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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A Lesson well Learned!

AP Content :: Scripturally Speaking

A Lesson From the Sophists
by Caleb Colley, M.L.A.


The ancient Sophists occupied the period in Greek philosophical history just after the physical philosophers had posited various explanations concerning the substance of the material world (ca. 450 B.C. [Kahn, 2005]). Sophists are often dismissed as charlatans or hypocrites, and to some degree this charge is just. Our purpose here, however, is not to evaluate the Sophists’ project, but rather to learn a lesson from the circumstance in which the Sophists found themselves and from the major question they posed. As the answer to this question highlights the value of special revelation, it is relevant to Christian apologetics.

The earliest Greek philosophers (e.g., Thales, Anaximander, Democritus, etc.), had focused primarily on developing accounts of physical reality, asking “Of what is the world made?” However, social and political unrest demanded that philosophers move beyond the merely physical questions (i.e., questions about substance) in order to address spiritual and ethical issues. The traditional Greek religion, with its accompanying supernatural explanations for the phenomenal world, were being questioned. Likewise, traditional laws were being questioned (see Rogers, 1923, p. 45). As all citizens in Athens had the opportunity to participate directly as legislators, those who wanted to advance in politics desired special training in rhetoric for the purpose of learning to persuade audiences in the legal/political realm. The Sophists occupied themselves as teachers of rhetoric, among other topics. Consider the following summary:

The basis [of the Sophists’] work was apt to be rhetorical, but with the abler Sophists, this was broadened out to cover the field of an all-round and liberal culture. Any knowledge that was available of the workings of the human mind, of literature, history, language, or grammar, of the principles underlying the dialectic of argument, of the nature of virtue and justice, was clearly appropriate to the end in view.... Now all this seems innocent enough.... In reality, however, there were some grounds for...suspicion. On the practical side, merely, there always was a danger lest the Sophistic skill be prostituted to unsocial ends.... Apart, however, from such chances for abuse, which no doubt were often taken advantage of, there was a more fundamental reason for the popular distrust. The habit of unrestricted inquiry and discussion which was crystallized by the Sophistic movement, the free play of the mind over all subjects that interest men, meant the overthrow of much in the existing civilization.... (Rogers, pp. 42-43).

While some of the Sophists had high ideals (e.g., Protagoras [see Plato, 1997, pp. 746-790]), nonetheless the legacy of the Sophists is that of a general ethical relativism.

Greek culture was at a crossroads. At issue was whether the traditions of previous generations of society would be maintained, or the desires of each present individual would be accepted as his own standard. Should the individual or society take prominence? The Sophists, exposing at times the lack of rational support for tradition, essentially offered the solution of “Every man for himself.” In so doing, they posed the following philosophical question: Is man the measure of all things (as modern secular humanists allege; see Colley, 2007), or is there some external, objective standard to guide human action? Some philosophers, such as Socrates, were rightly concerned that any solution whatever be subjected to the test of human reason, and that the solution be applied to all humanity. Yet, even a Platonic solution, such as that presented in the Republic, has aspects that are unsatisfactory to many (especially its communistic aspects [Plato, 1997, pp. 971-1223]).

This quandary is ancient, yet bears a strikingly current application. Our present culture is largely divided concerning the validity of divine authority and religious tradition. At least two lessons present themselves for the Christian apologist. The first, general lesson to be learned from this Greek predicament is that man needs divine guidance in order to flourish (Jeremiah 10:23). Anytime man rejects an objective standard concerning what is good, relativism threatens. “Someone who holds that nothing is simply good, but only good for someone or from a certain point of view, holds a relativist view of goodness,” and has invited revolution, as did the Greeks (Craig, 2005, p. 894). Yet, even a universally accepted standard, if not grounded in objective truth, is not desirable (it could happen to be philosophical pessimism, Nazism, etc.).

It is interesting to note that within a few generations of the Sophists, the greatest theophony Jesus Christ would appear, providing the way to human fulfillment and peace in the fullness of time (see John 10:10; 14:6; Galatians 4:4). The Greek-speaking world would be influenced heavily by Christianity, and many philosophers throughout the centuries would come to appreciate Christian principles, even developing philosophical systems involving biblical teaching (see Rogers, pp. 185ff.).

