There Are No Genders In Christ?

I have encountered a number of Christians who hold the belief that there are no significant gender differences in Christ. They therefore believe that men and women have the same function, and that we should not distinguish between the genders when it comes to the church or daily life.No Genders In Christ

Their evidence comes from Galatians 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Taken by itself, this verse certainly looks pretty definitive. It says right there that there is neither male nor female, all are one in Christ Jesus! The problem is we cannot just read individual verses. This verse is not meant to be read by itself, but in context with the rest of the chapter, and the letter of Galatians as a whole.


Context of Galatians

 

There is a problem Paul is addressing in the Galatian church, namely, the issue of works righteousness vs. righteousness through faith. In the opening of Galatians Paul states that he is “amazed” that they have so quickly deserted the gospel that he taught them for a different and false “gospel.” In the first two chapters, Paul explains the gospel he taught them came straight from God, and that they should not listen to any other “gospel”. Next, he begins explaining just why the false teaching is false.

Context of Galatians chapter 3


Moving into chapter 3, Paul explains that it is Faith which saves, not following the Law (works).

“But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” – Galatians 3:23-27
It is within this context that Paul states, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Why would Paul randomly state that gender distinctions have been done away with when he is talking about Faith over works? When we take the context into account, we see Paul is not saying men and women are identical in their Earthly functions, but that salvation—through faith—is equally available to both genders.

Within the same verse, we see Paul is saying the same thing in regard to Jews, Gentiles, slave and free. Everyone has equal value in Christ, which was a ground-breaking assertion in those days. When we look at the non-canonical “Gospel of Thomas,” we see that others had different ideas.

“Simon Peter said to them, ‘Make Mary leave us, for females don’t deserve life.’
Jesus said, “Look, I will guide her to make her male, so that she too may become a living spirit resembling you males. For every female who makes herself male will enter the kingdom of Heaven.” – Saying 114

According to this false gospel, women don’t have equal access to the Kingdom of God because they are female. Paul refutes this idea in Galatians by stating that we are all one in Christ.

Paul Contradicts Himself?

 

If Paul really was saying that there is no distinction between men and women as far as their Earthly functions are concerned, then he must be contradict himself later on when he sates in 1 Timothy 2:12 that, “But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.”

Additionally, he must also be contradicting himself when he says that slaves should obey their masters in Colossians 3:22.

Of course, it is more likely that Paul is not contradicting himself, but that what he says later on fits in accordance with Galatians, especially considering the context. Paul isn’t telling us to live as if we are androgynous, but that we all stand on equal ground in Christ.

Is Faith A Crutch?

Faith is widely misunderstood today. Many consider faith to be merely a crutch used to cope with the realities of life. Faith is seen by many to be the rejection of reason and rationality. The prominent atheist Richard Dawkins considers faith to be, “the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence. Faith is belief in spite of, even perhaps because of, the lack of evidence.”
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Rather than seeing Christians refute this claim, it seems many have come to accept that Mr. Dawkins is correct, and not only that, but it also appears that many Christians have come to see faith despite the evidence as something praiseworthy.
  –
Both of these ideas about faith are wildly inaccurate.
  
Nowhere does the Bible advocate a “blind” faith or making a “leap” of faith. We should not believe in something just for the sake of believing.
  
Hebrews 11:1 defines faith as being: “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”
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Therefore, faith is believing in things that we can’t see. At first reading, you may be wondering how this is any different than blind faith. If you’re believing in something you can’t see then you must have no good reason to believe it. It’s blind faith. Right?
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 Not so.
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We all rely a lot more heavily on faith than knowledge in everyday life. If we only acted on knowledge, then we would be paralyzed and unable to live.

(more…)

I Got a C For Defending the Bible: University Unmasked – 17

Back in December, I posted one of my college papers on my blog. This paper was for my New Testament class which wanted me to make the case for something I didn’t believe was true.

Specifically, I had to argue that there are different versions of the parable of the lost sheep in Matthew and Luke (and Thomas) because the gospel authors each had an ax grind and were twisting the truth to fit their needs. Since the assignment said I could make my own observations, I thought I could give the position the class took, while also giving my own views. This would show that I understood the material taught in class, but disagreed. While I was aware this would probably hurt my grade to some extent, I thought I would still get a fairly high score.

I was wrong.
I ended up getting a “C” on the paper, and it had nothing to do with the quality of writing, or failure to follow the details of the assignment. I got a “C” simply because I didn’t agree with the bias of the class.
Here is what the official grading looked like.
Writing skills: Good. Well organized.

Connection to the reading: Excellent! Judicious use of quotation.

Analysis, Synthesis, and Evaluation: I appreciate the essay took a different approach, but the argumentation is extremely flawed and more or less disregards the teachings of the class completely. It is likely that Jesus did give a parable on a shepherd and the 1 and 99, but for very different reasons than what the essay gave.

Grade: C
What was so wrong with my analysis, synthesis, and evaluation? It was different from the class.

Well, that seems kind of reasonable though, right? I mean, college classes are always right, so if you write an essay defending something the class doesn’t teach, then you must be wrong.
Right?
The only problem is that in this case, my class was taught by a highly biased professor who used a highly biased textbook. Additionally, we weren’t allowed to use any outside sources on any of our assignments. Hmm…
Our textbook was written by Bart Ehrman, who is far left as far as Bible scholars go. Ehrman is far more skeptical of the Bible, its writers, and the content than what is generally accepted in academia. Not only that, but we were being taught that the views we were receiving in class were the views held by most scholars, and that these views were fact. This was completely false.  
Moreover, there were a few times when the professor mentioned the existence of opposing viewpoints, but he would never describe them, choosing instead to keep the class one-sided. Therefore, I think I am justified in trying to argue against what the class taught, since it is a class based heavily on speculation.
However, none of this should have mattered because my paper followed the criteria in the assignment.
“Assignment: This paper is intended as an opportunity for you to make your own observations about one or more texts in their contexts, using the methods of critical analysis that you have been learning. Therefore, do NOT rely on secondary literature such as commentaries on the internet. You are expected to use your Ehrman textbook and your HarperCollins Study Bible.

Directions: Your final essay is to be 5-7 pages, double-spaced and in 12-point font

The parable advances a different theme in each gospel. Compare the three different versions of this parable, considering the full context of each version in its respective gospel. What are differences? Explain why the versions are different. For example, concerning Matt and Luke, where is the original version? What does “the largest sheep” mean in Thomas? In the final analysis, do you think that the historical Jesus actually declared a parable about sheep (or a coin)? Why or why not?”

