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Marc Roby: We are resuming our study of systematic theology today by continuing to examine biblical anthropology. Dr. Spencer, last time we pointed out that the biblical view of women is a high view – they are to be capable, strong, educated and wise people. But we then also introduced the idea that women are to be under authority. How do you want to proceed today?

Dr. Spencer: Well, I first want to say that men are to be under authority too. Every single human being alive is under authority, usually in multiple ways. We are all under God’s authority of course and, in addition, we are under authority in our society and in church, and most of us are also under authority at work as well. In addition, wives and children are under authority in the home.

Near the end of our last session we read 1 Corinthians 11:3, where the apostle Paul wrote, “Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.” [1] And we noted that to be “the head” means to be in authority. We also noted that not every woman is under the authority of every man. Paul is simply giving the normal structure in a family here.

Marc Roby: I know that some have proposed that by head in this passage Paul is not referring to authority, but to the husband as the source of love and service.

Dr. Spencer: That idea has been stated by a number of commentators, but Wayne Grudem points out in his Systematic Theology that when an exhaustive search of ancient Greek literature was undertaken to determine how to interpret the word, not a single counter example was found in over 2,000 examples. In every single case, the person referred to as the head was the one in authority. That is also clear when you look at the other passages in the Bible relating to this topic. So there really isn’t any doubt that Paul intended head to refer to authority.

In Ephesians 5:22-24 Paul gave this command, “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.”

Marc Roby: That isn’t a popular passage in the modern church.

Dr. Spencer: No, it isn’t. But it is a part of God’s word and we dare not ignore it. And note that the word head is used here as well. The husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body. The head rules the body. That is the clear meaning of the term.

And then, immediately after these verses, Paul gives an even more difficult charge to men. In Verses 25-27 he commands husbands, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.”

Marc Roby: That is a very serious charge. We are to love our wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her! I would much rather be told to simply obey.

Dr. Spencer: And so would I. Being a proper biblical leader is not an easy job. It does not mean that you decide everything in favor of what you want to do or that you lord your authority over others, or that they bow and scrape before you and pander to your every desire. A proper biblical leader must work hard to discern the will of God, to know what is going on with those under his authority, and to make the decision that is best for those under his authority, not himself.

Marc Roby: Certainly Christ’s decision to be crucified was not the best decision from the perspective of his immediate personal happiness.

Dr. Spencer: No, it obviously was not. We are told in Luke 22:42 that on the eve of his crucifixion Jesus was on the Mount of Olives and prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”

Marc Roby: The cup of course referred to the cup of God’s wrath, which Jesus endured for the sake of his people.

Dr. Spencer: Yes, and what a terrible cup it was. And that is the standard given to us as husbands. We are to love our wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her! None of us succeed in doing that of course, but that is the standard. And Paul said more about the duties of the husband in the verses I read.

Marc Roby: Let me read those verses again in Ephesians 5:25-27. Paul wrote, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.”

Dr. Spencer: We are to give our lives for a purpose. It is to make our wives holy. And we are to do it by “cleansing her by the washing with water through the word”, which refers to our responsibility to function as a prophet in our home. By prophet here I don’t mean foretelling the future, I simply mean one who speaks the word of God. We are to bring the Word of God to bear on each and every situation. In other words, we have no authority to do what we want to do. We only have authority to see to it that God’s will is done.

Marc Roby: And just as Christ said, “not my will, but yours be done.”

Dr. Spencer: Exactly. And doing that takes serious effort and self-sacrifice. It isn’t easy to be a good leader. And men, in their natural sinful state, rebel against God’s assigned role. Men don’t want to lead.

Marc Roby: And women don’t want to obey.

Dr. Spencer: And neither do children. Sin is universal. We are all rebels in our fallen nature. But when a person is saved, he or she will embrace God’s word and will begin to strive to live the way God tells us to live. And that is for the man to be the head of his home and to rule for the good of his family. The wives are to submit to that rule and to help in ruling the children.

And, after dealing with husbands and wives in Ephesians 5, Paul wrote in Ephesians 6:1-3, “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. ‘Honor your father and mother’—which is the first commandment with a promise—’that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.’”

Marc Roby: And in the very next verse Paul again gives instruction to fathers. He wrote in Ephesians 6:4, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.”

Dr. Spencer: Notice that this, in a sense, is the same command given to men in regard to their wives. In both cases we are to turn to the Word of God for guidance. We are to be a prophet in our home. Our authority is given to us by God and must be used in accordance with his instruction. We have no freedom to go outside of that.

Marc Roby: And a wife is under no obligation to obey a command that is contrary to the Word of God. When the Jewish ruling council, the Sanhedrin, commanded the apostles to not preach the gospel anymore, they went on preaching. They were then arrested and taken before the Sanhedrin to account for their actions. We read in Acts 5:29 that “Peter and the other apostles replied: ‘We must obey God rather than men!’” And that principle applies to all delegated authorities; we must obey God if a delegated authority tells us to sin.

