[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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Footnotes

[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.

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.

The Hidden Codes of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick

The Hidden Codes of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick

The topic of secret codes hidden in the Bible has been around for centuries, but came to a head in 1998 with the publication of Dan Brown’s book. Now, almost 20 years later folks are still wondering about those secret “bible codes.”  Since this topic remains alive, I am reposting this response on a previous blog for everyone to consider.

In terms of Mathematics, I think “bible codes” are a bunch of bunk; theologically, they are silly; biblically, they are condemned as numerology. It’s fair to say that I have developed a fairly strong opinion on them because I have seen them as a source of deception to God’s people.

But honestly it is not even worth my time to do a serious review of this silliness. The best way to illustrate how dumb the “bible codes” are, is to show you how the same methodology of discovering “hidden codes” can be done with the book Moby Dick.

I am quoting below only a small excerpt from one of my favorite sites on this topic. They do a great job of finding the “hidden” codes you never knew were there.

A brief summary of the codes claims is that the Hebrew text of the Bible (especially of the Torah, the first five books) contain intentional coincidences of words or phrases that appear as letters with equal spacing.

The most serious claim of scientific evidence for the Codes was made by three Israelis: Doron Witztum, Eliyahu Rips, and Yoav Rosenberg (WRR). They claim that biographical information about medieval rabbis is “encoded” in the Hebrew text of Genesis. Specifically, the rabbis’ names and other appellations are claimed to be encoded closer to their dates of birth and death than should be expected by chance. WRR’s “experiment” appeared in the respectable journal Statistical Science in 1994.

We have performed many independent scientific tests of the Bible Codes claims. All of them failed to detect anything not easily explained by random chance. These experiments are not to be confused with the demonstrations of trickery that we have constructed in War and Peace.

All of those experiments, and all the other experiments we have conducted, failed to find any “codes” above chance levels.

Picture 1The book “The Bible Code” by Michael Drosnin has been the most successful mass-market book about the Torah Codes. Alas, all semblence of scientific method is missing, and all of the important codes proponents have disowned him. By repeated examples, we prove that Drosnin did not find anything that can’t be found in any book, even in English.

The center-piece of the book is a “prediction” of the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

The following challenge was made by Michael Drosnin:

When my critics find a message about the assassination of a prime minister encrypted in Moby Dick, I’ll believe them. (Newsweek, Jun 9, 1997)

Note that English with the vowels included is far less flexible than Hebrew when it comes to making letters into words. Nevertheless, without further ado, we present our answer to Mr Drosnin’s challenge.

Prime Minister Indira Gandhi

gandhi

The Reverend Martin Luther King

king
John F. Kennedy

President John F. Kennedy was shot in the head by an assassin who quietly waited in a concealed place. It was in Texas, November 1963, during a presidential motorcade.

kennedy2 kennedy1 kennedy3

Abraham Lincoln

President Abraham Lincoln was shot dead on April 14, 1865.

lincoln1

Yitzhak Rabin

Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin was shot dead on November 4, 1995. His assassin was Igal Amir, who fired three shots of which one hit Rabin fatally in the chest. Amir was a student at Bar-Ilan University, and associated with an underground group Eyal which modelled itself on a historical terrorist group called Lehi. Amir was angered by Rabin’s role in the “Peace Process” and especially by the Oslo accords.

rabin

Princess Dianna

Lady Diana, a member of the British royal family, died in a car accident together with her boyfriend Dodi and the driver Henri Paul. As the text says, she was at last mortal in these jaws of death.The site even goes on to compare Moby Dick and the Bible. Which book do you think reveals the hidden hand of God?

diana

Due to the fierce competition between Genesis and Moby Dick for the title of supreme source of codes, we thought we would ask each of these sources about the other.

As we expected, both agree that Moby Dick is the champion.

What Genesis says about Moby Dick

mdcodes

What Moby Dick says about the Bible

nocode1 nocode2

The second picture shows a clear admonition from The Great Moby that we should read the actual text of the Bible and not look for codes in it.

The above summary was adapted from several pages on the website for the “Scientific Refutation of the Bible Codes” by Brendan McKay and Friends

You really must check out THE REST OF THEIR SITE. The above adaptation is only a very small portion of the real math behind their debunking of the otherwise popular “Bible Code” mythology.

