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Biblical Interpretation and anticipatory models

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McGrath says there is a sense in which the history of Christian theology can be regarded as the history of biblical interpretation.[1] This is particularly true of typological interpretation. It’s history touches the earliest stages of the Christian movement, and plausibly dates back to the interpretive method of the Christ himself. Over two thousand years it has been plagued by misuse and misunderstanding. A cloud of uncertainty lingers today over the nature of typology and the hermeneutical principles that might help establish the study of types.

Definitions

A type, put simply, is an ‘anticipatory model.’[2] The traditional definition[3] of typological interpretation distinguishes it from allegorical interpretation in three key respects. First, the allegorical interpretative method treats the narrative as either feigned or, if not feigned, only for the purpose of representing a higher truth. The typological interpretative method understands the referent as an historical account with its foundation in fact.[4] Second, there must be an identifiable pattern of correspondence between dispensations. Third, there must be an escalation or heightening of the same truth embodied in the OT type and the greater NT antitype.[5] Fairbairn states, “The typical is not properly a different or higher sense, but a different or higher application of the same sense.”[6]

Jackson summarises, “A type is a real, exalted happening in history which was divinely ordained by the omniscient God to be a prophetic picture of the good things which he purposed to bring to fruition in Christ Jesus.”[7]

Precisely what constitutes a genuine type and what does not is the burden of the philosopher of typology and the theologian, and depends much upon the typologist’s definition and the guiding principles of interpretation one adopts.

History of Typological Interpretation

Typology was a new method arising almost uniquely in the apostolic age – the most likely origin Christ himself.[8] The NT writers had unity in their understanding and exposition of the OT, primarily within the framework of typological interpretation.[9]

The Christian writers of the patristic period had indeterminate views, inferred only from the occasional reference. In their writings it is often difficult to differentiate between the allegorical and the typological. The Latin fathers sparingly offer any, and when they did their usage of type had a common-sense character, being less given to the airy speculations of the Greek Fathers. No hermeneutical principles can be discerned in their writing to distinguish the fanciful from the truly typical.[10]

The Greek Fathers included Clement and his student Origen. These were both influenced by the method of Philo of Alexandria, the Jewish exegete of the Old Testament. Both had an elastic and arbitrary style of interpretation, the method of the latter being described as ‘the allegorical fury’. Origen expressly denied the existence of many Old Testament events.[11] Clement even went so far as to allegorise the decalogue.

The influence of the Alexandrian school, along with Ambrose of Milan and Augustine, was critical for the development of the Quadriga, the fourfold sense of scripture: literal, allegorical, tropological, and anagogical. A consensus of accepted types developed in this time.[12] This method persisted throughout the middle-ages where there were no new methodological advances in typological interpretation.

The Reformers were the next to make great advances in interpretation. Their emphasis on the literal sense and dissatisfaction with fanciful exegesis provoked a radical objection to the allegorical school. Luther still employed the Quadriga, but qualified the ascendancy of the literal sense when in 1515 he stated “In the Scriptures no allegory, tropology, or anagogy is valid, unless that same truth is explicitly stated literally somewhere else. Otherwise, Scripture would become a laughing matter.”[13] Although Luther, with other reformers, often fell back on old models of interpretation, in their fervor of this principle they also discarded all use type.

No further attempt to construct a well-defined and properly grounded typological system was made until 1610, when Johann Gerhard (1582-1637), published Tractatus De Legitima Scripturae Sacrae Interpretation.[14] His student Salomon Glass’ Philologia Sacra (1623) was influential to the formation of the Cocceian School in the latter half of the seventieth century.[15] Although this rough collection did not distinguish between the typological and allegorical, seeing both as equally warranted, they did distinguish between two sorts of types: innate and inferred. Innate are those that the NT expressly states (see Appendix A). Inferred types could only confirm truth already received and must conform to the practice of the NT writers in regard to similar examples. Without solid interpretative principles the Cocceian School was given to far-fetched analogies with only superficial resemblances between the OT and the NT dispensations.[16]

The Enlightenment, with essentially an antichristian philosophy and a growing discontent for the typological extravagances of the Coccein School, led to a slow decline in Europe. In Britain Clarke, Jortin and a pervading sense of a connection of the OT with the NT stalled this decline. Into this arena fell Bishop Marsh, the ablest and most systematic expounders of a discernibly new view.[17] He held the only legitimate types were innate, and if not explicitly stated were by obvious implication. He recommended an extreme caution when intending to extend the typical sphere.

