How Could All the Animals Fit on the Ark?

Ark Animal Care

Hey TD!

As Stella and I were discussing Noah’s Ark this week, I found myself not only wondering how Noah was able to get all the animals on the ark, but what animals he really got on the ark, and, to be honest, … was this really possible … at least as I understood it?

Lo and behold, I received this article in my inbox this morning from Answers in Genesis and thought that some of you would be interested in reading it.

Feel free to discuss it with one another or with a leader, for good discussion helps sharpen and refine our thoughts and understanding. – Arthur

How Could All the Animals Fit on the Ark?

by Michael Belknap and Tim Chaffey on April 2, 2019

One of the most important issues relating to the Bible’s flood account is the topic of animals on the ark. The estimated numbers, sizes, and types of ark animals impact nearly every aspect of the vessel’s interior operations, including time and labor expenditures, food and water needs, space and waste management, and enclosure design.1

The subject of fitting the required animals on the ark is a significant point of contention between biblical creationists and skeptics. However, properly addressing these concerns is more complicated than a mere compilation of data about different animal species. First, we must answer some fundamental questions.

How Large Was the Ark?

ACCORDING TO GENESIS 6:15, THE ARK WAS 300 CUBITS LONG, 50 CUBITS WIDE, AND 30 CUBITS HIGH—THE PROPORTIONS OF A GENUINE SHIPPING VESSEL.

According to Genesis 6:15, the ark was 300 cubits long, 50 cubits wide, and 30 cubits high—the proportions of a genuine shipping vessel. A cubit is typically considered to be the length from a man’s furthest fingertip to his elbow. While various cubit lengths have been used throughout history, the Ark Encounter calculated the size of the ark based on a 20.4-inch (52 cm) cubit. The result is a vessel 510 feet (155 m) long, 85 feet (26 m) wide, and 51 feet (16 m) high. Accounting for a 15% reduction in volume due to the curvature of the hull, an ark this size could contain the equivalent of 450 semi-trailers of cargo or about 1.88 million cubic feet (53,200 m3)—a truly massive ship.

Which Animals Were Required on the Ark?

The Bible informs us that the ark housed representatives of every land-dependent, air-breathing animal—ones that could not otherwise survive the flood (Genesis 7:21–23). Conversely, Noah did not care for marine animals, and he probably did not need to bring insects, with the possible exception of delicate insects like butterflies and moths—since most insects could survive outside the ark. Also, insects take in oxygen through spiracles in their skin, and the Bible specifies that those creatures targeted outside of the ark were those “on the dry land in whose nostrils was the breath of life.”

How Many Species Are in the World Today?

Skeptics often assert that there are millions of species in the world— far more than the number that could fit on the ark. However, according to estimates published in 2014, there are fewer than 1.8 million documented species of organisms in the world. Consider also that over 98 percent of those species are fish, invertebrates, and non-animals (like plants and bacteria). This means that there are fewer than 34,000 species of known, land-dependent vertebrates in the world today.2

Species or Kinds?

Though wild animals today are often considered according to their species, the Bible deals with animals according to their min, a Hebrew word usually translated as “kind.” We can infer from Scripture that God created plants and animals to reproduce after their kinds (Genesis 1:11–25), and it is clear from various texts that a kind is often a broader category than the current concept of a species. This means that a kind may contain many different species. Since Noah was only sent select representatives from relevant kinds, all land-dwelling vertebrate species not present on the ark were wiped out. Therefore, if we see an ark kind represented today by different species (e.g., horses, zebras, and donkeys of the equid kind) those species have developed since the time of the flood. Therefore, species are simply varying expressions of a particular kind.

What Is an Animal Kind?

There are numerous approaches to defining a kind, but one of the simplest is a distinctly created type of organism and all descendants. Kinds are often referred to as baramins (from the Hebrew words for “created” and “kind”), and the study of created kinds is called baraminology.

What Are the Criteria for Identifying Kinds?

In 2011, Ark Encounter researchers began in-depth animal studies with the goal of identifying the maximum number of ark kinds.3 The researchers applied three primary criteria in estimating the ark kinds: hybridization, cognitum, and statistical baraminology.4

Hybrid data is the favored method in identifying kinds. Researchers believe that only closely related animals can successfully produce offspring, and this is consistent with the Bible’s emphasis on the relationship between reproduction and created kinds. Since only animals in the same kind are related, hybrids positively identify which animals are part of the same kind. The usefulness of hybrid data is limited, however, in that not all potential crosses have been tested or reliably documented, and some organisms have gone extinct. Hybridization is also strictly an inclusive criterion, as not even all related animals can produce offspring together (i.e., they have lost the ability to reproduce with certain others of their kind).

The cognitum approach estimates animal kinds using the human senses of perception. This method assumes that animal kinds have maintained their core distinctiveness even as they have diversified over time. Presently, extinct animals are most often classified using this approach. For example, woolly mammoths are extinct, and no hybrid data are connecting them with elephants. However, their extreme similarity to elephants has resulted in their assignment to the elephant kind.

In statistical analyses, continuities and discontinuities of animals are identified by comparing physical traits using statistical tests called baraminic distance correlation (BDC). Like the cognitum approach, this method assumes that the physical similarities and dissimilarities identified in the tests are reliable indicators of relatedness. It also assumes that the traits selected for comparison are baraminologically significant.