This post is the best summary anyone can give of the books and people who try to manipulate the Bible. Please don’t be fooled any longer!

Bible Study Software Christmas Giveaway

Bible Study Software Christmas Giveaway

If you’re already familiar with Logos Bible Software, and you understand the value that Logos Cloud adds to your library, you are more than welcome to skip below to the Logos Cloud Christmas Giveaway.

As both a church planter and graduate professor I have the privilege of daily working with people from diverse backgrounds; each with a unique set of Bible study needs. Over the years, Logos Bible Software has helped all of these folks read, understand and apply the truth of Scripture to their unique context.

  • Are you a community group leader preparing study lessons each week or a pastor/elder preparing the next sermon?
  • What about a scholar or student who frequently has too many books to carry?
  • Or are you someone who’s simply passionate about God’s word?

If you’re like most, and your top priority is to better engage with the Word, then do yourself a favor and start your free month of Logos Cloud.

logos-cloud-essentials-lgWith Logos Cloud you have all of your favorite books on Christian living, comprehensive Bible dictionaries, encyclopedias, commentaries, and more in an easily searchable digital format. Logos Cloud does away with endless page turning and dead­end searching. While using Logos Cloud, you will discover exactly what you’re looking for every time.

Plus, Logos Cloud will never become old technology. Every six weeks you’ll get new updates, features, tools, and more. And every month new titles will be added to your library, so it grows with you. No matter where you are in your Bible study, Logos Cloud is here to help you find your way faster, engage with scripture easier, and experience unbelievably powerful Bible study every day. Simply put, Logos Cloud grows with you to meet your growing need.

Logos Cloud is on a mission to make Bible study better and more accessible to all, that’s why there aren’t any contracts or fees. You can cancel at any time. If aren’t using Logos Cloud yet, get started with a free month today. If you already own Logos on your desktop, then Logos Clouds integrates seamlessly into your existing software and adds to your Library.

Check out this Features page for more details.

Packages

Logos CLOUD comes in 4 packages, CLICK HERE to get a free month trial of the Essentials, PlusPremium or Professional package.

Giveaway: Enter to Win!

Enter below to win a FREE YEAR of Logos CLOUD Premium.

Win a Logos Cloud Premium Annual Subscription from Dr. Miller

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Review Disclaimer

Dr. Miller was a former Logos Employee from 2010 through 2011. He was provided a free copy of the product for review purposes. Dr. Miller is also a published author with Logos Bible Software.

[BOOK REVIEW] Supernatural

[BOOK REVIEW] Supernatural

5_Star

Do you really believe what the Bible says?

This is the opening question for Dr. Michael S. Heiser’s new book, “Supernatural: What the Bible Teaches about the Unseen World And Why It Matters.” His book is dedicated to discussing the strange, and often troublesome, passages of the supernatural that most pastors ignore in their preaching. Examples include:

  • God takes counsel with heavenly beings on who will deceive the king Ahab (1 Kings 22:19–23).
  • God keeping fallen angels in chains (Jude 1:6).
  • Jesus proclaiming the good news to imprisoned spirits (1 Peter 3:18).
  • “God presides in the heavenly council; in the assembly of the gods he gives his decision.” (Psalm 82:1)

If you are fascinated by the supernatural, but confused by what passages like this mean, then Dr. Heiser’s book is for you. But, this is more than just a novelty book, as Heiser asserts,

[T]he truths presented in this book have everything to do with our understanding of who God is, and how we relate to him, and what our purpose is on earth (pg. 23).

To that end, Heiser ends each chapter with a series of practical applications for these difficult passages.

This is not to say the book is without some controversy. For example, regarding the Creation account where God proclaims, “let us make man in our image (Gen. 1:26),”  Heiser concludes the “us” in this passage is not the “Trinity” as many Christians conclude, but God’s heavenly council. Heiser writes,

Supernatural-SocialShare-612x612-2His heavenly host—his council. He’s not talking to the other members of the Trinity, because God can’t know something they don’t (pg. 23)!

What Heiser writes is in line with what most early commentators from Philo on taught, but diverges from what many contemporary scholars and pastors teach.

Given the breadth of content Heiser covers in Supernatural, it is worth reading. It is easy to digest and most Christians will find it helpful in addressing some of the most difficult passages.

