[BOOK REVIEW] Creation out of Nothing: A Biblical, Philosophical, and Scientific Exploration

[BOOK REVIEW] Creation out of Nothing: A Biblical, Philosophical, and Scientific Exploration

Copan, Paul and William Lane Craig. Creation out of Nothing: A Biblical, Philosophical, and Scientific Exploration. Logos ed. Leicester, England Grand Rapids, MI: Apollos; Baker Academic, 2004.

In this book, Copan and Craig bring to bear the most recent biblical scholarship, philosophy and scientific foundation for understanding what Genesis 1 teaches about creation. This view provides a counterpoint to the tradition of thinkers like Schleiermacher who argued for a detemproalized creation which has no connection to philosophy or science, but is only concerned with religious experience. Specifically, Copan and Craig endeavor to give reason to accept the idea that the God of the Hebrew scripture created the material world from nothing. This book is broken down into eight chapters. Chapters 1 through three provide the biblical and extrabiblical witness to creation ex nihilo, chapters 4 through 6 give a philosophical underpinning for the book’s thesis, and the final chapters 7 and 8 provide the scientific and naturalistic evidence for the thesis.

Chapter 1 makes the case that creation ex nihilo is the best interpretation of the teachings of the Old Testament. The chapter offers three lines of reasoning. First, the cosmology of Genesis is distinct from other Ancient Near Eastern mythology in its assertion of both monotheism and a contingent creation distinct from the creator. Second, the Hebrew word for creation, bārāʾ reinforces the cosmological idea that God created purely from his word and not from any existing material reality. Third, in a two-stage process, the Hebrew God created all matter and then organized it into the universe.

Chapter 2 surveys key passages from John 1:3, Romans 4:17, Hebrews 11:3 and a series of other verse that reinforce the Old Testament concept of creation ex nihilo. These NT verses, according to Copan and Craig, mirror the explicit teaching of the Old Testament of a God who is both distinct from all he created and whose creation remains contingent on his being. One key argument is that “Either creatio ex nihilo is true, or God is not all-powerful. But God is truly all-powerful” therefore, creation ex nihilo is an indirect, yet clear, teaching of the NT.[1]

Chapter 3 provides insight from other non-biblical literature that supports the Hebraic concept of creation ex nihilo. The three main sources for the study are the Apocrypha, later Jewish sources such as Josephus, Philo, Gamaliel II, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and Medieval Jewish exegetes and the Church Fathers. These early sources reinforce the Hebrew cosmological worldview that God is the uncreated beginning for all matter. These sources, including the Church Fathers, confirm that the biblical doctrine of ex nihilo makes the most sense of the biblical teachings of God’s sovereignty, freedom, eternality, and necessity.

Chapters 4, 5 and 6 provide a deeper philosophic understanding and foundation for creation ex nihilo. The Scripture makes a distinction between the concepts of God as creator and conserver which many scholars and philosophers tend to conflate. God as creator and patient preserver implies an A-theory of time and objective temporal becoming. Competing solutions to the problem of divine aseity are argued among Platonists and anti-Platonists. Copan and Craig concede they do not have an authoritative answer for theists looking to explain abstract objects but posit the most promising solution lies in a nominalist or conceptualist account. Considering there are a variety of plausible solutions, there is a valid reason to accept the concept of ex nihilo. Philosophic support for an uncreated creator and a created universe are supported two basic arguments:[2]

  1. An actual infinite cannot exist.
  2. An infinite temporal regress of events is an actual infinite.
  3. Therefore, an infinite temporal regress of events cannot exist.

And the second syllogism is similarly argued:[3]

  1. The series of events in time is a collection formed by successive addition.
  2. A collection formed by successive addition cannot be actually infinite.
  3. Therefore, the series of events in time cannot be actually infinite.

Both arguments form the logical foundation for belief in the aseity of God and creation ex nihilo.

The final two chapters 7 and 8 provide a scientific foundation for accepting creation ex nihilo. Here the authors argue that standard Big Bang cosmology of an expanding universe and the principles of thermodynamics demonstrates the universe must have a beginning. Therefore, the theistic assertion of creation from nothing by an uncreated creator cannot be contradicted by the best empirical evidence. The authors finally address three arguments against creation ex nihilo; a self-created universe, supernaturalistic and naturalistic alternatives. The authors conclude that these theories are not as straightforward as the ones posited in previous chapters nor are they supported by the best scientific evidence. Therefore, creation ex nihilo is the most plausible biblical, philosophic, and scientific answer to the cosmos.

I give Copan and Craig’s book Creation out of Nothing: book 5 stars for anyone interested in discovering the biblical, scientific and philosophic foundations for creatio ex nihilo.