The second, specific lesson to be learned from the Greek situation during the Sophistical age is that Christianity provides grounds for perfect balance between emphasis upon the individual person and deference to his community. The individual is uniquely responsible for his own obedience and righteous lifestyle (Acts 2:40; 2 Timothy 2:15; Hebrews 11:6; Jude 21-23). The individual’s own rationality is central, but not for the purpose of originating religious truth. Rather, the individual uses his rationality to examine evidence for the validity of revealed truth, and to apply revelation properly. At the same time, he is divinely situated in the church, a community of believers who bear each others’ burdens (Philippians 2:3; 2 Thessalonians 1:3; 1 John 4:7), exercise godly discipline (2 Thessalonians 3:6; 1 Peter 5:5), and appeal to a single standard for conduct (2 Samuel 22:31; Romans 10:13-17; Colossians 3:17). Christianity is not designed in such a way that its adherents exercise faith in isolation. No one Christian is more valuable or more important than another (Galatians 3:28; Colossians 3:11).

CONCLUSION
The Bible contains the answers to philosophical questions—even those asked by the ancients. The Sophists indirectly raised the question of the degree to which such a source should be consulted when philosophers develop ethical and metaphysical arguments. To defend the affirmative answer is the task of the Christian apologist, who considers philosophy in light of divine revelation in order to develop the most effective response.

REFERENCES
Colley, Caleb (2007), “Secular Humanism and Evolution,” http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/3336.

Craig, Edward (2005), “Relativism,” in The Shorter Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, ed. Edward Craig (New York: Routledge).

Kahn, Charles H. (2005), “Sophists,” in The Shorter Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, ed. Edward Craig (New York: Routledge).

Rogers, Arthur Kenyon (1923), A Student’s History of Philosophy (New York: Macmillan).

Plato (1997), Complete Works, ed. John M. Cooper (Indianapolis, IN: Hackett).





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Copyright © 2010 Apologetics Press, Inc. All rights reserved.
We are happy to grant permission for items in the "Scripturally Speaking" section to be reproduced in their entirety, as long as the following stipulations are observed: (1) Apologetics Press must be designated as the original publisher; (2) the specific Apologetics Press Web site URL must be noted; (3) the author’s name must remain attached to the materials; (4) any references, footnotes, or endnotes that accompany the article must be included with any written reproduction of the article; (5) alterations of any kind are strictly forbidden (e.g., photographs, charts, graphics, quotations, etc. must be reproduced exactly as they appear in the original); (6) serialization of written material (e.g., running an article in several parts) is permitted, as long as the whole of the material is made available, without editing, in a reasonable length of time; (7) articles, in whole or in part, may not be offered for sale or included in items offered for sale; and (8) articles may be reproduced in electronic form for posting on Web sites pending they are not edited or altered from their original content and that credit is given to Apologetics Press, including the web location from which the articles were taken.

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The age of the Earth?

This item is available on the Apologetics Press Web site at: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/240406

AP Content :: Scripturally Speaking

A Soul’s Salvation Could Hinge On the Earth’s Age
by Kyle Butt, M.A.


For over three decades, Apologetics Press has contended that the Earth’s age is a topic of great importance. A straightforward reading of Genesis leads the reader to the conclusion that God created the entire Universe in six, literal 24-hour days only a few thousand years ago (Butt, 2002; DeYoung, 2005). We have contended that a compromise of this biblical truth opens the door of acceptance to false beliefs, such as evolution and the mythologizing of the Bible’s historic narrative (Lyons, 2008).

In the course of our work, we have been accosted by many who do not appreciate our young Earth position. Many people, including a host of well-meaning Christians, think that the age of the Earth is not an issue that should be taught, since it “causes such division.” They believe that we should simply talk about creation, the Bible, Jesus, and His church, and leave “peripheral” issues like the Earth’s age alone. Why would we choose, they contend, to spend our time teaching about something that is irrelevant to a person’s salvation, when there are so many other topics that we could address?

