Beth Malarkey Issues Statement About Boy Who Came Back from Heaven

Just a bit ago, Alex Malarkey’s mother issued a statement. One important fact she cleared up is that the Malarkeys are not divorced.

A STATEMENT FROM BETH MALARKEY
For at least three years, my son Alex Malarkey has been speaking the truth and pleading to be heard regarding The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven. I’m thankful to the Pulpit and Pen blog for posting Alex’s open letter last week and finally helping his voice to be heard. The sudden interest of the media has meant that many reporters are seeking to investigate the story and I would love to answer every question, but since 2006, I have been Alex’s only nonstop caregiver, and I also have three more precious children to care for. So I’m forced to say no to all interview requests. I hope people understand. The facts of the case are being heard, through sources like the Pulpit & Pen website (http://pulpitandpen.org/) and the Grace to You blog (http://www.gty.org/Blog/B150116/setting-the-record-straight).
I do stand with my son and I’m proud of the courage he has shown. “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth” (3 John 4).
I also want to correct one glaring error that has appeared in countless news articles over the past few days: I have not divorced my husband and I am not planning to pursue a divorce. Kevin and I are still married. My hope is that all of this can be resolved in a way that exalts Christ by honoring the truth (2 Thessalonians 2:14). That, likewise, has been Alex’s only aim in all his attempts to set the record straight.
“Now may the God of peace . . . equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.” (Hebrews 13:20-21).

I imagine things have gotten crazy in that the story has gone world-wide. For instance, the Today Show covered it yesterday:

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Robert Morris Enlisted Help of a Ghostwriter for His Book on Tithing

Robert Morris, the man who Jack Hayford jokingly said was the “4th member of the trinity,” acknowledged last Sunday morning that he used a ghostwriter to help him write his book on tithing. Watch:

Hayford also said God asked Morris if it would be all right for Hayford to move The King’s University to Gateway Church.
The book is The Blessed Life: The Simple Secret of Achieving Guaranteed Financial Results. According to the book description, this book is life changing.

This book will transform your life for the better, bringing you guaranteed financial results. But it will do more that that. It will change every area of your life: marriage, family, health and relationships. For when God changes your heart from selfishness to generosity, every part of your life-journey is affected. If all believers followed the practical guidance of this book, every church could be built, every nation would have an abundance of missionaries–and all would reap the benefits of having a generous heart. With humor, passion and charity, Robert Morris presents the secrets of living a blessed life both financially and spiritually.

I wonder how the guarantee can be triggered. If I do what it says (Give to the church), and I don’t get rich like Morris, will I get a refund?
BlessedLifeGuaranteed Perhaps, the guarantee was problematic in some way because the subtitle was changed to “Unlocking the Rewards of Generous Giving” in a subsequent edition. The book’s message is that God will bless you if you give to Him (meaning the church). Morris said in the video, he doesn’t teach “give to get” but rather “give to give.” This seems like a distinction without a difference to me. The bottom line, even if he doesn’t guarantee it, is that one is to give to the church with the expectation that you will get something from God in exchange.
Morris is certainly correct when he says he has been blessed financially. He has at least two homes, one in a resort are (Possum Kingdom Lake), and a slew of other blessings, according to those who are close to the church.
 
In 2011, he was offering money back guarantees. Watch:
[vimeo]http://vimeo.com/24666845[/vimeo]
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Big Questions for Tyndale House After Pulling Boy Who Came Back From Heaven (UPDATED)

UPDATE 2 (1/17/15) – Last night Tyndale released a statement indicating that the company has stopped printing The Boy book because of information they received this week.

Earlier this week Tyndale learned that Alex Malarkey, co-author of ‘The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven,’ was retracting the story he had told his father and that he recounted in the book they co-authored for publication in 2010. It is because of this new information that we are taking the book out of print. For the past couple of years we have known that Beth Malarkey, Kevin’s wife and Alex’s mother, was unhappy with the book and believed it contained inaccuracies. On more than one occasion we asked for a meeting with Kevin, Beth, Alex and their agent to discuss and correct any inaccuracies, but Beth would not agree to such a meeting.