What Are Some Safeguards Against Underestimating the Number of Ark Animals?

The Ark Encounter researchers put several safeguards in place to avoid underestimating the number of animals on the ark. These include a tendency to “split” rather than “lump” animal groups. Also, all “clean” and all flying creatures—not just “clean” ones—were multiplied by fourteen instead of seven animals.

What Are Splitting and Lumping?

Estimating the number of animals on the ark depends upon several factors. Near the top of that list is the decision to split or lump the animals that may or may not be related as a kind.

Coyotes, wolves, dingoes, and domestic dogs can generally interbreed. Thus, they can be lumped into the same kind. So, Noah just needed two members of the dog kind on the ark.

On the other hand, there are approximately two dozen known families of bats, living and extinct. Based on anatomy and other features, many of these families probably belong to the same kind (e.g., if we used the cognitum criteria). In fact, it is possible that every bat belongs to the same kind. However, since breeding studies have not yet confirmed this idea, the Ark Encounter researchers split the bats into their various families. So instead of including as few as 14 bats on the ark, the team accounted for over 300 of them (14 from each family). In keeping with the worst-case approach to estimating the number of animals on the ark, the animals were split into separate kinds whenever the data was insufficient to support lumping them into a single kind.

Why Fourteen Instead of Seven?

Some Bible translations indicate that Noah was to bring seven of each flying creature and clean animal. Yet other Bible translations state that seven pairs of these creatures were on the ark.

Seven of Each Kind Seven Pairs of Each Kind
KJV*
NKJV
NASB*
NET*
NIV (1984)*
NLT
ESV*
HCSB
NRSV
NIV (2011)
* Asterisks indicate that a textual note appears in these Bibles that mentions the possibility of the other view.

The Hebrew text literally reads, “seven seven—a male and his female” (Genesis 7:2). Does this unique phrasing mean seven or fourteen?

In favor of the “seven” view is that Genesis 8:20 states that Noah sacrificed clean animals and birds after the flood. While it doesn’t say that Noah sacrificed just one animal of each clean kind, those who hold to the “seven” view could point to the common “six and one” pattern seen in the Old Testament. For example, God created the world in six days and rested for one (Genesis 1; Exodus 20:11). Perhaps six of each clean animal were for man’s use, and one was dedicated to the Lord.

In favor of the “seven pairs” view is the text’s mention that there would be a male and “his female” for the clean animals. If an odd number was brought to Noah, then plenty of animals did not have a mate. Furthermore, the Hebrew text does not use similar wording with the unclean animals in verse two. That is, readers can know that one pair of unclean animals was in view, but the text does not say “two two, a male and his female.” It just has the word for two.

Since Hebrew language scholars do not agree about this issue, it seems wise to be tentative about which view is accurate. Since a worst-case approach is being used regarding the animals, these calculations are based on the “seven pairs” position.

What Is Meant by a “Worst-Case Scenario?”

The Ark Encounter depicts a worst-case approach when estimating the number of animal kinds. Some people believe Noah brought two of every unclean animal and seven of every clean animal. The text seems to indicate that Noah cared for more animals than this (Genesis 7:2–3), particularly when it comes to the clean animals and flying creatures. The Lord may have sent seven pairs of the clean animals and seven pairs of all the flying creatures (not just the clean varieties).

Although this worst-case approach more than doubles the total estimated number of animals on the ark, this model shows that even a high-end estimate of total animals would have fit on board. Obviously, if the Lord sent just seven of each clean animal and seven of just the clean flying creatures, the ark would have had plenty of space to accommodate this lower total.

How Big Were the Ark Animals?

People often wonder how all the animals could have fit in the ark, particularly when considering the massive dinosaurs. We see so many illustrations of large creatures packed tightly into a little boat. But this image is inaccurate. Noah’s ark was much larger than it is usually depicted, and many of the animals were probably smaller than shown in popular pictures.

NOAH’S ARK WAS MUCH LARGER THAN IT IS USUALLY DEPICTED, AND MANY OF THE ANIMALS WERE PROBABLY SMALLER THAN SHOWN IN POPULAR PICTURES.

It makes more sense to think that God would have sent to Noah juveniles or smaller varieties within the same kind. Consider the following advantages of bringing juveniles or smaller versions of a creature:

  1. They take up less space.
  2. They eat less.
  3. They create less waste.
  4. They are often easier to manage.
  5. They are generally more resilient.
  6. In the case of juveniles, they would have more time to reproduce after the flood.

Indeed, even when the giant dinosaurs and elephant-sized creatures are factored in, the ark animals were probably much smaller than is frequently assumed. According to Ark Encounter estimates, it is projected only 15 percent of ark animals would have achieved an average adult mass over 22 pounds (10 kg). This means that the vast majority of ark animals were smaller than a beagle, with most of those being much smaller. Starting with a mass category of 0.035–0.35 oz. (1–10 g), the animal groups were distributed into eight logarithmically increasing size classes. Amazingly, the size range with the highest projected number of ark animals was 0.35–3.5 oz. (10–100 g).

How Many Animal Kinds and Individuals Were on the Ark?