You can go read my paperhere and decide for yourself if I followed these criteria or not. Personally, I think I did, and so did the grader.
I met with the TA who graded my paper soon after I received the grade, and he told me how he graded it. He told me that if I hadn’t included all of the parts detailing my own views, I would have received a “B”. This is because I parroted back what was taught in class, followed all the directions, and the writing itself was solid.
I would have received an “A” if I had thought outside the box and provided a perspective that was unique, insightful, or that went beyond what the class taught. The TA admitted that I did indeed go beyond the class with my paper, and that it was very unique and insightful. So I should have gotten an “A”, but there was one tiny problem.
I was wrong. Or rather, I was “just plain wrong,” as the TA put it, so I ended up with a “C”.
If you read my paper, you see that I argue that we have different versions of the parable in different gospels because it’s likely Jesus told this parable many different times and with different details depending on his audience. I provide reasoning for why I believe this; however, the TA concluded that my analysis was complete “speculation.”
Okay, so my argument is speculation, but the argument from the class that the versions are different because each author had a personal agenda isn’t speculation? Really? The TA was there 2,000 years ago? How does he know Jesus didn’t tell his parables multiple times as he traveled? Aren’t we all speculating? Furthermore, there are other Biblical scholars who don’t believe as Ehrman and my professor believe, scholars who would agree with me.
The grader had his arguments for what he believes, and I had mine. The assignment told me to make my own observations, and that’s what I did, while also describing what I knew the class wanted me to say.
And yet, still the “C” remained. Apparently, they didn’t like my observations.
I met with the professor (whom I was on good terms with) to try and get a better explanation from him for why I had received a “C”. An hour and a half later (of mostly him talking) he basically said all the same things my TA had said. However, he was a bit more sympathetic.
He explained his own history growing up in the church and how some of what the Bible taught began not to make sense to him, but when he asked his pastor about it, his pastor basically told him to overlook it. His pastor had no answers for him, and my professor felt betrayed. He ended up dedicating his life to studying the Bible for the purpose of discrediting it.
He told me that he understands that I’ve probably grown up going to church (I haven’t) and that it’s probably hard for me seeing that what I believe doesn’t line up with the facts (I wasn’t seeing that.) Apparently he has had a lot of previous students who were like me (or whom he thought were like me), Christians clinging to what they had been taught at church rather than accepting “the facts.” I wonder how many he has led astray with his teaching.
I realized any further debate would be fruitless, so I let him believe what he wanted to believe, and left, but not before my professor recommended more classes he taught on the Bible to me. I told him thanks for the recommendations, but in my head I said “no thanks.” If his other classes were anything like his Intro to the New Testament class, they would be so one-sided as to be a waste of time. Skeptical atheist speculation is awarded an A, while Christian “speculation” gets a C, or worse.  
To rub salt in the wound, the human-pin-cushion girl who sat next to me in class (and was close to failing the class) told me that she had gotten a B on her paper after only spending two hours on it. She pontificated for several minutes about how it was one of the worst papers she had ever written, and yet she still got a “B”. She became even more thrilled when she learned I had received a “C”, since I had earned a bit of an “overachiever” reputation among those who sat next to me for my rather frequent objections to the material being taught.
I had spent hours and hours on my paper over the course of several weeks, even getting mocked by my peers for making an outline that was longer than the required length of the paper. And yet, I could have gotten a better grade had I taken much less time, left out my “own observations”, and simply parroted back the material taught in class.  
This is college; a bastion of ideas and thinking outside the box, it is not.

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University Unmasked: 15 – Embrace Everything! – Part 2 (Please Tell Me I’m Wrong!)

Fight the good fight: A continuation of Part 1 depicting the anti-Christian agenda prevalent at college. 

At the end of the class, the instructors were saying that we must not merely tolerate the beliefs and “identities” of others, but we must accept them.
“Tolerate is like something you do for a crying baby on a plane. You don’t like it, but you put up with it because you have too,” defined Ms. Smith. She was saying that tolerance isn’t very nice, and we should go beyond that, accepting others’ beliefs. In other words, we have to like their beliefs, and we have to agree that their identities are morally equal to what we believe is right.

The wrongness of this pressed down on me so much that I again felt I had to speak.
“So then…you are saying that there are no wrong beliefs? That no identity is better than another one?” I asked.
Ms. Smith affirmed this.
“So you don’t think there is any ultimate right or wrong? You don’t think that there are some beliefs or practices that are always wrong no matter who you are? There aren’t things we can say are alwayswrong?” I further questioned.
“No, I couldn’t say some things are always wrong. Some things may go against what I believe, or my personal identities, but I couldn’t say that they are wrong.” Ms. Smith explained.


“So…” I paused, wondering if I really wanted to go down this road. “Say I am sexually oriented toward children. Would you say Pedophilia isn’t wrong?”
The room was shocked again. The other students must have thought my hypothetical statement was actually a true description of myself. The pan sexual girl scoffed and rolled her eyes, then asked Ms. Johnson if she could leave (I don’t know why she felt she had to ask permission), but permission was granted and she left. I think she must have been the only one who understood where I was going with my hypothetical statement, and that offended her.  
 I continued to watch Ms. Smith; however, as I could tell she was trying to choose her words carefully. I expected her to say I would be wrong for such a behavior, but anticipated that she would still find some way to also affirm that right and wrong are relative.  
“That would be against my identity. I wouldn’t do that, it would be wrong for me, but I couldn’t say you are wrong for being that way,” she finally said.
Now I was shocked, and I felt myself starting to get angry even. I did not believe she would actually deny that I was wrong. “Please tell me I’m wrong!” I thought to myself. I found it hard to keep my voice steady as leaned forward in my seat and spoke again.
“See…I would say it’s always, ALWAYS, wrong for someone to force themself on a child like that. That is always wrong.” I was almost shaking as I said those words. I still couldn’t  believe she would actually say such a thing.
Now it was Ms. Johnson’s turn to speak up, an annoyed look on her face. “But Pedophilia is illegal. You can’t have an identity that is illegal and that still be okay.”
I leaned back, trying to collect myself. “But laws change over time,” I replied. “Laws don’t make something ultimately right or wrong.” Then I had the idea to play a card from their own hand. “For example, in some countries, homosexuality is illegal. Does that mean homosexually is wrong?”
That seemed to stump the instructors. Ms. Smith started to speak, but then paused and turned to the class. “Well…what do you guys think?” she asked, trying to get input from my peers. The non-practicing Catholic spoke up, a confused look on his face.

“I don’t see what this has to do with the topic.” Several others agreed with him. I wanted to laugh. Could they really not connect the dots? Or was I just doing that bad of a job at explaining myself?
“I’m just saying that I don’t think we have to accept everyone’s beliefs or identities. I think it’s possible to believe that someone is wrong, and still love them.”

I immediately regretted using the word “love” since that is Christianese and they likely wouldn’t understand what I exactly meant, but no one seemed to pay attention to what I said anyway. 
“But who are you to say someone is wrong?” Ms. Smith said. I mentally thought to myself, “Oh, boy,” as I realized now we were on the cusp of debating the existence of God, and I knew that was a road I didn’t want to go down with this crowd, or no one would take me seriously. Belief in God had been reduced to a personal identity that makes me happy, not truth. Besides, I didn’t want to try to make a case for that. I realized then the importance of picking your battles, and moral relativism seemed like an easier battle to win.
“So you really don’t think it’s wrong to sexually abuse children?” I said. More debate ensued, and Ms. Smith and I continued to go back and forth. She kept making vague aversions to my questions, but eventually I got her to say: “Well…okay, maybe not ALL identities are acceptable, but pedophilia isn’t really relevant. It’s illegal.”
“Yes, but laws can change,” I had to say again. “What if pedophilia were made legal, then would it be okay?” We were starting to go in a circle. Then I made the mistake of saying that the APA (American Psychological Association) had changed pedophilia from a disorder to a sexual orientation, and Ms. Johnson adamantly told me I was wrong, and that got us off track for a bit.
Ms. Smith was really having a hard time deciding what to say, and once again she turned to the class for help. “What do you all think?”
Again, the non-Catholic came to her aid.
“I still don’t understand what this has to do with what we were talking about,” he said, turning around in his seat to give me a look that said, “Who are you, weirdo, and why would you talk about this kind of stuff?” I sympathized with him. A voice in my own head was thinking the same thing. My own words were making me feel very uncomfortable. I was also annoyed I was doing such a poor job of helping people understand the consequences of what the class was teaching.
Then it occurred to me then that maybe my example wasn’t hitting close enough to home. I needed to use an example that was a current issue, and then explain how that is always wrong, thus disproving their argument that we have to accept all beliefs and identities and or we’re bad people.
The first thing that popped into my head was homosexuality, but that was clearly off the table. So then I thought of religions. Surely there are some religions I can argue against, like radical Islam for example. Radical Islam claims that women are less than men, and they will even execute homosexuals.
“Well, okay,” I relented, “But I think we can say that even some relevant identities are wrong.”
“Like what?” Ms. Johnson asked. The look on her face told me that she was confident I couldn’t give an example, and I was aware of the thin ice I was treading on. I had to watch what I said, or I would be immediately labeled a bigot, or worse, sentenced to sensitivity classes.