Nineteenth century Victorian England was the high-water mark in typological interpretation. It was commonplace in sermons, hymns, and tracts to read the Bible in search of types anticipating Christ.[18] A flux between expanding and limiting the sphere of legitimate types persisted, as did the mediating view of Fairbairn.[19] Critical scholarship in Germany meanwhile, with few exceptions, repudiated the method of interpretation. Types became “an historical curiosity, of little importance or significance for the modern reader.”[20]

The twentieth century saw resurgence in interest in typological interpretation. Instrumental in this was the causative climate that gave rise to the dialectical school of theology, along with four specific factors, namely; a restudy of the use of the OT in the NT; the presence of typology in the OT; a recognition of the need for a Christological interpretation of the OT; and a renewed interest in the commentaries of the Reformers.[21]

In 1939 two dissertations were published; Goppelt’s Typos: Die typologishe Deutung des Alten Testaments im Neuen, considered the standard work on typology in the NT, and Weibe’s Dei Wustenzeit als Typus der messianischen Heilzeit. Through the 40’s escalating interest led to significant studies attempting to fuse the results of historical-criticism with biblical typology. It was not until the 50’s that these drew significant notice and battle-lines were drawn.[22] A “post-critical neo-typology” was born based upon an alternative conception of revelation and history that leaves no room for the predictive element in a type.[23]

The Latter Rain Movement[24] gave the typological interpretation of scripture new life at the popular level.[25]

Davidson notes that in the history of typological interpretation there has been no firmly established hermeneutical principles or solid semasiological and exegetical foundation for “typos”.[26] It is this to which he attributes the confusion of the nature of typology that exists today, and seeks to rectify that in his own doctoral dissertation. He concludes there is substantially more work to be done as almost every area of the subject remains unsettled, including terminology, definition, characteristics, relation to other modes of expression in Scripture, origin, scope and contemporary relevance.[27]

Critical Assesment

Remnants of the Cocceian and Marshian Schools of thought persists today, making assessment of the legitimacy of typological interpretation all the more relevant. The Cocceian mode can be seen in much of the popular literature of the twentieth century,[28] and is absent of sufficient ground to warrant some specific interpretations.

The Reformers I judge to be correct in their reaction against the typological/allegorical excesses of the middle ages, characterised best by Origen and Clement. As a hermeneutical principle it is reasonable to emphasise the priority of the literal sense above, but not in exclusion of, the other senses in the Quadriga.

The Marshian School’s reaction to the Cocceian School and capitulation to the Enlightenment milieu exceeded what was reasonable. Fairbairn’s four-knuckled argument against the Marshian principle that restricted the typical sphere to innate types is decisive. First, it is too narrow to allow investigation of the rational ground for the connection of type and antitype. Second, there is a double standard with respect to prophesy and type, for there is no need to assume inspiration in order to interpret prophesy, nor decide with certainty if prophesy has been fulfilled. Christ’s rebuke in Luke 24:25 gives us a reasonable ground “to infer the same liberty to have been granted, and obligation imposed in regard to the typical.”[29] Third, the author of Hebrews gives a sharp rebuke for the believer’s unfamiliarity with the type of Melchizedek.[30] Fourth, it is unreasonable to expect the OT types are listed exhaustively in the NT. Instead of an arbitrary selection of passages and groundless preference to the few portions of the OT, it is more reasonable (especially given divine inspiration) to afford the OT a homogeneous character.

