Friday, August 28, 2009

Thoughts on Intelligent Design - part two

Before anything else, I should point out that my focus on Intelligent Design concerns supernatural explanations. If one is arguing that a wholly natural, but more intelligent being put us here (aliens), then that is a fun, but separate discussion.

For the next section, let’s leave behind natural explanations as an explanation for first life (though I don’t think it’s philosophically sound to do so), and think about what happens when we entertain the supernatural possibility......

We are assuming that we are able to understand all natural contents and processes in the universe, we somehow have certain knowledge of this, and there is still no explanation for first life. Even in this case, when considering supernatural explanations, who’s to say which one we should favor? Yahweh created the universe. Allah created the Universe. Baal, El, Zeus, etc. How about - the universe was created 3 seconds ago and all our memories along with it? When we leave behind regularity, predictability, and causality, the hallmarks of naturalism, then there are no rules.

Perhaps one could say, “I see the supernatural as necessary, but the most minimal application of it is wise.” Of course a naturalist would agree. If a minimal use of the supernatural is favorable, then zero would be optimal. But once the supernatural is invoked, how do we measure it quantitatively? Our notion of minimal is based on natural relationships. For all we know, a supernatural being could just as easily create a new universe (or millions of them) as cure someone of a head cold. Any speculations would be to try to hold something supernatural accountable to natural restrictions.

Perhaps one could say “God has given us the revelation of the Bible, therefore this is evidence for how He supernaturally created the first life”. A couple of points:

There are several “revelations” of God. How do we know which supernatural “evidence” to follow? The Koran, the Bible, Buddhist philosophy, the Babylonian Enuma Elish.....

Even if we know what evidence to follow, how do we know what it points to without reliable, natural causality? God could just as easily have created the Bible yesterday and implanted memories of it in us, instead of inspiring certain people through history to actually write it. This may seem far-fetched, but these are the implications of the “supernatural”. Evidence is based on natural relationships, natural processes, knowing that if an action happens then a reaction happens, etc. The supernatural circumvents all this and can break any law. Who’s to say which laws are being broken or if our perception of what we think is happening is what is actually happening?

It would seem that faith and trust in God is not the end product of investigation into supernatural Intelligent Design, but is rather the beginning of it. One has to trust that there is a God who gives us evidence that our senses rightly interpret and that we can trust - an honest, evidence-granting God. Cue us all to think of the Bible verse “The beginning of all knowledge is God”. But couldn’t a person just as reasonably not believe and enjoy knowledge? I think there is only one reason for us to believe in God - if we want to.

Perhaps approaching the unknown with a sense of trust is all one needs. These are things we don’t know, so why not choose a positive attitude of trust in whatever it is that IS? And while speculation is enjoyable, dogmatically plugging in a specific myth to “fill the gap” is logically problematic and shows a distrust in the unknown. If there is an infinite God, then proving his existence through finite evidence is dubious, since an infinite God can do anything and has no need of leaving finite evidence.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Thoughts on Intelligent Design - part one

Often, proponents of Intelligent Design point out gaps in our knowledge as evidence of divine intervention. For instance, while having convincing proof of the natural evolution of life, humans don't yet understand how life first started on earth. Many will claim that the lack of a natural explanation points to a supernatural cause. I don't believe this works well as an argument.

First of all, there may very well be Intelligent Design (ID) behind the universe. I am arguing with the idea that we can logically conclude this based on naturalistic "gaps" in our knowledge. I think the following two possibilities are more likely, concerning current gaps in our knowledge, than a supernatural explanation:

1. Just like many, many things that used to have supernatural explanations (lightning, disease, the building of the pyramids, etc.) we will discover a natural explanation in time. This has been the trend throughout history.

2. We can never know this, but let’s assume that we will never figure out an explanation for first life. This still does not mean that the explanation is supernatural. There may be wholly natural aspects of the universe that are fundamentally outside our ability to understand. Stating that the supernatural is the most likely explanation is to assume that we are even capable of comprehending the entirety of the natural universe - which seems unlikely to me, since we are part of the natural universe ourselves.

Monday, August 24, 2009

This will be a fun show!

I have heard you should call the lyric office today for reservations. They are going fast and they are trying to decide if they should also schedule a late show. I heard there is going to be free food from Iguana Lounge at the first show as well! If there is a second showing, there will probably be pizzas. We'll see.......