“Like some religions,” I answered. This statement caused the biggest shock of all. Ms. Johnson’s eyes just about bugged right out of her face. It was one of the most condemning looks anyone has ever given me. I’ll never forget it. And it was after that look that my plan to use Islam as an example now had to be thrown out the window. I felt the whole room waiting to pounce on me if I said the “wrong” thing. So I quickly switched my example to something people would be more comfortable with.
“Like the Aztec religion, for example. They thought it was okay to kill people as a sacrifice. Don’t you think we can say religions that don’t kill people are superior to those that do?”
The tension drained out of the room, and Ms. Smith was again forced to consent that killing people isn’t right. Ms. Johnson still thought I was being silly though.
“But you can’t just have an identity that involves killing people.  That’s illegal.” I internally groaned, and realized I wasn’t getting anywhere. In hindsight, I wish I had said,
“Well it wasn’t illegal for the Aztecs!” But it’s probably just as well I didn’t. The conversation had already made the class go over time, and I wasn’t making much ground anyway.

So instead, I simply reiterated that laws change, but I still think that there are things we can say are always wrong, and that we don’t have to accept any and allbeliefs and identities as morally equal to one another. I could sense the displeasure in the room from the other students who were irritated that the class went longer than it was supposed to. Of course, no one would have stopped them if they left (which gets back to my post about how the school system trains students to be mindlessly compliant. They had become like the elephant tied to a tree by a mere string. There are a lot of analogies involving elephants…)
I really needed to get going myself, so I decided to end the discussion by apologizing, and saying I didn’t mean to make a big deal about it, which was true. I didn’t expect to be debating an entire room by myself when I opened my mouth.  
Ms. Smith was quick to say I didn’t need to apologize, and it was good that we could have such a discussion.
“I mean, where else would you have such a discussion?” Ms. Smith asked earnestly and rhetorically.
“On the internet!” I promptly exclaimed, trying to diffuse what was left of the tension in the room. Thankfully, I got the whole class to laugh at that, and the mood in the room was tangibly lighter. Even Ms. Johnson seemed to have let down her guard, and joined Ms. Smith in assuring me that I was accepted. I wanted to smirk and say something sarcastic to their empty pacifying, but I remained silent. The class ended, and I left.
I walked out of the building with the conservative Hindu, and as we stepped out into the cold November air, he swore under his breath.
“That is no place for a conservative,” he said.
“No, it is not,” I said with a chuckle. We bid farewell, and he walked across the street to his dorm, while I headed in a different direction to go study, finding it very sad that he never came to my aid in the discussion. Apparently, the public school system has done such a good job at promoting liberalism and vilifying conservatism, that even when a fellow conservative is arguing for what you believe, you still cannot find the will to also speak up, so great is the negative backlash, and loss of reputation. 
College is no place for a conservative, true, but college is definitely a place for the Christian. I shudder to think how much more twisted our society will become if ideas like the ones promoted in that diversity class are left to go unchecked.  Hopefully my rather sloppy attempt did some good. Again, the irony hit me that the only beliefs not accepted by the instructors were the beliefs that went contradictory to their own. Apparently everyone is right…except for those who disagree with them. 
Later that day, I googled articles on the APA and pedophilia. I remembered reading an article about how the definition had recently been changed, and I was sure I was right. However, in my search I discovered that it had been a mistake, and the APA was changing pedophilia back to a disorder. 

I ended up sending an email to both of the ladies who led the group, telling Ms. Johnson that she had been right, and thanking them both for tolerating me. Only Ms. Smith replied, and here is what she said:
Reagan,
Thank you for sending.  Our session is one in which we strive to have open discussion with opportunity to engage and learn.  It is my hope that we accomplished these goals for all in attendance yesterday.   As [Ms. Johnson] said during our discussion, we did not “tolerate” your input, we welcomed it!  J
I wish you all the best in your academic and social endeavors at [University State] and beyond. 

I’ll let the reader decide if these words coincide with how my beliefs were actually treated during the discussion.

University Unmasked: 14 – Embrace Everything! – Part 1

Fight the good fight: An example of the anti-Christian worldview you will likely encounter should you attend college.
*All of the racial/social classifications I use for individuals in this article came from the individuals themselves. 
I was done with classes for the day, which meant I was in a good mood. That’s bad news for everyone else. I tend to care the least about what other people think of me when I’m in a good mood, which subsequently leads to me speaking openly.
The Office of Diversity and Inclusion
Even worse news for everyone else, I had a “First Year Success Session” scheduled (my last one). This one was entitled “What’s That Chip In My Cookie?” and was about “Diversity.” Yes, I was going to have fun.


So I headed over to the Office for Diversity and Inclusion and found the room my session was supposed to be held in. As I walked through the building, I found it curious that all of the employees I encountered there were of same gender and race. Diversity?
I was slightly early, so I took a seat and snapped a photo.


Five to ten minutes later, the small classroom had filled up. There were only about a dozen of us, and I was only one of two white males in the room, so it appeared to me that diversity was alive and well.
The guy who sat next to me (he was of Indian descent) did not appear to be in a good mood. So I smiled and asked him how he was doing, at which point he laughed and made a sarcastic comment about strongly disliking all of the FYSS sessions we had to attend. I sympathized with him, though after conversing, I discovered that he was a BioMed major, and BioMeds only had to go to three First Year Success Series sessions, whereas I had to go to four. I didn’t feel as bad for him after learning that.
At last, the session began. One of the two instructors asked how many of us came to this session because we expected to get cookies (there were none). Several hands went up, but not mine or the guy sitting next to me. I whispered to him: “Not me. From experience, I’ve learned not to expect much from these sessions.” That elicited a chuckle from him, as I’m sure he was thinking the same thing.
The first thing the instructors did was show us an image full of jumbled icons, logos, people, and objects all related to America—but we could only look at it for five seconds, and then we had to say what we had seen. I immediately saw where they were going with this. Everyone was going to have seen something different from the photo, thus, allowing the instructors to make the point that we all have the same experiences, but see different things, and that doesn’t make someone right and someone else wrong.
Sure enough, I was right. That’s exactly where they went, and the point they made does have some truth to it, which is why we can’t always rely on experiences for knowledge. Just like the story of the three blind men and the Elephant. They each felt a different part of the Elephant, and therefore had different ideas of what an Elephant was like. One can say that the blind men were all correct…but it could also be argued that they were all wrong…
There were a lot of things I could have said, but I decided not to be a pest, and kept my mouth shut.
Next, they handed each of us a “Social Identity” sheet, and they were each identical to the one I had received at the Multi-Cultural Center session I had attended a week prior. I shook my head in amusement. Here we go again.