The benefits of a well-grounded typological interpretation are substantial. It allows one to see scripture as a single integrated whole and the unity of design. It clarifies the meta-narrative in scripture and calls attention to the Bibles divine origin. It gives us a view of a singular sacred history, of deep appreciation for the artistry of God and the execution of his sovereign plan of redemption, and deepens ones understanding of the entire biblical message. It shows the subservience of one dispensation to the other[31] and demonstrates the Augustinian axiom “In Vetere Novum latet et in Nove Vetus patet” (The New Testament is hidden in the Old; the Old is made accessible by the New).[32] The study of types bring forth the more significant conceptual background of the NT as opposed to the mythology and philosophy of Greece and Rome suggested by nineteenth century critical scholars and today’s popular detractors of the Bible. It offers valuable insights into how Jesus and his apostles interpreted his acts and teachings.[33]

The benefits of typological interpretation should be weighed against the dangers involved. Karlberg states, “Resolution of lingering differences of interpretation among evangelicals depends, to a large extent, on a proper assessment of the nature and function of OT typology.”[34] The Cocceian slope is greased by well-meaning popular expositors that fail to communicate the sound principles from which they derived their conclusions. These concerns highlight the need for a detailed and sophisticated investigation into the hermeneutical rationale for legitimizing typological interpretations. This is vital for correct doctrine and if Scripture is to avoid becoming – in Luther’s words – a laughing matter.


[1] Alister E. McGrath, Christian Theology: An Introduction, 3rd Ed. (Oxford; Blackwell Publishing, 2001), 171.

[2] Chuck Missler, Cosmic Codes (Minnesota; Koinonia House, 1999), 189.

[3] This distinction between the allegory and typology in the traditional definition draws criticism from: Peter Martens “Origen the Allegorist and the Typology/Allegory Distinction” Notre Dame University. Cited 1 June 2009. Online: click here

Also, Davidson critiques the way in which the definition of type is imposed upon the text, rather than a semasiological and exegetical foundation establishing the understanding of “typos”. Richard M. Davidson, Typology in Scripture: a Study of Hermeneutical TYPOS Structures (Berries Springs, Michigan, Andrews University Press; 1981)

[4] When the literal sense looks fabulous and is considered incapable of being actual, or employed as it was meant to be fabulous for the purpose of communicating a diverse or higher sense, it is considered allegorical. The typological, on the other hand, requires the reality of the literal sense.

[5] W. Edward Glenny, “Typology: A summary of the present evangelical discussion” The Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, (Dec 1997), FindArticles.com. 1 Jun, 2009. click here; Leonard Goppelt, Typos: The Typological Interpretation of the Old Testament in the New (Grand Rapids, Mi; Eerdmans, 1939) 18.

[6] Patrick Fairbairn, The Typology of Scripture, 5th Ed. (London; Oliphants, 1953), 3.

[7] Wayne Jackson, “A Study of Biblical Typology” n.p. Christian Courier, Cited 1 June 2009. Online: click here

[8] James D. Smart, The Interpretation of Scripture (London; SMC Press, 1961), 94.

[9] Leonard Goppelt, Typos: The Typological Interpretation of the Old Testament in the New (Grand Rapids, Mi; Eerdmans, 1939), 194.

[10] Patrick Fairbairn, The Typology of Scripture, 5th Ed., (London; Oliphants, 1953), 7.

[11] “…where the historical narrative could not be made appropriate to the spiritual coherence of the occurrences, He inserted sometimes certain things which either did not take place or could not take place; sometimes also what might happen, but what did not.” Translated by Frederick Crombie. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 4. Edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1885.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. click here.

[12] Alister E. McGrath, Christian Theology: An Introduction, 3rd Ed. (Oxford; Blackwell Publishing, 2001), 171.

[13] Alister E. McGrath, Christian Theology: An Introduction, 3rd Ed. (Oxford; Blackwell Publishing, 2001), 173.

[14] : Peter Martens “Origen the Allegorist and the Typology/Allegory Distinction” Notre Dame University. Cited 1 June 2009. Online: click here

[15] The Cocceian school included Glass, Cocceius, Witsius and Vitrina. Patrick Fairbairn, The Typology of Scripture, 5th Ed., (London; Oliphants, 1953), 22.

[16] Ibid., 18.

[17] The Marshian school included Macknight, VanMildert, Conybeare, Nares, Chevalier, Horne and many others. American Joseph Muenscher writes “no person, event or institution, should be regarded as typical, but what may be proved to be such from the Scriptures.” Joseph Muenscher, “On Types and the Typical Interpretation of Scripture,” American Biblical Repository, (Jan 1841): 108

[18] George R. Landrow, “Typological Interpretations of Scripture in Nineteenth-Century Britain” n.p. A Victorian Web book. Citied 1 June 2009; click here

[19] Similar mediating views in the period come from Geerhardus Vos, Louis Berkof, and J. Barton Payne. Richard M. Davidson, Typology in Scripture: a Study of Hermeneutical TYPOS Structures (Berries Springs, MI; Andrews University Press; 1981), 48.