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[1] Paul Copan and William Lane Craig, Creation out of Nothing: A Biblical, Philosophical, and Scientific Exploration, Logos ed. (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Apollos; Baker Academic, 2004), 91.

[2] Ibid., 200.

[3] Ibid., 211.

The Loss of Wonder and the Descent of Humanity

The Loss of Wonder and the Descent of Humanity

What are we to make of the recent attack in Las Vegas that left 58 dead and hundreds injured? What would motivate a man to undertake such an evil?

The investigation into the specifics of his motive are ongoing, and I cannot pretend to have a complete answer. There are; however, some basic facts that can tell us some important things.

The shooter was wealthy. By all accounts, he had enough wealth so that he no longer needed to work, but spent his time in leisure gambling. From the outside, he was a financial success living a life that many people look upon with envy. so why would a man of success, living “the dream” do such a terrible thing?

In part, the answer comes when we realize that setting goals and fulfilling dreams is far different than having meaning and fulfilling purpose. Ravi Zacharias in his book, Recapture the Wonder: frames the question well:

Skeptics would use a tragedy like this to point to the absence of God in the human experience. “Where is God in such disfigurement?” ment?” they will argue. “How can one blame this man for seeing no purpose and fulfillment in being alive?” I think it is here that we make our first very subtle mistake, both in our logic and in our experience. It is shallow reasoning to deduce that because pain or unfulfilled dreams have brought disappointment appointment to experience, life itself must be hollow and purposeless. less. In fact, this conclusion may miss the deeper problem within our common struggle to find something in life of ultimate purpose.

Ravi Zacharias. Recapture the Wonder: Experiencing God’s Amazing Promise of Childlike Joy (p. 3). Kindle Edition.

It was observed by family that the shooter had:

“No affiliation, no religion, no politics. He never cared about any of that stuff. He was a guy who had money. He went on cruises and gambled.”

This, to me, is a picture of depression, isolation, sadness, and sorrow… not success. Ravi goes on to observe something important here we can all take to heart.

You see, fulfilled dreams are not necessarily fulfilled hopes. Attainment and fulfillment are not the same. Many dream and wish for the attainments that would make them the envy of our world. Careers, positions, possessions, romance … these are real goals, pursued sued by the vast majority who are deluded into believing that succeeding in these areas brings fulfillment. But deep within there is some stronger longing, sometimes even hard to pinpoint. We know there is a vacuum, a space of huge proportions that seeks a state of mind that attainments cannot fill. That dream of ultimate fulfillment is intangible but recognizable, indefinable but felt, verbalized but imprecise, visualized but blurred, inestimable but traded in for something less, something daily. I suggest it is the greatest pursuit of every life, consciously or unconsciously, and it is not mitigated by one’s worldly success. That

Ravi Zacharias. Recapture the Wonder: Experiencing God’s Amazing Promise of Childlike Joy (pp. 4-5). Kindle Edition.

Too many people are consumed with living a dream that empties us of our souls. We see poverty as the anti-hope and wealth as the ultimate fulfillment. But if we can learn anything from the shooter in Las Vegas, it is that the size of ones bank account does not correspond to fulfillment. Ravi says:

I believe it is possible that those who have attained every dream may be at least as impoverished as the man at the dump-perhaps even more-as they bask in the accolades, knowing that the charade is shattered by the aloneness within them.

Ravi Zacharias. Recapture the Wonder: Experiencing God’s Amazing Promise of Childlike Joy (p. 5). Kindle Edition.

We can talk about gun control. We can talk about mental health. We can talk about Islamic radicalization or Antifa. These are all important and necessary conversations. But right now, today, we also need to talk about meaning and the value for human life that only comes from God. Without God, there is a loss of wonder that only leads to the descent of humanity. If you are someone struggling to understand why, then the first step is to turn towards Jesus Christ—the one person who has all the answers.

Today, amidst the terror of inhumanity, I am reminded of the old hymn I used to sing when I was a kid.

O soul, are you weary and troubled?
No light in the darkness you see?
There’s light for a look at the Savior,
And life more abundant and free.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

Through death into life everlasting
He passed, and we follow Him there;
O’er us sin no more hath dominion
For more than conqu’rors we are!

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

His Word shall not fail you, He promised;
Believe Him and all will be well;
Then go to a world that is dying,
His perfect salvation to tell!

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.