The next five minutes were spent filling out each of the identities. Once again, however, I refused out of principle. The Indian sitting next to me went right for the “sexual orientation” category. “Straight!” he said under his breath, though with conviction, as he filled in the space.
After everyone finished filling them out, the class was asked if there was anything interesting or difficult about filling out the sheet. The Chinese students were utterly baffled by the entire concept of labeling themselves, as apparently they’re not taught in China about how to sort themselves into categories based on skin color or sexual orientation. I felt bad for them, and that they were now being forced to look at people as pieces.
One guy said he had a hard time listing himself as a “non-practicing Catholic.” He said it made him uncomfortable to admit that he’s not really a Catholic since he doesn’t go to church, yet he was confirmed, so he said he’s at least saved.
A girl spoke up and said that she listed herself as a “pan sexual,” and that it basically means “everything goes” as far as sexuality is concerned, and gender shouldn’t be a factor. The instructors approved of her identity, and talked about how it’s good that she could share that and help inform others of what it means to be “pan sexual.”
As the two women directed the discussion, going around the room to get everyone’s thoughts, I was debating with myself whether or not I should remain silent and get the session over with as fast as possible (which seemed to be what the Indian to my left was trying to do, as he made sure to remain silent) or if I should say something.
At last, I couldn’t help myself, and I said that I left my sheet blank. The two instructors (along with the rest of the class) looked at me in surprise. In the silence, I realized I had no choice but to keep going.
“I left it blank because…and this going to sound really bad, but I don’t really believe in Diversity.” I said it. The words were out. The surprise on everyone’s face morphed into something more resembling a mild state of shock. The room remained silent, so I pressed on.
“I don’t believe we should be cutting people up into parts and putting people into boxes. I believe that just causes more division. America is supposed to be about unity, not diversity. ‘United we stand; divided we fall?’ Yes, everyone is different, but we shouldn’t divide ourselves by our differences.”
I hoped that was all I would have to say, even though I was in a good mood. Yes, I’m one of those people that fears public speaking more than death.
Cool staircase inside the building
One of the instructors (I’ll call her Ms. Johnson) was looking at me with wide-eyes, like she still couldn’t believe what I had said. The other instructor (whom I’ll call Ms. Smith) looked like she also didn’t like what I was saying, but was thinking to herself that maybe she wasn’t understanding me. It looked like she had never encountered a college student who would openly admit they don’t believe in Diversity, and was doubting it was even possible there was such a person.  
“Do you mean you’re against the agenda of Diversity, or having diversity?” she asked cautiously.
“Oh, I have nothing against having diversity. I’m against the agenda, just seeking diversity for diversity’s sake, rather than judging people based on their merit and content of their character.”
Ms. Smith still seemed uncomfortable, and was about to speak again, but stopped herself and instead addressed the class. “Well…what do you guys think?”
The pan sexual girl answered, saying that we can’t just ignore our differences (which wasn’t what I was saying). In answer to her, I simply said that I completely agreed, and that seemed to end the discussion on that point, and the instructors moved on.
As the instructors resumed their talking, the Indian guy to my left leaned over and whispered, “I’m with you on the diversity nonsense. I really hate it too.”
I didn’t believe him at first. “Really?” I whispered back. 
“Yeah. I’m really conservative,” he said, continuing to whisper.
“What? You’re conservative?” I asked still not believing him.
“Yes, just look at me,” he answered, as if his appearance should have proven it to me. I noticed he was dressed better than average, but wasn’t sure that proved one was conservative. Nevertheless, he had convinced me, and I replied that I was super conservative as well. Looking back, I find it funny how in a room where it’s perfectly fine to say homosexuality and “pan” sexuality are good and morally sound, the one identity that had to be spoken of in hushed tones was that of the politically and/or socially conservative.
“Are you Christian?” I asked.
“Hindu,” he answered.
“Oh, okay. Interesting.” I had never heard of a conservative Hindu opposed to the Diversity agenda before. I thought only Christian white males were “racists.”     
The rest of the time they talked about more wishy-washy stuff, like how your identities are up to you, and no one else can say what you are. That’s right! Don’t tell me I’m male! I’ll decide for myself! If I had protested everything I could have protested, we would have been there all day, and I had exams to study for.

However, as the class drew to a close, I knew I couldn’t let slide the final points they were making, as they were very dangerous, and I doubted the instructors really believed what they were saying themselves. 

University Unmasked: 13 – Anti-Bible Bias

I recently finished my second college paper, which I had to write for the same class as the first: Introduction to New Testament Literature. The anti-Bible bias of the class was especially evident in this assignment. The prompt asked me to examine the different versions of the parable of the lost sheep and coin in Matthew, Luke, and the non-canonical Gospel of Thomas, and show how and why they differed. What the class wanted me to do was point out how each Gospel manipulated the parable in order to fit their own personal agendas, and therefore conclude that it’s unlikely that Jesus really said what we have recorded today in the Bible. Since the class is very one-sided and only gives the opinion that the writers of the Bible had horribly sinister intentions, I had more than enough info to make the case that Bible contradicts itself due to the biased agenda of the authors.
However, I don’t believe this is the case. This fact put me in the dilemma of how to get a good grade and yet still write what I believe and see as truth.  I can think of some “Adventures In Odyssey” and “Down Gilead Lane” episodes where characters were asked to write or say something they didn’t believe for a class because of their Christian beliefs. They refused, and failed the assignment. While their intentions were noble, I don’t believe we have to go to that extreme. Of course, I’m not yet sure what grade I received, so that is yet to be determined. 
I tried to do my best to provide what the class wanted me to say, but also state my counter arguments. If you ever find yourself in a college class that asks you to go against what you believe, perhaps this would be a method you want to try. Make sure to say what the class wants you to say so that the graders know you “learned,” but you don’t have to say you personally believe what you are saying, and can instead cite sources. Copied below is my paper:


The parable of the lost sheep and coin is well-known in our culture; however, we actually have three different versions of the story. Two of these variations appear in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, while the third shows up in the non-canonical Gospel of Thomas. While each version shares common aspects, they also contain differences. With the different Gospels displaying different versions of the same parable, it could be concluded that Jesus never actually told any of the three versions of the story as handed down to us today. According to Ehrman, each Gospel author simply copied and edited it from written sources of the sayings of Jesus. Another explanation, which I hold, is that Jesus actually did tell this story, and told it multiple times in different places and contexts and each author is recording a separate telling of the parable.
Matthew’s version of the parable shows Jesus is teaching disciples, and the story comes on the coattails of two somewhat similar pericopes earlier in Matthew’s Gospel which describe Jesus talking about “little ones.” In verse 6 of chapter 18, Jesus’ use of the phrase “little ones” is in a non-literal sense. Rather, “little ones” is referring to believers (NRSV 18.6-9). Likewise, shifting into the parable of the Lost Sheep, Jesus’ use of the phrase “little ones” is also referring to believers, and the sheep are meant to represent believers. The shepherd represents God, and therefore, here in Matthew, Jesus is painting a picture of the relationship between God and his “flock” of believers, whom Jesus indicates are analogous to children (Matt 18:1-4). Jesus makes this clear in Matthew in verse 14 of the chapter, when he says, “So it is not the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost.” With this statement, Jesus makes his point.  
Jesus didn’t look like this, but whatev.
Thus, the parable in Matthew is illustrating how God will pursue those that go astray and try to bring them back to the flock, because, “it is not the will of your Father in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost.” (Matt. 18:14.) This advances Matthew’s theme of ethical formation, as God doesn’t want any in the church to be led astray and “lost,” rather, God wishes for all to remain within the “flock.”  
Luke’s version of this story includes a different audience: tax collectors, and sinners. Scribes and Pharisees are also present, and their grumbling about the company Jesus is keeping is what sparks the parable from Jesus. This coincides with the theme of Luke writing an orderly narrative. Luke is explaining why the parable is told, which we don’t have in Matthew. The story of the lost sheep also closely resembles Matthew, as it is explaining that God does not want any of the “flock” to be lost. However, Luke focuses more on the celebration of finding the lost sheep or coin. This is congruent with the purpose of telling the parable: to explain to the Pharisees why he is eating with sinners. God is much more pleased with those who have gone astray and come back (sinners), rather than the righteous people (Scribes and Pharisees) who never went astray. Luke is drawing attention to the importance of repentance, which is one of his main themes.
Luke also tells another version of this parable which mirrors the story of the lost sheep. Luke tells of the poor woman and the lost coin. This story advances Luke’s theme of possessions. The story of the lost sheep involves a wealthy man who can afford a flock of sheep, while the story of the lost coin involves a woman who is poor. Luke is including the impoverished and those of low status in the story, as well as women specifically. Therefore, the story of the lost coin is also advancing the Lukan theme of the inclusion of womefn.
The majority view within New Testament scholarship is that Matthew and Luke are drawing on the source of “Q” in order to create this parable, which is why they are so similar. The differences in the two versions perhaps show where they might have deviated from “Q”. This explains why Luke includes the story of the lost coin, while Matthew does not. Perhaps Matthew and Luke were trying to make up different versions of the story to support their themes. Another possibility is that Matthew and Luke received different versions of the same parable, and that Jesus told the story multiple times, perhaps giving a different  version of the parable in each retelling to keep the story relevant to his audience.