[20] Geoffrey W. H. Lampe and Kenneth J. Woollcombe “The Reasonableness of Typology” Essays on Typology (Naperville, IL, 1957), 17.

[21] James D. Smart, The Interpretation of Scripture (London; SMC Press, 1961), 94-96.

[22] Protagonists in the debate through the 50’s and particularly the 60’s are Rudolf Bultmann, Gerhard von Rad, Friedrich Baumgartel, Walter Eichrodt, Geoffrey Lampe with Kenneth J. Woollcombe, Hans Walter Wolff, and David L. Baker.

[23] Richard M. Davidson, Typology in Scripture: a Study of Hermeneutical TYPOS Structures (Berries Springs, MI; Andrews University Press, 1981), 111.

[24] Wikipedia, “Latter Rain Movement” Cited 1 June 2009. Online click here

[25] Key proponents from that movement include Kevin Connor, Interpreting the Symbols & Types; and Bill Britton, Jesus The Pattern Son.

[26] Richard M. Davidson, Typology in Scripture: a Study of Hermeneutical TYPOS Structures (Berries Springs, MI; Andrews University Press, 1981), 45.

[27] Ibid., 113.

[28] Ibid., 48

[29] Patrick Fairbairn, The Typology of Scripture, 5th Ed. (London; Oliphants, 1953), 22.

[30] Heb. 5:11-14

[31] Patrick Fairbairn, The Typology of Scripture, 5th Ed. (London; Oliphants, 1953), 24.

[32] Alister E. McGrath, Christian Theology: An Introduction, 3rd Ed. (Oxford; Blackwell Publishing, 2001), 172.

[33] Patrick Fairbairn, The Typology of Scripture, 5th Ed. (London; Oliphants, 1953), 24.

[34] W. Edward Glenny, “Typology: A summary of the present evangelical discussion” The Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, (Dec 1997), FindArticles.com. 1 Jun, 2009. click here; M. W. Karlberg, “Legitimate Discontinuities Between the Testaments,” JETS 28/1 (March 1985) 19.

Against Subjectivism

This is a post by Stuart McEwing on our blog about the nature of moral claims and whether there is a foundation for morality apart from God. Is morality an objective feature of the world? And if it is, are the naturalistic explanations of objective morality sufficient? You can view the post or join the discussion here.

Essential to the moral argument is affirming the existance of objective moral values and duties. If naturalism is true then there are no objective moral values and duties, and therefore all moral values and duties are merely subjective. But this brand of ethical theory, called Subjectivism, we find inadequate for the following reasons.

For one it does not adequately explain our shared moral experience. If a subjectivist were to see a woman being abused, victimised and raped, saying “this is wrong” is saying noting more profound that “Hey, such action is not acceptable to me.” He cannot rightly condemn the rapist for the rapist is only doing what feels right for him. But surely that doesn’t make sense. Such an action is morally reprehensible no matter how one feels about it. Rape is wrong for all people at all times, because it is an invasion of something sacred. But how can it be sacred if it is pure matter? The only way it could be sacred is if it is as the Bible says: the body is the temple of the living God.

If morals are not objective then one would have to say that Hitler’s extermination of the Jews (dissenting Christians, homosexuals and disabled) was only wrong in the sense that it was unpalatable – a mere preference of taste. If subjectivism is true, then Hitler was only acting unfashionably, doing nothing more serious than breaking another social convention like belching at the table, or driving on the right hand side of the road instead of the left.

But if you want to affirm that Hitler was really wrong, and that rape is wrong, and that other virtues like kindness, generosity and love are truly right whether believed or not, then it follows that there are some moral obligations that are objective, and subjectivism is false.

Secondly, it does not adequately explain how we live. Day to day we assume morals really are more than mere subjective expressions of taste. We praise good sportsmanship and deplore game-fixing. We object to be being treated unfairly and we cry out for justice as if it really is a right of ours. We declare acts of terrorism evil and we applaud fire-fighters who run into burning buildings to save lives. Like Princess Di we give to charity because we think it is right, and that not giving when we are capable is somehow wrong. We cherish people like Ghandi, who acted honourable in response to British Imperialism.