Dr. Spencer: You’re right. But we do need to be careful, because there are a lot of details not spoken of in the Bible. I don’t want to repeat a lot of what we covered before about authority, but as just one example, if I tell my children that they need to be in bed by 9 O’clock, that is a perfectly legitimate and proper command that they are duty-bound to obey, even though the Bible says nothing about what their bedtime should be.

Marc Roby: Yes, that’s true. And you’re right, we do need to stay focused on the topic at hand, which is what it means to be made male and female in the image of God.

Dr. Spencer: And the point I have been laboring to make in that regard is simply that there is an authority structure within the godhead that is to be mirrored in our human relationships. All of us are sinners and our natural tendency is to rebel against the Word of God. So we need to be aware of that tendency and fight against it.

Men must lead. Wives must submit to their husbands, and children must honor and obey their parents. Listeners who are interested in getting more detail about authority in the home can go to our website and listen to Sessions 28 through 30. But I think we’ve said all that needs to be said to establish that our functioning under authority is an important aspect of our being made in the image and likeness of God.

Marc Roby: And before we move on, perhaps we should again emphasize the equality that exists among God’s people. In Galatians 3:27-28 Paul wrote that “all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Dr. Spencer: That is a great thing to emphasize again. The fact that a policeman has authority over me in some situations, or that my boss has authority over me at work, in no way implies that they are superior human beings or that they are worth more in the sight of God than I am. Authority has nothing at all to do with our value as human beings. Just as the members of the Trinity are all ontologically equal, so are we all ontologically equal.

Marc Roby: Yes, that is a wonderful truth. All people are made in the image of God, whether they are on the lowest rung of a social ladder or they are kings, Nobel laureates or world-famous artists or musicians. But we are all under authority, which has been ordained by God for our good. Dr. Spencer, what else do you want to say about being made in the image and likeness of God?

Dr. Spencer: That we are given dominion over the creatures. Going back to Genesis 1:26 we read that God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

Marc Roby: That rule is another example of authority.

Dr. Spencer: Yes, it is. God gave us authority to rule the animals and there is also a clear implication in Genesis 1 and 2 that we are given authority to use the material resources of the earth as well. But in all of this we must view ourselves as God’s representatives. All of creation belongs to God, not to us. And we must be good stewards of what he has entrusted to us. To pollute and ravage the land with no regard for the future would be sin. We should be responsible in our use of the resources God had given to us.

Marc Roby: Are we finished with talking about what it means to be made in the image of God?

Dr. Spencer: Not quite. We have, in a sense, the most important thing left to discuss.

Marc Roby: What is that?

Dr. Spencer: The fact that we have a spirit or soul. Let me quote from the theologian Charles Hodge. In his Systematic Theology he wrote, “The essential attributes of a spirit are reason, conscience, and will. A spirit is a rational, moral, and therefore also, a free agent. In making man after his own image, therefore, God endowed him with those attributes which belong to his own nature as a spirit. Man is thereby distinguished from all other inhabitants of this world, and raised immeasurably above them. He belongs to the same order of being as God Himself, and is therefore capable of communion with his Maker. This conformity of nature between man and God, is not only the distinguishing prerogative of humanity, so far as earthly creatures are concerned, but it is also the necessary condition of our capacity to know God, and therefore the foundation of our religious nature.”[2]

Marc Roby: That makes me think of Genesis 2:7 where we read that “the LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.”

Dr. Spencer: That is a wonderful picture of the creation of man. It makes it clear that we have a material part, which came from the dust of the ground, and an immaterial part, that which makes us living beings.

Marc Roby: But there are differing views about the nature of man, even among Christians.

Dr. Spencer: That’s true, and that is what I want to take some time to consider next. Wayne Grudem does a good job of discussing this topic, which he calls the Essential Nature of Man, in Chapter 23 of his Systematic Theology.[3]

He points out that there have been three different views held by Christians over the years; monism, dichotomy and trichotomy. Monism is the belief that man is essentially made up of just one kind of substance. Dichotomy is the view that man is both body and soul, or spirit. In this view soul and spirit are assumed to be essentially synonymous. And finally, trichotomy is the view that man has a body, soul and spirit and these are three different, distinct things.

Marc Roby: It would seem that monism is the view that an atheist would have to take.

Dr. Spencer: I think that’s true. If you have a materialist worldview, as an atheist must, then the physical is all there is and so our physical bodies are all there is to us, and that is monism. There is nothing separating us from animals, or plants, or even rocks, except the sheer complexity of how all the physical elements are put together.

Marc Roby: That has always struck me as really a very silly view.

Dr. Spencer: It strikes most people that way. Even people who do not describe themselves as religious, or spiritual, let alone Christian, do not accept the idea that there is nothing else to being a human being but the purely physical. But even if you ignore the spirit or soul, the sheer complexity of living beings is way too great to be the result of purely blind natural processes. As I said way back in Session 1, I find atheism to be intellectually untenable in part because of the extreme complexity of living organisms, whether animals or people.