Some scholars assume that “Q” is a document. However, we do not have this document, and there is no evidence that such a document existed other than the fact Matthew and Luke record the same events even though they were written independently of each other. While each of these Gospels are very similar and even word-for-word at times, the differences between the parallels make sense when one considers the likelihood that “Q” was actually the oral tradition present at the time, or maybe a collection of several written works. This hypothesis would help explain why wording can differ substantially between Matthew and Luke, and yet the content can be so similar, such as in the parable of the lost sheep. Maybe Luke and Matthew weren’t copying exactly the same source after all, thus, lending further support to the likelihood that Jesus told this parable multiple times, each time with slight (or not so slight) variances in wording, but retaining the same message.
Luke mentions that he has carefully investigated and asked eyewitnesses for their testimony (Luke 1:1-4). It is likely that much of the oral tradition was universally agreed upon, while details might have been disputed. The disputes likely originated from the fact that the truth can be obscured when told multiple times as we all learn in the game “telephone.” This is Ehrman’s view. An alternative explanation for the disagreement on details is the likelihood that Jesus told the same parables multiple times. Traveling teachers rarely give the same sermon or lecture only once. If one was to interview two different students who attended the same lecture at two different times, it is almost guaranteed that the interviewer will receive two different testimonies from these students. The interviewer can then conclude that these students have sinister motives and are trying to twist the lecture to fit with their individual agendas. Or, perhaps more likely, the lecturer slightly altered his lecture (either intentionally or unintentionally) so each student received slightly different versions of it. It’s the same lecture, but the details changed. Jesus often traveled and spoke to different people. It’s very likely he told the same parables multiple times, and being human, the details probably changed just by the fact he retold them. It could also be he intentionally changed details or added another version to the story (like in Luke with the lost coin) in order to address the needs of his audience.
We see support for the probably of Jesus’ multiple retellings of the parables by the fact that Jesus often repeated himself within the same Gospel. For example, in Matthew, Jesus is recorded multiple times as giving the analogy of a tree not bearing good fruit and being thrown into the fire (Matthew 3:10, 7:19). In Mark 8:31, 9:31, and 10:33-34 Jesus repeats the prophecy that the Son of Man will suffer, die, and rise again. Luke 8:17 and 12:2 also show Jesus repeating himself when explaining how nothing is secret. In John, Jesus also repeats himself in 7:7 and 15:8 when talking about the hatred of the world. There are many more examples from each of the four Gospels where Jesus repeats himself, and this makes sense. After all, Jesus was a traveling teacher. Teachers and speakers repeat themselves when they present their doctrine to new audiences. Indeed, it would be strange if Jesus only told a parable once. Additionally, since Matthew and Luke were thought to be written independently of each other and in separate Christian communities, it makes sense that they each would have heard a different telling of the parable from Jesus. 
Further, if Matthew and Luke are blatantly attempting to manipulate the text of Q, it is curious why Matthew did not include the Pharisees in the story as did Luke. One of Matthew’s major themes is polemics against the synagogue. Why did Matthew not take advantage of the opportunity to attack the Pharisees? Perhaps it is because the presence of the Pharisees did not lend itself to a strong enough portrayal of them in a negative light. After all, they were indeed listening to Jesus, even if they were also critical of Him. Another possibility is that Matthew wanted to make the disciples Jesus’ audience because that would advance Matthew’s theme of the disciples being “honor students.” I find it likely that Jesus simply told the parable multiple times. If Matthew really was trying to advance an agenda, it is unlikely he would waste the opportunity to attack the Pharisees. Luke goes ahead and includes the Scribes, Pharisees, and sinners in the story, perhaps to advances his theme of ambivalence toward Judaism and his theme of possessions, or maybe just because Jesus really did tell the parable of the lost sheep and the coin to an audience of Scribes, Pharisees, and sinners. This is consistent with the independent source of Mark, which also describes the Scribes and Pharisees listening to what Jesus taught on multiple occasions.
Gospel of Thomas

The Gospel of Thomas takes this parable and deviates quite substantially, as it completely changes the moral of the story. Whereas in Matthew and Luke the sheep is no different from the rest of the flock, Thomas says that the sheep that goes astray is actually the largest, which implies that it is also more valuable, since the larger a sheep, the more fleece is could produce. The parable ceases to be about God’s love for all of the believers and his will that none should be “lost.” In Thomas, the parable instead is focusing on the spiritual giants, the most capable believers, perhaps the ones who have the “secret knowledge.” Similar to the canonical versions of the story, however, is that the shepherd still represents God, and the sheep still represent the believers.  
Since Thomas’ version is so different and even contradictory to the versions in Matthew and Luke, it is highly unlikely that Jesus actually told this parable. Rather, Thomas’ version of the parable seems to be redacting “Q” in order to fit with the themes Thomas wants to advance. The largest sheep is actually the good gnostic, and this sheep is leaving the ninety-nine who are following the ways of the world unquestioningly. Thus, when the shepherd (God) seeks after this “lost” sheep and finds it, he says to the sheep that he loves it more than the ninety-nine. By “going astray” and diverting from the ways of the world, the “sheep” finds favor with its master.
This telling of the parable fits right in with other themes in Thomas and the entire book as a whole, such as asceticism and being “disturbed” by truth so that one may find the answers and claim salvation by internal understanding. Indeed, this parable is very similar to Thomas’ 8th Gospel saying, where the fisherman throws out all of the small fish and only keeps the largest. Just as the shepherd (God) loves the largest and “lost” sheep more than the rest, so too does the fisherman (God) reject the masses and find the most pleasure in the largest of the catch. Both of these parables challenge the reader to be like the largest sheep and the largest fish. Don’t just follow the crowd, don’t go with the flow, depart from the world, and find favor with God; find salvation by leaving behind the ways of society, and living a life of asceticism. This will lead to internal understanding: the key to salvation. 
All of these different versions of the parable can make one wonder if Jesus really told this story at all. The fact that all three of these Gospels include this parable, suggests that Jesus really did, in fact, tell a parable about a lost sheep, and possibly a lost coin as well. The canonical versions of the parable do not conflict with any other teachings of Jesus in the canonical Gospels, and fit in quite well. Indeed, in Matthew, the several verses directly prior to the parable transition smoothly into the story of the lost sheep, and even include the same language.
It is unlikely, on the other hand, that Thomas’ Gospel portrays an accurate account of what was actually said. Not only does the Gospel of Thomas conflict with Matthew and Luke (which share versions very similar to each other), but the Gospel of Thomas was found outside the Roman world, and is therefore far removed from the witnesses who actually heard Jesus give the parable.


While the meaning of the parables in both Matthew and Luke can be determined fairly easily, there are deeper repercussions behind their meanings that I would like to investigate further. However, each of these Gospels tell the same story, only each one has its own spin on the telling, perhaps in order to support their individual themes, but more likely because they received different accounts based on multiple retellings. The fact that we have so many examples of this story, and from an early source, makes it likely that Jesus actually did tell this parable. What is more, the language and message of the parable (even though there are two different versions of it in the Biblical Canon) is compatible with other teachings of Jesus throughout the Gospels. While we may not be able to historically reconstruct word-for-word what Jesus said, we can picture Jesus telling this story. Jesus really did tell the parable of the lost sheep and coin. 

