Shroud of Turin: Easter Relic

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Spring slowly arriving brings Easter, a remembrance of the death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He was slain for the sins of the world and came back to life so that all could be saved. Christians everywhere this time of year commemorate the occasion when sin and death were conquered by the love of God who watched His only Son suffer and die so that all may live. The witness of the Bible and other Scripture places these events not in some distant cosmic background, but Jerusalem in the 1st Century among a small group of Jews. Ever since that time people of faith have been searching for clues that once and for all establish the truth of the “good news” or Gospel. Some claim to have found proof.

The most famous and researched is the mysterious Shroud of Turin. It is a long cloth that seems to show the back and front of a faint figure with visible signs of pain and suffering. Hands are crossed at pelvic region to give the impression he was laid down in death. Stains that resemble blood can be found on his back, head, hands, feet, and side. Whatever the truth, it represents the body of a tortured and crucified man.

For centuries the Catholic Church has held it as an icon of faith, despite no official position as to its authenticity. Every so often it is put on display with millions flocking to see it for themselves. Other Christians have been equally drawn to its hideous charms. If real, the Shroud of Turn represents a moment in time with eternal consequences. As a fake, the method and meticulous construction still remain one of the greatest artistic achievements in history. Artifact or clever piece of art remains an open and fascinating debate. Continue reading

Human Evolution and the Children of God

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From the day that Darwin published The Origin of Species followed by The Descent of Man (his The Voyage of the Beagle making less waves), it seemed to clash with Judeo-Christian beliefs. The very names were sure to cause consternation for those having faith in the Bible creation narratives. It was clear that God made animals and man fully formed from the dust. There would be no “intermediary” or physically “primitive” ancestors. A war has waged ever since with few conciliatory moves.

The story as traditionally told, and interpreted by the Bible reading, is that God created the Earth as a Garden of Eden with fruit bearing plants and a wide variety of animals. Man was then created by the dust and sprang fully formed and intelligent. Seeing that the man named Adam was alone, God created woman from his rib as a help meet and named her Eve. They lived in total bliss and ignorance.

Satan in the form of a snake tempted Eve with an unnamed fruit, later symbolized as an apple, that would give her forbidden knowledge. She then gave it to Adam who knew she would be kicked out of the Garden and both be alone. Recognizing they were naked, the man and woman covered themselves with leaves. When God discovered they had mentally awakened to understand good and evil, the two were indeed kicked out with the tree of Eternal Life protected by a flaming sword. Death entered the world for all earthly creations. The man and woman were given coats of skins as clothing and banned from God’s presence with only the Word of God to remind them of who they were and where they came from. For Christians, Jesus Christ was the Savior who died so that Adam and Eve’s mortal children could repent and be resurrected.

According to the theory of Evolution, the formation of animals and humans was far more complicated even if easier to explain. No recognizable Adam and Eve existed as the progenitors of modern mankind, although genetic research has uncovered a man and a women who lived thousands of years apart who could be given those designations. Instead, a species of ape (not monkey) produced a group of bipedal primates that eventually evolved into the Homo family that modern humans remain as the only survivors. We didn’t reach up for fruit in the branches of trees, but came down from them.

At first glance there is nothing in common between these two versions of human formation and history. The Bible has a deliberate and focused viewpoint. Evolution twists and turns over millions of years with many dead ends and what would seem random forces at work with no inevitable conclusions. Desperate as they seem, it isn’t impossible to allow them to exist together if rigid interpretations of both are loosened with some charity. Continue reading

A Possible New Creation Narrative

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My personal blog Straight and Narrow Blog has a quote from Joseph Smith on the masthead that reads, “it is necessary for us to have an understanding of God himself in the beginning. If we start right, it is easy to go right all the time; but if we start wrong, it is a hard matter to get right.” Nothing demonstrates this more than the Creation and Evolution debate. How a person understands God can determine if these two concepts will conflict or mesh. I believe that Mormonism is especially prepared to confront long standing difficulties that traditional Christianity has developed. The Mormon rejection of ex nihilo and its teachings about the “pre-existance” hold huge potential.

Continuing where I last left off is to start at the beginning. Most orthodox narratives start at a point in time, even if they claim the eternal timelessness of God. The physical existence came from nowhere and there was nothing more than God that came before. This is the reason Creationism has such a huge religious hold on many. Mormonism, by contrast, looks at everything both physical and spiritual as having no start and no end. Its a liberating concept.

I want to first warn that none of what I am about to explain is official doctrine of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints or any other member. These are my own ideas and speculations only, no matter if shared by others. Long and ponderous thinking and praying has produced a personal belief that can always be amended with more revealed truth and knowledge. With that said, lets move forward by going back. Continue reading

Random Thoughts on Evolution and Creation

When I was a child, like many my age I had a fascination with dinosaurs. The animals existing so many years in the past was hard for my young mind to comprehend. All I knew was that great monsters once roamed the land. What we knew of them came by digging the bones out of deep rock and dirt. Names for beasts were long and complicated, but flowed smoothly from child lips proudly pronouncing each syllable.

The idea these real myths came from a long natural process never crossed my mind until later in life. These creatures at first came fully formed in my imagination. My wonder came from the wide variety of large herbivorous animals forging for plants or carnivores hunting. Again, I loved learning about and pronouncing Saurischia Theropods and Sauropods to the Ornithiscia plated and horned. To date my favorites are not actually dinosaurs, but the more ancient mysterious Theropsida that are said to have given rise to mammals.

Evolution entered my thoughts and vocabulary only when extending interest to what came after the dinosaur extinction. If they lived, why are they no longer here and how do we have life now? This brought me to the study of what scientists call human ancestors. Books told the story of bones that looked like humans and yet were not, at least not completely. There was some discussion of the “missing link” that incidentally hasn’t been missing since the 1950s and 60s discoveries. Knowing the Adam and Eve story since before my interest in dinosaurs, it was all so confusing. I began asking religious questions relating to all these past lifeforms. The answers I got back from others were less than helpful, but I had faith in God from Scriptures and ancient life in fossil remains. Continue reading

Kuhn’s Insight – John Polkinghorne and The Value of Value

In my last post, I declared victory for Scientific Realism over Positivism on the grounds that even if Positivism is right, it’s first “prediction” must always be that we ignore it as “truth” – at least to some degree – and be committed to our theories a “the truth” or else we can’t make scientific progress.

I therefore declared that on the point that Kuhn and Popper disagree, that Popper wins by default.

However, Kuhn had many insights that Popper missed or downplayed that help fill in the explanation gaps in Popper’s own theories. One of these is the fact that “refutation” really only happens between two (or more) competing theories. While Popper does not deny this, he really didn’t make it as clear as Kuhn either. We will eventually see that this insight is a key point in understanding the value of Theology.

Another explanation gap that Kuhn fills for Popper is explained in this quote:

Fortunately, there is also another sort of consideration that can lead scientists to reject an old paradigm in favor of a new. These are the arguments, rarely made entirely explicit, that appeal to the individual’s sense of the appropriate or the aesthetic – the new theory is staid to be “neater,” “more suitable,” or “simpler” than the old. (The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, p. 155) Continue reading