Come see the staged reading of Matthew Alvin Brown and Tom Stuart's musical adaptation of 'Rainbow Around the Sun'. This rock musical will amaze you!!!!!!!!! It will be featured at the New York Musical Theater Festival in October, but come see it here this weekend!

Matt Brown
Nathan Siler
Stephen Hilton
Jamie Buxton
Renee Anderson
Steven Stark
Doctor Rock of the Sugar Free Allstars
Brian Hamilton

Directed by Nick Demos
Musical Direction and Arrangements by Nathan Siler

TICKETS ARE GOING FAST-CALL ASAP! Suggested Minimum Donation of $20.00 per ticket. Call 524-9312 for reservations. Pay at the door by cash, credit or check written out to NYMF.
Saturday, August 29, 2009
7:30pm - 9:00pm
Lyric Theatre at the Plaza
1727 NW 16th St.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Fun Contest

There is a great contest for "creative insults" (as related to online debates) over on Eric Reitan's blog here:

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Blog Adventures part two - Abortion debate

I have been debating the abortion issue with a couple of friends of mine here (in the comments section):

We have debated the issue before, but I wanted to try and distill our differences down to their most basic form. I feel that I was successful, but that is certainly debatable! I'm not sure we mutually agreed that we had found our basic difference on the issue.

The blog author maintains the conservative position that even a fertilized egg should be afforded the same rights as a fully-formed, conscious person. I disagree with this position as you can read, if you like.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Blog Adventures part one update


I agree with you that Paul and other Bible writers were NOT God.

I also believe God did NOT hold their hands while writing.

I believe Paul and others wrote relating to culture and some false thinking such as ‘Sun travels around the earth’ in Ecclesiastes 1:4-5 and “…hail is made and stored…for war” in Job 38:22-23.

Sometimes Paul wrote with ‘human reasoning’:
“I never let women teach men…let them be silent in your church meetings. Why?
[Here’s the human reasoning] Because God made Adam first…and it was not Adam who was fooled by Satan, but Eve, and sin was the result.” (1 Timothy 2:12-14)

Paul wrote from memory.
“I am so thankful now that I didn’t baptize any of you except Crispus and Gaius.” (1 Corinthians 1: 14)

And sometimes his memory was bad - verse 16:
“Oh yes, and I baptized the family of Stephanas. I don’t remember ever baptizing anyone else.”

Paul even says some of his writing is NOT from God but his own thinking:
“Here I want to add some suggestions of my own. These are NOT direct commands from the Lord, but they SEEM right to me;” (1 Corinthians 7: 12)

Even Jesus did not know everything. More than once he said only his Father knew. He even expressed a false believe that his Father would be with him on the cross:

“But the time is coming…when you will be scattered…leaving me alone. Yet I will not be alone, for the Father is with me.” (John 16:32)

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46)

Steven, you said, “We’ll have to hope and pray that God is better than that.”

Better than WHAT? Better than executing his Son on the Cross? (“It is written in the Scriptures that God will smite the Shepherd…” Matthew 26:31)

Better than sending Jesus to hell? (“You will not leave my soul in hell…” Acts 2:27)

Steven, do you think God would not be perfect if he sent a person to where He sent his Son after that person spit in his Son’s face by rejecting Jesus as his Saviour?

I strongly disagree with your thinking that ‘reasoning’ and ‘fear’ ideas “are at odds.”

It’s through reasoning we fear snakes, lions etc. and GOD.

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.” (Proverbs 1:7)

I hope we’re not disobeying (2 Timothy 2:16):
“Steer clear of foolish discussions which lead people into the sin of anger with each other.”


REX RAY wrote - "Steven, you said, “We’ll have to hope and pray that God is better than that.”

Better than WHAT? Better than executing his Son on the Cross? (“It is written in the Scriptures that God will smite the Shepherd…” Matthew 26:31) "

I think that the idea of Jesus as God's sacrificial lamb is an invention that can be beautiful and can be horrible. But without getting in to that - No, I don't believe that God requires human sacrifice. Once again, I think the Bible is man-made and can point us to the divine only through understanding the human lens through which the Biblical authors saw the world.

"Steven, do you think God would not be perfect if he sent a person to where He sent his Son after that person spit in his Son’s face by rejecting Jesus as his Saviour? "

I don't think a person who doesn't believe in a literal resurrection is "rejecting Jesus". They don't believe it is factually true. An atheist, for instance, is not rejecting God. He/she is rejecting the concept of God. For instance, I am not "spitting in the face" of a unicorn, because I don't believe unicorns exist. (I don't claim atheism BTW, but it's a good example)

"I strongly disagree with your thinking that ‘reasoning’ and ‘fear’ ideas “are at odds.”

