Greg sees a parallel between the evidence for grand design in nature and the fulfillment of Messianic prophecy by Jesus.
My comments today represent some absolutely new material to me. Something that I got turned on to this last week. I mentioned last weekend that we would have a speaker at Hope Chapel on Thursday night, Dr. Steve Meyer, whom I interviewed two weeks ago about the origin of life. He has a Ph.D. in the history and philosophy of science from Cambridge and he teaches at Whitworth College in Spokane, Washington. He talked about some things at the lecture Thursday night that related to the origin of life, design and function, and how the issue of design in nature not just intimates but demands a designer as an explanation.
He went on beyond that and explained some other things about Bible prophecy. Some of the material he taught was very new to me, especially the theory about how information works, and the difference between order and information and how that relates to the origin of life. But beyond that there is an application of information theory to a Biblical issue that I’ve never heard before. As far as I understand, Dr. Meyer has developed this application of information theory to the Bible. What came of it was a stunning defense for the Messiahship of Jesus Christ that is so powerful it even overturns the liberal critics’ assessment of the Old Testament. I guess the safe way to put it is, if Dr. Meyer is right in his assessment, it doesn’t even matter what the higher critics say about the Old Testament, we can concede their arguments completely and we’ll still have the Messiahship of Jesus Christ.
In the process of thinking through this I realized that something I had told you in the past was flat out wrong, and I’ll tell you what that is in a little bit.
The first part of this topic really relates to the whole evolution issue. We’ve been talking about this the last few weeks. I’ve mentioned in the past that there are two things that really must be in place for evolution to be proven. The first one is that life comes from non-life in some way, shape or form. That’s the issue of chemical evolution. The chemicals evolved in some fashion to the point where life began.
The second step is that you have to have some transition from that form of life to more complex forms of life. If you don’t have life from non-life, then you don’t have evolution because you must have some explanation where life came from. If it didn’t come from non-life, if it didn’t come about through some bio-chemical process on its own, then it must have come about by design. On the other hand, if you get life but you don’t have development to more complex forms, then you also don’t have evolution. You must be able to prove both.
I don’t believe the evidence demonstrates that life transitioned from one form to another form over a long period of time. We can see smaller changes taking place, micro-evolution as it were, the changes of beaks and fins. But the question of where birds and fish came from to begin with, what they developed from, is still unanswered. Where did the major phyla, which were established during the Cambrian explosion according to evolutionary timetables, where did the seventy major phyla come from? And why did they pop up in ten million years and then for a half billion years after that we have no new phyla developing? That’s the big problem. It’s called the “Biological Big Bang” and Stephen Gould, a Harvard paleontologist, says that this is the crux of the issue.
What Dr. Meyer spoke of, though, was the first issue. If there are problems in the transition end of things, there are more problems in the life from non-life end of things. The issue here is not merely an issue of order. It’s not enough for Christians to look at examples of order in the universe and say that order must imply a designer because you can have order happen in nature. Crystals form through natural processes and there is order to them. You can walk along the beach and watch the waves break against the shore and there’s a pattern that is formed. So one could argue that nature is capable of producing some kind of order. But highly integrated functional systems are an entirely different thing. Let me give you an example.
The Bombardier Beetle, for example, is a beetle that has an explosion thrust out of its back end to protect itself from predators. It must have two chemicals mixed together in precise proportions that allow it to direct a discharge out the back of its abdomen without at the same time blowing itself up. What we’re faced with is a highly integrated functional system which would not be able to survive if it was just the least bit askew. One wonders how such a thing develops by chance. This is an example of functional systems working together, not just mere order.
When we come upon apparently disparate parts of a thing that clearly fit together in a precise and complicated way, we naturally conclude there is a designer behind it. And as the design and function become more complicated, it would be absurd to suggest otherwise.