It is simply impossible for me to believe that they can arise by any natural process, and the mathematics shows that the probabilities are so tiny that having trillions and trillions of universes with trillions and trillions of livable planets that are trillions and trillions of years old wouldn’t even make a noticeable dent in the probability of producing a living being by natural processes.

Marc Roby: And, even if you did create such a being, there is still the question of how you produce a self-aware, volitional being.

Dr. Spencer: That was another of my reasons for saying I think it is intellectually untenable to be an atheist. All physical laws are either purely deterministic, like the motions of billiard balls, or random. And no combination of randomness and determinism produces real volition. And yet, even atheistic philosophers and scientists have to admit that man appears to have the ability to make real choices; in other words, we have a free will.

Marc Roby: It would seem silly to deny such an obvious fact.

Dr. Spencer: Oh but they do deny it. Notice that I said they have to admit that man “appears” to have a free will. They simply agree that we must keep up the charade.

The late professor Marvin Minsky, a co-founder of MIT’s Artificial Intelligence laboratory, wrote that “Everything, including that which happens in our brains, depends on these and only on these: A set of fixed, deterministic laws. [and] A purely random set of accidents.”[4] He goes on to explain that because this is so difficult for us to accept, “We imagine a third alternative … called ‘freedom of will’”.[5]

And he then explains, “No matter that the physical world provides no room for freedom of will: that concept is essential to our models of the mental realm. … We’re virtually forced to maintain that belief, even though we know it is false”.[6]

Marc Roby: Now that is strange. To be forced to maintain a belief that you know is false.

Dr. Spencer: I would say that it is a clear sign that your worldview has a serious problem. In this case, it is a clear sign that a materialistic worldview simply cannot account for free will. If we are truly just a very complex assemblage of chemicals all functioning under the laws of physics, then we have no free will. We make no real decisions. We are just atoms in motion and nothing more.

Marc Roby: That doesn’t strike me as a realistic possibility, and if it is true, then our having this conversation is truly amazing – not to mention completely pointless.

Dr. Spencer: That is absolutely true. And so I will not be looking at monism any further. But I would like to discuss dichotomy and trichotomy in the light of what the Bible tells us.

Marc Roby: I look forward to that, but I think that this is great place to end for today. So let me take this opportunity to remind our listeners that they can email questions and comments to info@whatdoesthewordsay.org and we will do our best to answer.

[1] All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® (1984 version). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™.

[2] Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, Eerdmans, 1997, Vol. II, pg. 97

[3] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, Inter-Varsity Press, 1994

[4] Marvin Minsky, The Society of Mind, Simon and Schuster, 1986, pg. 306

[5] Ibid

[6] Ibid, pg. 307

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Marc Roby: We are resuming our study of systematic theology today by beginning to examine biblical anthropology; that is, the study of man.

But, before we get started, we have a special free offer as an Easter gift for our listeners. For the rest of the month of April, 2019, if you send an email to info@whatdoesthewordsay.org and request a copy of our Easter book, we will send you a free copy of Rediscovering the True Meaning of Easter, by the Rev. P.G. Mathew. We are confident that you will find that book very edifying. Be sure to include your full mailing address in your email.

And now, Dr. Spencer, how would you like to begin the study of anthropology?

Dr. Spencer: Let’s begin our study of man by asking a very basic question, “Where did man come from?” It might surprise people if they haven’t thought about this question, but there are only two possible answers. The first logical possibility is that man is the result of natural processes. This is, of course, the answer an atheist would have to give.

Marc Roby: It is certainly the answer that most of the elite in our culture would give.

Dr. Spencer: And I’m also quite confident that it is the answer you would get from almost every single professor of biology or anthropology on every college campus in this country. It is the answer with which all of the school children in public schools are being indoctrinated as well. But let’s think about that answer for a moment. It requires a number of things to have happened, several of which are so unlikely that the answer is, in my opinion, not reasonable.

Marc Roby: What things are you referring to?

Dr. Spencer: Let me give a short list of those things that would have to have happened, and then we will briefly discuss just a few of them.

First, a natural explanation for the existence of human beings obviously requires that the universe itself exist. Then it requires that the right conditions to make life possible exist somewhere in that universe. And then it requires that non-living chemicals come together and form a living organism; in fact, you need many living organisms and they must be reproducing and competing with one another for survival. Then you need some mechanism for these organisms to change from generation to generation and these changes must be inheritable. If all of these things happen, then the theory of natural selection says that the organisms that are best adapted to the environment will reproduce and survive in greater numbers.

Marc Roby: That’s a reasonable brief outline of what is taught in our schools.

Dr. Spencer: But it’s also a very cursory outline of the process of course, and I’m sure you could find fault with the way I’ve expressed it, but I think it will be adequate for our present purposes as soon as I add one more element. As living beings continue to evolve, they would have to reach a point where they become self-conscious and able to think abstractly about the world they live and to ask the question, “How did I get here?”

Marc Roby: Yes, good point since we are asking that question.