However, Phil Johnson continues to dispute this narrative saying that Beth and Alex wanted to meet with Tyndale (see this link for emails).
It is not clear if Tyndale is pulling product from the shelves or just not reprinting the book.
UPDATE: Phil Johnson claims Tyndale House knew two years ago that the Boy Who Came Back from Heaven was invented. Beth Malarkey retweeted this link when Johnson posted it. I expect to hear from her soon, but as of now all I am hearing is crickets from Tyndale House.


 
…………….
(Original post begins here)
Yesterday afternoon, Tyndale House announced that the company would no longer publish the Boy Who Came Back from Heaven.
The book had been a best-seller and was the basis for a television movie of the same name in 2010. There are at least two big questions for Tyndale House now that the company will no longer print the book. I asked Tyndale House spokesperson Todd Starowitz these questions yesterday via email and twitter and left phone messages, thus far with no answers.
First, what now happens to all of the existing product? We know that Lifeway Christian Stores is returning existing product to the publisher, but what about other retailers? Even though negative reviews are now piling up, Amazon still carries the book without disclaimer. Barnes and Noble still has it available. A local Barnes and Noble store still had a copy of the book and had not heard about the retraction. The staff there had not gotten a request from Tyndale to pull products off the shelves. On the other hand, Family Christian Bookstores are pulling the book off the shelves and the manager of the one I called said Tyndale had requested them. Thus far, Tyndale’s spokesperson has not replied about the company’s plans.
The second, and more difficult question is: When did Tyndale House learn that Beth Malarkey and her son denied the contents of the book? Given how long Alex Malarkey’s mom has been speaking out on this matter, it is hard to understand how Tyndale House did not know about it. However, neither Tyndale House nor Beth Malarkey has not responded to requests for this specific information.
The answers to these questions have consequences in dollar signs and trust. If Tyndale does not make a good faith effort to pull existing product off the shelves, they risk further erosion in their image, while making additional money from unsuspecting customers. If Tyndale House knew the boy had recanted his story, then some disclosure should have been made with a proactive public statement. One hopes Tyndale House will move to quickly restore public trust by disclosing the reasons for waiting until yesterday, just after Lifeway Stores pulled the products from the shelves, to take a similar step.
UPDATE: The website supporting the book is now down (google cache as of January 15, 2015). The domain is owned by Tyndale House. The product page on Tyndale’s website still is up as is the promo video on the You Tube page.

After Retraction, Lifeway Books Returning Boy Who Came Back From Heaven to Publisher (UPDATE: Tyndale Pulls Book)

UPDATE: Tyndale is pulling the book, according to the Washington Post. However, as far as I can tell, existing product will remain available, except at Lifeway Stores.
…………….
On January 13, Alex Malarkey released a retraction of his claims in the book Boy Who Came Back from Heaven. The retraction was issued to the Pulpit and Pen blog.
In response to my question about the book, Martin King, Director of Communications at Lifeway issued a statement saying the stores are pulling the book:

LifeWay was informed this week that Alex Malarkey has retracted his testimony about visiting heaven as told in the book “The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven.” Therefore, we are returning to the publisher the few copies we have in our Stores.

I have contacted the book’s publisher Tyndale House as well to find out what they intend to do about these recent developments. The book was made into a 2010 television movie.
Malarkey began by saying he did not die.

“An Open Letter to Lifeway and Other Sellers, Buyers, and Marketers of Heaven Tourism, by the Boy Who Did Not Come Back From Heaven.”

Please forgive the brevity, but because of my limitations I have to keep this short.

I did not die. I did not go to Heaven.

I said I went to heaven because I thought it would get me attention. When I made the claims that I did, I had never read the Bible. People have profited from lies, and continue to. They should read the Bible, which is enough. The Bible is the only source of truth. Anything written by man cannot be infallible.

Apparently, Alex’s mom has been reaching out to people with the less sensational story about her son since at least last April (check that, since at least July 2013) My guess is that there is a substantial back-story on this.