It’s through reasoning we fear snakes, lions etc. and GOD."

Our fear of snakes and lions is based on observation. Your earlier statements suggest that we ignore any observation that contradicts a certain view of Scripture. I think this is "at odds"

thanks again, good discussion. I enjoyed reading your biblical references and interpretation,


Sunday, August 16, 2009

Blog Adventures part one

I am perpetually in the middle of a debate on someone's blog these days. I enjoy the exchange. It helps to clarify one's position - and it can definitely make you consider something in a different way. Of course there is definitely a time to "walk" away, which I need to be better at. We have to recognize that everyone is on his/her own journey and ultimately we're all partners in trying to figure out this crazy thing called life.

I'll try to share a few interesting debates either by copying them here, or by providing a link to the other blog.

This is one interesting exchange with a (very) conservative Christian whom I will call "Rick". I had praised a conservative minister on his blog for seeking to include women in the ministry, but I also challenged his view on homosexuality. The minister and I enjoyed a very courteous exchange. We disagree, but he seems like a really nice guy. Then Rick entered the debate. Here's the exchange:


Steven Stark,
You may not think this is a “civil” exchange, so you may not think it's very enjoyable.

You said, “Scientific studies tell us [blab blab]…a person is born with this orientation.”

You sound like Adam blaming God for making Eve etc.

Is the Scripture below what you were referring to when you said Paul had a “distaste for homosexuality.”

“God let them go ahead into every sort of sex sin…vile and sinful things with each other’s bodies…THEY DELIBERATELY CHOSE TO BELIEVE LIES…their women indulged in sex sin with each other…and their men burned with lust for each other…” (Romans 1:24-27)

Steven, are you an example of believing lies when you believe “homosexual orientation is genetic”?

What do you do with the warning of Peter?

“He turned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into heaps of ashes and blotted them off the face of the earth, making them an example for all the ungodly in the FUTURE to look back upon and FEAR.” (2 Peter 2:6)

Because certain people had more ‘evidence’ and knowledge of the wonders of God, Jesus told them:

“I tell you, even Sodom will be better off on judgment than you.” (Matthew 11:24)

Steven, don’t you have even more information than these certain people had?


“Steven, are you an example of believing lies when you believe “homosexual orientation is genetic”?”

I suppose if facts obtained through the scientific method are lies, then I am guilty. It’s difficult to think of a god who would disguise “lies” as “facts” to fool people. If we cannot rely on our reason - defined as inference based on observations about the natural world- to make decisions, then we’re in trouble! The dark ages start to make a lot more sense....


Do we not judge what is a lie and what is truth by evidence? Or do we assume that the apostle Paul is right a priori and make deductive arguments based on that? Or do we look at evidence and gradually build our knowledge inductively, therefore seeing the apostle Paul as a product of his time and the more limited knowledge associated with it? I appreciate what Paul did with what he had, but he is not God.

“Steven, don’t you have even more information than these certain people had?”

Perhaps so. Including the knowledge that homosexuality is a preference most likely created by genetic and in utero factors.




You said, “It’s difficult to think of a god who would disguise ‘lies’ as ‘facts’ to fool people.”

Hmmm…let’s see if I understand what you said.
1. First there has to be lies.
2. A false god disguised them as facts.
3. These facts fooled people.

Applying the above to your belief would be.
1. Paul told lies.
2. People, Baptists, or a god disguised these lies as facts.
3. Christians have been fooled.

Continuing your line of though, Peter and Jesus also told lies.

Hey! If God made the people of Sodom and Gomorrah the way they were, you’re calling God a hypocrite or even worse; a murderer.

You said, “If we cannot rely on our reason…then we’re in trouble.”

Trouble is right! “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it is the way of death.” (Proverbs 16: 25)


“Hey! If God made the people of Sodom and Gomorrah the way they were, you’re calling God a hypocrite or even worse; a murderer.”

Well, we don’t have to assume anything to read in Scripture that God killed (murdered) all the people of Sodom and Gomorrah. He also commanded Joshua to commit mass infanticide. He also killed every living thing (men, women, babies, etc.) that he had created with the flood. (assuming a literal interpretation of Scripture, which I don’t BTW, but assuming your position here)

But I don’t think God (however we define that term) is a hypocrite or a murderer. He doesn’t disguise lies as facts. I have a simpler solution. I think the Bible was written by imperfect, finite humans. The Bible is a great work of mankind, of humanity, trying to understand what they deemed to be “divine.”