Dr. Spencer: Now I don’t want to take the time to investigate this whole chain of events today, for example, a great deal has been written about the fact that our universe is a very special one. There are many, many characteristics of this universe that have to be exactly the way they are or intelligent life would not be possible. I’m going to leave that up to others to discuss. But we’ve looked at a couple of the other steps before, so let me quickly summarize some of our previous comments and conclusions. Any of listeners who are interested can go to our archive and listen to Session 1 for the details.

In that session I gave four reasons why I think it is intellectually untenable to be an atheist. The first is that you need a Creator to explain the origin of our universe. It is fairly clear from what we now know that this universe is not eternal. It had a beginning, and it will have an end. You can postulate the existence of a multiverse and believe that there are an infinite number of universes out there, but there is no way to confirm or deny such a postulate and I don’t think it really solves the problem anyway.

Marc Roby: Well, why do you say that?

Dr. Spencer: It doesn’t solve the problem because it seems unlikely based on the characteristics of our universe that such a multiverse would itself be eternal, and therefore you would then have to ask how that multiverse came into existence. If our universe is part of a multiverse you would expect it to share some physical characteristics of that multiverse, so for example, you would expect the physical laws that we observe in our universe to bear some similarity to the physical laws in operation in the multiverse. But the second law of thermodynamics, which is a fundamental law in our universe, is incompatible with eternal existence.

Marc Roby: Can you explain that?

Dr. Spencer: Yes, a detailed explanation would take more time than I want to spend on this, but a very simple crude explanation is that the universe will eventually run out of useable energy, kind of like a wind-up clock or toy running down.

Marc Roby: Yes, or like me after a few hours with my grandchildren.

Dr. Spencer: Sort of, although I hope you don’t reach the point of heat death. In any event, if this universe is not eternal, then you need to explain its origin, and I think that requires God.

My second reason for thinking it intellectually untenable to be an atheist is that it is essentially impossible for life to be created by purely natural processes. We discussed this in Session 1. And in that session I noted that biologists estimate that the simplest living cell would require around 250 functional proteins, which are made by sequences of amino acids. I showed that the probability of generating 250 functional proteins by the random combinations of amino acids is less than 1 chance in 1041,000, which is inconceivably small; that’s a one followed by 41,000 zeros. It is less likely than winning the Powerball lottery 4,842 times in a row buying just one ticket each time.

Marc Roby: I remember that session, and it hurts my head to even remember trying to grasp numbers that large.

Dr. Spencer: I think it’s fundamentally impossible to get a good grasp of a number as large as 1041,000, or of a probability as small as 1 chance in 1041,000. The probability is so insanely small that having trillions more universes, with trillions more planets and making them all trillions of times older than our universe doesn’t change the probability significantly. Interested listeners can go back to Session 1 and, if they are really interested, there is even a pdf file that shows you how to get those numbers.

But let’s move on to my third reason it is intellectually untenable to be an atheist, which is that even if I give you a bunch of single-celled living organisms to get started, the amount of information required to produce a human being is so huge that you have the same kind of probabilistic problem all over again.

Marc Roby: And given the numbers you showed, believing in an old earth doesn’t really help.

Dr. Spencer: No, it really makes no difference to the probabilities whether the earth is 10,000 years old or 4.5 billion years old. 4.5 billion years sounds outrageously long to us, but is literally insignificant in comparison with what would be required to make the probabilities of even a single cell look reasonable, let alone a human being.

Finally, my fourth reason for thinking it is intellectually untenable to be atheist is the impossibility of explaining volitional creatures like us in a universe guided by purely natural laws. All physical laws are either purely deterministic, which are laws that govern, for example, the movements of billiard balls, or they are random. But no combination of randomness with deterministic laws can explain volition.

Marc Roby: Alright, you’ve summarized the conclusions that we came to in Session 1. It seems very unlikely, I would have to say impossible, that there is a valid naturalistic explanation for the existence of human beings.

Dr. Spencer: But before we move on, I would also like to note that if the atheistic worldview were correct, one necessary consequence would be that human life would have no inherent value or purpose. That is why, for example, Albert Camus’ famously proclaimed that “There is but one truly serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide”[1],  it’s also why Bertrand Russell claimed that “only on the firm foundation of unyielding despair, can the soul’s habitation henceforth be safely built”[2], or it’s the same reason Shakespeare wrote his famous line, “To be, or not to be, that is the question”[3]. Such statements are part and parcel of life in this unbelieving world. There are many different ways that men have expressed the hopelessness of life apart from God, but such hopelessness inevitably comes when unbelievers honestly confront questions of ultimate importance. Questions like, “What is the purpose of life?” or “What happens when I die?”

Marc Roby: Of course, the fact that life is hopeless apart from God says nothing about the existence of God. It is logically possibly that our lives are, in fact, completely meaningless.

Dr. Spencer: I agree that is a logical possibility. But I also think it goes against what every human being instinctively knows to be true. And I don’t think we can entirely dismiss that instinctive knowledge, it is given to us by God. Nevertheless, I don’t offer that point by way of proof at all, only to make clear what the choices before us are.