Let me give you an example. I turned on my Macintosh this morning, inserted a disk, the Macintosh read the information on the disk, and I did my work. Would anyone be the least bit tempted to think that the disk I just inserted had been developed in a vacuum, so to speak, and coincidentally “just happened” to do meaningful work on my computer? Would anyone suppose that the disk was developed apart from the computer itself and they just work together? No one would ever say that.
The absurdity is obvious from two different angles. First, the fit, the hardware issue. The disk fits right in, a little mechanism sucks the disk down and engages it on a spinning affair that allows the computer to read the disk. There’s an amazing fit there. In fact, the fit has to be very precise.
Second, there is all of the highly sophisticated computer interactions that are associated with the fit, in other words, the software. The computer is able to “read” the information on the disk that allows the computer to do work. This is not the kind of thing you’d expect to happen outside of the general computer design itself. Things don’t just happen to fit like that accidentally, and things don’t work together like that accidentally.
Now think a moment with the previous illustration in mind about human sexuality (or any kind of bisexual reproduction). You’ve got a hardware problem and a software problem. Both are pretty complex because of the nature of sexual response. You’ve got to have parts that have to fit in a particular way. I’m trying to think of a way to say this delicately—the software problem, in this case, is very closely connected to the hardware problem. If the software isn’t right then there is no hardware (if you catch my drift). It’s a very delicate balance. Not only does the hardware have to fit, but it has to function. Sperm have to go into the woman’s body and connect with the egg that comes down at just the right time. Those things have to work together. They can’t just be swimming around in there like protozoa that don’t go together. The sperm and the egg have to go together, and that’s all part of the hardware problem.
Even if you get the hardware problem solved, you’ve got the software problem. You’ve got the problem with men being attracted to women and visa versa. You’ve got the problem of all the issues that relate to the intricacies of sexual response, the things that make people appealing, that turn people on, the things that cause people to even desire to put the hardware together to begin with. Do you see what I’m saying? A lot of times we don’t even think about this because it’s very natural, but the software has got to be there that would cause us to think that one thing goes into another in that fashion for a particular purpose. We don’t think about that. We just do it because it comes so naturally. Where did that come from?
My point is that this is very much like the computer and the disk issue on both levels. It’s a parallel with my Macintosh illustration because both the hardware of the computer and the hardware of the disk, and also the software of the computer and the software of the disk would have to coincidentally develop with no thought of design. Not only that, it would have to develop at the same time (it can’t develop sixty years apart from each other) and in the same general location on earth.
Do you see what I’m talking about here? The same thing applies to human bodies and any kind of bisexual reproduction because for evolution to be true all of the hardware has to happen by chance. All of the software has to happen by chance. The software and hardware have to be synchronized in a very delicate fashion. And it not only all has to happen by chance, it’s got to happen at the same time and in the same place.
The simple point is, only someone who is intent on ignoring what is obvious will deny that there is design involved. There is no way that people can apply the rules of the natural development of living things, which are highly integrated machines with hardware and software, to any other area of life because you’d be considered a fool. But of course, many people do deny that there is design involved.
By the way, this same argument applies to the whole question of whether Jesus was Messiah or not. Some of you may have listened a while back when a caller was quoting Messianic prophecy and I cautioned him about using Messianic prophecy because there is a lot of prophecy that is identified as Messianic in the New Testament, but it’s clear in the Old Testament that those writing it didn’t think it was prophecy. So if you quote it, it won’t be compelling because it looks like the New Testament authors made it up. I believe it’s prophecy because we have a divinely inspired New Testament and the writers were given the testimony of the Holy Spirit to apply it. But it won’t be compelling to a non-Christian because it wasn’t clearly prophecy at the time it was given. When you read about Rachel weeping for her children you don’t get the sense that the slaughter of babies is being anticipated by the author who wrote it originally. I believe it is a prophecy because Matthew, moved by the Holy Spirit, identifies it as such. But I was reluctant to encourage people to use passages like that from the Old Testament to prove Jesus’ Messiahship. Even the prophecy of the virgin birth is like that.