Institute on the Constitution's Jake MacAulay to Share Stage with Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Ben Carson, Rick Santorum at SC Tea Party Event

This weekend, the theocratic Institute on the Constitution will have a representative on the program at the South Carolina Tea Party Coalition Convention. IOTC’s Jake MacAulay will share the stage with Donald Trump, Sen. Ted Cruz, possible presidential candidate Ben Carson, former Senator Rick Santorum, along with other elected officials.

It is sad that the conference will spill over to Martin Luther King Day on the 19th with IOTC as a part of it. The IOTC teaches that civil rights legislation should never have been passed, and that King, Jr. was not a champion of civil rights. They also host an article on their website which justifies discrimination based on race, nationality, and religion. The founder of IOTC is a former board member of the segregationist League of the South, and senior instructor David Whitney is the chaplain of the Maryland-Virginia state branch of the League.
Originally, a speaker from the white nationalist group Council of Conservative Citizens was scheduled to speak but has been scrubbed from the program. I asked the Coalition if they are aware about the IOTC’s teachings, but have not received a reply as yet.
Conservative executive at the Family Research Council Gen, Jerry Boykin cancelled an event with the IOTC when he learned about their views. However, it appears that the IOTC is making headway among religious right conservatives.
 

Mars Hill Church Website Searchable Again; Global Fund Pages Restored

After months of being blocked by robots.txt code that prohibited searching the Internet Archives, Mars Hill Church’s website is now searchable again. About a year ago, the church blocked searches of archived pages. I was common for pages to disappear from the Mars Hill website shortly after I linked to that page. Now those pages should show up in searches of the archive.
For instance, pages about the Global Fund frequently disappeared from the website after being posted here. They were not searchable via the archive. Furthermore pages that would shed light on various claims were unavailable. Let me illustrate:
HelpChurch Planters MHGlobal
This banner comes from this deleted page about support for Ethiopia pastors (by the way, the New Covenant Foundation still has not received any firm commitment for a distribution from Mars Hill, for more see this post).
In contrast to what Justin Dean told me, this page demonstrates that the Global Fund was a fund in late 2012.
GlobalFund101512
 
For those wanting to get a timeline of events and claims at Mars Hill, this resource is invaluable.
 
 
 

Former Chief Financial Officer at Turning Point Claims David Jeremiah Used Questionable Methods to Secure a Spot on Best Seller Lists

George C. Hale once worked for David Jeremiah at Shadow Mountain Community Church and Turning Point Ministry. Hale resigned in 2009 because he had misgivings about the way Jeremiah handled his book marketing and sales. From Hale, I have obtained an open letter to David Jeremiah and Turning Point Ministry. As he discloses in the letter below, Hale has approached David Jeremiah and Jeremiah’s agent, Sealy Yates, about the best-seller methodology. For several weeks, I have periodically reached out to Turning Point and Sealy Yates with no acknowledgement of my contacts. Hale believes that Turning Point employees who speak to the press about the book selling scheme will be fired.
From what has been previously disclosed, there is reason to believe Hale when he discusses the methods Jeremiah has used to attempt to secure a spot on the New York Times best-seller list. In a recent Christianity Today story, a link to an archived webpage belonging to San Diego based ResultSource indicated that Jeremiah was a client of the company for his book Captured by Grace. Captured by Grace did indeed make it onto various best-seller lists. Jeremiah has had at least six books reached the New York Times best seller list since 2007, including the 2014 book Agents of the Apocalypse: A Riveting Look at the Key Players of the End Times.
From my conversations with Hale, it appears that Kevin Small at ResultSource provided tips on how to make the New York Times list. However, it is not clear whether or not Jeremiah formerly used Small’s services for more than Captured by Grace. In contrast to the Mars Hill Church/Mark Driscoll contract, the Turning Point method does not appear to rely on church money to buy books, but rather solicits donations for a book in advance of the publication date. Turning Point’s Paul Joiner was touted by Kevin Small to Mars Hill Church as having special expertise in setting up such websites. ResultSource or a Turning Point team then buys the books at retail price from sources used by the New York Times in the count to form the best seller list. When donations were strong, Turning Point bought more books than necessary to cover the “orders” and gave them away.
According to Hale, the purchases did not benefit Turning Point. Hale believes that the ministry would have benefited by first purchasing the books at a vastly reduced price (which according to Hale, Turning Point did before 2007), and then offering them to listeners for a larger donation. When books are purchased at the author’s discount price, the author does not receive royalties. However, by purchasing the books at retail price, the ministry missed out on the markup but David Jeremiah obtained royalties and obtained a place on the best-seller lists. Hale told me that he doesn’t see how being on the best-seller list benefited the ministry.
Below is the letter from George Hale:

I worked for David Jeremiah for seven years.  Five years as the CFO and the COO of Shadow Mountain Ministries and two years as the CFO and acting Chief Development Officer of Turning Point Ministries.  David and I had a rocky beginning but ultimately a great working relationship.  I tell people that David fired me three times and I quit two times, and that was within the first month.  This is not far from the truth.  I am a no nonsense business person who believes that confronting issues is positive and productive.  I have very little gray area in my life.  Things are mostly black or white for me.  This comes in part from being a CPA and a successful Bank President during the rough and tumble years of the “80’s and “90’s. Having been a Navy Seal probably adds to my approach to issues and people.  David is not comfortable with my manner and he is no doubt right, most of the time.  I have learned much from him. One important thing is that people are more important than solving problems.
I began my employment at Turning Point during July 2007.   During August of 2007 Turning Point began promoting David Jeremiah’s Book “Captured by Grace” for pre-publication purchase for a donation of $25 or more.  I believe that approximately 100,000 books were pre-purchased (I could be wrong on this number but I think it is close) for an average donation of $25 during the months of August and September 2007.  When the book was released in October, Turning Point used the money donated for the book to purchase copies of the book from retail booksellers such as Amazon and Borders. Turning Point then sent the book to those who had donated and requested the book.  These purchases where timed to get the book listed as a “best-seller.”  It worked.
After this occurred I voiced my concern as to the ethics of such action to David Jeremiah.  I was also concerned because Turning Point could have purchased the same books directly from the publisher for approximately $10 each instead of the $25 each paid to the book retailers.  David assured me that his agent and attorney, Sealy Yates had opined that the transactions were honest and ethical.
This same action was repeated during August, September and October 2008 with the same results. I again requested that Turning Point not repeat such transactions as I could not discern any benefit to Turning Point for purchasing the books at retail verses purchasing the books wholesale from the publisher.   I thought the transaction to be unethical.  David told me that he would take my advice under consideration.
During August 2009 David Jeremiah said that he wanted to promote his new book for pre-publication purchase but for a donation of any amount.  He had not yet made a decision as to the method that Turning Point would use to purchase the books to be sent to those who would request them.
During September 2009 David Jeremiah told me that he had decided to use the money received by Turning Point from those requesting his book to purchase the books at retail from booksellers and not purchase the books from the publisher at a lower amount.  He acknowledged that he was aware that this was disappointing to me.
Turning Point had received an average donation of $35 per book instead of $25 dollars during this 2009 campaign.  Therefore, if my memory is correct, Turning Point had received approximately $3.5 million dollars for the approximately 100,000 books pre-sold.  I thought that the added donation over and above the $25 purchase price of the book was meant to benefit Turning Point and was not to be used to purchase additional books at retail.  This did not happen. This thought, together with my prior opinion that the entire method was unethical and did not benefit Turning Point, led me to immediately resign my position with Turning Point which I did September 15, 2009.
I have only spoken about these events in a very limited way since that date.  Primarily talking with David Jeremiah and Sealy Yates to encourage them to cease such activity which they tell me has continued since I left Turning Point.  They do not agree with my position and have stated that they see nothing unethical, immoral or illegal about how Turning Point promotes David’s books and gets them identified as “best-selling” books by the various listing agents such as the New York Times.  We have agreed to disagree on this topic and have otherwise remained friends.
Let me add that I very much admire David Jeremiah and believe him to be one of the best Bible teachers in the world today.  I helped craft the vision for Turning Point of delivering “the unchanging Word to an ever-changing world”.  I believe and support this vision.  I believe that David is blessed and chosen by God for this purpose.
That said, when Mark Driscoll was exposed in early 2014 for attempting in a small way to do what David had successfully done for the past seven years and it was also exposed that Sealy, ResultSource and possibly others associated with David Jeremiah may have assisted Mark Driscoll, I became very concerned that this cancer was spreading.  I thought that it may have gained acceptability in part  based upon the success of David Jeremiah.
When David Jeremiah spoke openly with World Magazine during June 2014 about his method of promoting his books I felt that he had placed this subject into the public domain for discussion.
The final events which led to my now talking were when LifeWay removed Mark Driscoll’s books from its book stores while prominently promoting David Jeremiah as a “best-selling” author, and when Mars Hills Church failed partly because of this book publication deceptive practice.  I feel that now is the time for the public to voice its opinion.  Is this practice OK as Sealy Yates and David Jeremiah proclaim or is it deceptive and unethical as I believe?;
I have taken my stand.
What do you believe?
In His service,
George Hale