Marc Roby: Alright. And the only other possibility, of course, is that we are created, right?

Dr. Spencer: That is exactly right. There is no other logical possibility. And if one of our listeners thinks there is another logical possibility, I’d love to hear it. So please send me an email at info@whatdoesthewordsay.org.

Marc Roby: And, if we are created, then the obvious question, is by whom?

Dr. Spencer: That is the obvious question. And many religions, such as Hinduism and Buddhism, don’t really have a single believable creation account. But Jews, Muslims and Christians all at least claim to believe in the account given in Genesis.

We read in Genesis 1:26-28, “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.’ So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.’”[4]

Marc Roby: That account is fascinating, and it is important to note that it presupposes the existence of the true and living God who reveals himself in the Bible and it tells us that he made human beings in his image.

Dr. Spencer: It also contains a hint of the Trinity since God uses plural pronouns. He says “Let us make man in our image”.

Marc Roby: And he gives to man what is often called the creation mandate, to “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

Dr. Spencer: That’s very important. In the Christian view of creation, man has a purpose.

But we must take note of the fact that the mandate was given to Adam and Eve prior to the fall, so it assumed a relationship that ceased to be true when sin entered this world. Namely, it assumed that Adam and Eve were in perfect fellowship with God and, as his creatures, everything they did was done in obedience to him and for his glory. In addition, we can reasonably assume that God told them far more than is recorded for us in the book of Genesis.

Marc Roby: And we are blessed because God has revealed the purpose of life to us in the Bible. We have noted a number of times that God’s overall purpose in creation is the manifestation of his own glory. And with regard to mankind, the clearest verse is probably 1 Corinthians 10:31, which says, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

Dr. Spencer: And we aren’t left wondering how we are to glorify God either. In John 17:4 Jesus is praying to the Father and says, “I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do.” Therefore, we glorify God in the same way; by doing the work he has given us to do.

Marc Roby: And Ephesians 2:10 tells us that he has prepared specific work for each one of us. It says that “we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

Dr. Spencer: And we must note further that it says we are created in Christ Jesus. If a man has not repented of his sins and surrendered to Jesus Christ as Lord, he is in open rebellion against his Creator and he cannot glorify him through obedience. But, if he never repents, his eternal punishment in hell will be for the praise of God’s justice. So, in the end, everyone will glorify God.

Marc Roby: Yes, we are told in Philippians 2 that everyone will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. In Verses 6 through 11 in that chapter we read the following about Jesus, “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Dr. Spencer: That is a marvelous passage. And we can summarize all that we’ve covered so far by saying that the purpose of life for men and women is, first, to come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ and then to glorify God by living an obedient life.

Marc Roby: And if we do that, we are promised that we will live with him for all eternity.

Dr. Spencer: Which is a completely incomprehensible blessing. But returning to our topic of anthropology, we have presented the case that there are only two options; either we are the result of mindless natural processes, or we were created by God. If we are the result of mindless natural processes, then it necessarily follows that our lives have no real eternal significance and no purpose. And, I can’t help but add, that if that were true, our minds would simply be a faculty that evolved and made us better able to survive. There would be no good reason for believing that our minds are well adapted to discerning the truth about this world except insofar as it helps us survive.

Marc Roby: But, on the other hand, as creatures made by eternal God, our minds were created by him for the purpose of understanding truth, having fellowship with him, and worshiping him.

Dr. Spencer: And our lives are significant and have a purpose. As we begin to study biblical anthropology, we must remember this critical fact; we are creatures. God made us and he has the authority to tell us what to believe, what to do, what not to do and so on. He is the Sovereign Lord of the Universe.

Marc Roby: We’ve talked about the importance of the Creator/creature distinction a number of times.

Dr. Spencer: And we’ve mentioned so often because it is so important. It is very easy for us to slip into the mode of practicing “religion” only for our benefit. That leads to anthropocentric worship, meaning worship that is focused on man. The “gospel” becomes nothing but a program for self-improvement and social change.

But real religion, worship that God accepts, is focused on him. The Bible begins by saying “In the beginning God …”, not “In the beginning man …”. That is why we covered theology proper before getting to anthropology. We must know God in order to know ourselves correctly.

Marc Roby: I like what Calvin wrote. The very first line of his book, the Institutes of the Christian Religion, says, “Our wisdom, in so far as it ought to be deemed true and solid Wisdom, consists almost entirely of two parts: the knowledge of God and of ourselves.”[5]

Dr. Spencer: That is a great opening line. Any attempt to understand man without reference to God is doomed to failure. And we see the terrible results of such failure all around us in our prisons, in poverty, violence, injustice, wars and so on.

Satan does not want people to carefully consider biblical anthropology. He wants us to be fully absorbed in the mundane details of day-to-day living. What is often called the tyranny of the immediate. But Socrates said that “The unexamined life is not worth living.”[6] And, even though he was a pagan philosopher, he was right about that.

