Jason Lisle. The Ultimate Proof of Creation. Green Forest AR: Master Books, 2009. Print.
On the very first page of The Ultimate Proof of Creation, the author admits that “If by ‘ultimate proof’ we mean an argument that will persuade everyone, then the answer has to be no. The reason is simple: persuasion is subjective.” (11 italics in original) The author then outlines his approach and what he considers the “ultimate proof” that there is a creator God and that the Bible explains this best.
For those who are not familiar with the modern creation-evolution debate, it really began with Alfred Rehwinkel’s The Flood in 1957, followed soon by John Whitcomb and Henry Morris’s The Genesis Flood. By the 1970s, Morris’s Institute of Creation Research and a few other similar organizations were flourishing. Morris and Duane Gish were having regular debates with materialist-evolutionist professors. In most instances the creationists were convincing their audiences or at least making them realize that any evidence for evolution was far from conclusive.
A former student of mine, a Princeton grad, told me about witnessing one of the last of those debates in the early nineties. He said that John Warwick Montgomery, a Bible teacher and seminary president, had his opponent practically in tears. Lisle tells us in The Ultimate Proof of Creation that he was inspired by a recording of a debate between Christian philosopher Dr. Greg Bahnsen and atheist physiologist Dr. Gordon Stein.
By the mid-1980s the tactics of evolutionists had shifted. Word was out on college campuses not to invite those creationists because they made the evolutionists look bad. Instead, evolutionists closed ranks and began hunting heretics and using the courts to silence opposition. Scientists who did not at least pay lip service to evolution found that they were losing funding, not getting tenure, and even being fired. Courts effectively silenced teachers in public schools.
The approach of The Ultimate Proof of Creation reminded me of the approach taken in a number of works by the late Francis Schaeffer. Schaeffer was a theologian and philosopher, so his approach was ontological, asking the question, “How do we know what is real?” Lisle takes basically the same approach except that perhaps because he is a scientist, he asks, “How do we know what is empirically true?”
Lisle is an astronomer, but this book is not about astronomy or cosmology. He includes examples that evolutionists sometimes throw out as arguments, but that is not his main approach. The Ultimate Proof of Creation is a book about logic. I confess I was tentative at first, but let me explain why.
I mentioned Francis Schaeffer. Since he mostly worked with educated people from Europe and Asia—those with either no religion or an oriental religion—Schaeffer’s approach was to challenge people’s views of reality and then show why the existence of a Biblical creator made sense. As is often the case in all fields of study, his severest critics were those in his own church tradition who insisted that the only way to present God is to use the Bible. At first it appeared that Lisle was insisting on this approach, but he finally made it clear that he was not.
The next to last chapter of The Ultimate Proof of Creation shows that the “Bible first” approach was typical of Jesus because he was ministering to Jews who knew and respected the Bible. He often taught in synagogues. Lisle notes, “A Bible-first position does not necessarily mean that the Bible is chronologically first when we come to believe things.” (157 italics in original)
He compares Peter at Pentecost to Paul preaching in Athens. Peter uses the Bible extensively in his sermon (Acts 2:14-40) because he is speaking to Jews who respect the Bible enough to come to Jerusalem to celebrate Pentecost which commemorates Moses’ receiving the Ten Commandments. They would know the Bible and be interested in people teaching it.
On the other hand, when Paul first preached in Athens to polytheistic or skeptical philosopher-trained Athenians, he took a different approach. (Acts 17:15-34) He used common logic, quoted Greek poets, and spoke briefly about Jesus. If he had started citing the Bible, that would have meant little or nothing to that audience.
The ultimate proof is not a method. It is the root of all logic. Why does the scientific method work? Although Lisle does not mention this, why did the scientific method become utilized at the time of the Protestant Reformation? The scientific method (a.k.a. empiricism) works because the Bible tells us that God created things to act in a uniform manner. Lisle shows the reader that this is the only foundation of logic that will work. Even Aristotle who was a religious skeptic and a materialist understood that there had to be an ideal prime mover.