Based on initial projections, the Ark Encounter team estimates that there were around 1,400 animal kinds on the ark. It is anticipated that future research may reduce that number even further.

The Ark Encounter team projects that there were fewer than 7,000 animals on board the ark. The wide discrepancy between the number of ark kinds and individuals is due to the relatively large number of flying and “clean” kinds—each estimated at 14 animals apiece.

Extinct Groups Kinds (est.) Per Kind Total Animals (est.)
Amphibians 54 2 108
Reptiles 219 Flying: 24 x 14 = 336
Flightless: 195 x 2 = 390
726
Non-Mammalian Synapsids 78 2 156
Mammals 332 Clean/Flying: 15 x 14 = 210
Unclean: 317 x 2 = 634
844
Birds 89 Flying: 69 x 14 = 966
Flightless: 20 x 2 = 40
1,006
Living Groups Kinds (est.) Per Kind Total Animals (est.)
Amphibians 194 2 388
Reptiles 101 2 202
Mammals 136 Clean/Flying: 31 x 14 = 434
Unclean: 105 x 2 = 210
644
Birds 195 Flying: 190 x 14 = 2,660
Flightless: 5 x 2 = 10
2,670
Total 1,398 6,744

Conclusion

It is worth noting that the numbers included here are only initial estimates drawn from currently available information. On the other hand, a hypothetical 3D-digital ark created by the Ark Encounter design team, complete with all enclosures, interior structural elements, food, and water storage, showed that everything fit extremely well with little space left over.

JUST AS NOAH TRUSTED GOD CONCERNING UNSEEN THINGS, SO TOO SHOULD WE TRUST GOD IN THE THINGS WE CANNOT WITNESS.

In the end, the most important reason to believe that all the right animals fit has nothing to do with spreadsheets and 3D models—as helpful as they can sometimes be. We find this reason in Hebrews 11:7, where the writer says, “By faith Noah, being warned by God concerning events as yet unseen, in reverent fear constructed an ark for the saving of his household. By this he condemned the world and became an heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.” Just as Noah trusted God concerning unseen things, so too should we trust God in the things we cannot witness. Since God provided both the ark specifications and the creatures sustained within the vessel (Genesis 6:20), we can know just as surely as Noah that they all fit and were spared the watery judgment.

Adapted, with permission, from Tim Chaffey and Laura Welch, Inside Noah’s Ark: Why It Worked (Green Forest, Arkansas: Master Books, 2016), chapter 3.

Footnotes

  1. See Inside Noah’s Ark: Why It Worked, ed. Laura Welch (Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2016).
  2. IUCN 2014. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.2. . Downloaded on 9 November 2016.
  3. See the following articles:
  4. These last two methods are admittedly subjective and play off the assumption of common design indicating common ancestry within a kind. Even though these methods are utilized, the results are seen as highly tentative since they have proven inaccurate in certain instances. But due to the limited amount of hybridization data, these are presently our best alternatives.

TD Vlog – Vince Vitale Speaks to TD from Refresh ’18!

Vince Vitale speaking to TD

Ebenezer Baptist Church

Jason, Benson, Evan, Anabell, Michelle, Eunice in front of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Ebenezer Baptist Church

Greetings from Atlanta!

We’re here at RZIM’s Refresh Conference and have had a powerful first day of going under the hood of understanding and sharing the gospel we thought we knew so well. It’s been a challenging and refreshing (yes, it has!) first day.

We have a treat for you today – author and speaker, Dr. Vince Vitale, speaks to you TD’ers about the importance of grounding your faith in Christ before heading to college! Even in this short clip, you can see the heart and power of God. You’ll also see some TD’ers in the background playing Jenga (and, yes, it crashes down!).

“The answer to any question is something true and all truth is grounded in God.”

– Vince Vitale, Refresh ’18

RZIM @ UC Berkeley: Clarity in a Culture of Confusion

RZIM’s Abdu Murray & Nathan Betts @ UC Berkeley

Hey TD!

Earlier this week, RZIM joined with the Veritas Forum to hold various open forums on pertinent issues of our day on the campus of UC Berkeley.  One of the forums was on Clarity in a Culture of Confusion and was led by Abdu Murray, who was then joined by Nathan Betts during the Q&A.

Abdu gives a compelling talk, which was followed by Q&A. I found the questions to be quite thoughtful and relevant, and thought you would get a lot out of it.

Here’s the legend of questions:

– In the multi-cultural metropolis that is the Bay Area and UC Berkeley, which is a microcosm of that, how do you balance a desire and celebration of diversity with the exclusive nature of truth? – 56:35

– Living in such a secular society, how do we effectively engage with non-Christians in a way that isn’t a debate, but more of a loving conversation? – 1:06.22

– We stand for great diversity on this campus and love it that this campus accepts all kinds of people, from every walk of life.  Why is it that challenging questions like, What does it mean to be human? What does it mean to be male or female? What does it mean to be a good citizen?, isn’t valid in light of an exclusive truth? Is there are value to asking questions that only seem to have fuzzy answers that don’t exactly fit with the worldview you’re positing?   – 1:12.26

– How do you reconcile conflicting viewpoints between science and religion? What makes religion more true than modern science? – 1:25.03

– Are there limitations to Christian truth? Are truth and answers the same thing, and if so, does the Christian worldview offer an answer to every question in modern society? – 1:29.28

– Does the Christian worldview offer a resolution to the human condition? – mental disorders/gender dysphoria/disease – is the Christian worldview actually a resolution for those issues? – 1:38.30

– You’ve argued compellingly that truth is important, but it doesn’t seem it will help us very much unless we can access truth.  There are a lot of impediments to doing that – we’re bound inside human minds and cultures with an overload of information. Please speak to that. – 1:45.16

Why God? – Pt. 1

Hey TD!