Marc Roby: I think that’s a great place to end for today. I look forward to continuing with biblical anthropology next time. And I’d like to remind our listeners that they can email their questions and comments to info@whatdoesthewordsay.org, and we’ll do our best to respond.

[1] Albert Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus, translated by Justin O’Brien. Copyright 1955 by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., the first line

[2] Bertrand Russell, “A Free Man’s Worship”, in The Basic Writings of Bertrand Russell, Simon and Schuster, 1961, pg 67

[3] From Shakespeare’s play Hamlet, the opening line of Act III, Scene I

[4] All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® (1984 version). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™.

[5] John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Translated by Henry Beveridge, Hendrickson Publishers, 2008, pg. 4

[6] Plato, Apology, in The Great Books of the Western World, Vol. 7 – Plato, Encyclopedia Britannica Inc., 1952, pg.210

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Marc Roby: We are beginning our study of theology today by considering why you should be interested in what the Word says.

Dr. Spencer, I’m guessing that at least some people are wondering about the title of this series, “What does the Word Say?” Why was that name chosen?

Dr. Spencer: That name was chosen because the purpose of these podcasts is to examine what God himself says we should believe and what he says about how we should live. But in order to know what God says, we need to turn to the Bible, which is the very Word of God. Therefore, the name is short for “What Does the Word of God Say?”, which is equivalent to asking, “What Does the Bible Say”. In other words, these podcasts are going to cover systematic theology, which is simply the study of what the entire Word of God says about any particular subject.

Marc Roby: For a lot of people today the Bible doesn’t seem particularly relevant. Why should they care about what the Bible says?

There are several answers that could be given to that question. Some people, of course, would say that the Bible is only of interest because it is great literature and there are many allusions to it in modern literature, art, and even in our language. For example, when we say that the writing is on the wall, or that there is a fly in the ointment, or we tell someone to go the extra mile, these expressions all come from the Bible.

Marc Roby: And so many universities have a course called “The Bible as literature”, or something similar.

Dr. Spencer: Right. But, there is also a far more important reason why everyone should be concerned about what the Bible says. The Bible claims to be the very Word of God. It tells us that in the beginning God created this universe, including all living beings, and it tells us that in our natural state we are estranged from him and, therefore, we need to be reconciled to him. It also tells us that there is an eternal heaven and an eternal hell, and it tells us that so long as we remain estranged from God we are headed for hell. But, praise God, it also tells us what we need to do to be saved; in other words, to be reconciled to God and admitted into heaven.

Marc Roby: I agree that this is of the utmost importance, but a lot of people are going to say that the Bible has been outdated by what we now know to be true from science. I mean… scientists now say that the universe started with the big bang, a little less than 14 billion years ago, and all living beings are the result of natural processes—evolution. So, many people would argue, we don’t really need God anymore, do we?

Dr. Spencer: I think we absolutely do need God to explain the universe. In fact, I think that modern science provides us with tremendous evidence for the existence of God. I’m not saying that you can prove the existence of God, or that true saving faith is founded on external evidence, but I am saying two things: First, true biblical saving faith is perfectly consistent with a proper understanding of modern science, and, secondly, atheism is not.

In fact, it is hard for me to understand how an intelligent, well educated person can be an atheist given all that we now know about this universe and about life. I just don’t think it is intellectually tenable to be an atheist any more, it takes far more faith than I have.

Marc Roby: Why do you say that?

Dr. Spencer: I say that for a number of reasons, but the four most important are: First, that without God you simply cannot explain the existence of this universe. If there ever was a time when absolutely nothing existed, then nothing would exist now. There is a Latin phrase that expresses this basic tenet of philosophy, ex nihilo, nihil fit, which simply means, out of nothing, nothing comes. And since we have very strong evidence that this universe is not eternal, but had a beginning, the obvious question is, where did it come from? And the answer is that there must be something, or someone, who is eternal and who created this universe.

Marc Roby: I always find it interesting that most people want something to be eternal, not someone. What’s your second reason?

Dr. Spencer: The second reason I have for saying that I don’t find atheism to be intellectually tenable is that it is essentially impossible for life to be created by purely random processes. We now know enough about the nature of living organisms to be able to calculate some of the relevant probabilities, and the numbers are staggering. Let me just give a very quick summary. Proteins are the building blocks of life, and proteins are made up of a sequence of amino acids. There are 20 different amino acids that comprise proteins, but an unimaginably small percentage of the possible combinations form functional proteins. For example, a relatively small protein might comprise a sequence about 150 amino acids long, and roughly only one sequence out of every 10164 sequences forms a functional protein.[1]

Marc Roby: 10 to the 164th power is meaningless to most of us non-scientist types…

Dr. Spencer: Trust me Marc, that number is very hard for engineers and scientists to grasp too, but let me try to explain it. First, 10 to the 164th power means a one followed by 164 zeros. As one example, the odds of winning the Powerball lottery on any given ticket are about one in 292 million, so getting a working 150-amino-acid-long protein by a random combination of these 20 amino acids is less likely than winning the Powerball lottery 19 times in a row when buying just one ticket each time. (see Note 1 at the end of this file for the math)

Marc Roby: That certainly is unlikely, but given billions of years and all the possible planets in the universe doesn’t it in fact become quite likely?