First Amazon Review for #EldersLead

First Amazon Review for #EldersLead

My newest book, Elders Lead a Healthy Family,  is now out on Amazon.com and here is the first review:

Dr. J. R. Miller has written a book that directly challenges an average American evangelical status quo: the supposed office of pastor. In Elders Lead a Healthy Family, the popular “CEO” church-leadership model is directly, yet respectfully, critiqued and contrasted with a shared elder-leadership structure more faithful to New Testament ecclesiology. No more “senior pastors,” “associate pastors,” and the like, for church polity—a model that more closely resembles Western corporate business structures than the plurality of elders portrayed in Acts and Paul’s pastoral epistles. Rather, Jesus alone is the “Senior Pastor” (1 Peter 5:4), and all those serving as leaders in the church are His equal under-shepherds. With this in mind, Miller promotes a structure where the local church resembles a family fellowship rather than assuming a leadership model with one man on top followed by lower-tiered clergy (which effectively returns us to the pre-Reformation clergy / laity divide). Far from being a free-flowing, leader-less frenzy, however, the author takes us back to how the NT defines and describes the office of elder, and a plurality of elders–who serve more as “big brothers” than a special class of ordained clergy.

Because Dr. Miller actually practices what he preaches—a shared leadership model with a plurality of elders all bearing the burden (…even the weekly preaching!)—I cannot recommend this book enough. Here is a true practitioner of elder-led churches with a wealth of pastoral and academic experience that only adds undoubted credentials to the book. And, for those interested in the perspective of a real-life working “elder’s wife” (contra. “pastor’s wife”), Dr. Miller’s wife, Suzanne, adds a priceless chapter of her own which is itself worth the price of the book. Rather than merely talking about “shared leadership” or a “plurality of elders,” which are common buzz-words with today’s non-denominational pastoral teams, Dr. Miller’s Elders Lead a Healthy Family actually outline’s what it looks like–and how the church functions better by it to the glory of her Chief Shepherd.

Dr. Miller in Renewal: Journal of West Africa Theological Seminary

Dr. Miller in Renewal: Journal of West Africa Theological Seminary

Dr. Miller’s article,”The Unity of Brotherhood in the African Church: Establishing a Biblical self-Identity in the Shared Leadership of Elders,” was peer reviewed and selected for publication in Renewal: Journal of West Africa Theological Seminary 3, no. 1 (October 2016): 49-73.

ABSTRACT

The Continent of Africa has an enduring Christian legacy; both in what has been penned in the annals of history, and in the future that has yet to be written. Writing as an observer from the West, it is my hope that the Church in Africa can build on recent progress and overcome the errors of history to build a strong church on the foundation of the historic biblical faith She helped foster in the early centuries of Christianity. The African Church can grow stronger through the establishment of local congregations founded on shared leadership (more than one man leading the church), the equality of every believer functioning as spiritual-siblings, and a plurality of Elders—which is the tradition given to us in the Scripture. Embracing a shared leadership structures using multiple Elders in local churches can help the African Church reach two important goals. First, embracing biblical shared leadership will help each congregation overcome the abuse of power reflected in the “Pastor as CEO” model, where the church is run more like a business, and replace it with a biblical model of Family-leadership. Second, building local churches on a family-model of shared leadership will position the African Church as a world influencer.

A Prayer for my President: Donald J. Trump

A Prayer for my President: Donald J. Trump

As I did with President Obama, today on inauguration day I am lifting up a prayer for my President Donald J. Trump. I must admit, these are words that I never imagined I would write. Like most Americans, I never thought Trump stood a chance of winning, but here we are in 2017 looking toward the unknown of the next four years.

Today, my biggest prayer is for healing. The rhetoric of the 2016 campaign was extremely divisive from leaders in both parties. In 2008, one of my biggest prayers was that Obama’s Presidency would increase racial unity in America. I wrote at that time,

Now, less than 50 years [after the civil rights movement of the 1960’s], we stand at the edge of a new era when the fullness of our constitutional promise that “All Men are created equal” will  be achieved.  On January 20th, 2009, Barack Obama will be sworn in is as the first non-white President of the United States of America.

To be certain, this does not mean the end of all racial problems.  As noted in the February 2001 article in Time, there are some who say “Obama Is Not Black Enough.”  For others, Obama is not white enough.  In a country of this size, with a great diversity of cultures, there will always be some racial hatred and bigotry.  But look how far we have come!

Sadly, the last 8 years our leaders have helped foment racial division, weakened traditional institutions of moral strength, and fractured many once strong relationships.

  • I pray against any leader who tries to advance the culture of fear as a way to keep their power and wealth.
  • To those who chose violent protest and riots as their path of dissent, I pray they would abandon these immoral tactics.
  • My prayer for President Trump is that he would elevate his rhetoric, lead with integrity, appoint godly people, and be a source for reconciliation in American politics.

1 Timothy 2:1–6 (ESV)

2 First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.

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