In the spirit of the Ask Anything Tour we’ll be going to at UCLA tomorrow – where we’ll be experiencing a live public defense of the Christian faith – I’d like to share with you the ministry of Stand to Reason (STR), and its founder, Greg Koukl, a faithful stalwart of defending the Christian faith on the radio airwaves for decades.  He is a friend of TD and no stranger to us.

Their web site has a wealth of resources to help you with questions of your own faith, as well as how to think through and respond to others.  It’s one of the best out there. Check it out – Stand to Reason

In the meanwhile, here’s the first of a two part defense of the question, “Why God?” It’s long, but worth every bite, and will help you better understand why there’s no other option than God.

Enjoy! – Arthur

Why God? by Greg Koukl

In The Brothers Karamazov, Dostoevsky famously noted that if God does not exist, then all is permitted. If there is no Lawmaker, there can be no Law—none of any consequence, at least—and if no Law, then no Evil, and if no Evil, then nothing properly forbidden.

Worse, if no God, then no Good, either. Since nothing can be required, nothing can be obeyed. And no Plan and no Purpose as well. As atheist Richard Dawkins bluntly admits, “no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.”[1]

Grim tidings for mankind, if so. For many (including Dawkins), though, this is not sad news, but a happy discovery signaling limitless liberties. No God means no boundaries and no restrictions, and that’s the way they want it, at least when it comes to their own personal indulgences.

All this to say that the answer to the God question dictates one of two trajectories leading in opposite directions based on who is in charge—the creature or the Creator, the Potter or the clay.

All the big questions, then—issues of origin, meaning, morality, and destiny—and all the secondary concerns, too—issues of sex, gender, liberty, equality, bodily rights, etc.—eventually come down to one. Are we our own, or do we belong to Someone else? If there is a God, then, to borrow from Lewis, we are the tenants and He is the Landlord. If there is no God, then all is clay and nothing but clay.

Thus, the God question is the first question whose answer lays the foundation for answers to all the others. That foundational question comes in two steps for modern people: Does God exist? If so, is He good? For Christianity to make sense in the face of the social pushback and the spirit of this age, both issues need to be addressed.

And on this question the culture, for the most part, has come to the wrong conclusion. Either there is no God, or the God they fashion for themselves is so tame or so benign he is irrelevant to the affairs of men. Which is exactly how they want it.

Our task as disciples is to tell the truth and do so with confidence, intelligence, and grace. In these next two issues of Solid Ground, I am going to help you with that task. I’ll begin with a simple, but profound principle.

The Simplest Strategy

Let me offer you, in a nutshell, what I think is the easiest, most powerful way, strategically, to make your case for God. I have been using it a long time in a variety of ways, though it really came together for me quite by accident when my eldest daughter, then about eight years old, asked me an important question.

“Papa,” Annabeth asked, “how do we know God is true?” She was already a Christian, baptized at six, but was now trying to connect the dots, not regarding the “What?” but regarding the “Why?” “Why God?” was her question.

What do you say to a youngster who already believes in God but is not sure why belief in God is defensible? That was my challenge. And nothing technical would do, not at her age.

I thought for a moment how I could say something meaningful in a simple way. Then an idea crystalized in my mind. “Annabeth,” I said, “the reason we believe God is true is that God is the best explanation for the way things are.” The minute I said it I realized I had summed up in a single sentence a major thrust of how I had approached defending Christianity for decades.

So much of my effort in making the case for God and Jesus and the Bible and even critical elements of Christian morality hinges on what I take to be the common-sense fit between what Christianity claims about the world and the way the world actually is.

In a way, it provides a simple but profound principle for our thoughtful engagement with a culture increasingly skeptical of Christian claims and hostile towards Christians and the Christ they follow.

You might call the principle the explanatory power of Christian theism; that is, the important details of the Christian worldview make good sense of what we actually discover the world to be like. It turns out that the picture of reality the Bible presents fits the world as we discover it and resonates with our deepest intuitions about origin, meaning, morality, and destiny.

This “fit” is the classical definition of truth, by the way.[2] When a claim we make or belief we have matches the way the world actually is, then we say the claim or the belief is true. Aristotle put it plainly: Truth is when you say that it is, and it is, or when you say that it isn’t, and it isn’t. On the flip side, when one’s belief about reality does not match the world as it actually is, then we know the belief is false.

Note the advantage to this “best explanation” strategy. There’s no need to dismissively deny the possibility of other options. We can give fair consideration to the alternatives. We’re not offering the only explanation, just the best one, all things considered.

Our confidence is based on a point I have made before, but it’s worth repeating since it’s such a powerful concept: Reality is on our side. My point with Annabeth was that Christianity explains reality best, that the existence of God makes sense of features of the world that, without Him, would be unlikely in the extreme. Other worldview stories do not fare well by this standard because certain obvious features of the world simply do not fit into their narrative, putting them on a collision course with reality.

