Ancient Cave Art Strengthens Evidence for the Image of God

BY FAZALE RANA – MARCH 10, 2021MORESHARE

When our kids were little, we would decorate the refrigerator door with their artwork. They were so proud of their creations that they wanted them displayed for everyone to see.

Now that we have grandchildren, once again our refrigerator door has become adorned with what we consider to be artistic masterpieces made by little hands. Children seem to be born with an innate need to leave their mark on the world.

In fact, no matter how old we are, each of us is compelled to create. Some people produce art, music, and literature. Others design new technologies And others erect buildings. And, like little children, we want people to see and appreciate our work.

All human beings are creative. Creativity defines and distinguishes us from all other creatures that exist now—or ever existed. As a Christian, I view our capacity and compulsion to create as a manifestation of the image of God—a quality that every human being possesses and which makes each human life infinitely valuable.

Our capacity to create art, music, and literature hinges on our capacity for symbolism—an ability to represent the world around us with symbols. We even devise symbols to represent abstract concepts. And we can manipulate these symbols in countless ways to tell stories—stories about the way we think things are and imaginary stories about how we wish things would be. Our capacity to create art, music, and literature hinges on our capacity for symbolism—an ability to represent the world around us with symbols. We even devise symbols to represent abstract concepts. And we can manipulate these symbols in countless ways to tell stories—stories about the way we are. This open-ended generative capacity combined with our symbolic abilities even makes science and technology possible.

So, when did human symbolic and open-ended generative capacities first appear? Did they emerge suddenly? Did they appear gradually? Are these qualities truly unique to human beings or did other hominins, such as Neanderthals, possess them too?

If the biblical account of human origins is true, then I would expect that symbolic expression would be unique to modern humans and would coincide with our first appearance as a species. One way to address these questions is to seek after evidence of symbolism in the archaeological record. Artistic depictions serve as the most accessible proxy for symbolism among the artifacts left behind by modern humans and other hominids.

The Oldest Cave Art Discovered to Date
Recently, a research team from Australia unveiled the oldest figurative art discovered to date.1 Instead of being affixed to a refrigerator door, this artwork was depicted on the walls of the Leang Tedongnge cave, located on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi. Using a technique that measures uranium and thorium in the calcium carbonate deposits that have formed underneath and on top of the cave paintings, the researchers age-dated the paintings at over 45,000 years old.

These paintings were discovered in 2017 and consist of four warty pigs (Sus celebensis), creatures endemic to Sulawesi. The artists used red ochre, which gives the paintings a red/purple hue. Two hand stencils accompany the pigs. Only one of the pigs is complete. A large portion of the other three pigs has been lost due to erosion of the cave wall (which served as a canvas for the artwork). The intact pig measures over three feet in length. The head region of two of the three partial pigs has been preserved. Instead of facing in the same direction, the pigs appear to be facing off against one another. The researchers believe the artwork presents the viewer with a narrative of sorts, depicting social interactions taking place among the four pigs.

The Cave Art of Sulawesi
Prior to this discovery, archaeologists had identified and dated other art on cave walls in Sulawesi. Like the Leang Tedongnge cave art,  that work includes hand stencils and depictions of animals. But it was determined to be younger in age, dating to around 35,000 to 40,000 years old.2

In 2019, archaeologists published an analysis of a mural in a cave (called Leang Bulu’ Sipong 4) in the southern part of Sulawesi.3 The panel presents the viewer with an ensemble of pigs and small buffalo (anoas), also endemic to Sulawesi. This art dates to around 44,000 years in age.

The most provocative feature of the Leang Bulu’ Sipong 4 artwork is the depiction of smaller human-like figures with animal features such as tails and snouts. Some of these figures are holding spears and ropes. Scholars refer to these human-animal depictions as therianthropes.

The presence of therianthropes in the cave art indicates that humans in Sulawesi conceived of things that did not exist in the material world. That is to say, they had a sense of the supernatural.

Because this artwork depicts a hunt involving therianthropes, the researchers see rich narrative content in the display, just as they see narrative content in the scene with pigs depicted on the walls of Leang Tedongnge.

When Did Symbolism First Appear?
The latest find in Leang Tedongnge solidifies the case that modern humans in Asia had the capacity for artistic expression as does other archeological evidence located throughout southeast Asia.4

And they used their artistic ability to tell stories.

The Asian cave art is qualitatively similar to the art found on the cave walls in Europe, yet it dates older. This insight means that modern humans most likely had the capacity to make art even before beginning their migrations around the world from out of Africa (around 60,000 years ago). In other words, this discovery pushes the origin of symbolic capacity closer to the time that modern humans emerged.

Anthropologist Christopher Stringer from the Natural History Museum in London notes that, “The basis for this art was there 60,000 years ago; it may even have been there in Africa before 60,000 years ago and it spread with modern humans.”5

This conclusion gains support from the recent discovery of a silcrete flake from a layer in the Blombos Cave of South Africa that dates to about 73,000 years old. A portion of an abstract drawing is etched into this flake.In fact, based on the dates of art made by the San, linguist Shigeru Miyagawa believes that artistic expression emerged in Africa earlier than 125,000 years ago.7

Consistent with the archaeological finds is recently discovered evidence that the globular brain shape of modern humans first appears in the archaeological record around 130,000 years ago.8  Some anthropologists believe that the globular brain shape correlates with the brain structures needed for symbolic expression. Interestingly enough, the Neanderthal brain shape was more elongated. This elongation forced a size reduction in the areas of the brain needed for symbolism. Nevertheless, claims of Neanderthal artistic expression abound in popular literature and appear in scientific journals, but a number of studies question these claims.9

When researchers assemble all the evidence from the fossil and archaeological records , a strong case can be made that only human beings display symbolism and open-ended generative capacity—scientific descriptors of the image of God. Of equal significance, the data also indicates that the origin of these two features occurs simultaneously and abruptly with our first appearance in the fossil record.

Far from challenging the biblical account of human origins and the biblical perspective on human nature, cave art demonstrates the scientific credibility of the biblical text—and this evidence is on full display for everyone to see.

Cave Art and the Image of God:

The Modern Human Brain:

Could Neanderthals Make Art?:

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Endnotes
  1. Adam Brumm et al., “Oldest Cave Art Found in Sulawesi,” Science Advances 7 (January 13, 2021): eabd4648, doi:1126/sciadv.abd4648.
  2. M. Aubert et al., “Pleistocene Cave Art from Sulawesi, Indonesia,” Nature 514 (October 9, 2014): 223–27, doi:10.1038/nature13422.
  3. Maxime Aubert et al., “Earliest Hunting Scene in Prehistoric Art,”Nature576 (December 11, 2019): 442–45,doi:10.1038/s41586-019-1806y.
  4. Paul S. C. Taçon et al., “The Global Implications of the Early Surviving Rock Art of Greater Southeast Asia,” Antiquity 88 (December 2014): 1050–64, https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Paul-Tacon/publication/259979235_Recent_Rock_art_Research_in_Southeast_Asia_and_Southern_China/links/56d8c26508aee73df6cd02dc/Recent-Rock-art-Research-in-Southeast-Asia-and-Southern-China.pdf.
  5. Pallab Ghosh, “Cave Paintings Change Ideas about the Origin of Art,” BBC News, posted October 8, 2014.
  6. Christopher S. Henshilwood et al., “An Abstract Drawing from the 73,000-Year-Old Levels at Blombos Cave, South Africa,”Nature562(September 12, 2018): 115–18,doi:10.1038/s41586-018-0514-3.
  7. Shigeru Miyagawa, Cora Lesure, and Vitor A. Nóbrega, “Cross-Modality Information Transfer: A Hypothesis about the Relationship among Prehistoric Cave Paintings, Symbolic Thinking, and the Emergence of Language,”Frontiers in Psychology9 (February 20, 2018): 115,doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2018.00115.
  8. Simon Neubauer, Jean-Jacques Hublin, and Philipp Gunz, “The Evolution of Modern Human Brain Shape,”Science Advances4, no. 1 (January 24, 2018): eaao596,doi:10.1126/sciadv.aao5961.
  9. Ludovic Slimak et al., “Comment on ‘U-Th Dating of Carbonate Crusts Reveals Neandertal Origin of Iberian Cave Art,’”Science361, no. 6408 (September 21, 2018): eaau1371,doi:10.1126/science.aau1371; Maxime Aubert, Adam Brumm, and Jillian Huntley, “Early Dates for ‘Neanderthal Cave Art’ May Be Wrong,”Journal of Human Evolution 125 (December 2018),doi:10.1016/j.jhevol.2018.08.004; David G. Pearce and Adelphine Bonneau, “Trouble on the Dating Scene,”Nature Ecology and Evolution2 (June 2018): 925–26,doi:10.1038/s41559-018-0540-4.