I don’t think the writers (including Paul) told lies. I have great respect for many of the writers. As I wrote before, they were products of their culture and time, and should be understood that way. I certainly hope that if someone read my words 2,000 years from now, they would afford me that courtesy.

“There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it is the way of death.”

There is a indeed a way that seems right to man, among MANY ways that seem right to many different people. All of them end in death, BTW ;) - Ecclesiastes tells us that.

But the argument against using human reason in interpretation of Scripture is interesting. It usually goes something like this:

1. I value the Bible based on my reason and feelings.
2. There are aspects of the Bible which offend my reason and feelings
3. I cannot trust my reason and feelings.

This is non-sequitur thinking, of course, but it shows us that reason is involved no matter what.

thanks for the exchange,



I agree with you that God is not a murderer. He has executed a lot of people in dealing out justice.

That’s what He did to Sodom and Gomorrah, and that’s what He will do at judgment day.

I doubt any will argue that science made them sin as they’ll be too busy crying for the rocks and mountains to fall on them.

The most non-sequitur thinking is your explanation of Proverbs 16:25.

You mentioned 2000 years. Where will you be then and for what reason?

Steven, do you think anyone has ever wanted their body cremated and scattered to the four winds in the belief God can’t find them?

How many times through eternity will they wish they’d never been born?

God wants us to reason or he would have made us robots.

It’s much smarter to reason that God’s Word is true and be on the safe side than to depend on science that contradicts God’s Word and take a chance.


"Steven, do you think anyone has ever wanted their body cremated and scattered to the four winds in the belief God can’t find them?

How many times through eternity will they wish they’d never been born?"

We'll have to hope and pray that God is better than that. Especially since Jesus said to "love your enemies". Why? So we can be perfect "as our father in heaven is perfect."

"God wants us to reason or he would have made us robots.

It’s much smarter to reason that God’s Word is true and be on the safe side than to depend on science that contradicts God’s Word and take a chance."

These two ideas are at odds. The first says to reason, the second says to suppress reason out of fear.

I think we have to do our best to find truth and trust that God will correct us if we need it. We cannot ignore facts and evidence in this process.




Thursday, August 13, 2009

Loaves and Fishes part three - Common Meal?

Is the feeding of the five thousand the only time we read of eating together in the New Testament? Of course not. The Lord’s Supper, the Eucharist, was most likely an actual communal meal - a symbol yes, but an actual shared meal, the anchor of the early Christian community. John Dominic Crossan talks about the Lord’s Supper in his book “The Birth of Christianity”:

“The Common meal Tradition may look to a Last Supper in the past, to a communal meal in the present, or to a messianic banquet in the future - or, quite validly, to all of those at the same time. But it can never get away from this: It is in food and drink offered equally to everyone that the presence of God and Jesus is found. But food and drink are the material bases of life, so the Lord’s Supper is political criticism and economic challenge as well as sacred rite and liturgical worship. It may be all right to reduce it from a full eat-and-drink meal to a token nibble-and-sip meal as long as it still symbolizes that same reality - namely: Christians claim that God and Jesus are peculiarly and especially present when food and drink are shared equally among all.”

So is the "feeding of the five thousand" story related to the common meal tradition in early Christianity? Who knows? It’s an interesting, albeit speculative, thought.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Loaves and Fishes part two - Goodness vs. Power

I think the two scenarios in part one come down to this distinction. The first demonstrates power followed by goodness. The second displays goodness followed by power.

With the first interpretation, a supernatural feat is performed displaying power. Power over the physical universe. But power, in itself, is not necessarily good. Do we follow someone or something because it is powerful, or because we deem it to be good?

Jesus did use his power for goodness in the story, of course - to feed people. But then should we wonder why he does not use that power today? People are hungry all over the world. One could also argue whether goodness is possible without some level of sacrifice. Conjuring food out of thin air is not an act of sacrifice, and there is no real risk involved. But sharing does demand risk and sacrifice. Of course, Jesus speaks of loving your neighbor (and your enemy), and I suppose we might take him more seriously if he has supernatural power.