So fix this fact first in your mind: God is the best explanation for the way things are. That is your starting point to answering the question, “Why God?” Now, two applications of this principle, one amazingly simple to grasp (and, therefore, quite persuasive, I think), the other more complex but incredibly powerful largely because it leverages the problem of evil in our favor.

Beginning at the Beginning

I was once asked during an audience Q&A to give some compelling evidence for the existence of God. “Can I ask you a few questions to get us rolling?” I said to the challenger. He nodded. “First, do you think things exist? Is the material universe real?”

“Yes, of course,” he answered.

“Good. Second question: Have the things in the universe always existed. Is the universe eternal?”

“No,” he said. “The universe came into being at the Big Bang.”

“Okay, I’m with you.[3] Now the final question: What caused the Big Bang?”

At this point he balked. “How do I know?” he said. “I’m no scientist.”

“Neither am I,” I admitted, “but there are really only two choices: something or no thing.[4] What do you think? Do you think something outside the natural universe caused it to come into being, or do you think it simply popped into existence with no cause, for no reason?”

At this point, the skeptic who prides himself on his use of reason finds himself in a rational box. Both the law of excluded middle (it can’t be neither option) and the law of non-contradiction (it can’t be both) oblige him to choose one of the only two logical possibilities available.

To admit that something outside the natural, physical, time-bound universe is its cause would be to contradict his naturalistic atheism. Yet, what thoughtful person would opt for the alternative? Even if he thinks it possible the universe popped into existence, uncaused, out of no thing, it’s clearly not the odds-on favorite.

Imagine a man’s wife asking where the new Mercedes Benz SL parked in their garage came from. I doubt she’d be satisfied if he told her, “Honey, it didn’t come from anywhere. It just popped into existence out of nothing. No problem. That’s how the universe began, you know.” Even ordinary folk untutored in physics realize that’s not going to wash.

Reason dictates we opt for the most reasonable alternative, and the something-from-no-thing option is not it. Indeed, it’s worse than magic. In magic, a magician pulls a rabbit out of a hat. In this case, though, there’s no hat—and no magician. There’s just a rabbit (the universe, in our case) appearing out of nowhere.

You might recognize this line of thinking as the Kalam cosmological argument, an ancient defense of theism recently revitalized by philosopher William Lane Craig.[5] If you haven’t read his books, let me give you the short course.

You can construct a logically tight syllogism to make the case, but that’s not really necessary for the average person appealing to a common-sense notion like this. Here’s the simplified version: A Big Bang needs a big Banger. I think that pretty much covers it. Every effect requires a cause adequate to explain it. Pretty obvious.

Ironically, the night I was working out the details of this point in the lobby of a large hotel in Poland, there was a huge bang in the reception area. The gabby crowd in the lounge was immediately struck silent, everyone wondering the same thing: What was that?

Of course, they knew what is was. It was a big bang. The real question in their minds was, “What caused that?” Did something fall over? Did a firecracker go off? Did someone get shot?[6] I promise you one thing, though. No one in that hotel—regardless of religious or philosophic conviction—thought the explosion was uncaused. It never occurred to anyone that the bang banged itself.

Skeptics know this, too. Once at a dinner party a young man sitting across from me announced—somewhat belligerently—that he no longer believed in God. “It’s irrational,” he said. “There’s no evidence.”

In response, I raised my point about the Big Bang. “If you heard a knock on the front door over there across the room,” I said, “would you think the knock knocked itself, or would you conclude some one was doing the knocking and then get up and answer the door?”

He sniffed dismissively at my question, however, so I let the issue go. Half an hour later over desert, though, there was a loud knock on the front door (I’m not making this up). Startled, the atheist lifted his head in surprise. “Who’s that?” he blurted out.

I said, “No one.” The point was lost on him, of course. His next move, though, was telling: He got up and answered the door.

That night, this young, naive atheist had encountered reality. He knew a simple knock could not have knocked itself yet seemed completely willing to accept as reasonable that an entire universe simply popped into existence without rhyme, reason, or purpose.

Once Annabeth slammed the flat of her hand down on the table with a bang and said, “If I bang my hand down, then I am the one who banged it. So who banged the Big Bang?” She had nicely internalized the obvious point. Atheism has no resources to explain where the world came from. Christianity does because God is the best explanation for the way things are.

Evil, Our Ally

I’ll introduce the next reason for God with a question. What is the most frequently raised objection—and the most durable challenge—to the existence of the kind of good and powerful God Christians believe in? The answer: the problem of evil.

Here’s the twist, though. The existence of evil is psychologically daunting for theism, but it is not the rational problem most people think it is. Indeed, it’s an ally if you know how to leverage the problem of evil in your favor. The strategy depends for its force on two self-evident facts about the way the world is.

First, any thoughtful person, at any place on the planet, at any point in history, has known that something is terribly wrong—morally wrong—with the world. The thought “that ain’t right”—which is the basis for the complaint about evil and God—crosses our minds on a multitude of issues on a regular basis. Things aren’t just broken; they’re bad. They’re not the way they’re supposed to be.