University Unmasked: 06 – Brainwashing

I had been anticipating some hardcore brainwashing in college, but I had yet to experience anything other than subtle social conditioning—that is until last week.
University State thinks Freshmen are stupid, and because of this assumed ignorance, we are required to attend seminars called “First Year Success Sessions.” These sessions cover a wide variety of topics: some practical, some propagandizing, and others are just wrong. Allow me to share some titles and descriptions of these sessions.
     Don’t Fumble Your Finances!

o   Interested in learning more about your financial aid? Come work with the Scarlet and Gray Team and staff from the Student Service Center to learn more about your loans, scholarships and how to maximize your money while in college! Students will complete a financial plan to help them plan for upcoming college expenses in this session.”

§  This one actually sounds practical (so I signed up for it) but knowing this University, and judging from past University functions I’ve been forced to go to…it will be a waste of time.

Spiritual Wellness: It’s Not Just For Hippies!

o   “In this session, students will participate in experiential games and interactive processes to first define spirituality, and then realize how it still applies to our world today. We’ll discuss how a spiritual approach can be used to cope with everything from roommate drama, to changing your major, to dealing with the stresses of everyday life! By the end of the session, participants will be aware of a variety of clubs, on-campus resources, and daily activities they can engage with to continue to develop their spiritual wellness throughout the course of the year.”

§  Ooo, it’s not just for hippies? Does that mean I actually do have a soul?
Building Self Esteem

o   “Learn how negative thinking can erode your self-esteem. This workshop will help students learn practical strategies to stop negative thinking, become more self-aware, and incorporate mental wellness.”

§  Self Esteem: what was once called pride.
Party Smart

o   “This interactive group discussion educates participants about [our state] and University State alcohol laws and policies as well as what it means to be a “responsible drinker.” Participants are introduced to various alcohol issues through real-life scenarios. The emphasis of this presentation is on education and dispelling common myths surrounding college students and alcohol.”

§  HELP! I’m a college student! I don’t know how to drink alcohol the right way!
Consent is Sexy!

o Learn about sexual consent, why you should get it, and how to make it hot. This interactive session will promote an honest discussion about consent and communication within relationships through a variety of activities.”

§  The scariest thing about this one is it’s an “interactive” session…
There are dozens of other categories, most of which are pointless if you have common sense. I’m required to attend four of these, and I’ve already attended two. The first one was just informing us about what other sessions we can take, but the second session I attended was pure brainwashing.

(more…)

Does The Apostle Paul Contradict Himself When Describing Salvation?

I had to write a paper for my college New Testament class, which has been teaching me how Paul contradicts himself frequently, and how the Gospels contradict each other left and right. Here is the prompt for the paper, and what I wrote (My sources were the class textbook, “Introduction To The New Testament,” by the popular Atheist, Bart Ehrman, and of course, the Bible.) 

Summarize the forensic and participationist models of salvation in Paul and mount an argument that these two models are contradictory to one another in various ways.  Now discuss: do you (actually) think that is true or not?

In Paul’s letter to the church in Rome, he appears to be describing the entirety of his theology. While laying out his “Gospel” to the Romans, he seemingly depicts two different and contradictory models of salvation; the Forensic–or what Bart Ehrman labels the “Judicial Model” (Ehrman 254)–and the “Participationist Model” (Ehrman 255). However, upon closer inspection, these two “models” are actually describing two different facets of a single holistic method to salvation, and they don’t contradict at all.
Just what are these two models? The Judicial model relates sin and salvation to a judicial system of government. God is the lawmaker who has made the laws for all people; however, everyone has broken these laws, and the penalty for breaking God’s laws is death (Rom 6:23). However, Jesus interceded for mankind with his death, took our punishment, and then rose from the dead for our justification (Rom 4:25). We have the option to either accept or reject God’s gift of life, and we accept by faith alone (Rom 3:28).
The “Participationist” model depicts sin as a “cosmic power, an evil force that compels people to live in alienation from God,” (Ehrman 256). The problem for mankind under this model is that we are enslaved to sin’s power, and are unable to break free from our bondage (Rom 6:17). Sin itself blocks humans from God’s kingdom (Ehrman 256). We cannot set ourselves free; however, we can participate with Christ in his victory over death through baptism (Rom 6:5-8; 8:17).

As Ehrman points out, these two models appear to contradict each other. In the Judicial, sin is a crime, whereas in the Participationist model, it is a force. Moreover, in the Judicial model salvation is by or through “faith alone.” By contrast, in the Participationist model it appears that the individual must also act and do some of the work (i.e. baptism). When one juxtaposes these elements of sin and salvation, there seems to be an obvious confliction. Indeed, Christianity has been divided over these two models for centuries, some emphasizing the Judicial, while others emphasize the Participationist (Protestants and Catholics are good general examples). How can sin be both something that enslaves us, and also something we do? How can salvation be faith alone, and yet we must be baptized? Clearly, these models appear to contradict one another.  
However, I believe to say that these two models conflict would be like if two people went for a swim in the ocean, and one described it as “salty” while the other described it as “wet.” We could conclude that these two inconsistent “models” or descriptions of the ocean contradict, or perhaps we can examine them more closely and see that both descriptions are valid, and are describing the same object.
I immediately begin to doubt that the models of salvation Paul describes in Romans contradict each other for the reason that Paul was educated and very intelligent. What is more, Romans is one consistent letter. If Paul lacked mental aptitude, then perhaps it would be more likely that he would contradict himself in the letter. If Paul’s models were given separately and in different letters at different times, then the probability of contradiction would be higher. Seeing as Paul was intelligent, and described both of these models in the same letter, it is unlikely that he would so blatantly contradict himself, which is why I believe we should give Paul the benefit of the doubt, as we would any academic scholar. In order to really see what Paul is saying in Romans, we have to take into consideration the whole context of the passages in Romans. Instead of treating Ehrman’s models as separate, they should be considered together, and when we do this, we actually find that there is no logical contradiction.
Ehrman claims that the chief way Christians participate in salvation is through baptism, which acts as a simulation of Christ’s death (Ehrman 257). This point is valid, however, like many practicing Christians, Ehrman mistakes baptism in Romans for something it is not. Ehrman believes Paul to be referring to a water baptism, when he is actually talking about the baptism Jesus gives, which is the Holy Spirit, a baptism void of human works. Paul describes this as being baptized “into Christ” (Rom 6:3-4).  Additionally, when one considers what Paul talks about in 1 Corinthians and Galatians it becomes clear that Paul and Ehrman have different views of baptism. Paul makes a point to distinguish baptism as something that is not itself part of “the Gospel.” Paul makes this distinction in 1 Corinthians 1:17, “For Christ did not send me to baptize but to proclaim the gospel.” Paul clearly did not emphasize water baptism (1 Cor. 1:14-15). In Galatians, we also see Paul’s adamant rejection of the works of the law, insisting that circumcision does not save, and that it is faith alone. Paul would have seen baptism in the same light, which is why when we apply the Holy Spirit baptism distinction to what Paul says in the Participationist model, it correlates perfectly with what Paul says in the Judicial Model (faith alone) as well as what Paul writes in pervious letters. The Holy Spirit can only come through faith, not an outward action, therefore baptism is the result of faith; Ehrman’s models work together, not against each other. 

This still leaves the question of sin unanswered. Do our two descriptions of sin contradict? Not at all. Just as the two models described two different aspects of one mode to salvation, so too do these two models depict different attributes of sin. We are born into sin because of the sin of Adam (Rom 5:19) so sin is also a condition (or force) as well as disobedience. It is the enslaving force of sin that pushes us to commit the action of sin. Jesus must die to take away our guilt, and to also free us from continuing to commit the actions of sin. The Judicial model of sin and the Participationist model of sin are simply describing two different features of sin. These two do not contradict one another.
Probably the greatest evidence that Paul did not contradict himself in the two models is that Paul predicted that some might interpret him in just such away, and he employs “diatribe” multiple times to deal with possible objections. For if “faith alone” justifies, then should we continue to sin so God can continue to dispense grace? “By no means,” Paul vehemently proclaims (Rom 3:5-6; 6:1-2). Thus, faith alone justifies, but if we truly have faith, we will die to sin and be born again through a baptism into Jesus Christ. Again, the models cohere.
After reading all of Paul’s undisputed letters, his wisdom and intelligence are obvious. It therefore is highly unlikely that Paul would so palpably contradict himself in the same letter. When one unpacks the Judicial and Participationist models and takes them in context with the rest of Romans and Paul’s earlier writings, it makes much more sense that Paul knew what he was talking about, and didn’t erroneously contradict himself. When we take in the full context of Romans and Paul’s other writings, the implication is that the Judicial and Participationist models of salvation are actually both describing one unified concept. Knowledge of this leaves me wondering if our contemporary understanding of Paul’s vocabulary is imposing on the actual meaning he intended as a man living in the first century. I think more exploration should be done in order to create a more comprehensive view of the terminology Paul uses, such as salvation, faith, works, and baptism. 