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Fazale Rana

THE AUTHORFazale Rana

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I watched helplessly as my father died a Muslim. Though he and I would argue about my conversion, I was unable to convince him of the truth of the Christian faith.

I became a Christian as a … Read more about Fazale Rana.

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The Shroud of Turin, Part 2: An Examination of the Cloth

by Joseph BergeronApril 8, 2021

By Joseph W. Bergeron

The Shroud of Turin contains the faint image of a man identical to the biblical descriptions of the crucified Jesus. Interest in the Shroud of Turin intensified when a photograph in 1898 unexpectedly produced an enhanced, photonegative-like image of the man.1 In a previous post, “The Shroud of Turin, Part 1: An Examination of the Man,” we discussed a forensic medical examination of the man pictured on the cloth. In this post, we’ll examine the physical and chemical characteristics of the cloth and consider how the man’s image may have formed.

Examination of the Cloth
The Shroud of Turin measures 437 cm by 111 cm. The cloth is about 0.34 mm thick, with each thread containing 70–120 linen fibers.2 Microscopic examination reveals the man’s image is the result of yellow color found on the top two or three superficial fibers, each fiber ranging 10–15 micrometers in diameter, within the yarns of surface threads.3

Aside from blood stains and serum residue, bodily effluents were not found on the cloth.4 The blood stains contain heme, the oxygen-transporting porphyrin found in blood. Yellow-colored fibers forming the image were not found beneath blood or serum, indicating the image formed after the blood adhered to the cloth.5 The image formation did not damage the blood stains, indicating the image was formed by a mild process.6

Variation in color density on the image corresponds to the number of colored fibers per unit area rather than true color gradation. This is called the “half-tone effect.”7 Conversely, dye, paint, thermal energy, or gaseous reactants would have produced a color gradient.

Researchers found that “reflectance spectra, chemical tests, laser-microprobe Raman spectra, pyrolysis mass spectrometry, and X-ray fluorescence all show that the image is not painted with any of the expected, historically-documented pigments.”8 No fluid meniscus or cemented fibers were observed, ruling out the possibility of fluid application having been used to produce the image.9 No paints, dyes, or stains were discovered despite exhaustive testing.

Any form of radiation energy—thermal, electromagnetic, or particle—would have penetrated the fiber and altered the cellulose structure in order to produce the image. Cellulose was unaffected by the image formation, however.10

A fire almost destroyed the Shroud of Turin in 1532, applying a violent chemical test to the cloth in the process. The fire subjected the cloth to a thermal test which revealed that no pyrolysis products of medieval paint compounds were present, ruling out the possibility that the image of the man had been painted. And, despite water being used to douse the flames, the image remained unaltered, indicating it was not water soluble.11

How Old Is It?
In 1988 the cloth was carbon dated to AD 1260 to 1390, but this dating is considered invalid by many Shroud of Turin researchers due to flawed sampling protocol. All three test samples came from a single swatch of cloth cut from near the edge of the cloth rather than by random sampling.12 This area near the edge has anomalous weave patterns compared to the larger body of the cloth. Cotton fibers are mixed with linen in the radiocarbon samples, while the main body of the cloth is entirely linen. Moreover, cotton fibers appeared encrusted with pigment that nearly matches the color of the cloth.13 Altogether, samples used for the radiocarbon tests differ significantly from the main body of the cloth and suggest the samples came from a corner of the cloth that had been repaired by weaving cotton into the linen.

It is noteworthy that weaving clothing from two different materials goes against Hebrew law (Leviticus 19:19). Similarly, archaeological evidence indicates mixed material textiles were not used for Jewish burial shrouds in Jesus’s time.14

Physical and chemical characteristics of the cloth offer clues to its age that are not dependent on the carbon dating controversy. Making cloth in the first century started with spinning linen fibers into yarns of thread. When a spindle was full, the hank of yarn would be  bleached. Hanks of yarn were bleached separately, then woven into cloth stabilized with starch during weaving. The linen cloth was then washed with soapweed, Saponaria officinalis.15 Saponaria has hemolytic and preservative properties, explaining why the blood stains appear red rather than black.16

Linen threads within the Shroud of Turin are consistent with this ancient spinning and weaving method rather than medieval practices where bleaching was done after weaving the cloth was finished. Additionally, chemical tests on linen fiber growth nodes suggest the cloth is very old and predates the medieval period.17

One Possible Explanation
Evaporation drying after washing would leave a residue of polysaccharides (starch) on the surface of the cloth. Evolving amide gaseous compounds from the corpse could react with the polysaccharide residue by the Maillard reaction. Pigment byproducts from this reaction could bond to the starch residue and produce the image.

Chemical tests have confirmed the presence of starch on the cloth. The image color could be stripped off of linen fibers by adhesive tape, indicating that the color resides on a surface residue, not within the linen fiber. The color was removed with the reducing reagent, diimide, leaving unharmed colorless linen, indicating the image color was the result of complex double bonds.18 These findings are supportive of the Maillard reaction hypothesis. If the image was formed by the Maillard reaction, it would indicate the cloth was actually used as a burial shroud but removed from the body before liquid components of decay developed.19

Explanation and the Principle of Economy
Occam’s razor affirms that the hypothesis with the fewest special assumptions is most likely closest to the truth. Elaborate explanations involving radiation or thermal energy must be set aside when the image can be explained by a commonly observed low-temperature chemical reaction. The Maillard reaction offers a plausible explanation for how the image was formed.

The Shroud of Turin has physical and chemical characteristics consistent with an ancient burial cloth potentially dating to the time of Christ. It bears the image of a man unmistakably recognizable as the crucified Jesus. The image was not made by human hands. In spite of extensive scientific study, the Shroud of Turin has not been explained away as a fraud or hoax.

ENDNOTES
  1. Frederick T. Zugibe, The Crucifixion of JesusA Forensic Inquiry (New York: M. Evans), 205. The emulsion used by the photographer was more sensitive to blue color than the human eye, inadvertently producing an enhanced photograph. See also Raymond N. Rogers, A Chemist’s Perspective on the Shroud of Turin, ed. Barrie M. Schwortz (self-pub., Lulu, 2008), 17.
  2. Zugibe, The Crucifixion of Jesus, 174–75.
  3. Rogers, A Chemist’s Perspective, 14.
  4. Zugibe, The Crucifixion of Jesus, 240; Rogers, A Chemist’s Perspective,
  5. Rogers, A Chemist’s Perspective, 15–16.
  6. Rogers, A Chemist’s Perspective, 110.
  7. Rogers, A Chemist’s Perspective, 15.
  8. Rogers, A Chemist’s Perspective,
  9. Rogers, A Chemist’s Perspective, 15; Zugibe, The Crucifixion of Jesus, 242.
  10. Rogers, A Chemist’s Perspective,
  11. Rogers, A Chemist’s Perspective, 12, 109.
  12. Zugibe, The Crucifixion of Jesus, 305; Rogers, A Chemist’s Perspective,
  13. Zugibe, The Crucifixion of Jesus, 303–13; Rogers, A Chemist’s Perspective, 64, 66–68, 70, 76.
  14. Orit Shamir, “A Burial Textile from the First Century CE in Jerusalem Compared to Roman Textiles in the Land of Israel and the Turin Shroud,” SHS Web of Conferences 15 (February 27, 2015): 00010, doi:10.1051/shsconf/20151500010.
  15. Rogers, A Chemist’s Perspective,
  16. Rogers, A Chemist’s Perspective,
  17. The age of the shroud can be estimated between 1300 and 3000 years old. Raymond N. Rogers, “Studies on the Radiocarbon Sample from the Shroud of Turin,” Thermochimica Acta 425, nos. 1–2 (2005): 192, doi:10.1016/j.tca.2004.09.029; full article available at it/ROGERS-3.PDF (accessed March 2, 2021). See also Raymond N. Rogers and Anna Arnoldi, “Scientific Method Applied to the Shroud of Turin: A Review,” shroud.com/pdfs/rogers2.pdf (accessed February 12, 2021): 15–16; Rogers, A Chemist’s Perspective, 41–42.
  18. Rogers, A Chemist’s Perspective, 109.
  19. Rogers, A Chemist’s Perspective, 102.

