We are experiencing terrible and destructive wildfires here in Colorado. Many people are feeling singled out – alone – confused – scared.

Are you experiencing pain, suffering, or downright evil in your life?

Are you currently asking, “Why me?”

As you reflect on your situation, here’s a story that might provide some insight…

There was this guy named Augustine who was born in 354 AD. When he was 19, he read an essay by Cicero on the meaning of “truth,” and it was then and there that he dedicated himself to pursuing such an intriguing, yet illusive notion.

During his philosophical journey, Augustine experienced a great deal of pain and suffering in his life. He went through phases of severe depression and grief. If there was really a God, why was he witnessing things that appeared contrary to his character? Truth and evil seemed irreconcilable, so Augustine kept jumping from philosophy to philosophy for many years.

In his thirties, Augustine had a supernatural experience “as if a light of relief from all anxiety flooded into [his] heart.” It was then that “all the shadows of doubt were dispelled” and he accepted God as part of his life.

Although Augustine would become a great man of faith, he continued to struggle with the pain, suffering, and evil allowed by God in the world. He wrote:

“There is nothing that even the most gifted people desire more than to finally understand how, taking into account the amount of evil in this world, one can still believe that God cares about human affairs.”

Augustine grappled with this paradox for decades. He wrote volumes on God’s nature in scripture and God’s apparent desire for humanity. In the end, he determined that God created us for a relationship with him, and that real relationships are impossible with puppets. Apparently, God wanted us to have the capacity to freely choose or reject him, and this free will gave us the capacity to choose love or hate — good or evil. Indeed, this awful tradeoff even seems to apply to nature itself…

Before he died, Augustine concluded, “God judged it better to bring good out of evil than to suffer no evil at all.”

So, in light of terrible realities such as losing a home to a Colorado wildfire, you’re still asking “Why Me?”

Totally understandable. There’s nothing wrong with asking questions. Anselm of Canterbury once used a phrase, “fides quaerens intellectum,” which means “faith seeking understanding.” One can only seek to grow in understanding by questioning…

However, sometimes the “Why” questions can only go so far – Sometimes these religious/philosophical/emotional thoughts leave us hanging for real answers. Sometimes we need to stop and focus on the “What” and the “Who” in life.

The great thinker A.W. Tozer once shared, “When religion has said its last word, there is little that we need other than God Himself.”

Something to think about as we endure the days ahead,

Randall Niles

Posted by: Randall Niles | June 12, 2012

William Paley and his Watch

In 1831, William Paley argued that God’s existence could be inferred from the designs seen in biology. He said that if one were to come upon a watch lying on the ground, one would not assume that it was the product of nature. It must have been designed by an intelligent being. Likewise, Paley argued that the designs seen in biology must be the result of intelligent design.

Within a few years, David Hume, and to some extent, Charles Darwin, had successfully invalidated Paley’s biological “machine” analogy because, at that point in time, science was only guessing at what existed at the molecular level. There was no evidence of so-called biological machines — cells were merely blobs of protoplasm, little black boxes that somehow performed organic functions in an unseen world.

OK, let’s revisit that argument today…

Over 180 years later, we now have electron-scanning microscopes, x-ray crystallography, and computer modelling systems — miraculous tools that have opened the black box of the cell! In fact, 21st century technology is revealing new boxes within recently-unlocked boxes, exposing, as Dr. Michael Behe says, “an unanticipated Lilliputian world” of enormous complexity that’s pushed modern, naturalistic science to a breaking point.

Remarkably, we’ve now established that each microscopic cell is not only as well-designed as Paley’s watch, but more functionally complex than an entire modern city!

Still thinking,

Randall Niles

Posted by: Randall Niles | May 24, 2012

Information — Code, Computers, and Cosmic Chance

Think about the huge number of programmers and engineers required to write and maintain the information code that runs our computers today. It’s incredible to think of the billions of dollars and millions of work hours at the foundation of the binary code — the “1”s and “0”s — that underlie today’s digital information culture.