The Theory of Life: Evolution

Okay, to hold you guys over until I can finish part three, I figured I would post a paper I wrote last year for my college Biology class. I took the class at Franklin University in Columbus, Ohio, a secular university.
 
The questions in bold were what I had to answer for the paper, and I gave a strictly scientific response to each question. You will not find anything about God or the Bible in this report. 
 
I used several peer-reviewed sources and frequent in-text citations, so you can be assured that none of the facts presented have been made up. 
 
It is rather academic, but if you like academic papers, then you should find this interesting.
 
Enjoy! 
 
 
 Human Evolution
 
 
 
A popularized view

 


A more contemporary view


 

“Yes, what you see there is the complete Darwinian view of human origins, the complete package… The Darwinian picture has a long tradition and is very powerful.” David Pilbeam – Yale University Paleoanthropologist
“Darwin’s theory of evolution is often said to be protected by walls that are at least seven miles thick, in that it is not only true, but unassailable. It is a considerable irony, therefore, that some of the most cogent criticisms of Darwin’s theory are the result of work undertaken by very orthodox members of the biological establishment itself. Such criticisms are inevitably designated as calls for further research. They are, nonetheless, what they are.”– David Berlinski
How did we get here? Every guy and his cousin has an idea, but the dominant theory in the academic and scientific communities is the Theory of Evolution.
What is the scientific evidence to support evolution? Is there any scientific evidence against it?
            Much of the information presented as evidence in support of evolution can be classified into one of the following categories:  the fossil record, comparative embryonic anatomy, molecular biochemistry, and biogeography.
 The fossil record: The fossil record is credited as being one of the major sources supporting Evolution. Fossils, the preserved remnants of organisms, show us life forms that existed long ago (Johnson, 2010, p. 507). According to the Theory of Evolution, all life descended from a common ancestor, which “arose from the hot, steamy environment of Earth more than 3 billion years ago,” (Johnson, 2010, p. 507). Johnson describes what fossils are, provides information about how they are dated, states that the fossil record is incomplete and then simply asserts that the fossil record provides compelling evidence for evolution.  However, he does not actually provide a rationale for how the fossil record itself provides evidence in support of Evolution.
According to the evolutionary story, descent over time, genetic modification, and unpredictable and natural selection, caused all the diversity of life we see today. If this is true, we should see organisms slowly changing (evolving), over numerous generations, from one species into another. However, the fossil record shows no evidence of this happening. The lack of “transitional” forms in the fossil record is a significant problem for the Theory of Evolution; if organisms have been changing from one species to another for millions of years, there should be transitional, fossilized forms everywhere in the fossil record, but they are mysteriously absent. Instead, the fossil record shows complete, fully formed, species, and no transitioning from one species to another. “Additionally, the fossil record displays a regular pattern of abrupt appearances of new life forms (instead of their arrival by innumerable small steps in a Darwinian manner)…” (Lönnig, 2004). 


The “Cambrian Explosion” is an example of the fossil record that does not coincide with Evolution. The “Cambrian Explosion” is “the geologically sudden appearance of many new animal body plans about 530 million years ago. At this time, at least nineteen, and perhaps as many as thirty-five phyla of forty total (Meyer et al. 2003), made their first appearance on earth within a narrow five- to ten-million-year window of geologic time (Bowring et al. 1993, 1998a:1, 1998b:40; Kerr 1993; Monastersky 1993; Aris-Brosou & Yang 2003)” (Meyer, 2004).
The sudden appearance (geologically speaking) of the organisms of the Cambrian period, “implies the absence of clear transitional intermediate forms connecting Cambrian animals with simpler pre-Cambrian forms,” (Meyer, 2004).  “And, indeed, in almost all cases, the Cambrian animals have no clear morphological antecedents in earlier Vendian or Precambrian fauna (Miklos 1993, Erwin et al. 1997:132, Steiner & Reitner 2001, Conway Morris 2003b:510, Valentine et al. 2003:519-520).” (Meyer, 2004).  So not only does the Cambrian Explosion reveal a lack of transitional forms, but the Cambrian Explosion shows no clear variations between the animals of the Cambrian period and of the animals before the Cambrian period. In a 5 to 10 million year time frame, there should be a large amount of genetic variation and a plethora of transitional forms. There is neither. Evolutionary biologists continue to blame the lack of transitional forms on the incompleteness of the fossil record, however, it has been over 150 years since Darwin’s theory, and the missing fossils remain missing. Also, several recent discoveries and analyses suggest that the morphological gaps may not be merely a result of incomplete sampling of the fossil record (Foote 1997, Foote et al. 1999, Benton & Ayala 2003, Meyer et al. 2003), “suggesting that the fossil record is at least approximately reliable (Conway Morris 2003b:505),” (Meyer, 2004).
Living fossils have also been discovered time and time again. A living fossil is an organism that was once only known by its fossils. Scientists estimate that the creature had been extinct for millions of years, only to find the creature living and unchanged from its fossil. If creatures are evolving, what explains the presence of living fossils which have remained unchanged for millions upon millions of years?


coelacanth (Latimeria chalumnae) marine biologists hailed the fish as a “living fossil” – an animal that has existed virtually unchanged since it first appeared over 400 million years ago (BBC, 1999).
So while the fossil record is claimed to be a source supporting the Theory of Evolution, the fossil record actually poses significant problems for the theory.
Comparative embryonic anatomy: Another source that is used as evidence for the Theory of Evolution is the comparison of the “anatomy of animals and the development of their embryos,” (Johnson, 2010, p. 509). “Scientists describe anatomical structures as homologous, analogous, or vestigial,” (Johnson, 2010, p. 509). An example of this can be seen in the forelimbs of all vertebrates. All vertebrates seem to share nearly the same set of bones which are arranged in similar patterns. Homologous structures are body parts that are thought to have the same origin. Analogous structures share a common function but are not necessarily thought to have common ancestry (Johnson, 2010, p. 509). Since many animals seem to share common characteristics (similar bone structure), we can conclude that life had some kind of common origin, however, since the fossil record does not show a descending from one to another, we cannot scientifically know exactly what the cause is for the physical similarities we see between life forms.
Vestigial structures are thought to serve little to no function at all. Vestigial structures can be considered homologous to body parts in other animals, where they still serve an important function (Johnson, 2010, p. 509). The human tailbone (coccyx) is thought to be the remains of a tail, which leads scientists to conclude we share ancestry with other vertebrates with tails (Johnson, 2010, p. 509). However, the more we learn about the human body the more our “vestigial” structures turn out to not be vestigial after all. The human pinky toes, tonsils, and appendix were once thought to serve no purpose.  We now know that tonsils and the appendix play an important part in the immune system and pinky toes help us keep our balance while also helping to disperse impact throughout the foot when we run (Wolchover, 2011). Likewise, the tailbone is also now known to have an important function. The coccyx “is an attachment point of a number of muscles at the pelvis. We need it for upright locomotion. It would be catastrophic if it went away,”—Kenneth Saladin, anatomist and physiologist at Georgia College and State University (Wolchover, 2011). Just because our spinal cord extends slightly below the pelvis does not mean we can conclude that we shared ancestry with vertebrates with tails. This assertion must be backed up with scientific observation if we are to make this conclusion.
What is natural selection, and how does the process work? How does natural selection contribute to evolution?
                      Natural selection, described by Darwin as “survival of the fittest” is the process by which organisms adapt to their environment by developing certain traits over time that enable their survival in a particular geographic region. It is also described as the process of random genetic variances that cause differentiation between organisms. It is also thought that natural selection combined with random mutations cause the change of one species into another. The organisms which receive beneficial mutations will survive to reproduce, while the organisms which receive negative mutations will die out. Individuals with certain traits are more fit for their local environment and therefore are more likely to survive and reproduce (survival of the fittest). Mutations with the addition of natural selection contribute to changes in the gene pool of a population. This is the process of natural selection (Johnson, 2010, p. 512).