Examples are manifold. Everyday we face a thousand decisions and at every decision we understand that there is a standard of right and wrong that supersedes all opinions and judges each appropriately.

Bertrand Russell espoused subjectivism in his writings but could not live consistently with it. He was involved in protests for nuclear proliferation, animal rights campaigns and even spent a number of months in jail for refusing to pay the war tax. In other words he lived like there were moral obligations, and that these moral obligations were valid and binding for all people at all times, and not merely expressions of preference.

Richard Dawkins, the popular evolutionary biologist says “There is at bottom no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pointless indifference. . . we are machines for propagating DNA” and yet his latest book is full of moralising. He has shown he does believe that some things that are evil, some things are good, and these not merely right and wrong for him, but wrong for everyone. He is at bottom a walking talking self-contradiction.

Such a moral awareness can be described as basic and bedrock, as the atheist philosopher Kai Neilson puts it:

<blockquote>”It is more reasonable to believe such elemental things [as wife beating and child abuse] to be evil that to believe any skeptical theory that tells us we cannot reasonably believe any of these thongs to be evil. . . I firmly believe that this is bedrock an right and tha anyone who does not believe it cannot have probes deeply enough into the grounds of his moral beliefs.”</blockquote>

We have more reason to deny the physical worl is objective, lthan we do to deny the objectivity of moral values and obligation. Though modification may be necessary on further reflection we have no reaso. To distrust our basic intuitions. Indeed, the atheist moral philosopher David O. Brink considers it the default possision. He says;

<blockquote>”There might be no objective moral standards. . . But this would be a revisionary conclusion, to be accepted only as the result of extended and compelling argument that the commitments of ethical objectivity are unsustainable.”</blockquote>

The objectivity of moral values and duties should be considered what philosophers call properly basic beliefs: something that is perfectly acceptable to believe on the basis of your own experience, only to be abandoned if successful defeaters are found. People who fail to see that moral obligation is objective are simply morally handicapped and there is no reason for their impaired vision to call into question what we clearly see.

Finally, personal subjectivism and cultural relativism are inadequate to explain moral debate and moral reform. These are two correlatives of the above considerations. If all there is to right and wrong is a factual claim about the likes and dislikes of a particular person or culture, then what sense is there in protesting for the civil rights of black American’s in the 50’s and 60’s? There wasn’t anything objectively wrong about racism and apartheid, just like there wasn’t anything ultimately praise worthy about the abolition of slavery. These were just the changing winds of fashion. A fad that was in one day, and could quite possibly be out the next.

If cultural relativism is true, then there was nothing wrong about lashing a run-away slave to within inches of his life during the heydays of slavery in the south, for that was an acceptable practice for that culture. Though unacceptable now, there is nothing incoherent given cultural relativism that slavery may, in 50 years time, be acceptable again. But if you disagree and think that slavery can never again be acceptable, and if you think that moral progress has been made: if you think that mankind has grown up in his thought and that a deterioration of the collective moral conscience would be abominable, then you are pre-supposing a standard of right and wrong outside of your own feelings and culture, and it follows that there is an objective frame of reference for moral debate and reform.

In summary then, (1) our experience assumes and confirms to us a realm of objective moral obligations beyond social convention, emotional preference, or adaptive mechanism. (2) We all take moral duties to be properly basic, bedrock intuitions that we can’t not know to be true. (3) Moral debate and moral progress presupposes an objective, external standard. It is for these reasons that we take subjectivism to be false, and that therefore there are some moral obligations that are objective features of the world.

Preorder the Hitchens v Wilson documentary “Collision”

The documentary of the debate tour involving new atheist Christopher Hitchens (God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything) and evangelical theologian Pastor Douglas Wilson comes out this month. Both are lively speakers and the topic addressed (“Is religion good for the world?”) continues to be a source of heated debate. You can preorder it now on amazon. Also check out the official site to watch the first 13 minutes.