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The Shroud of Turin, Part 1: An Examination of the Man

by Joseph BergeronApril 1, 2021

By Joseph W. Bergeron

The Shroud of Turin is a relic extraordinaire. It’s a linen cloth containing the front and back images of a crucified man matching the biblical descriptions of Jesus.1 Controversy surrounds the Shroud of Turin. Many believe it to be the cloth used to wrap Jesus’s body after crucifixion. Others wonder whether it’s merely an elaborate hoax.

In this post, we’ll focus not on the Shroud of Turin’s origins but rather on a medical description of the man whose image it bears, including a forensic analysis and a comparison to known Roman crucifixion practices. Later, in part 2, we’ll examine the physical characteristics of the cloth, its age, and how the image may have formed.

Roman Crucifixion
The crucifixion process began with the condemned being placed in the custody of a specialized team consisting of a group of soldiers supervised by a centurion. Scourges were made of leather strips with lead balls sown into the ends. Multiple soldiers participated in scourging the victim.2 Jesus’s beatings were doubly severe since he was beaten at the home of the Jewish High Priest before being delivered to the Romans for scourging prior to crucifixion (Matthew 26:67). Jesus was sentenced to death as a political insurgent: “the King of the Jews” (Matthew 27:37). This title heightened the ire of his Roman executioners who would have perceived Jesus’s crime as defiance of Caesar (Mark 15:16–20).

Roman executioners forced the condemned victim to carry the short, horizontal section of the cross (the patibulum) to the execution site. After nailing the victim’s hands to the patibulum, they lifted it with the victim attached and placed it on top of the stationary vertical section (the stipes) secured by a mortise and tenon joint. They then nailed the victim’s feet to the stipes.3

In most cases, the corpse was left on the cross to be eaten by scavenging animals,4 but upon request it could be obtained for burial instead. Prior to the body being released, it was likely common for the executioners to administer a coup de grâce to assure the victim was dead.5 Accordingly, before Jesus’s body was taken down a spear was driven through his chest (John 19:34). Additionally, the Roman governor of Judaea, Pontius Pilate required verification of Jesus’s death before the body could be released for burial (Mark 15:45).

Burial Preparation
It appears that the man in the Shroud of Turin was washed before being wrapped.6 This is consistent with known Jewish funerary customs in the Second Temple period. Burial was completed the same day as the death. The body was washed, anointed with oils or perfumes, and wrapped in a shroud. Spices were placed within the shroud, sprinkled over the bier, or left in the burial site.Jesus was buried according to the Jewish customs of his time (John 19:40). The Gospels state that his body was wrapped in linen cloth (Matthew 27:59Mark 15:46Luke 23:52).

Jesus was buried hurriedly after a cursory and incomplete preparation due to his death occurring late on Friday, the eve of the Jewish Sabbath during Passover week. Women returned to Jesus’s tomb on Sunday to complete the burial preparation with spices and perfumes they had compounded (Luke 23:52–24:1). According to biblical accounts, the women found burial cloths in the tomb, but Jesus’s body was gone (Luke 24:12John 20:2–9).

Examination of the Man of the Shroud
The Shroud of Turin bares front and back images depicting a naked, bearded, long-haired man about 183 cm (~6 feet) tall. 8 The man likely weighed  approximately 70 kg (~154 lbs). Tortuous streams of blood are noted in the matted hair, front and back.9 Hair appears by the sides of the face. The neck is not visible. There is swelling of the forehead, brows, right upper lip, and jaw. The nasal cartilage is separated.10 The right eyelid may be torn.11 Hands are placed below the umbilicus (navel). Thumbs are not visible. There are more than 100 scourge marks. The right shoulder is lower than the left with abrasions noted on both shoulders.12 There is a large oval chest wound between the right fifth and sixth ribs.13 Blood flow is visible from the chest wound, scalp, and both hands and feet.

Forensic Analysis
The Shroud of Turin images depict multiple blows to the face consistent with descriptions in the biblical account (Matthew 26:6727:30). Blood streams from the scalp indicate puncture wounds consistent with a crown of thorns (Mark 15:17). Scourge marks match the size and shape of the lead pieces Romans sewed into the ends of their whips. The scourge marks are also bidirectional, appearing to come from both sides of the body, suggesting a team of executioners (John 19:1Mark 15:15–16).14

The chest wound is consistent with spear penetration, which would collapse the lung and rupture the right chambers of the heart. Copious drainage from the chest wound suggests blood mixing with a pleural effusion (fluid collection around the lung, typically clear). The presence of a clear pleural effusion and subsequent cardiac rupture is also suggested in the biblical description (John 19:34). A smudge of dried blood or clot appears below the chest wound. Blood drains from the chest wound to the back, indicating the body was laid supine after being wrapped. Blood flow from the hands and feet are consistent with nail punctures ( John 20:24–27 ).

The neck and legs appear flexed. This is best explained by rigor mortis, which can occur rapidly when the victim is in a high metabolic state at the moment of death, often the case in violent death.15 Nails through the wrists would tether thumb abductor muscles, flexing the thumbs over the palms, which explains why the thumbs are not seen in the image. Rigor mortis at the shoulders was overcome in order to reposition the arms in front of the body.

The Greater Meaning
The Shroud of Turin portrays an accurate depiction of Roman crucifixion. Moreover, the image of the man matches the unique features of Jesus’s execution recounted in the biblical accounts. Questions of authenticity aside, the Shroud of Turin offers a visual representation of the suffering and death of Jesus Christ and points to the greater significance of God’s forgiveness.

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace. —Ephesians 1:7

ENDNOTES
  1. Matthew 27:27–50; Mark 16:16–37; Luke 23:26–46; John 19:1–30.
  2. Joseph W. Bergeron, The Crucifixion of Jesus: A Medical Doctor Examines the Death and Resurrection of Christ (Rapid City, SD: Crosslink, 2019), 92.
  3. Bergeron, The Crucifixion of Jesus, 93.
  4. Bergeron, 143.
  5. Bergeron, 178 n281.
  6. Frederick T. Zugibe, “The Man of the Shroud Was Washed,” Sindon N.S., Quad. No. 1, June 1989 (accessed February 2, 2021). See also, Frederick T. Zugibe, The Crucifixion of Jesus: A Forensic Inquiry (New York: M. Evans, 2005), 218–27.
  7. Rachel Hachlili, Jewish Funerary Customs, Practices and Rites in the Second Temple Period (Leiden: Brill, 2005), 480.
  8. Zugibe, The Crucifixion of Jesus, 190–91.
  9. Zugibe, The Crucifixion of Jesus, 190–91.
  10. Zugibe, The Crucifixion of Jesus, 192.
  11. Zugibe, The Crucifixion of Jesus, 179.
  12. Zugibe, The Crucifixion of Jesus, 195.
  13. Zugibe, The Crucifixion of Jesus, 196.
  14. Zugibe, The Crucifixion of Jesus, 195.
  15. Zugibe, The Crucifixion of Jesus, 189, 212.

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  • God’s “Hiddenness” a Rational Objection to Christianity?

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Is God’s “Hiddenness” a Rational Objection to Christianity?

by Kenneth SamplesMarch 2, 2021

“Not enough evidence, God! Not enough evidence!”1

That was famous secular philosopher Bertrand Russell’s2 response when asked what he would theoretically say in defense of his unbelief if he found himself facing God on judgment day.

One of the common claims that atheists make in objection to God’s existence is that God is hidden. This “hiddenness of God” challenge may take the following forms:

  • If God exists, his existence is not as obvious as it should be.
  • If God exists, there should be more evidence.
  • If God wants people to believe in him, he has failed to make his presence adequately known.

So is God somehow hidden or concealed? And would such hiddenness constitute a substantive rational objection to belief in the biblical God?

A Historic Christian Response
Scripture is the place to begin addressing the question of whether God has made himself adequately known.

Revelation
The biblical religions of Judaism and Christianity are religions of revelation. That means they claim that God has unveiled himself in life and in the world. According to the Judeo-Christian Scriptures, God has made himself known in four distinct ways.

  • In Nature

God has revealed himself to all people everywhere through the natural world (Psalm 19:1–4):

The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge.
They have no speech, they use no words;
no sound is heard from them.
Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.