I did that for the best of reasons. I work very, very hard to be evenhanded and fair, and not to misrepresent a point or to play a point too strongly. If we overplay our hands and people see that our hand is weaker than we presented it, then it may destroy our entire argument.
Well, ladies and gentlemen, I was wrong. I was mistaken. I’ll tell you why I was wrong and why you ought to use that as a powerful example for the design behind the Bible. And I’ll tell you how that all fits in just a moment.
I’m going to explain to you how I was mistaken because if we understand the design of prophecy in the Old Testament properly, this could not only be a great defense for Jesus’ Messiahship, but go far beyond that and refute all of the higher critics who criticize the Old Testament.
Let me go back to machines for a moment to bring you up to speed on how information and function work with prophecy.
What if you had a machine shop and you liked to make things. Sometimes you made things because they accomplished a certain function, and other times you made things just because you liked the way they looked. It had an aesthetic appeal. Sometimes you just whittled with wood and machinery just because it was fun to do but you had no particular goal in mind.
Then one day you got together with a bunch of other tinkerers and everybody brought their tinker toys, so to speak, the things that they had made. As you looked at each other’s inventions and parts, one person noticed that his part fit together with your part and when you put them together it was a perfect fit. You all were amazed at how well it went together and you were stunned by the coincidence. Then a third person noticed that his part went in a space your parts created and it fit together. Lo and behold, all of you had parts that fit together. When you got it all together it had a little knob that invited twisting. And when someone twisted it the little thing you just assembled began ticking.
What would you conclude? You would conclude that something was going on here. Someone behind the scenes was involved with all of your tinkering such that even though you may have had your own purposes for your tinker toy, someone else was guiding the whole process, even guided your meeting, and had a broader design and purpose in mind. That design was the watch. You could not conclude otherwise.
Now, what if the inventors were from different continents, came from different walks of life, and lived at different periods of history? Some made parts that had no current function but parts that they believed (and said so) would serve a future purpose, though they weren’t entirely clear on what that purpose would be. In other words, what if someone invented a carburetor 150 years before the internal combustion engine? He didn’t know what it was, but he had to put it together and he believed that someday in the future it would have a function. Still other of the inventors made parts for their own purposes with no anticipation that they would “accidentally” fit into a larger, more complex mechanism in the future.
Ladies and gentlemen, when that mechanism was assembled, who would deny that all of these efforts, whether purposeful or apparently accidental, were not part of a grand, intelligent design that far transcended all the individual efforts that contributed to the specific parts? Who would deny that? In spite of the fact that the individual workers did not intend the parts to fit.
Then you go to Psalm 22 and you realize that in the context this was probably David’s groaning because of the anguish he felt at being pursued by his enemies, even though he was a godly man. He was being hounded and he poured out his heart in this Psalm. Then someone 1000 years later, with the Psalm hidden in their heart, is standing at the foot of the cross. They are looking at Jesus and this Psalm comes to mind and they realize that something is going on here.
Or they think of Isaiah 53 and the details seem to fit perfectly. In fact, in the movie Jesus of Nazareth , Nicodemus is watching the crucifixion and the words of Isaiah 53 come to his lips. It fell into place. This is why the apostles said often that they realized afterwards that it was a fulfillment of prophecy because they saw time after time after time again, not just the times in the Old Testament that the writers said this is about Messiah, but the dozens and dozens of details in the Old Testament that they weren’t sure about and then it fit in the life of Christ. Who would deny that there was a grand design behind it all?
There was a grand design.
By the way, even if the higher critics are right, even if Moses never wrote the Pentateuch, even if Isaiah never wrote Isaiah, even if Daniel never wrote the book of Daniel, the fact is that according to the Septuagint, which was the Greek translation of the Old Testament two centuries before Jesus, and the Dead Sea Scrolls, which preceded Jesus by a century and a half, all of these writings predate the life of Christ. They all have these prophecies in them regardless of who wrote them. And they all show the grand design of God coming to its final culmination in the person of Jesus Christ.
Now that’s something to think about this Easter.