Another point to consider: Is the “supernatural” more beautiful or powerful than the reality we see everyday? How is conjuring a loaf out of the air more beautiful than small seeds planted in the ground “miraculously” turning into plants which are then harvested by human hands and gradually turned into food? Which is more aesthetically pleasing? Which is more powerful?

As John Donne writes, “There is nothing that God hath established in a constant course of nature but would seem a miracle, and exercise our admiration, if it were done but once.”

In the second interpretation, Jesus demonstrates goodness itself through action. Not merely through words alone, and not through a (literally) “free lunch” approach to doing a good work. He promotes community, actively realized through a shared meal. Fear from individual separateness, from the possibility of hunger, is overcome through an example which requires risk and sacrifice. Perhaps there might not have been enough, or people would not share, or the instigator of the sharing might not get anything back....

The second situation shows a real potential power that is coiled and ready to be released at any moment in time - any time we can invoke the spirit of Jesus feeding the 5,000. It requires no supernatural ability. It requires what he have in front of us. Perhaps in our search for magic we forget that the entire world is magic. And we are here, a floating awareness here and now. Perhaps in our quest for something which can break physical laws, we miss the real question concerning that something - “What is the benefit?” When we answer that question, we might find that it is possible to reach that benefit despite our interpretation of the loaves and fishes story.

I also like this saying by Jesus when the crowd, that he has fed, finds him and questions him afterwards. Jesus says, “Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.”

Interesting stuff!

Goodness vs. power. Which is primary? Which is more appealing to you or to me?

In scenario one, Jesus has power over natural laws through his status as a supernatural being (fully God and fully man). In scenario two, Jesus has power over people through goodness and example, perhaps appealing to the power inside each one of us, and we might argue that he could still be described as fully God and fully man, if we look to God for His goodness.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Loaves and Fishes

The feeding of the five thousand is a great story in the Bible. I’ll assume you are familiar with the basic idea - Jesus and the disciples want to feed the 5,000 gathered to hear Jesus speak. There are only five loaves and two fish. However, after Jesus blesses the food, there is enough to go around - so much so, that 12 baskets of leftovers are collected.

Numbers like these are often quite symbolic in Scripture. 12 often signifies the 12 tribes of Israel (like the "12" disciples, for instance). This story could very well be a symbolic tale, showing how the message and life of Christ represent a new blessing of God for the 12 tribes - a new abundance from God. I think this is the story’s main function. However for the purpose of this entry, let’s assume that an actual event happened which the story is based on. Which is certainly possible.

Here are two hypothetical scenarios:

Number 1: Jesus has supernatural abilities. By blessing the loaves and fishes, new loaves and fishes appear out of thin air. It’s magic. People eat and are nourished by what did not exist a few moments before. Jesus has created new matter out of nothing, violating the law of conservation of mass/energy. Or he could have telekinetically transported existing fishes and loaves from elsewhere. Either way physical laws, as we know them, are being broken.

Jesus has power in his physical presence. If he were physically here today, he could perform supernatural works for humanity.

Number 2: Jesus hears that people are saying there is not enough to eat. However 5,000 men, not counting women and children, are present and they are hungry. Jesus has access to five loaves and two fishes. Instead of hording the food, he brings it out for all to see. He blesses it and gives it out to others instead of eating it himself. Inspired by his actions, members of the crowd take out their food, which they had been afraid to reveal lest it be taken from them. Everyone shares together. Those with extra give it away. Those who had none eat their fill. At the end of the communal meal, there are 12 baskets of food leftover.

Jesus has power in his physical presence, but in this case he also has power in his spiritual presence. In the act of sharing with others, of affirming our ultimate oneness, the same power Jesus demonstrated then can be demonstrated today by us. Jesus' power can still be displayed anytime someone decides to imitate him and become "God with skin on."

In the first story, we do not have the ability to imitate Christ. But in the second story we do.

-to be continued-

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Wow. What A Great Time....

The concert at Untitled Artspace was fantastic. Thank you to everyone who made it out.

Bluegrass, Bach, Folk-Pop, Crazy-cool quilts, and the taco truck made an appearance!

I have some very talented students, that is for sure. And talent is much more than music ability. It is enthusiasm for music and motivation to perform. There were cellos, violins, violas, mandolins, and a banjo. What great time.

The string quartet played the the first movement of Dvorak's American Quartet and Bach's "Little" Fugue in G Minor. I was just as proud of all the students for their listening as I was for their playing.

I can't wait to do it again. will be up soon.

Thanks again to everyone for participating - as performers and as listeners!