Dr. Spencer: Not at all. First, generating a single functional protein is a long way from having a living organism. It is estimated that the simplest possible living cell would require at least 250 proteins. If we ignore for the moment that these would have to be 250 very specific proteins – which is a lot to ignore by the way – and just ask how likely it is to get any 250 functional proteins by random combinations of amino acids, we have to multiply that number, 10164, by itself 250 times. The result is that we have one chance in 1041,000 of getting those 250 proteins! That number is a one followed by 41,000 zeros!

Marc Roby: OK – now that number is truly incomprehensible. Can you do anything to put it into perspective?

Dr. Spencer: I don’t know if it’s possible to put a number that large in perspective, but I’ll do the best I can. Scientists have estimated that there are about 1080 electrons, protons and neutrons in the visible universe.[2] This number is unimaginably larger than that. So, finding one particular electron out of all the subatomic particles in our universe would be massively more likely than this.

Marc Roby: That’s a little hard to wrap your mind around when you look out at the night sky and try to think of all the protons, neutrons and electrons present. And you’re saying it is vastly more likely to find one particular electron out of all of those than it is to get 250 functional proteins by random combinations of amino acids.

Dr. Spencer: Right; and not only is it more likely, but the comparison is so far off I hesitate to give it because it is misleading, but it is hard to come up with examples that are not misleading. In fact, if we have 1080 universes each with 1080 particles, we would only have a total of 10160 particles, so it would still be unimaginably more likely to find one specific electron out of all the electrons, protons and neutrons in those 1080 universes than it would be to get 250 functional proteins by random combinations of amino acids! Or, perhaps it will help some people to point out that one chance in 1041,000 is less likely than winning the Powerball lottery 4,842 times in a row buying just one ticket each time. (See Note 2 at the end of this file for the math)

Marc Roby: Now you’ve gone completely past the bounds of my imagination.

Dr. Spencer: And mine as well. To talk about these kinds of numbers at all gets very hard when you can’t see them written out, even for those who like math and work with large numbers a lot. So, for those who are interested, there is more information available if you go to our website, whatdoesthewordsay.org, and look at the transcript for this session. But for our purposes today I’ll just note that this number is so insanely large that if we increase the number of universes by a trillion, trillion, and increase the number of planets in each universe by a trillion, trillion, and make each universe a trillion, trillion times older, we don’t change the overall probability of generating the proteins needed for a single living cell by random combinations of amino acids by enough to even bother mentioning. (See Note 3 at the end of this file for the math)

So, people should not be swayed when someone says that there may be billions, or even trillions, of inhabitable planets out there, it simply doesn’t help.

Marc Roby: I must admit I didn’t know just how improbable it is to have life arise by chance… like impossible! And you even have a third reason why atheism is unreasonable?

Dr. Spencer: The third reason is similar to the second. We’ve been talking about just one cell, but it takes an enormous amount of information to build a living being, much of which is needed to describe how to make the proteins, but there are other things as well. That information is stored in the DNA. Now, I believe there is plenty of evidence to support the idea of micro evolution; that is, for example, that bacteria can evolve into anti-bacterial resistant strains, or horses can evolve into different kinds of horses.

But the idea of macro evolution, that all living organisms evolved from some prototypical life form by natural processes is, again, impossible for me to believe. There is a vast gulf between horses changing size or color or how hairy they are, which just involves changes to existing characteristics, and saying that the horse is directly related to the horsefly biting his neck. The horsefly has an entirely different body plan with different complex structures, like wings. There simply is no reasonable chance of both of them evolving from the same ancestor by undirected natural processes.

Marc Roby: We probably don’t even need a fourth reason to put the lie to atheism, but let’s hear it.

Dr. Spencer: The fourth reason is the impossibility of explaining the existence of volitional creatures like you and me.

Marc Roby: And, by “volitional” you just mean creatures that make real decisions, right?

Dr. Spencer: Right. If there is no God, and no such thing as a spirit, then this universe is simply matter and energy under the rule of physical laws.

Now I don’t have any problem believing that the behavior of a fly, for example, can be explained in a purely materialistic way. The behavior of creatures as simple as flies can be understood as purely instinctive. But when it comes to being able to make real choices, you have a serious problem to overcome if you assume the world is limited to mass, energy and the physical laws of our universe.

All physical laws are either purely deterministic or random. Deterministic laws are like Newton’s laws, which govern, for example, the movements of billiard balls when you strike them. Randomness comes in because of quantum-mechanical effects, for example, the decay of radioactive substances is a random process. But neither deterministic laws nor randomness, nor any combination of them, can account for a being that makes real free-will decisions.[3]

Marc Roby: I see what you mean when you say that atheism is intellectually untenable. But this leads me to ask you an important question… does atheism’s failure prove the existence of God? Is that the basis for our faith?