            Natural selection contributes to evolution because over time natural selection causes some genes to fade away, while others become prominent. Since genes influence a population’s physical traits and functions, the changing of the genes likewise causes populations to change. We have directly observed evidence of natural selection and can even control the process. Genetic engineering is an example of how humans can control natural selection. Changes within a species are scientifically observable. However, we have not been able to engineer a completely new species, nor have we directly or scientifically observed a species evolving to become a completely different species. A 2008 article in Trends in Ecology and Evolution acknowledged the existence of a ‘healthy debate concerning the sufficiency of neo-Darwinian theory to explain macroevolution.  It is debated whether natural selection is actually the cause of changes that give rise to new species, or whether natural selection only plays a part in adaptation within existing species.Biologist Stewart Newman argued, ‘You can’t deny the force of selection in genetic evolution … but in my view this is stabilizing and fine-tuning forms that originate due to other processes.’”
“… it comes as something of a surprise to learn that despite very long-standing claims by evolutionary biologists to have established the robust viability of natural selection as a biological force, the overwhelming number of such studies have been conducted only in the past fifteen years.” (Berlinski, 2005).
What were the first life-forms on Earth?
            In today’s world the formation of organic molecules requires enzymes, but enzymes had not yet evolved at the time life was first recorded (Johnson, 2010, p. 514). How could organic molecules have formed without enzymes if science has never observed organic molecules forming without them? According to Johnson, the conditions of the early Earth were such that it was possible for organic molecules to form without the presence of enzymes.  Johnson does not present any scientific data to support such a theory, but allows himself to speculate on how this could have happened. “Apparently the intense heat, ultraviolet radiation, and electrical discharges produced an extreme amount of energy, enough to combine molecules in the atmosphere into simple organic compounds, even without enzymes” (Johnson, 2010, p. 514). So scientists are not exactly sure how this was possible, but they know that life formed. Professor Edwin Conklin stated, “The probability of life originating from accident is comparable to the probability of the Unabridged Dictionary resulting from an explosion in a printing shop.”
            Eventually, scientists believe that non-living organic material was able to mix together in Earth’s primordial oceans and spontaneously transform from non-living to living. The first living organisms must have been anaerobic because there was believed to be no oxygen in Earth’s early atmosphere. Scientists approximate that at about 3 billion years ago, certain cells had advanced to the point that they were able to carry out the process of photosynthesis, as a result of random mutations (Johnson, 2010, p. 515).   
How did photosynthetic organisms affect evolution?
            Scientists believe that the formation of photosynthetic organisms created an abundance of oxygen in Earth’s atmosphere, which gave rise to the evolution of oxygen breathing (aerobic) organisms (Johnson, 2010, p. 515).
Who were the first hominids? What did they look like?
          The first hominids were believed to come from Africa. Scientists disagree regarding dates, classification of fossils, and the general framework of human evolution. However, human evolution is fairly well established (Johnson, 2010, p. 517).
Australopithecus afarensis: One of the first hominids to appear was Australopithecus (southern ape). The fragments of an Australopithecus skeleton was found in Ethiopia in 1974 (Lucy), and is the only one still considered (scientists disagree) to be a candidate as a human ancestor. These hominids were short (about a meter tall) with arms long relative to their bodies.


Homo habilis: Homo habilis was thought to be our first distinctly human ancestor, however, new fossil discoveries in Africa cloud our view of human evolution. Homo habilis is no longer thought to be in the genus ‘Homo.’ “The old theory was that the first and oldest species in our family tree, Homo habilis, evolved into Homo erectus, which then became us, Homo sapiens. But those two earlier species lived side-by-side about 1.5 million years ago in parts of Kenya for at least half a million years, Leakey and colleagues report in a paper published in Thursday’s journal Nature. In 2000 Leakey found an old H. erectus complete skull within walking distance of an upper jaw of the H. habilis, and both dated from the same general time period. That makes it unlikely that H. erectus evolved from H. habilis, researchers said.” (Smith, 2007).
Homo erectus: More human-looking, Homo erectus was thought to have arisen from Homo habilis, but we now know that they were living at the same time (see above). Homo erectus is considered a contemporary with modern humans due to its large brain size and ability to walk upright (Johnson, 2010, p. 518).
 “I have come to believe that many statements we make about the hows and whys of human evolution say as much about us, the paleoanthropologists and the larger society in which we live, as about anything that ‘really’ happened.” David Pilbeam Yale University Paleoanthropologist
            The dominant theory of life’s origins within the academic and scientific communities is commonly referred to as Neo-Darwinian Evolution.  However, statements in Biology textbooks that represent Evolution, meaning Neo-Darwinian Evolution, as being universally accepted by “scientists” are misleading. There is a significant amount of skepticism in the scientific community surrounding the theory of Neo-Darwinian Evolution.  Over the years, a number of alternatives to the Darwinian Theory of Evolution have been proposed, including punctuated equilibrium, self-organization, structuralism, and intelligent design. In 2001, The Discovery Institute drafted a statement entitled “A Scientific Dissent from Darwin.”  When first published, the statement was endorsed by 100 scientists.  Last updated in 2010, the statement now contains the signatures of over 700 scientists.
           



References
 BBC News | Sci/Tech | New ‘living fossil’ identified. (n.d.). BBC News – Home. Retrieved April 8, 2011, from http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/302368.stm
(2004), W. L. (n.d.). W.-E. Loennig: Dynamic Genomes. Anmerkungen zum Verständnis von Intelligent Design. Retrieved April 7, 2011, from http://www.weloennig.de/DynamicGenomes.html
Dissent from Darwin. (n.d.). Dissent from Darwin. Retrieved April 10, 2011, from http://www.dissentfromdarwin.org/
Johnson, M. D. (2010). Human biology:  concepts and current issues (5th ed.). San Francisco: Benjamin Cummings.
Luskin, C., Sciences), M. (., & J.D.. (n.d.). Response to the NCSE’s Reply to Explore Evolution on Natural Selection (Explore Evolution – Further Debate). Explore Evolution | Discussion | Ongoing Debate. Retrieved April 8, 2011, from http://www2.exploreevolution.com/exploreEvolutionFurtherDebate/2010/03/response_to_the_ncses_reply_to.php
Meyer, S. (n.d.). Intelligent Design: The Origin of Biological Information and the Higher Taxonomic Categories. discovery. Retrieved April 6, 2011, from www.discovery.org/a/2177
Smith, A. (n.d.). Paleoanthropologists Disown Homo habilis from Our Direct Family Tree – Evolution News & Views. Evolution News & Views. Retrieved April 7, 2011, from http://www.evolutionnews.org/2007/08/paleoanthropologists_disown_ho004090.html
Wolchover, N. (n.d.). FYI: When Will We Evolve Out Of Our Useless Appendages? | Popular Science. Popular Science | New Technology, Science News, The Future Now. Retrieved April 7, 2011, from http://www.popsci.com/science/article/2011-01/fyi-when-will-we-evolve-out-our-useless-appendages