In our technology age, it’s easy to jump from the example of software code to the awesome design and complexity underlying the makeup and operation of all living things. DNA — the phenomenal storehouse of genetics that creates the physical makeup of each organism — is really digital code. Mainstream scientists don’t mince words when they refer to DNA as “genetic information,” “genetic blueprints,” “genetic language,” and “genetic code.”

That’s because it really is…!

Similar to the binary code of computer software, DNA is a four-digit code comprised of base chemical pairs laid out in a microscopic spiraling staircase. For the human, these stairs are arranged in approximately 3 billion precise sequences, acting as the “letters” in our genetic alphabet. These letters combine into complex sequences that form the words, sentences, and paragraphs that act as instructions to guide the formation and functioning of each host cell in our body — and there are about 30 trillion of those!

With the discovery, mapping, and sequencing of the DNA molecule over the last few decades, we now understand that organic life is based on vastly complex information code, and, like today’s most complex software codes, such information cannot be created or interpreted without some kind of “intelligence.” When Apple® needs to produce more digital information, it adds hundreds of smart people to its payroll and they spend thousands of hours writing and debugging code. However, our kids’ text books teach that the four-digit code that makes up the human body, enough information to fill the Grand Canyon a few times if printed in books, was created by cosmic chance.

Something to think about… Like software to a computer, DNA code is a genetic language that communicates information to the organic cell. Amazingly, the DNA molecule is a micro-sized, error-correcting, self-duplicating, information storage and retrieval system!

Crazy what a well-placed lightning strike can accomplish in an ancient pond of acids and minerals…

Just Thinking,

Randall Niles

Watch this Incredible Code in Action Now!

Posted by: Randall Niles | May 3, 2012

Symbiosis on the African Savannah

Sorry for my long-term hiatus. For some of it, I was on a tremendous trip to Southern Africa with one of my sons…

Along with 100 Trillion Dollar bills from Zimbabwe and mosquito bites from Botswana, one meaningful thing I brought back from my trip was a deeper appreciation for the wonder of symbiotic relationships on our planet. As you might recall, I like scuba diving and I’m always impressed with the wonder of “symbiosis” on the coral reefs. However, if you want to see interdependent nature on a massive scale, try multiple days on safari!

As we remember from middle school science class, symbiosis describes the mutual relationship between certain types of organic life. Remarkably, many of these interdependent relationships are totally required for survival, right from the start. Certain plants require certain bugs and certain bugs require certain plants… There are even creatures that need other creatures for their dung!

Across the board, African savannah ecosystems require “mutualism” of various organisms to survive and grow. Beyond the obvious predator-prey food chains observable from a Land Cruiser, ecosystems require the less-obvious symbiosis of plants converting carbon from the air, fungi extracting minerals from the ground, and insects pollinating flowering buds in the trees. Herbivores need micro-organisms in their digestive tract to convert plant matter to energy. Carnivores need herbivores to – well, you know… There are even creatures that eat the bones!

You get the point… Our planet is finely-tuned with a wide variety of necessary, symbiotic relationships. Without them, many interdependent organisms cease to exist.

So, how did this awesome feat of nature happen?

The typical science texts point to the concept of “co-evolution.” Co-evolution is the attempt to address the myriad of plant, animal, fungi, and micro-organism relationships that are totally interdependent and required for mutual survival. In a nutshell, co-evolution declares that the countless “miracles” of Darwinian evolution didn’t just happen one at a time, in a distinct tree of changing species, but often two at a time, side-by-side, at the exact same moment in genetic history.