Second, when we point the finger at the bad stuff, we aren’t simply saying we don’t like what’s happening or that we’d personally prefer things to be different. No. We mean we don’t like some things because we’re convinced they’re actually wrong, whether other people like them or not.

This second fact is the difference between moral relativism (“That’s not mything”) and moral objectivism (“That ain’t right, regardless”). In other words, for all their protestations, most people are common-sense moral objectivists at heart. Everyone knows that some things are deeply bad in themselves. Count on that.

Now, here’s how to show that really bad stuff is really good evidence for God.[7]

First, ask your skeptical friend for his assessment of something clearly morally grotesque. Mention Auschwitz, or a recent massacre reported in the news, or any striking instance of cruelty, wickedness, or inhumanity to man. If the standard examples don’t move him, suggest homophobia, bigotry, intolerance, global warming—whatever pushes his personal moral hot button. Chances are, he’s already provided examples for you himself.

Next, ask, When you say these things are evil (or bad, wrong, wicked, ain’t right, whatever), are you talking about the actions, or are you talking about yourself—your own private likes and dislikes? Again, you’re zeroing in here on the difference between moral objectivism and moral relativism.

Virtually every time—if they don’t have their philosophical guard up, artificially defending their relativistic turf—they’re going to tell you the truth. They’re convinced the actions are evil, regardless of personal opinion or cultural consensus. They think the evil is objective (even if they don’t use that word)—thus the problem of evil facing theists. If morality were reduced to mere subjective preferences, there’d be no complaint. The problem of evil is only a problem if there is real evil out there in the world.

Now here is the final question. Where does the standard come from that your friend is using to label some things wicked or wrong or morally vile in themselves, regardless of personal opinion, regardless of cultural conventions? What transcendent standard allows him make a legitimate judgment that some things are really, truly, transcendently bad?

At very best, the naturalist might be able to account for mind-dependentpersonal-preference morality—relativism, in other words. But make-me-up morality simply will not do here. If evil is merely a matter of subjectiveopinion, there’s no objective problem. What, then, has the skeptic been complaining about all this time when he cites evil against God?

I think you see the point. Put in a playful way, it makes no sense to say things are not the way they’re s’posed to be, unless there is a way they’re s’posed to be, and there can’t be a way they’re s’posed to be, without a “S’poser.” Translation: It’s going to be very difficult to make sense of transcendent moral law without a transcendent moral law giver—God, in other words.

The atheist is not going to get objective values (things that have intrinsicworth—worth in themselves) and objective duties or obligations (“Thou shalts” and “Thou shalt nots”) in a world consisting only of matter in motion. It can’t be done. Therefore, atheism can’t even make sense of the problem of evil.

This, of course, is the moral argument for God, put formally: If there is no God, there is no objective morality. But there is objective morality (as evidenced by the problem of evil). Therefore, God exists.

Your friend has one of two choices at this point. One, he can cling to his relativism and drop his objection about evil in the world. Surrendering that complaint, though, is going to be hard for him to do because he knows too much. Two, he can make the smart choice by salvaging his common-sense complaint about evil at the expense of his atheism, since no materialistic scheme can account for immaterial moral obligations. What he can’t do is have it both ways if he’s intellectually honest.[8]

Don’t let your friend miss the main point. The reality of evil in the world does not help the atheist. It hurts him.[9] Rather than being good evidence againstGod, evil in the world is one of the best arguments for God.

Here is the argument in a nutshell. The problem of evil is only a problem if evil is real. To say something is evil, though, is to make a moral judgment. Moral judgments require a moral standard—a moral law—and a moral law requires an author. If the standard is transcendent, then the law-giver must be, too.

There you go. If there’s a problem of evil (and there is), then God exists. He’s the best explanation for the way things are.

The Final Concern

You may not have noticed, but we’ve also answered another question without even trying.

The problem of evil doesn’t simply require perfect goodness in the abstract. It requires some One to be perfectly good. If there is Good (and there can’t be Evil without it), then there must be Someone perfectly good who embodies it.

Obligations are held between persons, and only a supreme Person can issue supreme commands. Without commands there can be neither compliance nor disobedience—no right or wrong for people, that is; no good or evil in human behavior. No sin, in other words. Yet human sin is precisely the problem at the bottom of the complaint about evil.

I realize we are now getting into uncomfortable territory, but there is no way around it. It is common these days to challenge the goodness of God since many don’t like the burden genuine goodness entails. Yet, if you’re following the thinking so far, if God is not perfectly Good, then nothing is good in any ultimate sense. It really is that simple.

The Good is grounded in God’s character, and obligations are grounded in commands that flow from His morally pure nature. It is the one alternative that makes sense of everything we’ve discovered so far about morality. All goodness finds its source in Him. There is no other answer.

A good God made the world a certain way, the way it’s supposed to be. Our fallen desires drive us towards a different end, but that’s been the difficulty from the start. God wants the good for us and we do not. The problem is with us, not God.