From this statement concerning God’s declared glory, biblical scholar Bruce Demarest draws the following conclusion: God’s existence, power, and glory are revealed in the natural world and are “perpetual and uninterrupted,” “wordless and inaudible,” and “worldwide in scope.”3

The apostle Paul’s writings in the New Testament comport with what King David wrote in the Psalms about God revealing himself in nature (Romans 1:18–21):

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.

Paul declares that all people see, understand, and know God. Moreover, unbelief is morally and epistemologically inexcusable. Fallen humans tend to suppress their knowledge of God so faith results only from special grace.

  • In Conscience

According to Scripture, God has made himself known to each and every person in more personal terms through their moral conscience (Romans 2:14–15):

Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.

In this passage Paul conveys that all people (both Jew and Gentile) have God’s moral law written on their hearts and thus possess an inner witness of God’s existence and basic moral requirements.

Based upon Paul’s statements above, reformer John Calvin developed what is known as the sensus divinitatis (Latin: “sense of the divine”). In the Institutes of the Christian Religion Calvin wrote:

“There is within the human mind, and indeed by natural instinct, an awareness of divinity. This we take to be beyond controversy. To prevent anyone from taking refuge in the pretense of ignorance, God himself has implanted in all men a certain understanding of his divine majesty.”4

Some Christian philosophers—as part of the New Reformed Epistemology following Calvin—have argued that belief in God is a properly basic belief. This means that a person is rational in believing it apart from other beliefs or evidence. It is similar to such beliefs as the existence of an external world, the reality of the past, and the presence of other minds besides one’s own.Thus, to these Christian thinkers belief in God can be confirmed through evidence and argument but it is not grounded by such.

  • In History

God revealed himself in history to his covenant people Israel. God communicated with his chosen Hebrew patriarchs, prophets, and kings. This divine revelation was ultimately encapsulated and explained by the inspired writers in the Old Testament (Exodus 34:27; Deuteronomy 18:18).

God’s even more specific self-disclosure comes in the historical incarnation of Jesus Christ as the God-man whose life, death, and resurrection atones for human sin and makes people right with God (John 1:1–4, 14):

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind…. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

In his prologue of the fourth Gospel the apostle John states that God the Son has “pitched his tent” among us in human history (another way of translating “made his dwelling among us”) and made himself known in an up close and personal way. When people encountered Jesus Christ they were seeing God in the flesh.

  • In Scripture

Christians believe God’s revelation in history has been inscripturated in the biblical text. God inspired the writings of his Old Testament prophets and New Testament apostles to produce the biblical canon (2 Peter 1:20–21)

Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation of things. For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.

To summarize, God has revealed himself in two books: the figurative Book of Nature (God’s world) and the literal Book of Scripture (God’s Word).

So from a biblical perspective God is not hidden the way skeptics claim. God is revealed in nature, in the human conscience, in the history of the nation of Israel and the historical person of Jesus Christ, and in Scripture. And biblically speaking, the denial of God’s existence is not because of God’s absence but rather from the moral and spiritual obtuseness resulting from humanity’s rebellious and fallen condition (Psalm 14:1; Romans 1:18–21; 5:12, 18–19).

In the next article I plan to consider arguments that can also address the so-called “lack of evidence” objection.

Reflections: Your Turn
Is God’s apparent hiddenness a challenge for you? Visit Reflections on WordPress to comment with your response.

Resources

Endnotes

  1. Michael J. Murray and Michael C. Rea, An Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2008), 123–56.
  2. Bertrand Russell (1872-1970) was a British philosopher, logician, essayist, social critic, and one of the founders of analytic philosophy. Two of his significant works are A History of Western Philosophy (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1945) and Why I Am Not a Christian (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1957).
  3. Bruce A. Demarest, “Revelation, General,” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Walter A Elwell (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1984), 944–45.
  4. John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion I.3.1, ed. John T. McNeill, trans. and ind. Ford Lewis Battles, Library of Christian Classics (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1960), 1, 43.

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Cosmic Inflation Confirmed and Why We Need It

BY HUGH ROSS – FEBRUARY 24, 2020

Advancing science continues to reveal that we live in a just-right universe. Our universe exhibits three truly astounding features: it is presently extremely large, every region of the universe is thermally connected to every other region, and its shape is geometrically flat. All of these amazing cosmic features are necessary for physical life to exist in the universe and without cosmic inflation, we wouldn’t have them.

Life-Friendly Features
Despite the vast stretches of space between stars and galaxies, every region of the universe manifests the same overall temperature. Without this temperature similarity and temperature smoothness, the universe would be much more clumpy than it is and the kind of galaxy cluster, galaxy, star, and planetary system that physical life requires would never exist. The vast stretches of space that currently exist between stars and galaxies mean that it is possible for life—especially advanced life—to exist somewhere in the universe where deadly radiation and gravitational disturbances from adjacent stars and galaxies do not pose a threat. If the universe were spherically shaped rather than flat (see figure below), the universe would expand from the cosmic creation event, stop expanding, and collapse back in on itself before a galaxy, star, and planetary system could form in which physical life could possibly exist. If the universe were hyperbolically shaped rather than flat (see figure below), the universe would expand so quickly from the cosmic creation event that galaxies, stars, and planets would be unable to form.

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Figure: Possible Cosmic Geometries. Only in a universe that is very close to possessing a flat geometry will galaxies, stars, and planets form that are necessary to make life possible. Image credit: NASA. Diagram credit: Hugh Ross

Cosmic Inflation Necessary for Life
The thermal connectedness, vast size, and flat geometry of the universe that presently exist would be impossible if the universe expanded from the cosmic creation event at a rate that never exceeded the velocity of light. An extremely brief inflation episode, lasting from less than 10-36 to 10-32 seconds after the cosmic creation event, where the universe expands by at least a factor of 1026 (from smaller than a proton to about the size of a grapefruit, or about a trillion trillion times faster than the velocity of light) when the universe is very young (10-36 to 10-32 seconds old) solves all three problems.

First, the hyper-accelerated expansion of space during a brief inflation event would stretch out any initial variations in matter, density, or temperature, such that the universe becomes homogeneous and uniform on large size scales—on the largest size scale to about one part in one hundred thousand. Second, temperature differences among regions in the universe would get reduced to only about one part in a hundred thousand. And third, the curvature of space would get reduced to where it measures to be flat to at least four places of the decimal.

Observational Confirmation of Cosmic Inflation
These outcomes are not only what is needed to make life in the universe possible, but they’re also what astronomers have determined by their measurements to be true about the universe. The ongoing Sloan Digital Sky Survey of galaxies and galaxy clusters1 and the Planck2 and WMAP3 maps of the cosmic microwave background radiation (CMBR) have yielded undeniable affirmations.

Another strong affirmation comes from measurements of the scalar spectral index. A value for the scalar spectral index, ns, arises from accurate measurements of the E-polarization mode in maps of the CMBR.

For a universe with no inflation event, ns equals 1.0 or greater. For a universe that manifests a simple inflation event, ns equals exactly 0.95. For a universe that has experienced a complex inflation event, ns equals 0.96–0.97.

An analysis of the two best maps to date of the CMBR, plus the best map of the baryon acoustic oscillation, yielded a value for ns = 0.9658 ± 0.0038.4 This measurement is a major improvement on the previous best measure of ns that I wrote about in my book The Creator and the Cosmos, 4th edition: ns = 0.9593 ± 0.0067.5 The error (uncertainty) in the new measure, ±0.0038, implies there is less than 1 chance in 6 quintillion (1 chance in 6,000,000,000,000,000,000) that the universe did not experience an inflation event very early in its history.This measure of certainty that the universe must have experienced an inflation event compares with 1 chance in 900 million that it did not, based on the previous best measure.

The error measure, ±0.0038, also implies there is less than 1 chance in 16,000 that the universe experienced a simple—as opposed to a complex—inflation event. However, in the physical sciences an event is not considered certain unless the probability of an alternative outcome is less than 1 chance in 1,750,000. Therefore, astronomers have yet to determine exactly what kind of inflation occurred in the very early history of the universe. It appears, though, regardless of what kind of inflation occurred, the event must have been fine-tuned for physical life in the universe to be possible.

Resource

Readers wanting a more in-depth description and explanation of how an early cosmic inflation event must be fine-tuned to make physical life possible will find it in my book The Creator and the Cosmos, 4th edition, 68–69.