Think about that for a moment…

Indeed, science is science, and the scientific method is the scientific method. However, when we contemplate “the necessary historic process of co-evolution,” at best, we’re using “forensic science.” Since we can’t reproduce the naturalistic process of co-evolution in a laboratory, we gather the evidence and pose rational/logical theories. If the evidence brings us to “highly improbable,” “almost miraculous,” “nearly impossible,” “unknown for now,” etc., then I think it’s responsible to pose the “Think About It” questions  — yes, even in the classroom. If “design,” “accident,” “plan,” “necessity,” and “crazy absurdity” are part of the string of possible answers, so be it. I don’t think asking a philosophical question jeopardizes good science in our classrooms. Actually, I think it’s our duty to the students to spark such questions…

Still Thinking,

Randall Niles

Posted by: Randall Niles | January 26, 2012

The Emperor is Naked – Full Exposure

Whether we admit it or not, we’re totally naked before God – our minds and motives are fully exposed. Therefore, we should embrace our spiritual nudity. It is utterly worthless to go through the religious motions, mantras, and missions without humbly and honestly seeking God.

In Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” the problem wasn’t that the emperor was naked… he was. The problem was that he wouldn’t admit it.

“He thought it better to continue the procession under the illusion that anyone who couldn’t see his clothes was either stupid or incompetent. And he stood stiffly on his carriage, while behind him a page held his imaginary mantle.”

 

So, how many of us are placing weekend religion and tax-exempt ministry before spiritual authenticity?  How much humility and honesty is giving way to pomp and pro forma? Sometimes it just takes a child, without orthodoxy or agenda, to declare, “The emperor is naked.”

And thus starts spiritual renewal for many of us…

This is a huge reminder for me today,

Randall Niles

Posted by: Randall Niles | January 4, 2012

Blaise Pascal – God and Reason

Blaise Pascal was a brilliant scientist, mathematician and philosopher born in 1623. Although he only lived to be 39, he created mathematical theorems that are still used today. He was known for his mastery of logic, reason and probability, writing volumes of theory, rhetoric and prose that remain foundational in contemporary education. Whether it was designing a mechanical calculator, discovering the properties of a vacuum, or debating the existence of God with the finest minds in Europe, Pascal was known as a truly special intellect.

Although Pascal had a genius mind, he struggled with questions of the soul. Beginning with the unbearable loss of his mother to a mysterious illness when he was three, he later developed his own illness that sapped his life. Ultimately, Pascal’s intellect couldn’t provide all the answers.

On November 23, 1654, Blaise Pascal was reading the 17th Chapter of John when he had a life-changing encounter with God. He wrote the following:

 

From about half past ten at night to about half an hour after midnight,

FIRE

“God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob,” not of philosophers and scholars

Certitude, heartfelt joy, peace.

God of Jesus Christ.

God of Jesus Christ.

The world forgotten, everything except God.

“O righteous Father, the world has not known You, but I have known You” (John 17:25).

Joy, joy, joy, tears of joy.

 

It was at this moment that Pascal knew it wasn’t enough to know about God or debate his existence with the finest thinkers in the world. Rather, it was essential to meet God personally.

Pascal was an intellectual giant who wrote about God for years. However, it was this emotional event that shook Pascal into the truth that you can’t know God through intellect alone. He later wrote, “The heart has its reasons; that reason knows not of.”

Happy New Year!

Randall Niles

Posted by: Randall Niles | December 24, 2011

And That’s What Christmas is ALL ABOUT, Charlie Brown

“In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governing Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” (Luke 2:1-7) 

But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from everlasting. (Micah 5:2)

“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:8-11)

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this. (Isaiah 9:6-7)

 

And that’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown 

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Randall Niles

Posted by: Randall Niles | December 18, 2011

Merry Christmas – A Prophetic Look at the Nativity

As we approach the traditional time for celebrating Christmas, I suggest a quick study of the ancient Jewish scriptures. As you reflect on the wonder of Christ’s birth, take a moment to read some of the Jewish prophets that preceded the Nativity by hundreds (and even thousands) of years. “WHO IS THIS?

Who was this predicted “Shiloh” mentioned as far back as the Book of Genesis?

“The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until Shiloh comes, and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples” (Genesis 49:10 NASB).