I have placed links in Hale’s letter where important to help readers get more information. In this scenario, it appears that some deception could be involved if donations in amounts higher than the retail price of a single book are used to buy other books as if they were the subject of an individual purchase. More importantly, the ministry’s resources and staff serve to promote the book and run the fulfillment of the sales at ministry expense. By paying retail price, the book royalties go to the author and the sales count toward the best-seller lists.
As noted, I have contacted Turning Point numerous times and await their comment about Hale’s claims.
 
 
 
 

Can Science Make a Fine-Tuned Case for God? – A Response to Eric Metaxas

In his Christmas Day Wall Street Journal article, author Eric Metaxas promises that he will explain how science makes a “relatively recent case for God’s existence.”  He then spends a significant part of the op-ed telling us that scientists have been looking for life sustaining planets since the 1960s but have yet to find any. Metaxas reminds readers that Congress defunded the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI) in 1993. He then tells us that researchers continue to look but that “As of 2014, researchers have discovered precisely bubkis—0 followed by nothing.”
In addition to the absence of habitable planets, Metaxas says humans shouldn’t be here.

As factors continued to be discovered, the number of possible planets hit zero, and kept going. In other words, the odds turned against any planet in the universe supporting life, including this one. Probability said that even we shouldn’t be here.

As I read the article, I had the nagging feeling that something wasn’t right.
On examination of NASA’s program to discover habitable planets, I found information which tells a very different story than told by Metaxas in the WSJ. For instance, in February 2014, NASA announced discovery of a “motherlode” of exoplanets, four of which orbited their stars in a habitable zone.  Then in April, NASA announced the discovery of a potentially habitable planet about the size of Earth. Watch:

And then just a week ago, NASA announced that the Kepler mission has discovered 1,000 planets with a total of eight being in the habitable zone.  In contrast to the pessimism implied by Metaxas, planet hunters seemed pleased with the results of their work:

“With each new discovery of these small, possibly rocky worlds, our confidence strengthens in the determination of the true frequency of planets like Earth,” said co-author Doug Caldwell, SETI Institute Kepler scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, California. “The day is on the horizon when we’ll know how common temperate, rocky planets like Earth are.”

While eight is not a gazillion; as of now, it isn’t bubkis either.

However, it is not particularly scientific or helpful in any sense to pick a side and declare the debate over. While NASA’s planet hunters are optimistic, some experts are skeptical about life on other planets. Furthermore, the newly discovered planets might not be habitable, or they might not even exist. Recently, a team from University of Texas in Austin provided data which cast doubt on the existence of planets orbiting in the habitable zone of dwarf star Gliese 581. However, the scientific attitude is to pursue the evidence wherever it leads. The technology to find evidence of such planets is in very early stages and with advancements may lead to better understanding.

Lead researcher Paul Robertson in the Gliese study takes the position that the techniques which allowed his team to rule out a planet orbiting Gliese will allow them to find other real planets in the future. In the McDonald Observatory press release on the study, Robertson said:

While it is unfortunate to find that two such promising planets do not exist, we feel that the results of this study will ultimately lead to more Earth-like planets.