Endnotes
  1. Beth A. Reid et al., “Cosmological Constraints from the Clustering of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey DR7 Luminous Red Galaxies,” Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society 404, no. 1 (May 2010): 60–85, doi:10.1111/j.1365-2966.2010.16276.x; Max Tegmark et al., “Cosmological Constraints from the SDSS Luminous Red Galaxies,” Physical Review D 74, no. 12 (August 2006): id. 123507, doi:10.1103/PhysRevD.74.123507.
  2. P. A. R. Ade et al., Planck Collaboration, “Planck 2015 Results. XIII. Cosmological Parameters,” Astronomy & Astrophysics 594 (October 2016), id. A13, doi:10.1051/0004-6361/201525830.
  3. Gary Hinshaw et al., “Nine-Year Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) Observations: Cosmological Parameter Results,” Astrophysical Journal Supplement Series 208, no. 2 (October 2013): 1, id. 19, doi:10.1088/0067-0049/208/2/19.
  4. Narges Rashidi and Kourosh Nozari, “Gauss-Bonnet Inflation after Planck2018.” Preprint, submitted January 20, 2020. https://arXiv:2001.07012v1.
  5. Hugh Ross, The Creator and the Cosmos: How the Latest Scientific Discoveries Reveal God, 4th ed. (Covina, CA: RTB Press, 2018), 69.
  6. Kevin Dowd et al., “How Unlucky is 25-Sigma?” Preprint, submitted March 24, 2008. https://arxiv.org/pdf/1103.5672.pdf.

About Reasons to Believe

RTB’s mission is to spread the Christian Gospel by demonstrating that sound reason and scientific research—including the very latest discoveries—consistently support, rather than erode, confidence in the truth of the Bible and faith in the personal, transcendent God revealed in both Scripture and nature. Learn More »

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How to Respond to the Challenge That God Is Hidden

BY KENNETH R. SAMPLES – MARCH 16, 2021MORESHARE17

One of the reasons cited in favor of atheism and against the idea that the God of Christian theism exists is known as the “hiddenness of God” objection.The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy offers this definition: “‘Divine hiddenness’, as the phrase suggests, refers, most fundamentally, to the hiddenness of God, i.e., the alleged fact that God is hidden, absent, silent.”

In a previous article (see “Is God’s ‘Hiddenness’ a Rational Objection to Christianity?“) I offered a historic Christian response to this skeptical claim. I explained that the biblical religions of Judaism and Christianity are religions of revelation. This means they claim that God has unveiled himself. So from a biblical perspective God is not hidden, absent, or silent the way some atheists claim. Rather, God is revealed in nature, in the human conscience, in the history of the nation of Israel and the historical person of Jesus Christ, and in Scripture.

In this article, I will address the role that arguments can play in responding to the charge that God is somehow hidden.

Four Traditional Arguments
For centuries, Christian thinkers have provided plenty of substantive philosophical and historical arguments for God’s existence and the truth of Christianity. 1 These arguments correspond to the areas that Scripture indicates God reveals himself (nature, conscience, history) and comport well with the modern findings of science and history.

The four traditional arguments for God’s existence are the cosmological argument, the teleological argument, the moral argument, and the ontological argument. There are many versions of these classic arguments along with many other arguments apologists can marshal from different academic disciplines (history, science, mathematics, aesthetics, etc.).2 I have chosen specific versions of the arguments and have presented them in introductory, outline form. In logic, an argument is defined as a supported claim. The claim is called the conclusion and the support (facts, evidence, reasons) are called the premises. For each argument, I have briefly identified the basic support for the premises and noted the biggest objection to the argument followed by a rejoinder.

Cosmological Argument
Several different arguments reside in the cosmological category (how to account for the cosmos). Here is one popular version of the cosmological variety known as the Kalam cosmological argument:

Premise #1: Whatever begins to exist has a cause.

Premise #2: The universe began to exist.

Conclusion: Therefore, the universe has a cause (God).

The first premise comports well with the basic principle of causality. Causality holds that if something emerges into existence or being it cannot be uncaused nor can it be self-caused. It must be caused by another.

The second premise is consistent with science’s traditional big bang cosmological model (the cosmos had a singular beginning a finite period ago).

The Kalam cosmological argument is also compatible with the biblical doctrine of creation ex nihilo, which affirms that God created all contingent entities out of or from nothing, not from preexistent entities.

Arguably the biggest objection to the Kalam cosmological argument is the speculative scientific view known as the multiverse. This view posits that there is a near-infinite number of universes. Thus, if our universe had a beginning it was not the true beginning of everything. However, the multiverse theory comes with flaws. One major weakness is that these claimed multiple universes are currently unverifiable and unfalsifiable and may always be so, causing many scientists to deem them philosophical speculation, not science.3

Teleological Argument
Under the teleological category we also find several different arguments. Here is a popular version of the teleological argument known as the fine-tuning argument.

Premise #1: The fine-tuning of the universe (the fact that the cosmos exhibits all the necessary and narrowly drawn parameters to make human life possible) is due to either physical necessity, chance, or design.

Premise #2: It is not due to physical necessity or chance.

Conclusion: Therefore, it is due to design (God).

The first premise seems to reasonably set forth the three possible options to account for the universe’s fine-tuning.

The second premise is supported in two ways: (1) the scientific awareness that the physics of the universe could have taken a different pattern,4 and (2) the statistical probability of the fine-tuning resulting from chance is so extraordinarily improbable as to be virtually impossible. 5

Thus this argument is compatible with biblical design and science’s anthropic principle—the idea that the cosmos seems designed to allow for human life.

The biggest objection to the fine-tuning argument is again the proposed multiverse.  But the multiverse seems to imply the existence of something supernatural or above the natural realm of reality. Can a theory dependent on forces outside space-time be considered naturalistic? Appealing to mechanisms rather than empirical data clashes with old-school atheistic naturalism (physicalism or materialism). Thus, if the multiverse is a reality, it may best comport with an act of God.

Moral Argument
Christian thinkers have presented a number of different arguments that are designated under the moral category. This popular version appeals to objective morality.

Premise #1: There are objective moral obligations.

Premise #2: If there are objective moral obligations, there is a God who explains these obligations.

Conclusion: Therefore, there is a God.

The first premise is largely affirmed by both theists and atheists. One such moral obligation avers that all human beings have inherent value and dignity. Therefore, moral offenses like rape and murder are always morally wrong.

The second premise is supported by the position that the existence of God can ground objective moral values. For example, if people are made in God’s image then their value and dignity come from an objective source outside of human experience.

The biggest objection to this moral argument is the claim that God isn’t needed to ground objective morality. But the sources that secularists often appeal to in order to justify morality (the results of evolution, collective consensus of humanity) don’t seem reliably objective in nature.

This moral argument seems solidly compatible with the divine revelation mandate that people are made in God’s image and have a God-given understanding of morality (Genesis 1:26–27Romans 2:14–15).

Ontological Argument (Maximally Perfect Being)
Christians have marshaled several different arguments under the ontological category. This contemporary version contains five premises:

Premise #1: It is possible that a maximally great being exists.

Premise #2: If it is possible that a maximally great being exists, then a maximally great being exists in some possible world.

Premise #3: If a maximally great being exists in some possible world, then it exists in every possible world.

Premise #4: If a maximally great being exists in every possible world, then it exists in the actual world.

Premise #5: If a maximally great being exists in the actual world, then a maximally great being exists.

Conclusion: Therefore, a maximally great being exists (God).

The original ontological argument dates back to St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033–1109) and some people think it may have its basic roots even earlier in St. Augustine. The basic argument has always been controversial. Notable defenders include René Descartes, Gottfried Leibniz, and Alvin Plantinga and objectors include Thomas Aquinas, Immanuel Kant, and Graham Oppy. The modern version above reflects a modal (logical reasoning that uses words like  possible and necessary to guide thoughts toward a rational conclusion) version of the argument.

Anselm’s basis for the argument is said to have reflected his prayerful thought about Psalm 14:1, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.'”

Criticisms of the argument center on definition of terms, coherence, and logical assumptions. Yet this argument refuses to go away and some distinguished philosophers today find it to be logically sound.

Takeaway: Hidden or Revealed?
I recognize that arguments on one hand and personal persuasion on the other are distinct things and maybe especially so when it comes to belief in God. But since there are well over 100 arguments (or varieties of arguments) for God’s existence that competent scholars in various fields affirm to be logically sound and cogent, then it is difficult—at least in my mind—to accept the position that God’s existence is somehow truly hidden from human beings.

In the next article I plan to consider what value there may be for both atheists and theists for God’s existence not being too overt.