Pocket Dictionary of Apologetics

From the publisher:

Pocket Dictionary of Apologetics & Philosophy of Religion by C Stephen Evans

“For philosophers, the pursuit of truth travels on precise definitions. For Christian apologists, the defense of the faith is founded on the defining Word. And for beginning students of either discipline, the difference between success and frustration begins with understanding the terms and ideas and identifying the thinkers and movements. It is in this spirit that C. Stephen Evans offers The Pocket Dictionary of Apologetics and Philosophy of Religion, a quick reference guide to 300 terms and thinkers related to apologetics and the philosophy of religion.

With clear, concise definitions, this little book will likely become an invaluable research tool. It defines philosophical and religious terms, ranging from a posteriori and a priori to worldview and worship. You also get brief biographies of thinkers like Peter Abelard, Aristotle, Augustine, Plato, Alfred North Whitehead, Ludwig Wittgenstein, and others. In addition, there are short descriptions of some major and minor religious systems, including Buddhism, Confucianism, and Wicca, along with descriptions of many religious movements like Arminianism and Puritanism. Plus, several major apologetic arguments from cosmology, natural theology, and other sources are described.

If it is related to apologetics or the philosophy of religion, you will find it in The Pocket Dictionary of Apologetics and Philosophy of Religion. The strength of the definitions is brevity, but they are accurate and reliable, functioning as first steps in probing the issues further. Students of all levels will find this book a useful resource, either as an introduction or as a quick reminder of the basics of a particular position, movement or person.”

You can buy this book in NZ here.

100 Christian Apologists up @ Apologetics 315

Congrats Brian, what an awesome job.  Let’s hope and pray that we can increase that number 10-fold through your work at Apologetics 315, and ours here at Thinking Matters!

Check it out here…

http://apologetics315.blogspot.com/2009/06/100-christian-apologists.html

Is the New Atheism Reasonable?

Last night I presented the talk ‘Is the New Atheism Reasonable?’ at Thinking Matters Tauranga.  It was split into two parts – the first was a bit of worldview and epistemology and the second more social commentary and history to refute the New Atheist claim that Christianity is somehow bloodthirsty.

To start my presentation, I looked at the question of Agnosticism and identified the two types: Soft Agnosticism and Hard Agnosticism. Read more

The Second Law of Thermodynamics

Since heat is one of the most common forms of energy in the Universe, and since its action can be seen on bodies everywhere, the science of thermo-dynamics (heat-motion) received very early development in physics.

Entropy is a mathematical measure of disorder. This means that any work in the Universe results in a net increase in disorder in the Universe, so that if the Universe is left untouched, it will eventually reach the state of maximum disorder, a state of death known as the Entropy Death. Read more

Abiogenesis — Where is the Evidence?

It has been great contributing posts on this blog. It has also been great to interact with a number of people who do not subscribe to the creation model of the Universe. However, within a short period of time it has become clear that most of them have not done their homework.

According to the Law of Biogenesis, life comes only from preexisting life. This is a firmly established law of science, and never has an exception ever been documented in any area of science. The aseptic practices in surgical theaters, pasteurization, and every other method to keep micro-organisms from spreading is based upon the law of biogenesis. Read more

Disappointed Again !!

When I wrote to the effect that Abiogenesis (genesis of living thins from the nonliving) is not a fact of science, many anti-creationist visitors of this blog asked me to read certain books. They claimed that these books demonstrated how abiogenesis was possible in the face of the second law of thermodynamics.

I Felt Cheated. Then all of them said that I should read “Frontiers of Complexity” and that is exactly what I have been doing among other things. Surely this a good book, a very good book at that, but again it does not address the issue my friends claim as addressed. Read more

Former Buddhist Speaks Out

It has irked me that the west has a rosy-eyed view of Buddhism as a moral system. I’ve come across people who praise the atheistic religion for their peaceful way of life and their system of ethics that is – supposedly – superior to Christian model of ethics. You get this also through the media as well, for instance in the movie Bee Season (2005) with Richard Gere.

This testimony from AOG pastor Peter Thein Nyunt, a former Buddhist’s apprentice destroys that idea. He was recently in New Zealand with the Langham Partnership. The view from the inside from this native from Myanmar (formerly Burma) about Buddhism is illuminating.

For the audio go here.

Cracks In The Edifice

The Theory of Evolution has been reigning the academic world for close to a century and a half, but the alleged proofs and demonstrations have been playing a vanishing game. The latest one to do so is what is usually called the “Phylogenetic Tree”.

