, William Dembski and a handful of other
avant-garde scientists. There are alternatives within evolutionary
theory to classical Darwinism. Stephen J. Gould's and Niles Eldredge's
theories of punctuated equilibrium come to mind. However, none of
these theories provides a complete explanation of where a new species,
with all its complex systems in working order from the start (a
condition of the organism's survival and procreation), comes from.
At best, what we have are educated guesses. These guesses are suggestive
and certainly important, but they are far from conclusive.
bottom line, of course, is that we weren't there. There is no way
to replicate the exact conditions under which life first appeared
on the Earth; nor can we replicate the process allegedly capable
of creating new biological species-macroevolution, as opposed to
microevolutionary variations within a species. If one's conception
of science includes experimentation and replication, then the creationist
has a point when he argues that biological macroevolution cannot
be replicated and is therefore more a component of a materialist
metaphysics than empirical science. (Metaphysics here means: having
to do with the fundamental nature of reality.)
Bible isn't a scientific tract, of course. But we do have empirical
findings that support it better than will ever be taught in secular
colleges and universities. To cite a range of examples, alluded
to in II Peter, there is evidence that a very old civilization existed
and ended suddenly-as if erased by the very sort of global catastrophe
Genesis describes. It was probably seafaring, because it had mapped
portions of the globe. This is suggested by the fact that certain
Mediterranean peoples had maps of places they had no business knowing
about if current theories of history are correct.
for example, the Piri Reis map, named for a Turkish sea captain.
This map is a compilation from still earlier maps that date from
before the 16th century. Back in the 1960s, historian and cartographer
Charles Hapgood wrote a now-classic book about this and similar
anomalies entitled Maps
of the Ancient Sea Kings. The Piri Reis map depicts what seem
to be portions of the coastline of South America extending inland,
with the Amazon River clearly visible. Hapgood studied other maps
dating from around the same period that turned out to offer an accurate
depiction of the coastline of Antarctica-before it became covered
over by ice. This suggests that the Antarctic ice fields are of
recent origin-as if they came about as a result of massive climactic
changes that would follow a flood of Biblical proportions. Hapgood
notes yet another map that seems to show a Europe covered by ice-as
it was during the Ice Age. But what did ancient Mediterranean peoples
know about Ice Ages?
are also cases of what one might call ooparts-out-of-place artifacts.
These are objects clearly of human origin found in places they had
no business being (e.g., metal objects found embedded in solid rock
supposedly millions of years old). The disaster itself left traces
in other forms, such as wooly mammoths found embedded in Siberian
tundra frozen so suddenly that they still had undigested food in
their stomachs. The process of fossilization itself requires sudden
burial and preservation. Otherwise, the lifeless animal or plant
simply decays without leaving a trace.
is more, much more, but my point is that a surprising amount of
accumulated physical and historical evidence drawn from many different
disciplines tends to support a Scriptural view of the world, not
few practitioners of the relevant disciplines talk to one another.
Most academics are specialists. Their training just does not equip
them to see the Big Picture; nor does it train them to think outside
the box supplied by the dominant paradigm of their science. In addition,
most scientists are materialists. Materialism is a body of metaphysical
assumptions, not a scientific conclusion based on experimental findings.
Yet there is enormous suspicion at best and extreme
hostility at worst directed toward anyone in the scientific
community who entertains intelligent design as a serious hypothesis,
or who suggests recent (within human history) global catastrophism
in disciplines such as geology.
Of course, some will reply that intelligent design arguments do
not necessarily yield the Christian God any more than did their
philosophical antecedents. Fair enough. That kind of conclusion
can only be based on faith. But because of the accumulation of these
bits and pieces of evidence drawn from diverse disciplines, one's
Christian faith need not be blind. Christianity gets a bad rap these
days because Christians profess to have at their disposal a number
of absolute moral truths. Today's academic orthodoxy rejects the
whole idea of truth, much less moral truth. Christians are singled
out as intolerant and judgmental. Indeed, the "universal tolerance"
so popular today means tolerance toward every belief system and
idea except those of Christianity. The Bible predicted this, too,
as we saw. As with dozens of other prophecies, be they about the
birth, life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ-or
about our own times.
should be noted that Jesus never coerces anyone into following him.
He merely makes himself available. "Behold, I stand at the
door, and knock," he says, "if any man hear my voice,
and open the door, I will come in to him" (Revelation 3:20).
Jesus doesn't operate like Janet Reno's minions or the BATF. He
doesn't, that is, kick open your door and force his way in at gunpoint.
One becomes a Christian by choice, or not at all. One is saved by
a personal decision to place one's faith in God's gift of Christ's
saving power-and not in good works, following rules such as those
passed by a government or even a religious institution, or anything
else (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Christian can force anyone else to become a Christian. Some say
this is what the Southern Baptists are doing with the Jews and others.