Reflections: Your Turn
Of the traditional arguments for God’s existence summarized above, which one do you find the most probative or engaging? Visit Reflections on WordPress to comment with your response.

Resources
Endnotes
  1. For an analysis of these arguments and others, see Ed. L. Miller, God and Reason: An Invitation to Philosophical Theology2nd ed.  (Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1995); William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics, 3rd ed. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2008); Peter Kreeft and Ronald K. Tacelli, Handbook of Christian Apologetics (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1994); Jerry L. Walls and Trent Dougherty, eds.,  Two Dozen (or so) Arguments for God: The Plantinga Project (New York: Oxford University Press, 2018); Kenneth Richard Samples, 7 Truths That Changed the World: Discovering Christianity’s Most Dangerous Ideas (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2012); Kenneth Richard Samples, Classic Christian Thinkers: An Introduction (Covina, CA, RTB Press, 2019); Kenneth Richard Samples, Christianity Cross-Examined: Is It Rational, Relevant, and Good? (Covina, CA: RTB Press, 2021).
  2. Chad McIntosh, “Over 100 Arguments for the Existence of God,” on Capturing Christianity with Cameron Bertuzzi, YouTube, February 25, 2001.
  3. George F. R. Ellis, “Does the Multiverse Really Exist?” Scientific American (August 2011).
  4. Paul Davies, The Mind of God: The Scientific Basis for a Rational World (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1992), 169.
  5. Roger Penrose, The Emperor’s New Mind (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990), 339–45.

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I believe deeply that “all truth is God’s truth.” That historic affirmation means that when we discover and grasp truth in the world and in life we move closer to its divine Author. This approach r… Read more about Kenneth R. Samples.

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In this post, we’ll focus not on the Shroud of Turin’s origins but rather on a medical description of the man whose image it bears, including a forensic analysis and a comparison to known Roman crucifixion practices. Later, in part 2, we’ll examine the physical characteristics of the cloth, its age, and how the image may have formed.

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From a scientific point of view, these questions fall under the purview of SETI (the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence). And for the most part, SETI’s approach has focused on searching for radio and optical signals intentionally broadcast by alien civilizations. But should their strategy include searching for artifacts from these civilizations?

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How to Appreciate Early Jesus Symbols

BY KENNETH R. SAMPLES – FEBRUARY 25, 2020

As someone who calls himself a “historic Christian,” I am very interested in learning as much as I can about the person of Jesus Christ. My interest extends to an appreciation of early Christian art and especially symbols that use Greek and Latin letters to represent the person of Jesus Christ. These early alphabetic artistic symbols were common in the ancient and medieval Christian world and remain so today in various liturgical church traditions (Orthodox, Catholic, Lutheran, Anglican, Methodist, etc.). Learning what they mean gives us, at the very least, an appreciation for Christ’s preeminence in history. That factor alone has led to centuries of thought and written expression about who Jesus truly was.

The symbols are called monograms or Christograms and can be used—instead of formal images or statues—to represent the person of Jesus Christ. Christians have used these monograms of the name of Jesus Christ in art and symbolism through the centuries. Some even appear extremely early in ancient biblical manuscripts. Over time these images came to be used not only in texts but also as freestanding symbols of Jesus Christ or of the historic Christian faith. You will often see them on liturgical vestments and utensils in more traditional churches.

Yet many Christians and non-Christians today see these symbols but don’t know what they represent. In these six common symbols we learn surprisingly much about the Christ of history.

  • Chi-Rho: ☧

One of the earliest symbols for the person of Jesus Christ, the Chi-Rho (pronounced “KEE-roe”) looks like the crossing of the English letters X and P. But in actuality it is the superimposed Greek letters chi (Χ) and rho (Ρ) from the title Christ (Greek: Χριστός) meaning Messiah (Hebrew: “anointed one”). So the Chi-Rho reflects Jesus’s role as the Messiah who, in a Christian context, is the divine Son of God and the deliverer or Savior.

  • Staurogram: 

The staurogram consists of the superimposed Greek capital letters tau (Τ) and rho (Ρ). It takes its name from stauros (σταυρός), the Greek word for cross, and the combining of the tau-rho letters seeks to visually represent Jesus as a crucified figure on the cross. In this way it serves as a “cross-monogram.” It appears in primitive papyri New Testament manuscripts (P66P45 and P75) and may be the earliest visual reference to the crucified Jesus in history.1

  • IHS

The IHS (or sometimes JHS) monogram symbolizes Jesus and is derived from the first three letters of the Greek name of Jesus (ΙΗΣΟΥΣἸησοῦς: Iēsous), Iota-Eta-Sigma. This common Western symbol for Jesus is used by both Catholics and Protestants. You’ll see this symbol in many liturgically oriented churches.

  • Ichthus: ΙΧΘΥΣ

The ichthus (also ichthys) symbol which is the Greek word for “fish” consists of the first letters of the Greek words Ἰησοῦς Χριστὸς Θεοῦ Υἱὸς Σωτήρ meaning “Jesus Christ, God’s Son, Saviour.” This symbol represents Jesus’s core identity as Messiah, Son of God, and Savior. Some of Jesus’s disciples were fishermen—thus giving rise to the Christian fish symbol in primitive Christianity.

  • Alpha & Omega: Α – Ω

Alpha (Α) and omega (Ω) are the first and last letters, respectively, of the Greek alphabet (the New Testament was originally written in Greek). In the New Testament Jesus is called the Alpha and the Omega or the First and the Last. These two Greek letters represent the truth that Jesus Christ is the beginning and the end of all things and he possesses divine qualities and prerogatives (see Revelation 21:6, 22:13).

  • INRI

These four letters represent the Latin inscription IESVS NAZARENVS REX IVDÆORVM (Iesus Nazarenus, Rex Iudaeorum), which was posted by the Romans on the cross of Jesus. The Latin translates into English as “Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews” (John 19:19). You will sometimes see this symbol on crucifixes in Catholic Churches where it represents Jesus’s passion on the cross.

It has rightly been said that “Christianity is Christ.” And these symbols powerfully illustrate the centrality of Jesus Christ and his identity to historic Christianity. These early alphabetic artistic symbols that abbreviate the name of Jesus Christ reflect both theology and art. And Christian art in its own way can facilitate apologetic engagement and evangelism.

Reflections: Your Turn

Have you seen these symbols? Which do you find most interesting? Visit Reflections on WordPress to comment with your response.

Resources

Endnotes
  1. L. W. Hurtado, “The Staurogram in Early Christian Manuscripts: The Earliest Visual Reference to the Crucified Jesus?” https://larryhurtado.files.wordpress.com/2010/07/staurogram-essay.pdf?fbclid=lwAROutaVrJsMqPIFzddDSm9YsyKFeZA5LDk1NDkIFQ4OHsIYITNGM4wmwnXY.

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Why the Laws of Physics Are Inevitable

By considering simple symmetries, physicists working on the “bootstrap” can rediscover the basic form of the known forces that shape the universe.

Quanta Magazine

  • Natalie Wolchover

Read when you’ve got time to spare.Bootstrap_FullWidthLede.jpg

These three objects illustrate the principles behind “spin,” a property of fundamental particles. A domino needs a full turn to get back to the same place. A two of clubs needs only a half turn. And the hour hand on a clock must spin around twice before it tells the same time again. Credit: Lucy Reading-Ikkanda / Quanta Magazine.

Compared to the unsolved mysteries of the universe, far less gets said about one of the most profound facts to have crystallized in physics over the past half-century: To an astonishing degree, nature is the way it is because it couldn’t be any different. “There’s just no freedom in the laws of physics that we have,” said Daniel Baumann, a theoretical physicist at the University of Amsterdam.

Since the 1960s, and increasingly in the past decade, physicists like Baumann have used a technique known as the “bootstrap” to infer what the laws of nature must be. This approach assumes that the laws essentially dictate one another through their mutual consistency — that nature “pulls itself up by its own bootstraps.” The idea turns out to explain a huge amount about the universe.

When bootstrapping, physicists determine how elementary particles with different amounts of “spin,” or intrinsic angular momentum, can consistently behave. In doing this, they rediscover the basic form of the known forces that shape the universe. Most striking is the case of a particle with two units of spin: As the Nobel Prize winner Steven Weinberg showed in 1964, the existence of a spin-2 particle leads inevitably to general relativity — Albert Einstein’s theory of gravity. Einstein arrived at general relativity through abstract thoughts about falling elevators and warped space and time, but the theory also follows directly from the mathematically consistent behavior of a fundamental particle.