Who was this coming “Ruler” that the prophet Micah said would be born in Bethlehem, yet preexisted time itself?

“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting” (Micah 5:2 (NKJV).

Who was this “Redeemer” that Job said would come to save him and the world from death?

“I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth” (Job 19:25).

Who was this prophesied “Son” that the prophet Isaiah declared would come to earth and be referred to as “Wonderful,” “Counselor,” “Mighty God,” “Everlasting Father,” and “Prince of Peace?”

“For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulder. And his name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6 NKJV).

Who was this “Messiah” (Hebrew: Mashiyach) that the prophet Daniel said would come sixty-nine “weeks” (weeks of years in Hebrew, meaning 483 years) after a decree to rebuild Jerusalem?

“Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the command to restore and build Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince, there shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublesome times” (Daniel 9:25 NKJV).

Who was this “Root of Jesse” that the prophet Isaiah said would offer hope and rest at some future date in time?

“In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his place of rest will be glorious” (Isaiah 11:10 NIV).

Who was this righteous “Branch” that the prophet Jeremiah said would reign as “King” and execute judgment throughout the earth?

“Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord, “That I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness; a King shall reign and prosper, and execute judgment and righteousness in the earth” (Jeremiah 23:5 NKJV).

Who was this “Son of Man” that the prophet Daniel said would have everlasting dominion over all peoples and nations?

“I was watching in the night visions, and behold, one like the Son of Man, coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near before Him. Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed” (Daniel 7:13-14 NKJV).

Once you investigate these scriptures, contemplate their meanings in light of the historic Jewish record. What’s the common theme? What’s the powerful conclusion?

Merry Christmas indeed!

Randall Niles

Merry Christmas — The Video 

Posted by: Randall Niles | October 6, 2011

Occupy Wall Street — The Importance of the First Amendment

Undoubtedly, you’ve seen the articles, interviews, and video footage surrounding the “Occupy Wall Street” movement. I love the clarity that this series of leftist demonstrations is providing the nation. Actually, this “Occupy Wall Street” thing reminds me just how important the First Amendment to the Constitution really is…

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

When the marketplace of ideas is widely-available for everyone (including balloon-toting free-loaders), we get open and honest access to a variety of viewpoints. When passionate people have the opportunity to “make their case,” we’re all better for it.

As we know from history, good ideas have good consequences and bad ideas have bad consequences. Without free access to the full pallet of ideas, we don’t get the collective opportunity to weigh the arguments and discern logic from lunacy. We make each other better when we have to “compete” in a free enterprise information system.

So, what’s the ideological position of those currently occupying Wall Street? Here’s a “List of Demands” (sounds kind of childish and a bit totalitarian, doesn’t it?) posted to the Occupy Wall Street website (http://occupywallst.org/)…

Demand one: Restoration of the living wage. This demand can only be met by ending “Freetrade” by re-imposing trade tariffs on all imported goods entering the American market to level the playing field for domestic family farming and domestic manufacturing as most nations that are dumping cheap products onto the American market have radical wage and environmental regulation advantages. Another policy that must be instituted is raise the minimum wage to twenty dollars an hr.

Demand two: Institute a universal single payer healthcare system. To do this all private insurers must be banned from the healthcare market as their only effect on the health of patients is to take money away from doctors, nurses and hospitals preventing them from doing their jobs and hand that money to wall st. investors.

Demand three: Guaranteed living wage income regardless of employment.

Demand four: Free college education.

Demand five: Begin a fast track process to bring the fossil fuel economy to an end while at the same bringing the alternative energy economy up to energy demand.

Demand six: One trillion dollars in infrastructure (Water, Sewer, Rail, Roads and Bridges and Electrical Grid) spending now.

Demand seven: One trillion dollars in ecological restoration planting forests, reestablishing wetlands and the natural flow of river systems and decommissioning of all of America’s nuclear power plants.