Nonsense. They are merely following God's command to go out and
preach the Gospel to all creation (Mark 16:15). Others must then
be allowed to make their own choices. The point of Christianity,
which Christians celebrate at Christmas with the divine birth of
Jesus Christ and at Easter with his supernatural resurrection from
the dead, is God's plan of redemption through Jesus Christ, for
those who will accept him as Savior. He promises that all who open
that door and call upon his name will be saved (Romans 10:13; Acts
2:21). The Christian stands on God's promise.
This is the core message of Christianity. Unfortunately, some whose
devotion to the cause of liberty is otherwise exemplary are unwilling
to consider it. Libertarians in particular appeal to our nature
as rational beings and complain that our problems stem from our
not using our reason in society. I suspect, however, that the many
efforts afoot attempting to return us to a society based exclusively
on free markets, Constitutional government and the rule of law cannot
possibly succeed in the face of the vastly superior resources being
funneled into the creation of "global governance."
many of us are forced to work either in near-isolation or in small
and relatively young "think tanks" subsisting on shoestring budgets.
We simply have not undertaken the "long march through the institutions"
that the Marxist philosopher Gramsci spoke of as the key to the
leftist success at creating a power base. Nor, today, is there time.
At the UN, conversations about "global governance" are held right
out in the open, and readily available on the UN's website.
Finally, we lack the organization. Too many on the "right" are,
for whatever reason, simply unable to get along with each other.
to both Daniel and Revelation, it is going to happen. The New World
Order, that is (even if the Bible does not use that term). From
the New World Order will emerge the Antichrist, a person who may
well be alive somewhere right now, his identity still unknown.
even were there no such global entity in the making, pure, laissez-faire
capitalism and materialism do not mix as well as most philosophers
and economists of laissez-faire think. The problem is human nature,
and the fact that materialism offers insufficient incentives to
live a moral life-or even identify what this means in materialist
terms. Moral philosophers (with rare exceptions such as Nietzsche
and Ayn Rand, in their different ways) have been evading this basic
point for the past century and a half. But as Dostoevsky's Ivan
Karamazov bluntly put it, "If God doesn't exist, then everything
is permitted." That, of course, may be an exaggeration, but
Albert Jay Nock recognized the problem for free societies when he
observed that when the choice was available, most people would choose
a political (i.e., coercive) means of getting what they wanted over
an economic (i.e., productive) means.
Bastiat made the same observation in the early sections of his short
masterpiece The Law. The Bible calls the problem sin. No one can
look at the testimony provided by history and today's society, pretend
that sin is simply a Christian myth, and believe we can build the
perfect social order if we just adopt the right political philosophy
or economic arrangements. A British historian, Alexander Tytler,
writing over 200 years ago, framed the problem in the form of an
oft-quoted criticism of democracy-relevant because of the worship
of democracy in the contemporary world:
democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can
only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves
largess out of the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority
always votes for the candidate promising the most benefits from
the public treasury, with the result that a democracy always collapses
over loose fiscal policy always followed by dictatorship. The average
age of the world's greatest civilizations has been 200 years. These
nations have progressed through the following sequence: From bondage
to spiritual faith, from spiritual faith to great courage, from
courage to liberty, from liberty to abundance, from abundance to
selfishness, from selfishness to complacency, from complacency to
apathy, from apathy to dependency, and from dependency back into
quick response is that this is why the Framers gave us "a republic,
if you can keep it," not a democracy. However, not even Constitutional
republics can protect themselves from subversion from within, as
our history testifies. The problem of how to control power remains.
Given secular materialism as a worldview, this is a recipe for abject
despair-especially as the New World Order continues its steady rise.
problem, in a nutshell, is that no one has ever found a secular,
materialist basis for morality in society that has commanded the
allegiance of more than a handful of intellectuals. A Constitutional
republic presupposes a moral citizenry whose behavior is characterized
by mostly self-imposed restraint. The Framers presumed, furthermore,
that morality had its roots in Christian theism. No one-no philosopher
or other pundit-has ever discovered a realistic alternative. Christian
theism calls for faith, not conclusive evidence, and this will likely
remain a stumbling block for rationalists of all stripes. Fortunately,
if considered openly and honestly, the evidence that supports-or
at least is consistent with-the Christian-theistic paradigm of reality,
is actually pretty good.
Biblical quotations are from the King James Version.
Yates has a Ph.D. in Philosophy and is the author of
Wrongs: What Went Wrong With Affirmative Action (ICS Press,
1994). He is at work on two manuscripts tentatively entitled View
From the Gallery and The Paradox of Liberty, and also
lectures occasionally. He lives, freelance writes, and is available
for occasional lectures in Columbia, South Carolina.
to the holidays, this will be Steven Yates's last column of 2000.
He wishes his readers a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.