“I find this inevitability of gravity [and other forces] to be one of the deepest and most inspiring facts about nature,” said Laurentiu Rodina, a theoretical physicist at the Institute of Theoretical Physics at CEA Saclay who helped to modernize and generalize Weinberg’s proof in 2014. “Namely, that nature is above all self-consistent.”

How Bootstrapping Works

A particle’s spin reflects its underlying symmetries, or the ways it can be transformed that leave it unchanged. A spin-1 particle, for instance, returns to the same state after being rotated by one full turn. A spin-$latex \frac{1}{2}$ particle must complete two full rotations to come back to the same state, while a spin-2 particle looks identical after just half a turn. Elementary particles can only carry 0, $latex \frac{1}{2}$, 1, $latex \frac{3}{2}$ or 2 units of spin.

To figure out what behavior is possible for particles of a given spin, bootstrappers consider simple particle interactions, such as two particles annihilating and yielding a third. The particles’ spins place constraints on these interactions. An interaction of spin-2 particles, for instance, must stay the same when all participating particles are rotated by 180 degrees, since they’re symmetric under such a half-turn.

Interactions must obey a few other basic rules: Momentum must be conserved; the interactions must respect locality, which dictates that particles scatter by meeting in space and time; and the probabilities of all possible outcomes must add up to 1, a principle known as unitarity. These consistency conditions translate into algebraic equations that the particle interactions must satisfy. If the equation corresponding to a particular interaction has solutions, then these solutions tend to be realized in nature.

For example, consider the case of the photon, the massless spin-1 particle of light and electromagnetism. For such a particle, the equation describing four-particle interactions — where two particles go in and two come out, perhaps after colliding and scattering — has no viable solutions. Thus, photons don’t interact in this way. “This is why light waves don’t scatter off each other and we can see over macroscopic distances,” Baumann explained. The photon can participate in interactions involving other types of particles, however, such as spin-$latex \frac{1}{2}$ electrons. These constraints on the photon’s interactions lead to Maxwell’s equations, the 154-year-old theory of electromagnetism.

ComptonScattering_560rv.jpg

Or take gluons, particles that convey the strong force that binds atomic nuclei together. Gluons are also massless spin-1 particles, but they represent the case where there are multiple types of the same massless spin-1 particle. Unlike the photon, gluons can satisfy the four-particle interaction equation, meaning that they self-interact. Constraints on these gluon self-interactions match the description given by quantum chromodynamics, the theory of the strong force.

A third scenario involves spin-1 particles that have mass. Mass came about when a symmetry broke during the universe’s birth: A constant — the value of the omnipresent Higgs field — spontaneously shifted from zero to a positive number, imbuing many particles with mass. The breaking of the Higgs symmetry created massive spin-1 particles called W and Z bosons, the carriers of the weak force that’s responsible for radioactive decay.

Then “for spin-2, a miracle happens,” said Adam Falkowski, a theoretical physicist at the Laboratory of Theoretical Physics in Orsay, France. In this case, the solution to the four-particle interaction equation at first appears to be beset with infinities. But physicists find that this interaction can proceed in three different ways, and that mathematical terms related to the three different options perfectly conspire to cancel out the infinities, which permits a solution.

That solution is the graviton: a spin-2 particle that couples to itself and all other particles with equal strength. This evenhandedness leads straight to the central tenet of general relativity: the equivalence principle, Einstein’s postulate that gravity is indistinguishable from acceleration through curved space-time, and that gravitational mass and intrinsic mass are one and the same. Falkowski said of the bootstrap approach, “I find this reasoning much more compelling than the abstract one of Einstein.”

Thus, by thinking through the constraints placed on fundamental particle interactions by basic symmetries, physicists can understand the existence of the strong and weak forces that shape atoms, and the forces of electromagnetism and gravity that sculpt the universe at large.

In addition, bootstrappers find that many different spin-0 particles are possible. The only known example is the Higgs boson, the particle associated with the symmetry-breaking Higgs field that imbues other particles with mass. A hypothetical spin-0 particle called the inflaton may have driven the initial expansion of the universe. These particles’ lack of angular momentum means that fewer symmetries restrict their interactions. Because of this, bootstrappers can infer less about nature’s governing laws, and nature itself has more creative license.

Spin-$latex \frac{1}{2}$ matter particles also have more freedom. These make up the family of massive particles we call matter, and they are individually differentiated by their masses and couplings to the various forces. Our universe contains, for example, spin-$latex \frac{1}{2}$ quarks that interact with both gluons and photons, and spin-$latex \frac{1}{2}$ neutrinos that interact with neither.

The spin spectrum stops at 2 because the infinities in the four-particle interaction equation kill off all massless particles that have higher spin values. Higher-spin states can exist if they’re extremely massive, and such particles do play a role in quantum theories of gravity such as string theory. But higher-spin particles can’t be detected, and they can’t affect the macroscopic world.

Undiscovered Country

Spin-$latex \frac{3}{2}$ particles could complete the 0, $latex \frac{1}{2}$, 1, $latex \frac{3}{2}$, 2 pattern, but only if “supersymmetry” is true in the universe — that is, if every force particle with integer spin has a corresponding matter particle with half-integer spin. In recent years, experiments have ruled out many of the simplest versions of supersymmetry. But the gap in the spin spectrum strikes some physicists as a reason to hold out hope that supersymmetry is true and spin-$latex \frac{3}{2}$ particles exist.

In his work, Baumann applies the bootstrap to the beginning of the universe. A recent Quanta article described how he and other physicists used symmetries and other principles to constrain the possibilities for those first moments.

It’s “just aesthetically pleasing,” Baumann said, “that the laws are inevitable — that there is some inevitability of the laws of physics that can be summarized by a short handful of principles that then lead to building blocks that then build up the macroscopic world.”

Natalie Wolchover is a senior writer and editor at Quanta Magazine covering the physical sciences.Quanta Magazine

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Do Goosebumps Send a Chill Down the Spine of the Creation Model?

BY FAZALE RANA – SEPTEMBER 2, 2020

I think few would be surprised to learn that J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter titles are the best-selling children’s books of all time, but do you know which works take second place in that category? It’s the Goosebumps series by R. L. Stine.

From 1992 to 1997, Stine wrote and published 62 Goosebumps books. To date, these books have been printed in over 3o languages, with over 400 million copies sold worldwide (this does not include Stine’s numerous spin-off books) and adapted for television and film. Each book in the Goosebumps lineup features different child characters who find themselves in scary situations that often involve encounters with the bizarre and supernatural.

The title of the series is apropos. Humans get goosebumps whenever we are afraid. We also get goosebumps when we are moved by something beautiful and awe-inspiring. And, of course, we get goosebumps when we are cold.

Goosebumps are caused by a process dubbed piloerection. When we feel cold, tiny smooth muscles (called the arrector pili) deep within our skin contract. Because these muscles are attached to hair follicles, this contraction causes our hairs to stand on end. Getting goosebumps is one of our quirks as human beings. Most biologists don’t think this phenomenon serves any useful purpose, making it that much more of an oddity. So, if goosebumps have no obvious utility, then why do we experience them at all?

Evolutionary Explanation for Goosebumps

Many life scientists view goosebumps as a vestige of our evolutionary history. So, while goosebumps serve no apparent function in modern humans, evolutionary biologists believe they did have utility for our evolutionary ancestors, who were covered with a lot of hair. Presumably, when our ancestors were cold, the contraction of the arrector pili muscles created pockets of air near the surface of the skin when the hairs stood on end, serving as insulation from the chill. And when our ancestors were frightened, contraction of the arrector pili muscles caused their hair to puff up, making them seem larger and more menacing.

blog__inline--do-goosebumps-send-a-chill-down-the-spine
A cross section of skin. Credit: Wikipedia

These two behaviors are observed in other mammals and even in some bird species. For evolutionary biologists, this shared behavior attests to our evolutionary connection to animal life.

In other words, many life scientists see goosebumps as compelling evidence that human beings have an evolutionary origin because: (1) goosebumps serve no useful purpose in humans today and (2) the same physiological process that causes goosebumps in humans causes hair and fur of other animals to stand erect when they feel cold or threatened.

So, one theological question creationists need to address is this: Why would God create human beings to have a useless response to the cold or to being frightened? For those of us who hold to a creation model/design perspective, goosebumps in humans cause us a bit of a fright. But is there any reason to be scared?