Schaeffer uses an approach based on origins of the universe: eternal existence (contradicted by entropy), something from nothing (how?), or something from an intelligent, supernatural creator (this makes sense). Lisle’s challenge is a little different. How do we know what we observe today will behave the same way if we observe it tomorrow? How do we know logic even exists? If we are just the product of a bunch of physical forces and chemical reactions, how can we even be sure that our perception of reality is accurate?
This reminded me of the quotation from Samuel Johnson, “All theory is against freedom of the will; all experience for it.” Ultimately, the materialist like the polytheist, indeed like everyone except the Christian and Jew, is deterministic. If everything is predetermined whether by fate, chemistry, or the dialectic, then what is the basis for language and logic?
The Ultimate Proof of Creation points out that virtually everyone behaves as if certain actions are right and others are wrong, that some ideas are intelligent and others stupid. Where do these behaviors come from? If a person says that he does not believe in absolutes, that is self-contradictory because he just made an absolute statement. The only way to explain things like morality, intelligence, and logic is to acknowledge that there is a creator.
A long time ago someone told me that the Gospel of John was written for a philosophically-trained Greek audience because it begins, “In the beginning was the Word.” (John 1:1) That statement made sense after reading The Ultimate Proof of Creation. That is the prime mover, that is the ultimate proof.
The Greeks were asking, “How do we know?” The Greeks were good at organizing mathematics, but they realized that they had make assumptions in order to begin. For arithmetic they (and we) assume 1 + 1 = 2 and go on from there. For geometry we assume the existence of points and planes. A little over a hundred years ago, mathematicians started experimenting with non-Euclidean geometry: What if a plane is something else? And also n-dimensional geometry: What if we assume mathematically there are more than 3 or 4 dimensions? Different assumptions give different results.
Lisle clearly points out that the creation-evolution question is not about the evidence but how the evidence is interpreted. The evolutionist looks at the half-life of Carbon-14 (about 5,700 years) and claims that certain artifacts or fossils are thousands of years old. The creationist looks the half-life of Carbon-14 and says that if the earth were even a million years old, no Carbon-14 could be detected anywhere.
(Do the math. If all Carbon in the earth were Carbon-14, in a million years there would only be 2-175 or approximately 1 divided by 4×1052 of the original number left. That is such a ridiculously low number as to be almost meaningless.)
It really does come down to where logic comes from. Is it a convention? How then can we agree on it?
Much of The Ultimate Proof of Creation is really a textbook on logic. It has helpful pictures and examples. As any logic textbook, it spends a lot of time with fallacies. Let me give one example as this is a key fallacy I pointed out years ago in a review of The Beak of the Finch. Lisle calls it the fallacy of equivocation, where the meaning of a word changes in the course of an argument. His example: “Practice makes perfect. Doctors practice medicine. Therefore, doctors must be perfect.”
The Beak of the Finch and many other treatises on evolution including Darwin’s Origin of Species shift the meaning of the word evolution itself. Yes, those Gouldian finches on the Galapagos Islands will change slightly over the years according to the geography of the specific island and whether the years are wet or dry. (El Niño originates here.) But over time the beaks of the finches change back and forth, and if the birds find a consistently filled bird feeder, they lose all distinctiveness.
Yes, they evolve in the sense that they have small changes over time depending on conditions so they survive better. But they remain the same kind of finch and will even revert to the original type. In other words, they do not evolve into another species any more than dog breeders or pigeon fanciers can change their dogs or pigeons into something else. They may change slightly, “evolve” in that sense, but they do not evolve in the Darwinian sense into another species.
The Ultimate Proof of Creation is a very good book on logic. At the same time, it challenges many human assumptions. The book can be useful in many ways outside the creation-evolution discussion. For example, why does the American Declaration of Independence speak of “self-evident” truths? Why are those things true and self-evident? Why does their existence also necessarily point to a creator (“nature’s God”)?
At some point American college professors and American judges are going to have to quit acting stupid and get back to first things. And that word translated “word” in John 1:1 in the Bible is the Greek word logos. That is not only the root word of our word logic, but it could just as easily be translated “logic” itself. In the beginning was the logic…
In most cases when people argue that Christianity is illogical, if they use their own logic to prove it, all they are doing is arguing in circles.
This book may be worth taking another look at. I hope to use it when I teach logic to my students next year.