Dr. Spencer: Certainly, any argument against an atheistic worldview is also an argument in favor a theistic worldview, but these arguments are absolutely not the basis for our faith. I don’t believe that you can prove the existence of God in any formal sense of the word proof.

But, at the same time I want to emphasize what the Bible itself declares, which is that what we observe in nature is sufficient for us to know that God exists. In the book of Romans Chapter 1, verse 20, the apostle Paul wrote that “since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.”[4] He says that men suppress this truth and exchange the truth for a lie because they are in rebellion against God and his rule. In our natural state, we do not want God. We want to live as though we are the ultimate authority and judge.

Marc Roby: I’ve noticed that. So, what do these arguments accomplish?

Dr. Spencer: Well, I would say that these kinds of arguments accomplish two things: First, they help to strengthen the faith of true believers by showing our faith to be completely rational and reasonable. Second, for unbelievers, they help to bring to the fore their suppression of the truth that they know.

But, I’ll say again that these arguments are not the basis for true saving faith. Anyone who “comes to faith” by virtue of such arguments alone has at best an intellectual assent, not true saving faith. In the book of James, Chapter 2, verse 19, he tells us that even the demons believe there is a God and shudder.

The only foundation for our faith is the truth of the gospel, that Jesus Christ died for sinners, such as us, and that if we will repent of our sins and trust in Christ alone as our Lord and Savior, we will be saved.

Marc Roby: That’s a perfect place to stop for today. I think you’ve provided some very sound reasons for why all people should be interested in finding out what the Word of God says.

 

Extra material for those who want to see some math:

Note 1: Dr. Spencer said that one chance in 10164 is less likely than winning the Powerball lottery 19 times in a row buying just one ticket each time. Here is how you can calculate this number:

The probability of winning the Powerball lottery on any one ticket is about 1 in 292 million[5], or, if we call that probability p we have

Similarly, one chance in 10164 yields a probability of

If you have N attempts at the lottery, your probability of winning every time is the product of the probabilities; that is,

Finally, we set these probabilities equal and solve:

Taking the base-10 logarithm of both sides yields

 

Note 2: Dr. Spencer said that one chance in 1041,000 is less likely than winning the Powerball lottery 4,842 times in a row buying just one ticket each time. Here is how you can calculate this number:

We again have the probability of winning the Powerball lottery on any one ticket is about 1 in 292 million, or, if we call that probability p we have

Similarly, one chance in 1041,000 yields a probability of

If you have N attempts at the lottery, your probability of winning every time is the product of the probabilities; that is,

Finally, we set these probabilities equal and solve:

Taking the base-10 logarithm of both sides yields

Note 3: Here is another way of thinking about this. If you take all of the electrons, protons and neutrons in the observable universe and let them interact as fast as it is physically possible for them to interact , and let them do that for 15 billion years  – roughly what we think the age of the universe to be – you have less than 10141 possible interactions (, where the number of seconds has been rounded up to 1018). This number has been called the probabilistic resources of the universe.[6]

Given that many combinations, which is obviously way more chances than we have for amino acids to combine, you can ask how likely it would be to get the 250 functional proteins. All you do is subtract 141 from 41,000, so your chance is now one in 1040,859 of creating 250 functional proteins. In other words, having that many chances doesn’t appreciably increase the odds at all. In fact, let’s get really ridiculous here, and give ourselves way more chances; remember that a trillion is a million millions, which is 1012, or a 1 followed by 12 zeros. Now, if you have a trillion universes and each one of them has a trillion times more particles than ours, and each one is a trillion times older than ours, the number of interactions only increases by 1012 times 1012 times 1012, which is 1036, so instead of subtracting 141 from 41,000 we now subtract 141 + 36 = 177 from 41,000, so the chance of getting the 250 proteins with this many tries is one in 1040,823, which is really not much different at all. In fact, you can increase the number of universes by trillions of trillions many times over and make them trillions of trillions of times larger and trillions of trillions of times older and the chances will not change by an appreciable amount. I know these numbers are insane, but the point is that even though we can’t say the probability is zero, it is so small that no rational person should believe it.

That is why many modern scientists believe that there are potentially an infinite number of universes. You need an infinite number of attempts to make this seem at all plausible!

 

[1] Stephen C. Meyer, Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design, Harper One, 2009, pp 204-213

[2] See, for example, “Is the Total Number of Particles in the Universe Stable Over Long Periods of Time?”, Frank Heile (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/quora/is-the-total-number-of-pa_b_4987369.html)

[3] This argument is also made in the excellent and thought-provoking book Modern Physics and Ancient Fatih, by Stephen Barr, University of Notre Dame Press, 2003

[4] All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® (1984 version). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™.

[5] That number was taken from their official website (http://www.lotteryusa.com/powerball/) on February 14, 2017

[6] See Meyer, Signature in the Cell, again; pages 216-217 (although his number is smaller because he rounds the number of seconds in the age of the universe down, rather than up)

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