Ascent by Dr. Abidan Shah

ASCENT by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

Introduction:  Geico, the auto insurance company, is known for its funny ads. How many of ya’ll remember their cavemen ads back in 2004? They featured these Neanderthal-like cavemen who are trying to make it in a modern setting. The premise of their ad was regarding their website, which is “so easy, a caveman could do it.” This offended the cavemen who happen to be standing nearby. All joking aside, it is commonly assumed that human beings evolved from cavemen like the Neanderthals, Australopithecine, or Homo Erectus, or we are similar to animals, especially apes. Here are some questions: Do humans and chimps share a common ancestor? Are human and chimp DNA very similar? Where do the Neanderthals fit in the Genesis account? Who were the cavemen? Here’s the main point: God has made us in his image. The image was never lost at the Fall, just marred. Through Jesus, we are restored and made new creations in the likeness of God. Evolution from ape-like creatures or “cavemen” not only devalues the image of God in us, but also seriously undermines the gospel.

Genesis 1      26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” 27 So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.

Context: As you know, this was Day 6, the final day, of the creation week. God was about to create the final act of his creation. It would be unlike anything that he had made thus far. It would be the crown of his creation. Unlike the previous acts of creation, this was not just a “let there be…” Instead, listen again to verse 26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness…” Several important things here:

  • First, unlike the previous creations of matter, light, plants, celestial bodies, and animals, this one involved the entire godhead. Yes, all were involved so far, but this one was going to be special. In fact, this is also where we first meet the plurality of the godhead. Later, we will learn that God is “trinity” – Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. Again, this implies that this will be a special creation.
  • Second, unlike the previous creations, this one will be in the “image” and “likeness” of God himself. The Hebrew word for “image” is “tselem” and “likeness” is “demut.” Both imply that the created being will be similar but not identical to the original, that is God. Similar in that we will share the communicable attributes of God – love, justice, creativity, reason, grace, mercy, truth, relationality, and even holiness. Even these, we will not perfectly share with God. Nonetheless, not identical in the sense that we will not be like him – omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, sovereign, transcendent, unchanging, and self-existent. These and more attributes make God who he is.

How can we be like God when he is a spirit? Being made like him allows us to have a relationship with him unlike anything the living creatures can ever experience. In other words, if God ever appeared on earth, it will be in a human form and not any animal. No wonder, when God and his angels appeared to his people, it was always in human form. This brings special dignity to human beings above any other living creature. Genesis 9:6 “Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed; for in the image of God he made man.” Also, James 3       8 “But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. 9 With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God.” As image bearers, human beings are God’s representatives in the world, called to rule over his creation. 26 “…let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

I can go on and on, but I want to stop here and make a point that will help us answer the questions that were raised – Ever since the beginning of time, human beings have been trying to either exalt themselves to the level of God or devalue themselves to the animal world. For some reason, we cannot seem to accept the gift of “image bearers.” In the past couple of hundred years, this has expressed itself by either claiming that we have evolved from ape-like creatures or from “cavemen” over hundreds of thousands of years. Let’s look at each of them:

  1. Evolution from Ape-like Creatures:

Although Charles Darwin did not talk about human evolution in the Origin of the Species, he talked about it 12 years later in his other book The Descent of Man. His arguments were based on anatomical, embryological, and behavioral evidence, not fossils. Until his death in 1882, no fossils for non-human or pre-human ancestors of human beings had been found. He blamed it on the lack of fossil research. Bottom line: Human and primate fossils are extremely rare (See David Menton and Marvin Lubenow). About 95% of all known fossils are marine invertebrates (don’t have a backbone/spine). About 4.7 % are algae and plants and 0.2 % are insects and other invertebrates. Finally, 0.1% are vertebrates and out of this a small fraction are primates (humans, apes, monkeys, and lemurs). Maybe about 6000 human individuals if counting single teeth and bones. Much more apes and monkeys in the fossils than humans.

Differences between Human and Ape skulls (Menton):

  • Small vs Large (1400cm3 vs 500cm3)
  • Sloped vs Vertical Face
  • Flat vs Curved Forehead
  • Flat vs Protruding Nasal Bones
  • Jaws and Teeth (humans have thick enamel)
  • Pelvis and legs (the gait is different to walk on two legs)
  • Carrying angle of the knee
  • Locking Knee
  • Foot Bones
  • Hand Bones (the thumb is the most distinguishable feature, longer in humans)

What about ape-men fossils? From combining bones of apes and humans (Piltdown Man in Natural History Museum in London with the skull of a human and jaw of an orangutan, with the teeth filed down), claim that ape skeleton is human, and vice versa. Unfortunately, lots of pictures drawn by artists. Now there’s a new category called “hominin,” which includes Ardipithecus, Australopithecus, Paranthropus, and the genera Homo. Ardipithecus = Afar Ethiopian word “ardi” meaning “ground” and “pithekos” = Greek for “ape.” Australopithecus = Latin “australis” means “southern” and pithekos. Paranthropus = “par” beside and “Anthropos” man. The Homo group leads us into the next category.