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Review Disclaimer

Dr. Miller was a former Logos Employee from 2010 through 2011. He was provided a free copy of the product for review purposes. Dr. Miller is also a published author with Logos Bible Software.

[REVIEW] Proclaim Presentation Software

[REVIEW] Proclaim Presentation Software

4_Star

Proclaim is Cloud connected software that equips teams in churches of every size with the integrated media tools necessary to enhance the Sunday worship experience. Proclaim is a product of Faithlife which is owned and operated by the same folks that develop Logos Bible Software. In 2012, Logos jumped into the church presentation market offering a tool they hoped would fill the gaps left open in existing software offerings. You can brush up on some of the competition HERE, but below let me point out some of the features that make Proclaim worth your consideration.

Useful Features

  • Unlimited use on any number of computers with just one subscription.
  • Mac and Windows compatible.
  • Purchase comes with $1,000 worth of media in a growing database of resources.
  • Conveniently connects to CCLI SongSelect, Planning Center Online, Graceway Media, and Logos Bible Software.
  • Proclaim Signals allow for interactive services from people on mobile devices.
  • Control presentations from a mobile device or tablet with the Proclaim Remote.

Special Features

In addition to the many useful features listed above, there are a few unique features worth mentioning.

Sermon Recording

As a church planter, I know first-hand that getting the right tools and the people trained is a challenge. In most cases, to create a podcast or get the sermon audio on your website typically means purchasing a series of separate programs for recording and editing along with additional hardware.

In this recent video, I outline some of the best audio/video recording hardware and software options for creating a studio for under $500.

And once you get all your tools together, you still have to hope your sound team remembers to start the recording on time. And once everything is recorded, it still takes a few hours for a volunteer to edit and upload the sermon.  Proclaim aims to solve this set of problems by integrating recording into their software using “Sermon Audio Cues.”  What this means is that the computer tech. tells the software when to start recording and as soon as the corresponding slide is displayed, the software begins to do the work. You can set up multiple start and stop cues with relative ease.

Once the sermon is over, you can add all the details right inside Proclaim, trim the audio and publish directly to the Faithlife server which synchronizes all of your sermon slides for viewing. You can even export the audio for your iTunes podcast. All-in-all, Proclaim is a relatively simple solution for a church that does not have a large technical volunteer or support staff.

The only caution I offer is that when you put all your technology eggs in one basket, one glitch means everything is impacted. So if Proclaim crashes and your slides go down, it also means your sermon recording goes down as well. So depending on your situation, you may want to set up a redundant recording system.

Scaled Pricing

Proclaim can be purchased through a monthly plan that is scaled based on the size of your church’s congregation. This is a great benefit to church plants and smaller churches who may not have the upfront money to pay for everything upfront.

  • 1-99 = $19.95/month or $199.95/yr
  • 100-199 = $24.95/month or $224.95/yr
  • 200-499 = $29.95/month or $249.95/yr
  • 500-999 = $34.95/month or $274.95/yr
  • 1000-1499 = $39.95/month or $299.95/yr
  • 1500-2499 = $44.95/month or $324.95/yr
  • 2500+ = $49.95/month or $349.95/yr

One Caution

I wont classify this as a negative, but just a cation to any church meeting in a place without internet or WiFi connectivity. One of the convenient features of Proclaim is outlined on their website as follows,

“Your team can arrange song lyrics, announcement slides, and sermon notes from anywhere. One On Air license allows you to install Proclaim on as many computers as you want (Mac or PC).”

The Cloud connected solution is a fabulous solution to a common problem for keeping multiple volunteers coordinated, but the live broadcast of the services means that Proclaim works best in a building that has a strong and reliable WiFi network.

While an internet connection is needed to sync presentations between computers, once synced, presentations are stored locally and will not be disrupted if the internet goes out mid-service. That being said, for a church plant like mine, which meets in a building that does not have any Wifi, some features such as remote control, are not available. If you are in this situation, you definitely want to try it out first to ensure you can live with these inherent limitations.

Overall, I give Proclaim 4 out of 5 stars. Try Proclaim using their 30-day free trial and judge for yourself if ti is the right solution for your church.

4_Star

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Review Disclaimer

Dr. Miller was a former Logos Employee from 2010 through 2011. He was provided a free copy of the product for review purposes. Dr. Miller is also a published author with Logos Bible Software.

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