The idea that the Earth’s age should be left alone struck us full force when we were invited to speak at a large elementary school several years ago. My colleague, Eric Lyons, and I were scheduled to speak to the kids about creation. We were told that the school’s position on the age of the Earth was divided, some teachers and administrators believing the evolutionary-based billions-of-years idea, while others accepting the biblical time frame. I informed them that the young Earth concept was central to our teaching, and that we simply would not be able to avoid the topic. They assured us that we could address the Earth’s age during our presentations. Once we arrived, however, the age of the Earth again became an issue. Due to some pressure from parents who had been informed of our position, the principal pulled Eric aside only minutes before he was scheduled to address the entire assembly. She informed him that he should not address the topic during his presentation. He was shocked, and reminded her that we had discussed this, and had been given approval to teach about the Earth’s age. Needless to say, Eric did not adjust his presentation. He continued with his message that an all-powerful God created the Earth thousands, not billions, of years ago.

A recent article posted on ScienceDaily underscores one primary reason why it is important for Christians to teach the truth about a young Earth. Sehoya Cotner and Randy Moore, biology professors at the University of Minnesota, teamed up with Christopher Banks of the school’s Office of Information and Technology. They presented to 400 students a survey that contained questions about creation and evolution. The result of the survey indicated that those students who accept the billions-of-years time frame for the Earth more readily accept concepts such as human evolution. The article reporting the research stated: “High school and college students who understand the geological age of the Earth (4.5 billion years) are much more likely to understand and accept human evolution” (“Students’ Perceptions...,” 2010, emp. added). Researcher Sehoya Cotner stated: “The role of the Earth’s age is a key variable that we can use to improve education about evolution, which is important because it is the unifying principle of biology” (as quoted in “Students’ Perceptions...,” 2010).

While Cotner is wrong that the false concept of evolution is the unifying principle of biology, she is exactly right about one thing: if students can be taught that the Earth is billions of years old, then they will more readily adopt evolution. At Apologetics Press, we have known this fact for years. The age of the Earth is the “gateway” concept that makes evolution palatable. The mental process at work in a person who compromises the biblical idea of a young Earth is the same process that must be in place to accept the erroneous concept of human evolution. Cotner’s research verifies the fact that the Earth’s age is not a peripheral issue that can be left untaught. Instead, the Earth’s age could literally be the point at which the battle to win the hearts and minds of our young people to the truth about Creation is won or lost. In a very real sense, what a person believes about the Earth’s age has the potential to greatly impact his or her eternal destiny. Cotner and her fellow evolutionists know the importance of the battle over the Earth’s age. That is why they are urging their fellow evolutionists to recognize it, and use the alleged billions of years to “improve education about evolution.”

Cotner’s enthusiastic rally around the age of the Earth should be a wake up call to Christians as well. If evolutionists understand the importance of teaching about the Earth’s age, creationists should recognize the battlefront and be willing to stand for the truth. It may well be the case that if you can keep one young person from believing in an old Earth, that young person will be insulated against other erroneous concept’s such as human evolution, and equipped to defend the basic truths of Christianity—that there is a God, the Bible is His inspired Word, and Jesus Christ is His son.

REFERENCES
Butt, Kyle (2002), “The Bible Says the Earth is Young,” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/1757.

DeYoung, Don (2005), Thousands...Not Billions (Green Forest, AR: Master Books).

Lyons, Eric (2008), “Why Address the Age of the Earth?,” [On-line], URL: http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/3729.

“Students’ Perceptions of Earth’s Age Influence Acceptance of Human Evolution” (2010), [On-line], URL: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/03/100310162833.htm.





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Copyright © 2010 Apologetics Press, Inc. All rights reserved.
We are happy to grant permission for items in the "Scripturally Speaking" section to be reproduced in their entirety, as long as the following stipulations are observed: (1) Apologetics Press must be designated as the original publisher; (2) the specific Apologetics Press Web site URL must be noted; (3) the author’s name must remain attached to the materials; (4) any references, footnotes, or endnotes that accompany the article must be included with any written reproduction of the article; (5) alterations of any kind are strictly forbidden (e.g., photographs, charts, graphics, quotations, etc. must be reproduced exactly as they appear in the original); (6) serialization of written material (e.g., running an article in several parts) is permitted, as long as the whole of the material is made available, without editing, in a reasonable length of time; (7) articles, in whole or in part, may not be offered for sale or included in items offered for sale; and (8) articles may be reproduced in electronic form for posting on Web sites pending they are not edited or altered from their original content and that credit is given to Apologetics Press, including the web location from which the articles were taken.

For catalog, samples, or further information, contact:

Apologetics Press
230 Landmark Drive
Montgomery, Alabama 36117
U.S.A.
Phone (334) 272-8558
http://www.apologeticspress.org