In light of their findings, I asked another member of the UT-Austin team, Michael Endl research scientist at the McDonald Observatory at UT-Austin, his view of Metaxas’ article. I wondered if he was pessimistic about finding habitable planets since he had helped disprove one such planet existed. In reply, Endl said:

One common mistake that Metaxas does is to take the null result from SETI and draw the incorrect conclusion that this means life is rare. Complex, intelligent, technological life might be sparse but simple life might be quite common. For most of its time, Earth was a planet inhabited by microbes. There could be less complex life on habitable planets around every single star in the night sky and we wouldn’t know it.

Regarding the future of planet hunting, Endl is ebullient:

NASA’s Kepler mission has already shown that small planets are common around other stars, and soon we will know how common Earth-size planets in the habitable zone of Sun-like stars in the Kepler field are. New missions like TESS, K2 and PLATO will find more of these planets closer to us, around nearby stars. And with the next generation of large aperture ground-based telescopes, as well as new space telescopes, like the James-Webb Space Telescope, we might be able to probe some of them for bio-signatures in their atmospheres.

I also asked Endl for a list of the 200 criteria for planetary life mentioned by Metaxas. Endl replied:

This is also bogus. There is no list of criteria that scientists use. You can make this list arbitrarily long or short, depending on your viewpoint. Sagan was talking in the broadest terms, distance to star and mass/radius of the planet. Since we do not know what criteria are really needed for life to form, such a list is very artificial.

The more I gather evidence, the more I am feeling like the WSJ op-ed is both outdated and premature. It is outdated because Metaxas primarily relied on a 2006 statement from a retired political scientist (Peter Schenkel) as an authority to discredit the search for habitable planets when, in fact, there is currently great optimism about the Kepler research program and technological advances among scientists. However, the article is premature in that the search for habitable planets has a long way to go with numerous advances in technology to come. We know more than Metaxas told us, but we don’t know enough to say much for certain. Thus, it is hard to sustain confidence about the article’s premise.

It is tempting to scold Metaxas for taking us all on a ride by failing to incorporate a more complete and accurate picture of his topic. However, I want to conclude more positively.

I don’t take strong issue with one of the points Metaxas brings us. There are times when scientific research work dovetails nicely with what we believe about God. I point out this common ground frequently in my classes. For instance, I think the social psychological study of self-serving bias provides a nice point of contact with my theological views of human depravity.  Likewise, I think the work on ostracism and attachment match up nicely with theological conceptions of humans existing in the image of God. However, I don’t think we can push this too hard in areas where our knowledge is tentative.  As Kurtis McCathern pointed out yesterday, looking for God by studying the Cosmos could lead us to several different images, some of which might be hazardous to evangelical preconceptions.

In another context, I summarized my approach to faith and science:

I start with the premise that science is no threat to faith. If scientific work seems to conflict with tenets of my religion, I accept the tension until I understand things better. Extending that belief to history, I do not need the founders to be evangelicals in order to enjoy and defend American freedom for people of my faith, another faith, and no faith.

Loving God with all my mind doesn’t mean splitting it in two. If a study of science or history tells me something uncomfortable, I do not retool the science or history to make me comfortable. I walk by faith, live with the tension, and accept what is in front of my face.

Finally, I actually agree with one of Metaxas’ WSJ points: this universe and our place in it is a miracle. My personal belief is that it is a miracle brought about somehow by God. However, I don’t need science to tell me that. I know it when I listen to Led Zeppelin with a friend over tacos, hear my granddaughter say Papa, hold my grandson, watch my children grow and change, and experience the love and kindness of my wife. And after surviving open heart surgery a little over two years ago, I am more convinced than ever that every minute of life is a miracle.

