Apologetics, In the News

Eclipses, False Prophets, and Intelligent Design

I would be remiss if I did not mention today (August 21, 2017) being the quintessential day with respect to the solar system. The United States experiences this perfect solar eclipse that is visible from Oregon to South Carolina. It is like a seventy-mile-wide belt hugging the nation’s midriff. What I find interesting about this is a lot of things, but I have seen modern-day prophecy pundit using this as some kind of a portent, some kind of an omen, a stellar event to be imposed on a biblical passage. Listen — this is not about exegesis; it is about eisegesis. It is about taking something and imposing it on Scripture. I often talk about this as the this-is-that fallacy. This in the stellar universe is that in the Scripture.

You know it is always the secular news agencies that have to call us to account and, in the process, rightly marginalize Christianity or at least a caricature of Christianity. Newsweek, for example, observed “various evangelical groups in the U.S.” viewing Monday’s eclipse “as a link to something biblical.” What is that something biblical? It is Joel 2:31. Remember that famous passage in Joel? “The sun will be turned to darkness…before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord” (NIV).

Well, obviously the New Testament writers — we always put the magnifying glass in the hands of those writers — they make plain that Joel 2:31 was fulfilled during Pentecost (Acts 2:20; cf. v. 1). This is apocalyptic language. Judgment language ultimately having nothing whatsoever to do with astronomical events in the skies. The sun will be darkened, the moon will not give its light, the stars will fall from the sky, the heavenly bodies will be shaken, the sky will roll up like a scroll. This is all judgment language. How do we know this? We know that by reading Scripture in light of Scripture.

My point is precisely this: the prophecy pundits seem to be helping Christianity in reverse. Instead of showcasing the Grand Designer in today’s total eclipse of the sun, what they are doing is marginalizing Christianity through their sophistry, their sensationalism, and their Scriptorture.

The real message in today’s solar eclipse is one of Intelligent Design. Think about it. Imagine the probability of a sun four-hundred times the size of the moon, and four-hundred times further away such that it can be perfectly eclipsed by the moon. Now, there are certainly some like Bill Nye the Science Guy who think this to be a function of pure chance, and render Earth a mere insignificant speck of soil adrift in a meaningless universe. I have that sort of imbedded in my psyche. I could not believe what he was saying. He went through this whole thing, “Everything is meaningless,” and as a result, he comes to the conclusion, “I suck.” “I” being Bill Nye. He was talking about himself. “I suck.” I am not going to debate him on that point.

The fact is, the truth we ought to be communicating is that Earth is a singularly privileged planet that is designed for discovery. Why not remember that the Earth is situated between two arms in a flattened spiral galaxy — I’m talking about the Milky Way — it is not too close to the core to be exposed to lethal radiation, or comet collisions, or light pollution that would obscure observation. Not only that, but the atmosphere of our privileged planet is both oxygen rich for survival, and transparent for discovery.

Here you have a moon the perfect size and distance from Earth to stabilize rotation and to facilitate human habitability. Not only that but the moon and the sun’s relative size and distances from the Earth provide perfect solar eclipses. By the way, they happen all the time; we just do not see them. This plays a vital role in the development of modern science. For example, perfect solar eclipses played an essential role in the determination of the nature of stars and, interestingly enough, confirmation of Einstein’s general theory of relativity. To understand more on this, check out The Privileged Planet DVD. This is the perfect time to get it because now people are talking about stellar events and often in the Christian context improperly. So, this is the perfect time to watch The Privileged Planet. When you do, you will come away with a new appreciation for the universe in which we live and the one who spoke and the universe leaped into existence.

The bottom line: “The more we learn and see about the universe, the more we come to realize,” as Guy Gardner once put it, “that the most ideally suited place for life within the entire solar system is the planet we call home.” If you think about the temperatures on this planet: closer to the sun, we fry; farther away, we freeze. Think about ocean tides; they are caused by the gravitational pull of the moon, and they play a crucial role in our survival. If you have a moon that is significantly larger with a stronger gravitational pull, you have devastating tidal waves that would submerge large areas of land. Conversely, if the moon is smaller, tidal motion would cease, and then the oceans would stagnate then die. If you look at the temperatures and the tides, or even tap water, the Earth becomes testimony to the one who spoke, the uncaused first cause, who has revealed Himself in time and space through the Incarnation.

We never take Handel’s Messiah or Da Vinci’s Last Supper and pawn them off as the result of blind evolutionary processes. If that is true, we should never, ever do that with the planet we call home.

One of the most astonishing discoveries of the twentieth century is that the universe is fined tuned to support intelligent life. It is balanced, as it were, on the fine edge of a razor. Just think about gravity for a moment. If it were stronger or weaker, the universe would not and could not support intelligent life. Again, this cannot be attributed to chance because of the infinitesimally small range of values that are involved. Chance is infinitely more likely to a life prohibiting universe than a life-sustaining universe. The only plausible source of the fine tuning of the universe is an external transcendent incalculably powerful intelligent personal mind. That mind we call God. He is the uncaused first cause.

The more we learn about our universe, the more we say with David, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world” (Psalm 19:1–4).

Why this point on this program today? It is simply because we as Christians have an opportunity to point to a privileged planet as a way of pointing directly to God. Instead, we are doing the inverse, at least the people who have the biggest megaphones in the Christian world today. I am talking about the this-is-that fallacy. Who calls them to account? Well, it happens to be the secular world who is convinced that we have Christians who are mining the subjunctive, cultivating the seed of threat buried in each unrealized instance such that they can say, “Look, this portends to be the end of the world” or “This portends to be judgment of God.”

Well, would God judge those who are disobedient? Yes, but we are not the ones calling the shots, nor are we the ones that can say how and when God’s judgment falls. The Old Testament prophets could do that. You know what is interesting about the Old Testament prophets? They used to do that pointing the finger at the false prophets. The false prophets “who prophesy lies in my name” says the Lord. The false prophets “who wag their own tongues and yet declare, ‘The Lord declares.’” The false prophets “who prophesy false dreams” (Jer. 23:25, 31, 32 NIV). The false prophets who, well, essentially want to sell their books to an unsuspecting, gullible public. Then there are those who are on the fence about ready to consider the claims of Christianity and then they realize, “Wow, this is just a bunch of nonsense.” They kind of fall out the back doors of the auditoriums where they were seekers, and they write off the Christian faith or as Jeremiah speaking for the Lord says they “‘lead my people astray with their reckless lies, yet I did not send or appoint them. They do not benefit these people in the least,’ declares the Lord” (Jer. 23:32 NIV).

We have an opportunity to use a stellar event as a witness. Let us not tarnish it by Scriptorture, sophistry, and sloppy journalism. We have an opportunity to use an event that everyone is talking about as a springboard or an opportunity to share the fact that God created the universe, that we are the crowning jewels of His creation, and that we have been created for something more, a universe restored, our bodies restored, and a new heaven and new earth where indwells righteousness. All of this is not a trivial matter, because we will be held to account on Judgment Day. We will be held to account by the very one who knit us together in our mother’s womb. Instead of just passing time, let us make time. Let us not just be men of our time; let us be men that make our time.

— Hank Hanegraaff

This blog is adapted from the August 21, 2017, Bible Answer Man broadcast.