  1. Evolution from Cavemen:

– Homo Habilis (handyman, 1.4-2.4 million years ago)

– Homo Rudolfensis (1.9 million years)

– Homo Erectus (Java Man and Peking Man, 1.9 million – 144,000 years ago)

– Homo Heidelbergensis (found in 1908 near Heidelberg, Germany, 700,000-200,000)

– Homo Neanderthalensis (from Neander Valley in Germany in 1856. Since then, about 500 are found in central and western Europe, the Carpathians, Balkans, Ukraine, Western Russia, and northern Asia, 400,000-40,000)

– Homo Floresiensis (Flores, Indonesia, “hobbits,” maybe deformity)

– Homo Sapiens (us about 200,000 years ago)

Basic differences: large brows in adults and wide nasal cavities.

3 contradictory evidences: the DNA evidence (Papua, New Guinea, Australian Aborigines, and Mamanwa, Philippines), close association and integration with modern humans, and behavior and thoughts are human. Some are gone but many may still be around, but they are not inferior.

Rom. 5:12   Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned— 13 (For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. 14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come. 15 But the free gift is not like the offense. For if by the one man’s offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many. 16 And the gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned. For the judgment which came from one offense resulted in condemnation, but the free gift which came from many offenses resulted in justification. 17 For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.) 18 Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. 19 For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous.

Origin by Dr. Abidan Shah

ORIGIN by Dr. Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson, NC

Introduction: In 1818, British novelist Mary Shelley wrote the Gothic novel Frankenstein. The story is about a young scientist, Victor Frankenstein, who creates this creature to have some fame and accomplishment to his name. In the process he creates this hideous monster. The iconic scene that many of us have seen comes from the 1931 movie where the scientist shouts “It’s alive.” Unfortunately, people have been trying to do that for real – create life out of non-living matter. In our series on apologetics, we come to the section in Genesis where God created life on the fifth day. A couple of the questions that came through our questionnaire were about the origin of life: Where does life come from? What about the Miller-Urey experiment? What is abiogenesis? Main point: The origin of life has both fascinated and baffled scientists and researchers for a long time. They keep trying to find an alternative to God and they keep running into dead ends. But there is something far more fascinating and baffling than physical life. It is spiritual life. It is the supernatural work of God in the life of a person that changes them from a sinner to a child of God.

Genesis 1:20 Then God said, “Let the waters abound with an abundance of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the face of the firmament of the heavens.”

Context: We now come to the fifth day of creation. This was a very important point in God’s creation week because it was the start of his “second act of true creation” (Henry Morris). The first act was on Day one when God made the contents of the universe and then worked on the elements to create space, light, water, land, plants, and the celestial bodies. The second act was on Day five when God made conscious life. The Hebrew phrase is “nephesh hayyah” meaning “living soul.” Unlike plants that have no soul, this was the beginning of creatures that have consciousness, meaning breath and will. These include the sea creatures and birds that fly over the earth on the fifth day, and cattle, creeping thing, beast of the earth, and human beings on the sixth day. Just like on Day one, God brought matter into being by direct command, on Day five, God brought life into being also by direct command. These 2 junctures are extremely puzzling to scientists and researchers – how did this world come into being out of nothing and how did life come into being in a non-living world. We’ve already answered the first question of creation ex-nihilo. In this message, we will focus on the second question of biogenesis.

Secular scientists and researchers claim that life began from non-living matter through natural processes. This is known as abiogenesis. The source of this thinking goes all the way back to Charles Darwin who wrote a book in 1859 titled On the Origin of the Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favored Races in the Struggle of Life. The goal of the book was to show the origin of all life from a common ancestor. Although Darwin did not talk about the origin of life in the book, he did suggest that life may have begun “in some warm little pond.” Even though in the same year, a French scientist named Louis Pasteur had disproved the idea of “spontaneous generation,” the idea that insects and flies could just come from decaying meats and other matter. Even before him some scientists had already shown that the worms and maggots come from eggs laid in the decaying matter by other worms and flies. Later, in 1924, a Russian biochemist named Alexander Oparin suggested that a series of reactions may have caused a cell to come together from some simple chemicals. This is where the idea came of a “primordial soup” – some body of water that was rich in organic compounds (Paul Garner). It was not until 1950 when Prof. Harold Urey was lecturing at the University of Chicago on the origin of the solar system that he suggested “it would be interesting to see what would happen if someone experimentally mimicked the earth’s atmosphere and passed energy through it” (Bradley and Thaxton). Sitting in his class was a 22-year-old student named Stanley Miller who was intrigued by this suggestion and took upon himself to make it happen. So, in 1953, he took a flask of hot water (oceans) which he connected to a flask of gases (atmosphere). He filled the flask with gases he believed were present in the atmosphere of the early earth (hydrogen, methane, and ammonia). Then, using electrodes, he sent sparks to replicate lightning. Next, he started boiling the water in the flask. The water evaporated and went through the flask with the gases that were being shot with electric currents. Within a few days, he noticed a reddish goo in the water and the glass. This was amino acids, which were the building blocks of protein. This is what they believed was the simple stuff that life was made of. This experiment became a part of the textbooks as the basic step towards how life came to be. In reality, there were many problems with it. As Paul Harvey would say, “Here’s the rest of the story.” Even in the 1960s, geochemists had serious doubts that the conditions created by Miller were actually how the atmosphere of the earth was in the early period before life began. In fact, there were several problems with it:

  • Miller-Urey removed oxygen from the atmosphere because oxygen destroys amino acid bonds. It is a poisonous gas that oxidizes organic and inorganic substances. Scientists, even secular ones, now believe that there was oxygen in the earth’s atmosphere in the early stages. “If there was oxygen, life could not start. If there was no oxygen, life could not start” (Mike Riddle).
  • Methane-Ammonia were not a major part of the atmosphere. Hydrogen escapes into outer space because it cannot be held by earth’s gravity. This would have left nothing to reduce carbon dioxide and nitrogen. As a result, methane and ammonia would have broken down.
  • The Energy required in the experiment, which was provided by the electrodes, can create complex molecules but also destroy developing molecules.
  • Amino acids are left-handed and right-handed (Chiral). Only left-handed make the proteins in living beings. The experiment produced both which is detrimental to life.

Since land does not work, some try water, but this would cause hydrolysis (water splitting) to destroy the amino acids. Then, there is life from outer space (panspermia) that we disproved last week.

Much Bigger Question: How do these proteins become a large molecule and then a simple living cell with incredible amount of information? Proteins are important for biochemical functions, but they require DNA. But DNA itself requires a complete set of very complex protein to make copies of itself (Jonathan Wells):

  • Back in 1953, James Watson and Francis Crick discovered the double helix molecule that carries genetic information. DNA is like a winding staircase with the chains of nucleotides and the steps made of pairs of molecules called “bases.” There are 4 – Adenine (A), Thymine (T), Cytosine (C), and Guanine (G). The 3-letter combination of these (CGT, AAA, TCC) makes up one amino acid, which is the genetic code.
  • The DNA can be understood in the following order – a little chunk of DNA would make a Gene (paragraphs). These Genes give instructions on how to make the protein.The DNA strands are known as Chromosomes (chapters). There are 46, 23 from father and 23 from mother. An organisms complete set of DNAs is the Genome (manual). It is the complete mapping and understanding of all the genes in a human being (Falk). The Human Genome Project was completed in 2003. This will be extremely helpful in diagnosing and treating illnesses in the near future.
  • According to Michael Denton, the information needed to build the proteins for all species of organisms that have ever lived is about one thousand million. This information can fit on a teaspoon and have enough room left over to fit all the information in every book ever written. Someone else put it this way – the information in the DNA is so compact that “one square inch of DNA could encode the information in over seven billion Bibles.” Scientists are blown away by the 9 feet of DNA that is tightly coiled in every one of our body’s one hundred trillion cells. Its width is about 1/1000th of the human hair.
  • Each of the 30,000 genes inside our 23 pairs of chromosomes can give up to 20,500 different kinds of proteins.

The experiment to find the origin of life is trying to create amino acids. About 100 of the left-handed amino acids may create a protein. This is not even close to making a living cell. According to Hoyle and Wickramasinghe, “There are about two thousand enzymes, and the chance of obtaining them all in a random trial is only one part in (1020)2000= 1040,000, an outrageously small probability that could not be faced even if the whole universe consisted of organic soup.”

Since DNA doesn’t work, they turn to RNA. Again, it also requires living cells.

Jump forward to 2010, Craig Venter (biotechnologist and businessman) claimed to have created “the first self-replicating species that we’ve had on the planet whose parent is a computer.” They called it “Synthia.” Again, it is taking an existing bacterium instead creating from scratch!

The only answer the secular scientist has is “We just need time…”

Listen to what David says in Psalm 139      13 “For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. 14 I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, and that my soul knows very well.”

Louis Pasteur said, “Posterity will one day laugh at the foolishness of modern materialistic philosophers. The more I study nature, the more I stand amazed at the work of the Creator. I pray while I am engaged at my work in the laboratory.”

The question is not “What” is the origin of life but “Who” is the origin of life. Although the New Testament talks a lot about life, it the apostle John who writes the most about it in his Gospel and his letter. The noun “zoe” is found about 135 times and the verb “zen” is found about 140 times.

  1. Jesus is the Source of Creation Life.

 John 1      3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. 4 In Him was life, and the life was the light of men…

  1. Jesus is the Source of Eternal Life.

John 5:26 For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself,

John 6:35 And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst…57 As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on Me will live because of Me.

John 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.

  1. The Evidence of Eternal Life

John 5:24 Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.

John 11:25   Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. 26 And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

John 17:3 “And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.”

  1. The Requirement for Eternal Life

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

1 John 5     11 And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. 12 He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. 13 These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God.

Invitation: Do you believe that God is the source of life? Do you believe that all life has come through Jesus Christ? Do you have eternal life through him? Are you saved?

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