A theory like Evolution needs multiple proofs and evidences, and thankfully the proponents have been offering a generous number of proofs. This helps both the sides. The proponents get an opportunity to organize their house, while the opponents get an opportunity to examine whether it is a real house or only one made of cards.

Phylogenetic_tree.svg An arrangement of all the known flora and fauna in an organized tree, starting from the simplest known life and culminating in the most advanced one is called a Phylogenetic Tree. Initially they used an intuitive classification based upon perceived similarities, but gradually the work became more sophisticated. Today almost all standard textbooks on biological evolution necessarily contain at least one picture of the Phylogenetic Tree, mainly in support of Evolution.

The first such tree was made by Charles Darwin and his predecessors, and the picture that is shown in most textbooks today was perfected before the 1930s. However, cracks began to appear in the picture soon after that. The Cladists were almost the first to challenge this picture. They refuted the idea of a single tree and substituted multiple trees, each one evolving independently of the other.

Non-evolutionists have always insisted that this tree has no empirical basis and that the whole construction is arbitrary. This arbitrariness was demonstrated repeatedly by the way the tree was rearranged, and also by the absence of established “links” between branches. The question of the non-evolutionist empiricist like me is, “how do you know the branch connects in a certain place when the link that ought to connect is missing”.

The latest issues of Scientific American, New Scientist, and several other scientific magazines accept this observation of non-evolutionists in so many words. Not that they have abandoned the framework of evolution. No, that is not the issue here. The basic issue is that this particular proof, as presented in biology textbooks, is simply not true. Empirical observations have shown — particularly after the arrival of genetic studies — that the tree will not hold together. The presumed edifice will not hold together. [Picture from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phylogenetic_tree]

The author is a physicist, and has worked in the filed of Quantum-Nuclear physics, particularly on the quark structure of protons, neutrons, and deuterium binding energy.

Miracles in Apologetics Part 2

I have long thought that a miracle can be an apologetic. It was one of the chief ways that God authenticated His word and His revelation. Today, with the resurgence of our awareness of miracles, it is important we think about how the testimony of miracles sounds to unbelievers, particularly those who are sceptical and philosophically opposed to Christianity and belief in God.

In order to develop an apologetic for God’s existence that reduces the opportunity for scepticism, based upon the testimony of miracles, I suggest that a miracle X meets the following criteria.

(1) Does X have a natural explanation?
If the answer is “Yes,” then X is merely a case for either God’s providence or second-order causation. What we will be focusing on here is first-order causation where a miracle is any event such that the natural conditions for said event were not present. 

(2) Is the miracle radical enough to assume that there is no yet to be discovered natural explanation to defeat it.

For example, the Egyptian magicians of Pharaoh could duplicate the miracles performed by Moses, but a point was reached when the magicians ability to duplicate the miracle was surpassed due to the large scale and spectacular nature. An ache in the belly with the tendency to come and go, when prayed for may disappear, but such an occurrence, though it may be a genuine miracle, would hardly be convincing. On the other-hand a regenerative miracle, where a blind man sees, a lame man walks, or deaf man hears, or a limb suddenly re-grows is more difficult to wave away as having a natural explanation.

(3) Did X happen within the context answered prayer.

The objection this counters is the chance hypothesis. The skeptic will claim that with six billion people in the world it is not unexpected that some people will be particularly lucky or experience miraculous-like events. However the plausibility of this hypothesis is reduced when it occurs in the context of prayer.

(4) Is X an isolated occurrence, or is there a high frequency of similar occurrences in the same context?

For instances explaining Jesus’ miracles away with natural explanations become increasingly contrived the more miracles there are that have to be explained.

(5) Did X happen instantly, or did it take a while?

This is not to say that miracles that take some time are less miraculous, but to say that miracles that happen instantly are the better spectacle.

(6) Was X permanent?

(7) Is X verified by experts in the field, ie. medical doctors and supporting evidence (x-rays, test results).

It will take skill to weigh and balance the above criteria – though they are not really criteria as a genuine miracle may not necessarily conform to every point. This is only a suggested checklist for use in an argument for divine causation, specifically to refute both Deism and Atheism. It is only a guideline to assessing the convincing power of a testimony, and to reduce the opportunity for scepticism and rejection.