Demand eight: Racial and gender equal rights amendment.

Demand nine: Open borders migration. anyone can travel anywhere to work and live.

Demand ten: Bring American elections up to international standards of a paper ballot precinct counted and recounted in front of an independent and party observers system.

Demand eleven: Immediate across the board debt forgiveness for all. Debt forgiveness of sovereign debt, commercial loans, home mortgages, home equity loans, credit card debt, student loans and personal loans now! All debt must be stricken from the “Books.” World Bank Loans to all Nations, Bank to Bank Debt and all Bonds and Margin Call Debt in the stock market including all Derivatives or Credit Default Swaps, all 65 trillion dollars of them must also be stricken from the “Books.” And I don’t mean debt that is in default, I mean all debt on the entire planet period.

Demand twelve: Outlaw all credit reporting agencies.

Demand thirteen: Allow all workers to sign a ballot at any time during a union organizing campaign or at any time that represents their yeah or nay to having a union represent them in collective bargaining or to form a union.

These demands will create so many jobs it will be completely impossible to fill them without an open borders policy.

I want to thank GOD for the First Amendment to our Constitution, which allows whackos to freely express themselves. Thank GOD these people have a public forum to present and defend their insane ideas. Our country will be better for it.

Keep Thinking,

Randall Niles

Last week, I posted some “one-liners” in the Atheist vs. Theist debate. A few of you asked for clarification on the following:

The Atheist: “Even if a finely-tuned cosmos and/or complex life suggest a first cause/designer, there’s too much pain and suffering in the world to believe in the Judeo-Christian God.”

The Theist’s Response: “Life’s order, design, and complexity require an Intelligent Designer, and our response to pain and suffering is relative to our knowledge of right and wrong/good and evil in a fallen world.”

Indeed, writers from Job to Augustine, Aquinas to Lewis, have filled volumes on this subject… My “one-liner” didn’t quite cut-it. Here’s where I was going…

Many atheists deny the existence of God based on the evil, pain, and suffering they observe in the world.

The simple logic: (1) A good and loving God wouldn’t allow evil, pain, and suffering in His world. (2) Evil, pain, and suffering exist in our world. (3) Therefore, God doesn’t exist.

But does this logic really work? On what objective basis is the atheist defining “evil,” “pain,” and “suffering” in his purely materialistic, naturalistic universe?

If the entire cosmos is nothing but the long-term result of an initial cosmic accident, then we have no universal standard for comprehending right and wrong. If conscious life is somehow the ultimate effect of mindless matter in motion, how can any individual declare what is objectively good or evil? Asked differently, how can the atheist reject the existence of God based on evil, pain, and suffering, when there’s no transcendent basis to argue “cosmic unfairness” in the first place?

C.S. Lewis said: “My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of just and unjust? A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line. What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust?”

Richard Rorty, a popular atheist philosopher, gives us a different perspective on the same truth: “There is no answer to the question, ‘Why not be cruel?’”

The theist observes and acknowledges evil, pain, and suffering in this broken world. The theist understands that evil, pain, and suffering are contrary to the opposite “good” states – The “way it should be.” The theist has an ultimate answer for why we are the way we are, and what the end of the story looks like. Indeed, our response to evil, pain, and suffering is relative to our objective knowledge of right and wrong, good and evil, in God’s fallen world.

The atheist, on the other hand, has no such bearings in this area, no objective basis for declaring what’s right and what’s wrong. In fact, the atheist has no foundation for believing things are broken (“fallen”) in the first place. If the atheist rejects any type of objective standard for evil, how can he use the so-called “problem of evil” to deny the existence of God? Similarly, without a transcendent plumb line (a “true north”) to define what “evil”, “pain,” and “suffering” really are, how can the atheist reject God (condemn God) for things that don’t really exist? Logically, how can anyone use a subjective feeling or personal experience to reject the ultimate existence of anything?

Still Thinking,

Randall Niles

Older Posts »

Categories