Kurtis McCathern on Virtual Worlds, Watchmakers, and Other Speculations: Reactions to Eric Metaxas

One thing is sure, Eric Metaxas has people talking. His Christmas Day Wall Street Journal article titled “Science Increasingly Makes the Case for God” has been liked over 370,000 times on Facebook  and has been retweeted over 5700 times. Obviously, the topic is of great interest to many people. 
After I read the WSJ article, I reached out to a few people with questions about some of the claims. I will report on most of the answers tomorrow. However, today I want to post a reaction to Metaxas’ article from good friend and computer engineer Kurtis McCathern. Kurtis has a BA from Rice University in computer science and math and works at Blizzard Entertainment on the World of Warcraft franchise. This piece is not exactly a rebuttal but he jumps off of the WSJ article with reflections on our assumptions about God’s creativity. Yesterday, I linked to an article by Peter Enns which ended with the following observation:

Bottom line, as I see it: God’s “existence” (pardon the metaphorical language) and consequently knowing this God are not proven or disproven by the amazing advances in recent generations concerning our knowledge of the physical universe–even if those advances challenge how we think of God and speak of God.

God is not at stake. Our metaphors are.

Metaxas selectively addressed what science has to say about the origins of the universe, failing to address opposing arguments and data. Along with Enns and McCathern, I think it is too soon to know what science makes the case for.
……………………………
Virtual Worlds, Watchmakers, and Other Speculations
by Kurtis McCathern
I literally create worlds for a living. Not by myself, of course: a large team of designers, artists, and programmers work together to create the lands, flora, fauna, and characters that make up World of Warcraft. In fact, my part as a programmer is barely recognizable as creation as all. My code runs below the trees and rocks a player would see in the world, as dozens of computers fly messages back and forth to simulate the world of Azeroth. In ancient Greece, my fellow programmers and I would play the roles of Erebus and Nyx, bringing forth the Aether which would bind creation together.
It is from this perspective that I wonder why we as Christians are so fascinated with watchmaker arguments.
The canonical watchmaker analogy was made by William Paley in “Natural Theology or Evidences of the Existence and Attributes of the Deity”, and goes more or less like this: you are walking along, you come across a watch. A watch is intricate in design, with several tiny pieces that must be made with exacting tolerances all to work together. When you come across this watch, you don’t think the watch has been there forever, or that it just spontaneously occurred. You assume the origin of the watch is a watchmaker.
Other teleological arguments predate this by thousands of years, and are not unique to Christianity, but they do seem to come up a lot in evolution vs. creation debates. They are popular because they are easy to understand and engage that most dangerous of human skills: intuition. Every time another complex, interrelated, seemingly irreducible system is described by science, the bookies of the debate stand ready to argue that the odds are irresistible. Science, do you really want to believe that you are here by a chance of one in a billion billion billons (or worse)? How big a gambler are you?
Pieces like Eric Metaxas’s recent effort in the Wall Street Journal seem to crop up whenever there’s a shiny new hard-to-explain-the-odds bit of science. They claim: science has now discovered the universe is not like a watch, it’s more complex, like a race car engine. Or a rocketship! Or the entire internet! If you came across the entire internet by chance you would assume an intelligent designer, right? (Don’t answer that.)
The odds are certainly very long, but on closer inspection you see the argument isn’t really about odds at all.
A strong argument against the watchmaker analogy already exists: it’s called the anthropic principle. It states that you can’t really worry about the odds that led to you existing, because you already do exist. You can only observe the outcome that led to you. Put it this way: if you are walking along a garden path, and you come across five dice with the number 4 facing up, you might assume that somebody set the dice like that, because it’s an extremely unlikely result. But another possibility is that the person who owns the path rolls those dice every day, and only opens it up for people to come in if all the dice come up 4’s. Thus every one who has ever seen the dice has seen them as 4’s. No other observation exists because no one was there to observe.
In other words, we as intelligent creatures can speculate on our origins only because we happen to be here. In other universes, there’s no “us” to do the speculating, or even to have the origins about which to speculate. But that doesn’t mean the universe was carefully scripted for us to arrive on stage.
The watchmaker argument hasn’t really changed; it’s just a matter of scale. Unfortunately, greater odds don’t necessarily mean there was a designer anymore than smaller odds would mean there couldn’t be.
But there’s a greater problem with watchmaker analogies for Christians: we know how to build watches, but we don’t know how to build worlds. In Greek antiquity, a speculation on origins only had to explain the ground, the air, the water, and the stars you could see. Aether seems pretty good in that light. Now we know more about experiential reality, so we have to add black holes and dark matter and Einstein’s favorite fudge factor: the cosmological constant. As a result, popular scientific opinion currently seems centered around string theory and the bubbly multiverse.
To clarify, look at another popular video game: Minecraft. Unlike World of Warcraft, where every rock or tree is placed carefully by a designer or artist, in Minecraft the entire world you inhabit is generated randomly from a single number, and millions or more unique possible worlds can result. Just constrain your equation a bit here and a bit there and suddenly you’re chopping wood in a blocky forest.
It’s a strange idea, even to science. In fact, scientists are arguing now if it’s even possible to determine the validity of string theory experimentally, since the multiverse idea means anything you don’t understand or doesn’t fit can pushed out into places you can never observe. Some, like Paul Steinhardt, are worried about losing the integrity of science as a result of trying. Given the discussion within the scientific community, it’s understandable that a non-scientist could be overwhelmed.
Yet I fear the watchmaker analogy feels compelling exactly because this strange random new world feels foreign. We know how to build watches, and we’re comfortable culturally with God the careful craftsman. Like those theologians of Galileo’s day who were unwilling to believe they weren’t the center of the universe, we don’t like the idea that God’s creative process might be less Da Vinci and more Jackson Pollock — messier and harder to understand than the knitting described in Psalm 139. Augustine reminded us that turning water into wine instantaneously at a wedding is really no more miraculous than doing it in barrels and casks over years, and likewise creation is no less miraculous if it requires a bubbly multiverse instead of scripted design. A bubbly multiverse would mean less focus on our individuality and more on God’s overall design: God as curator of creation, instead of craftsman.
Remember: a God who can create the universe by placing every tree and rock World of Warcraft style could also have written the code for the universe Minecraft style and created a billion billion billion other ones at the same time.
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways.” Isaiah 55:8

