Hidden Treasures is a short book (a mere 112 pages), which boasts a great deal. The author, Chuck Missler, holds graduate degrees in engineering as well as a Ph.d in biblical studies and has served as an analyst in various tech companies. He is currently leading Koinonia House ministries, which he founded, and is a regular feature on various radio networks. It is therefore fair to say that Missler is no intellectual slouch, though, he strikes me as somewhat pretentious.
This book was given to me in order that it might (at least help) allay the preponderance of doubts, which recently have driven me to a position of agnosticism regarding God’s existence in general and the “truth” of Christianity in particular. I single out Christianity because it was the faith in which I was raised and spent the greater portion of my life adhering. My hope is to critique this work in an objective manner though reason beckons me to be harsh and I won’t refrain as I find myself in agreement with the maxim: Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.
Missler begins this work with a caveat:
This book can prove seriously disruptive to the comfort of closely held presuppositions.
It’s not clear whether this is a statistically motivated statement or merely what Missler thinks his book should do. Nevertheless, it is always good to challenge one’s assumptions and search honestly for truth.
Missler goes on to offer two things which have most profoundly impressed him. He lists these in the form of two bullets, but each makes several claims.
The 66 books of the Bible form an integrated message system.
Here Missler’s experience with communications, cryptography, etc clearly bleeds through. It’s not very clear, however, what he means by an “integrated message system“. Presumably, by “integrated”, he means that the 66 books of the Bible work together and are coherently coordinated. But coordinated to do what? Missler seems to be suggesting that the Bible is a means of communicating not just a message, but, rather, acts like a channel between humans and God. How it accomplishes this is not altogether clear (at this point not at all), but we’ll hold out hope that the answer is coming. At this point, Missler’s statement (even if not intended to) must function as a hypothesis or conjecture.
…we now discover that virtually every detail of the biblical text evidences a highly skillful design…
From what I can tell, Missler seems fond of saying “We now discover…”. The obvious question, however, is: who exactly is the “we” to which he is referring? It certainly cannot refer to the intellectual community as a whole, or if it does, Missler is either deluded or is attempting to make his case sound stronger than it really is. Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt and suppose that he is simply designating some nebulous group of evangelical Christians.
The next obvious question, then, is: what does he mean by “discover”? In what way has this been “discovered”? In the sense that an ancient civilization is “discovered”? In the sense in which a mathematical theorem is “discovered? Or maybe in the sense in which a scientist discovers something (like quarks) via experiment? Apparently the text itself “evidences” such a conclusion, but this appears to be born more of Missler’s bias than any obvious indication by the text itself. Again, Missler seems to purposefully downplay the remarkable disagreement over the nature of the Biblical text, even amongst Christians.
…every word, every place name, every detail was apparently placed there (in the original) deliberately…
This last statement in Missler’s first bullet is a bit queer. Notice that he is careful to note that his conclusions are only valid with respect to the original documents. This conveniently removes the burden of having to explain all the difficulties that arise with the manuscripts we actually possess. The problem is that this makes Missler’s claims unfalsifiable, since the originals are no longer in existence. It also opens the door to the possibility that manuscripts have been subtly doctored as they were copied. This amazing “discovery”, then, might be nothing more than the work of zealous (and sincere) humans over the course of many years. In fact, this is one thing we know for sure: the Bible was written by humans so in some sense it is trivially true that every place name and detail was put there deliberately. Of course, this is not what Missler means. Instead he means to suggest that the Bible was not merely written by men, but that every detail was coordinated by God.
… it can be demonstrated that the origin of this intricate design is from outside of our dimension of space and time.
This has surely got to be one of the greatest and most important theorems of all time! Although, given the casual feel of the book it is hard to believe that even Missler takes it seriously. Instead, it comes across, more or less, as a statement of propaganda and/or rhetoric. But if Missler is serious, then he has wasted no time in setting a very high bar.
It is probably fair to say that Missler’s usage of “demonstrate” is not the mathematical meaning, but more likely (and coherently) is used in a scientific sense whereby certain evidence indicates that one interpretation has a higher probability of being true than competing interpretations. The rest of the statement is designed to sound impressive, but runs the risk of being nothing more since it is not clear what it means for a message to come from “outside” our spacetime or even if there is an “outside”.
Missler proceeds from here to give a few short paragraphs on the nature of time and the influence of Einstein in turning centuries of intuition on its head. At that Missler is quick to conclude that because time is a physical dimension, God “dwells” outside of and is not affected by it. This apparently sets the perfect stage for demonstrating that a message is from God. How can this be done? By proving that it came from outside our “time domain”. But how does one know that a message has passed from outside to inside our “time domain”? In short, the answer for Missler is prophecy. That is, if some message accurately describes, say, the future, then Missler’s conclusion is that it must have come from outside spacetime. To explain this, Missler gives recourse to a popular analogy in which people are watching a parade. For simplicity, we can think of the parade as occurring within a 2-dimensional real plane. People watching from within the plane can only see part of the parade at any particular time. However, if we think of this plane as embedded in a 3-dimensional space, then people above the parade can see the entire thing at once. So it is that God can see all of history at once. On the face of it, this analogy appears useful, but after some thought serious problems begin to emerge. For one, the analogy assumes too much. In a physical example like this one, it makes sense that adding a third spacial dimension allows for a “privileged” vantage point above the plane. Note, however, that this is an idealized example. It assumes, for instance, that in adding an extra dimension, there is a mechanism of information transfer through this new space. Thus, the people above the plane know the entire parade at once not simply because they are above it, but because there is a transfer of light (and therefore information) from the plane to the observer located above. So, if the analogy is to hold, Missler must be implicitly suggesting that (a) our spacetime manifold is embedded in some higher dimensional space (where God apparently dwells) and (b) that there is a way to “see” all of history at once. The only other possibility is that God knows all of history because “He” actually determined all of it. But that’s a whole different can of worms.
But even if this should prove to be the case, it is not yet clear that the message in question must be from “God”. Why must God be the only being capable of existing in this extra-dimensional space? What if there are multitudes of bizarre beings inhabiting this space? And even then, where do we stop? Could this new space be embedded in yet a higher dimensional space with its own beings? Missler doesn’t even think to address such questions. Instead, Missler decides to re-express the supposed “fact” that “we” have now discovered that the Bible is such a message. Why? Because it “repeatedly… [describes] history before it happens.” (emphasis original) But this is misleading. What he should have said is that younger parts of the Bible were written with the appearance of having fulfilled older parts. Now, this does not mean that the Bible writers didn’t predict the future, but it seems common for apologists to overlook the fact that there is a very simple, natural explanation for prophecy. That is, since all the Biblical authors were steeped in the same religious tradition and knew preceding scripture well, those writing later wrote as if to fulfill what earlier authors penned. This is not to say they did so deceitfully or on purpose. None of the authors wrote in a vacuum, but were heavily influenced by tradition and culture, which inevitably affects interpretation. Add to this the fact that just about every so called “prophecy” of scripture is hopelessly ambiguous and it becomes easy to see how “prophecy” can be “fulfilled”. Because of these things, Missler’s case is, so far, rather underwhelming.
Although off to a rough start, this was just the introduction. Missler still has 14 chapters to pull out the “big guns”. Perhaps he will provide solutions to the problems mentioned above. In the next post, we’ll examine whether his first “hidden treasure” is merely a literary one or a life changing one.
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