We cannot see into the future to know the consequences of our actions. God can. We do not know how things were meant to work, at least not completely. God does. With every command, He directs us towards wholeness, helping us be the way we’re supposed to be. We are the clay and He is the Potter. Only under His hand and under the protection of His laws can we be formed into something beautiful. As one has put it…

The law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul.
The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.
The precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart.
The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes.
The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever.
The judgments of the Lord are true; they are righteous altogether.
They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold.
Sweeter also than honey, and the drippings of the honeycomb.
Moreover, by them Your servant is warned; in keeping them there is great reward.[10]

Why God? First, because there’s no way to make sense of the entire world coming into being without a Being outside this world causing it to happen. The alternative is everything from no thing, which is just plain silly.

Second, if there is no God, then there is no good and no evil either, and we’re back to Dostoevsky and Dawkins again—all permitted, nothing required; no evil, no good; all blind, all pitiless, all indifferent. Without the Potter, everything is clay, and nothing but clay. Deep inside, though, each of us knows better.

There are other reasons we can be confident in God. Paul says He has made Himself evident both within—something we experience—and without—something we see (Rom. 1:19–20). Those two things will be the subject of the next Solid Ground.

__________________________


[1] Richard Dawkins, River Out of Eden (New York: Basic Books, 1996), 133.

[2] Truth as correspondence to reality, or the correspondence view of truth. This, by the way, is the garden variety definition of truth. It’s what people almost always mean when they use the word, e.g., “Are you telling the truth?,” that is, “Is it so?”

[3] I realize the Big Bang is controversial for many Christians, but I think that’s partly because they don’t realize how nicely it fits our Story. Even if a particular Christian is not convinced of it, he can still leverage the skeptic’sbelief in the Big Bang to his own favor, as we shall see.

[4] I say “no thing” instead of “nothing” because of the habit of some to treat “nothing” like a kind of something. Odd, but it happens. Substituting “no thing” avoids that liability.

[5] E.g., William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith, third edition (Wheaton: Crossway, 2008).

[6] As it turned out, an over-pumped tire inner tube had exploded.

[7] I discuss this move in detail in “God, Evolution, and Morality, Part 2” at str.org.

[8] It’s possible for naturalists to avoid this dilemma by taking no personal stand on morality while pointing to an apparent internal contradiction in theism, but I’ve almost never heard it put this way in actual conversations. Atheists usually launch their complaint by first affirming objective evil.

[9] See “Evil as Evidence for God” at str.org for a more thorough discussion of why citing evil in favor of atheism is self-defeating.

[10] Ps. 19:7–11.

TD Fri/Sat – TD Invited to Ask Anything at UCLA!

Image result for ask anything tour

Hey TD!

Friday

This Friday, we will have the privilege to attend the Ask Anything Tour at UCLA, hosted by Ligonier Ministries. Dr. Albert Mohler, a world-class prolific author, radio host, TV guest (ABC, NBC, CNN, FOX), newspaper contributor (Washington Post, USA Today, Wall St. Journal), social commentator, theologian, seminary president, and Ligonier Teaching Fellow will be inviting non–church going students, skeptics, and atheists to literally ask anything pertaining to life, faith, Christianity, culture, etc.  It will be a profound time.

This is not an event churches are invited to. It is an event for the skeptic and unbeliever. However, TD has been granted permission to attend.

If you have RSVP’d with your small group leader already, you are in.  If you have not but would like to go, let your leader know IMMEDIATELY and we’ll see if we have space for you. If we do, we’ll let you know when to meet and where.  The event is at UCLA from 7:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m.

If you are not going with us, there will be no TD meeting at church.

Saturday Morning

TD has also been granted permission to attend Truth and Consequences, a training event to help equip Christian college students to defend the claims of Christ, to explain to unbelievers that Jesus is the way of salvation, and how to know Him more fully. Trainers will be Drs. Albert Mohler, Stephen Nichols, and Burk Parsons.

Again, if you signed up with your small group leader, you’re in. If not, please let them know ASAP and we’ll see if we have space. The event is from 9 a.m. – Noon

We look forward to seeing you this weekend!

TD’er, are you a Christian that both society and the church can listen to?

(Al Mohler on CNN – the Christian lady interviewed sounds like many Christians sound – well intentioned but unclear on how faith intersects with life)

Hi TD!

Where do you stand on the Roy-Moore-running-for-senate controversy, especially since much has to do with his faith and his actions?  Wait, you don’t know who Roy Moore is and what the issue is about?

Christians have often been accused by both society and the church for being insular, burying our heads in the sand, caring only for our own local churches, and for not knowing what’s really going on in society and not making much difference in it.  While that cannot legitimately be asserted for Christians as a whole, sadly, I think it can be said for a sizable portion of the God’s church.

One of our aims in TD is to help those of you who are desirous and willing to become more effective in representing the Lord in your future engagement with society as a resident of this world, yet as a citizen of Heaven. We see that poignant engagement encompassing a broader scope of societal impact than perhaps you’ve considered; we’re talking about future engagement in academia, the marketplace, the church, the arts, the public square.

One of our aims in TD is to help those of you who are desirous and willing to become more effective in representing the Lord in your future engagement with society as a resident of this world, yet as a citizen of Heaven.

One way to catch a vision of this is to watch and study those ahead of you who are doing it well.  That’s why we have consistently exposed TD’ers through the decades to those who are excelling in their callings and who have made significant impact both in society and in the church.  The two cannot be divorced.