National Religious Broadcasters Network Again Broadcasts Controversial Institute on the Constitution Course

In 2012, the National Religious Broadcasters Network aired the Institute on the Constitution’s 12 part course on the Constitution. The NRB took some heat over that choice, including the threat of a boycott from a group of pastors in the Cincinnati Ohio area. The same group of pastors threatened a boycott of publisher Thomas Nelson over David Barton’s The Jefferson Lies.
Near the end of the series, the NRB sent a mixed message about the future of the IOTC on the network. I honestly thought the NRB might not rebroadcast the series based on the controversy and the serious errors in the series. However, the twelve-part series is being broadcast currently on Thursday nights at 9am, Session 10 is slated to run this Thursday.
 
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The Cincinnati pastors were unaware that the series was being rebroadcast and, although disappointed, at this late date do not plan any action. Given the errors and theocratic aims of the IOTC, I too am disappointed that NRB’s viewers will be misled. I contacted the NRB representatives a week ago with no reply.
To review the problems with the IOTC’s teachings, see the following posts:
Institute on the Constitution Doubles Down on Exploitation of Martin Luther King, Jr. (1/5/2015)
Institute on the Constitution Rep Argues Against the Constitution on Religious Test Clause (12/12/2014)
Institute on the Constitution Uses Spurious George Washington Quote to Mislead Followers (12/8/2014)
Michael Peroutka: “I Wish I Was in Dixie” is the National Anthem (7/26/2014)
The Institute on the Constitution’s Imaginary Constitution (7/14/2014)
Michael Peroutka: Civil Rights Laws Should Never Have Been Passed (11/7/2013)

Institute on the Constitution: Notes on Session 10 – War Between the States and Women’s Suffrage Dilutes the Franchise (9/13/2013)

Michael Peroutka’s Martin Luther King Remix (9/12/2013)

Institute on the Constitution Uses Fake George Washington Quote on Second Amendment (9/6/2013)

Institute on the Constitution: Post-Civil War Amendments Helped Undo The Bill Of Rights (9/5/2013)

Institute on the Constitution: There Is No Reason Why Men Should Not Discriminate On Grounds of Religion, Race, or Nationality (9/4/2013)

Institute on the Constitution: Confederate Troops Fought For “Government Of The People, By The People, For The People” (8/29/2013)

Institute on the Constitution: R. L. Dabney on Civil Government and Civil Rights (8/29/2013)