What if goosebumps in humans serve a useful function? If they do, that function undermines the idea that goosebumps are a vestige of our evolutionary history and, at the same time, makes it reasonable to think that human beings are the handiwork of a Creator. Accordingly, all facets of our anatomy and physiology are intentionally designed for a purpose, including goosebumps. And this is precisely what a research team from Harvard University has discovered. These investigators identified an unexpected function performed by arrector pili muscles, beyond causing hairs to stand erect.1 This new insight suggests a reason why humans get goosebumps, making it reasonable to interpret this physiological feature of human beings within a creation model/design framework.

Multiple Roles of the Arrector Pili Muscle

To carry out its function, the arrector pili muscle forms an intimate association with nerves in the sympathetic nervous system. This component of the nervous system contributes to homeostasis, allowing the bodies of animals (including humans) to maintain constant and optimal conditions. As part of this activity, animals receive sensory input from their surroundings and respond to environmental changes. So, in this case, when a mammal experiences cold the sympathetic nervous system transmits the sensation to the arrector pili muscles, causing them to contract, helping the animal to stay warm.

Recently, the Harvard research team, working with mice, discovered that the arrector pilimuscle also plays a structural role, with the individual nerve fibers of the sympathetic nervous system wrapping around the muscle. This architecture positions the nerves next to a bed of stem cells near hair follicles, providing the sympathetic nervous system with a direct connection to the hair follicle stem cells.

Normally, the hair follicle stem cells are in a quiescent (inactive) state. Under conditions of prolonged cold, however, the sympathetic nerves release the neurotransmitter norepinephrine. This release stimulates the stem cells to replicate and develop into new hair. In other words, the interplay between the arrector pili and the sympathetic nerves provides both a short-term (contraction of the arrector pili) and a long-term (hair growth) response to cold.

The researchers discovered that when they removed the arrector pilimuscles the sympathetic nerves retracted, losing their connection to the hair follicle stem cells. In the retracted state, the sympathetic nerves could not stimulate the activity of the hair follicle stem cells. In short, the arrector pili plays an integral role in coupling stem cell regeneration and, hence, hair growth to changes in the environment by functioning as scaffolding.

Goosebumps and the Case for Creation

In mammals (which have a coat of fur or bodies heavily covered with hair), the dual role played by the arrector pili muscles in mounting both rapid and long-term responses to the cold highlights the elegance, sophistication, and ingenuity of biological systems—features befitting the work of a Creator. But does this insight have any bearing on why humans experience goosebumps if they are created by God?

Toward this end, if the arrector pili muscles served no true function, evolutionary theory predicts that they should atrophy, maybe even disappear. Yet, the work of the Harvard scientists makes it plain that if the arrector pili muscles became more diminutive or were lost, it could very well compromise the overall function of the sympathetic nervous system in human skin, because the scaffolding for nerves of the sympathetic system would be lost.

The recognition that the arrector pili muscles prevent the sympathetic nerves from retracting away from hair follicles in mice suggests that this muscle functions in the same way in human skin. In mice and other mammals, the positioning of the sympathetic nerve is critical to stimulate the growth of new hair in response to ongoing exposure to cold. The same should be true in humans. Still, it is not clear at this juncture if hair growth in humans under these conditions would have any real benefit. On the other hand, there is no evidence to the contrary. We don’t know.

What we do know is that without the arrector pili muscles the sympathetic nerves would lose their positioning anchor in human skin. It seems perfectly reasonable to think that the proper positioning of the sympathetic nerve in the skin, in general, plays an overarching role in communicating changes in the environment to our bodies, helping us to maintain a homeostatic state.

In other words, because the muscle serves multiple purposes, it helps explain why these intact, fully functional muscles are found in human skin, with goosebumps produced as a by-product of the arrector pili’sassociation with hair follicles and sympathetic nerves. And who knows, maybe these muscles have added functions yet to be discovered.

There may be other reasons why we get goosebumps. They help us to pay close attention to the happenings in our environment. And, of course, this heightened awareness provides a survival advantage. On top of that use, goosebumps also provide social cues to others, signaling to them that we are cold or frightened, with the hope that these cues would encourage them to step in and help us—again, a survival advantage.

The cold truth is this: gaining a better understanding about the anatomy and physiology of the skin makes goosebumps less frightening for those of us who embrace a creation model approach to humanity’s origin.

Resources

Endnotes
  1. Yuli Schwartz et al., “Cell Types Promoting Goosebumps Form a Niche to Regulate Hair Follicle Stem Cells,” Cell 182, no. 3 (August 6, 2020): 578–93, doi:10.1016/j.cell.2020.06.031.

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Fazale Rana

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I watched helplessly as my father died a Muslim. Though he and I would argue about my conversion, I was unable to convince him of the truth of the Christian faith.

I became a Christian as a … Read more about Fazale Rana.

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James 2 and Its Connection to Mathematical Logic

BY MARVIN BITTINGER – MARCH 13, 2020

By Marvin L. Bittinger

 

I have heard many sermons on the issue of faith and good works as conveyed in the book of James. Each time I hear such a sermon I am led, as a mathematician, to connect the relevant Scripture and mathematical logic or, simply, logic. Making such a connection shows how science/mathematics provides compelling evidence for the accuracy of the Bible and the Christian worldview.

Some people consider mathematics to be the queen of the sciences. It is the language of the universe and it speaks with beauty and elegance. Mathematics functions amid the fundamentals of logic.

 

Logic and James 2: Faith without Good Works Is Dead

In the James 2:14–26 passage, the theme is stated in verse 17: “faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” I gain insight into this passage by making a connection to logic. Consider the statements, and Q. From these, others are obtained as follows:

negation: not P.

conditional: If P, then Q.

The contrapositive of the conditional: If not Q, then not P.

The converse of the conditional: If Q, then P.

Now, consider these statements derived from James 2:

P: I have faith in Christ.

Q: I do good works to serve God.

The logical statements would then have the following form:

negation of P: I do not have faith in Christ (not P).

negation of Q: I do not do good works to serve God (not Q).

conditional: If I have faith, then I do good works (If P, then Q).

The contrapositive of the conditional: If I do not do good works, then I have no faith (If not Q, then not P).

The converse of the conditional: If I do good works, then I have faith (If Q, then P).

How are these three (conditional, contrapositive, converse) statements related? It is established in logic that a conditional and its contrapositive are equivalent, meaning that each time one is true, the other is true, as well. A conditional is not necessarily equivalent to its converse. Just because a conditional may be true, it does not follow that its converse is true, though it may be.

How does this logic lesson help lay people to resolve potential difficulties in the foregoing Bible passage? Pastors are usually focused on exegetical concerns, as they should be. Thus, I don’t fault them for virtually never presenting these logical statements together in sermons. However, some STEMM-oriented people may appreciate the connection.

Consider the statement: If you have faith, then you do good works (If P, then Q). To me, James is asserting this conditional in these passages. Now consider the contrapositive: If you do not do good works, then you do not have faith (If not P, then not Q). When I hear sermons on this issue, the pastor references the contrapositive, though not usually in words that are overt.

Now let’s look at the converse, which is not necessarily true: If you do good works, then you have faith (If Q, then P). In this statement we see one of the great controversies of religion—at least, it is one I struggled with in my life as a Protestant Christian. My upbringing compelled me to think that if I did good works I would then be a person of Christian faith. I felt like I could only earn favor from God by good works. After many years of Scripture reading and study, aided by my mathematical training, I finally came to peace from the idea stated profoundly in Ephesians 2:8–9, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” The following statements summarize my thinking about faith and works:

  • I accept the Holy Bible as true.
  • The Scripture in James 2:14–26 is true.
  • The passage asserts, “If I have faith, then I do good works.”
  • The statement, “If I do not do good works, then I have no faith,” is true because

it is the contrapositive of the statement in (3).

  • The statement, “If I do good works, then I have faith,” is not necessarily true because it is the converse of (3). However, it will be true in the case of a Christian who has received faith as a gift from God.

As a mathematician, I find great meaning and peace in the logic of the James passage. The truth presented in the logic can stand alone without theological explanation. No exegetical sermon is necessary – although such a sermon provides elucidation to enhance our acceptance of this truth, especially for those without training in logic. I hope this brief explanation shows how the author in general revelation of mathematics and logic is the same God who is the author who gives us special revelation in the words of the Bible.

 

Resources

For more details on the logic, see the following works. They establish the equivalency of a conditional and its contrapositive by using truth tables.


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