Jesus said that the very greatest commandment that His children need to live by – everywhere, all the time – is to authentically love the Lord our God with the energy, fortitude, focus, intentionality, resolve, intensity, humility that we have; and that kind of love comes with a practical, tangible, meaningful love that impacts others’ lives in Jesus’s Name.  Again, the two cannot be divorced.  They are natural bed fellows.  When the first happens, the second naturally follows and, in fact, is a significant part of fulfilling the first.

One such Christian who is representing His Kingdom effectively in this way is R. Albert Mohler

One such Christian who is representing His Kingdom effectively in this way is R. Albert Mohler (or commonly referred to as Al Mohler), President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, author, social critic and host of the radio show, “The Briefing,”  frequent TV news interviewee, essayist, blogger, teacher, speaker, Ligonier Fellow, Christian apologist, and more importantly, faithful husband and father, and most importantly, child of God.

Take a look at his web site, read, listen, and let him help you grow, sharpen, expand, defend, and think as a Christ-follower:  Al Mohler’s website 

His CNN interview above on the Roy Moore issue is an example of  how a thoughtful, faithful Christian can represent Christ clearly and faithfully in the public arena while addressing public issues fairly and effectively.

This is not even public news yet (you are one of the first to know), but Dr. Mohler is coming out to UCLA to address questions of unbelievers, those in doubt, and serious questioners of the Christian faith at UCLA.  We at TD plan to be there to support and to learn from one of the best!  I’ll share more as the event draws nearer; but we can start praying for the impact of the event now.

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.  1 Peter 3:15

Let’s open our hearts and minds and hands and feet to let our God make us into who He wants us to be, to do what He wants us to do, TD! – Arthur

Study: Tongues Can “Taste” Tasteless Water

Study: Tongues Can “Taste” Tasteless Water

 

Hey TD!

Here’s an interesting study published in the journal, Nature Neuroscience, that reminded me of how intricately God made us.  We continue to discover what God has already put in us from the beginning, and that should leave us amazed.

“For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb.” Ps. 139:13

Study: Tongues Can “Taste” Tasteless Water

by Avery Foley on September 1, 2017

Our tongues can sense five basic tastes with specialized nerve cells for each: salty, sour, sweet, bitter, and umami (savory). But a new study suggests our tongues can detect another “taste”—tasteless water. A paper published in the journal Nature Neuroscience details this fascinating new research, which uses mice as the test subjects.

According to a press release from the researchers,1 when the mice tongues were stimulated with pure water, the nerves responded, suggesting that somehow their (and presumably our) tongues can indeed “taste” water. Researchers then genetically and pharmacologically blocked the taste receptors for various flavors, such as saltiness. When the mice with the blocked saltiness taste receptors were exposed to something salty, they no longer responded because they could no longer taste the saltiness. To the complete surprise of the researchers, when they blocked the sour taste receptors, the mice no longer responded to water.

To look into this surprising result further, the researchers used a technique called optogenetics. This allowed them to stimulate the sour taste receptors using light, rather than water. Instead of dripping water, the mouse’s water bottle emitted a blue light when a mouse touched it. Because the light created a sensory cue for water, these thirsty mice eagerly “drank” the light for up to 2,000 licks every 10 minutes,2even though they weren’t being hydrated.

Researchers also found that when mice were given the choice of water or a clear, tasteless, synthetic silicon oil, the mice who had been engineered to lack sour taste receptors took longer than other mice to figure out which drink was water.3

This shows that the taste receptors on mice tongues don’t tell the mice when they’ve quenched their thirst, but they do let them know that what they’re drinking is water which, according to neuroscientist Zachary Knight, must be sending the brain information “because animals stop drinking long before signals from the gut or blood could tell the brain that the body has been replenished.”4

These study results haven’t been replicated in humans yet. However, since insects and amphibians can detect water and since this ability has been found in mammals, it seems likely that something similar is occurring on our tongues, letting us know what we’re drinking really is water and will adequately quench our thirst.

Water—A Gift from the Creator

The design of water is very helpful to mankind. Because water is considered tasteless, we can cook with it without affecting the flavor of our food. And, based on this new research, it appears God specifically designed mammals to “taste” water even though it’s tasteless, thus protecting us from drinking nonaqueous liquids and failing to properly quench our thirst. He’s designed our bodies to be compatible with the water he also designed for our use. What a wise Creator we serve!

Next time you grab a glass of ice cold water or fill a pot to make dinner, stop and thank the Creator who gave us such a wonderful gift and has so fearfully and wonderfully designed our bodies.

by Avery Foley of Answers in Genesis

Footnotes

  1. “Sour Taste Cells Detect Water,” Caltech, May 30, 2017, http://www.caltech.edu/news/sour-taste-cells-detect-water-77411.
  2. Bec Crew, “An Additional Sixth Sense Has Been Detected on The Tongue: Can We Taste Water After All?,” Science Alert, June 2, 2017, https://www.sciencealert.com/an-additional-sixth-sense-has-been-detected-on-the-tongue.
  3. Emily Underwood, “Scientists Discover a Sixth Sense on the Tongue–for Water,” Science, May 30, 2017,http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/05/scientists-discover-sixth-sense-tongue-water.
  4. Crew, “An Additional Sixth Sense Has Been Detected on The Tongue.”