December 13, 2017

Riffs: Karen Armstrong on the Science/Religion Cul De Sac and N.T. Wright on his Differences with Piper

bad-kids-spankKaren Armstrong (pronounced Car-en, if you care) isn’t a religion scholar I’d normally recommend, but I think she makes a fairly good description of what appears to be a good bit of the situation we find ourselves in as regards the relationship of religion and science.

In short, religion hasn’t always carried around the obligation to “prove” God and his ways. As far as Christianity goes, it was a buy-in into rationalism that produced the kind of rationalistic fundamentalism that is, in my opinion, driving a lot of evangelicals into positions of increasing hostility to the findings of science. It’s common to read intelligent Christians, sometimes those who work in fields requiring technical proficiency, talking as if our default position toward science must be absolute skepticism or worse.

This morning at church, a little child sang “Jesus loves me….cause the Bible tells me so.” I wondered if that same child, wanting to be a doctor or an astronomer someday, will find out that they need to add verses like “The earth is 10,000 years old….” and “All scientists are lying….” Thankfully this isn’t true in every Christian communion. Please speak up if it’s not yours. Someone surely needs to know.

The divide between rationalistic apologists on the one hand and mystics/practitioners on the other is there for anyone to see. Evangelicalism has developed an entire personality of the rational devotionalist who can convince you that the Bible is whatever you want it to be in the realm of knowledge, from a book about the love of Jesus to a manual for all scientific knowledge to a diagnostic manual for the psychiatrist.

Suggest that dinosaurs might not have been on the ark and watch what happens. Evangelicals are puzzling me right now. They do know that Dr. Francis Collins is an evolutionist, right? He’s not on staff at AIG.

While I’m sure Armstrong can be faulted in some of her intellectual history, I have to agree that evangelicals are increasingly a group determined to set faith over against science and to find a way to put the word “Christian” in front of everything so that it’s OK for us to handle it.

I have sometimes wondered how much of my life I’ve spent listening to people who were, in their presentation of their beliefs, making no appeal to me other than a kind of badly aimed rationalism, where the fact that they could speak loudly and wave their views around convincingly was supposed to make up for any real personal credibility? How many blogosphere theologians are living the life taught by the Christ they constantly rant about being at the center of their life? Is the impression that many are living no different than anyone else in this culture just me?

The second article is part of Trevin Wax’s 2009 interview with N.T. Wright regarding his recent book responding to John Piper’s book criticizing his views on justification.

I constantly come across people who love both Wright and Piper, and they want to know how the two sync, or don’t. Wright’s answers to these specific questions regarding the differences between himself and Piper are very clear. If you are one of those people who imagine they can both be on target, I’d say you should think again.

Wright’s contention is that Piper and other reformed voices tend to displace justification outside of its place in the Biblical story and make it virtually the entire story. I’d say that not only do they do that, but they are quite ready to label you as a dangerous heretic if you have any argument with that conclusion.

I’m not prepared to say Wright’s views are flawless- his idea of the “whole life lived” always has me hitting the brakes, though his longer explanations usually help- but I’m firmly in his camp as to where justification occurs in the overall message of the Bible. It’s bizarre to say that locating justification properly is somehow rejecting it. Those who do reject justification deserve to be deemed dangerous. Those who make less of it in the total picture of the Bible than some do aren’t in that category at all.

Comments

  1. Kenny Johnson says:

    Obed said:
    As a brand new student of biblical Greek (it’s my first semester), I find myself curious as to Armstrong’s translation of logos as “science” or “reason.”

    I don’t have it in front of me, but the NIV Study Bible I have mentions this translation and even says that John may have been playing with that idea a bit in his Gospel.

    Apparently the Greeks had an idea about Reason being some kind of universal almost divine thing.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Logos

    “The Stoic philosophers identified the term with the divine animating principle pervading the universe.”

  2. Pastor M says:

    The Armstrong article places much in perspective for me, especially about praxis over belief. We all know people who “believe all the right things,” but show little or none of the spirit of Jesus in their lives. It also illustrates what you say in your following post about learning from those with whom you may disagree.

  3. Trevor,

    I don’t want to run down a rabbit trail here, but most philosophers of science would disagree with you regarding falsifiability. It simply does not describe how scientists work. Scientists do not spend their time trying to prove that their hypotheses are wrong, they try to prove that they are correct. Science does involve observation, measurement, and experimentation as you state, but it is often done in a positive sense–trying to prove that an idea is true–rather in the negative sense as implied by those who push falsifiability.

    The Wikipedia article on Karl Popper has a fairly good discussion of the criticisms of Popper’s philosophy of science.

    I guess this does apply to the whole creation/evolution discussion, as both sides often accuse the other side of presenting a non-falsifiable theory. Both sides are wrong on this.

  4. Dana Ames says:

    Ray A, and others,

    Wright is not American; He is an English Anglican, now bishop of Durham but for many years an academic. He prefers Calvin’s views on some things over Luther’s, and if backed into a corner he would call himself Reformed, but his writings aren’t at bottom a defense of an particular “view” of the NT, much less a Roman Catholic view. They are his own view, taking all those others into account; he acknowledges his debts where due, but his views are developed primarily from being steeped in the texts themselves. (This is what we admire about the Reformers, that they went “back to the bible…) Wright actually does distinguish law and gospel, and he is not beholden to pre- or post-Reformation scholastic views. On one level, the differences between him and Piper don’t matter, sure. On another level though -and this goes to why they have such devoted followings- it’s a question of what Paul means when he writes certain things. And differences in hermeneutics -perception of meaning- are at the bottom of many divisions among Christians.

    Disclaimer: I’m one of Wright’s devotees. I’ve been reading his work for eight years, and I think he’s brilliant, possibly the greatest living theologian. He gave me a Jesus I can truly worship and made me indescribably glad to be a Christian. His influence is huge in my journey. I know there are people who can say all of that about Piper as well. Like Irenicum, I don’t think their views on can ultimately be reconciled (not least because of the differences in their views of the church). Part of the problem, because of our situatedness in history, is that we like what can be systematized, and Paul’s writings seem to lend themselves to that, so we tend to use Jesus to explain Paul. But actually, everything in scripture needs to be read and interpreted through God’s acts in history in/through Jesus; I came to that conclusion long before I ever knew of Wright. This is what Wright contends as well, and he is the only theologian I have ever encountered who has been able to show me that there are no “contradictions” between Jesus and Paul. Wright doesn’t have to “fudge” anything.

    Now, I have no problem whatsoever with people who don’t agree with him. (I disagree with him on a few things, different points than those with which most Protestants who disagree with him disagree.) What bothers me is that they don’t seem to understand what Wright is saying about what Paul means, because they are unable to temporarily lay aside certain definitions of certain words/phrases. It’s all about the vocabulary.

    Whoever wants to truly understand Wright needs to read his larger works on Christian Origins: “The New Testament & the People of God”, “Jesus & the Victory of God” and “The Resurrection of the Son of God”. (A couple thousand pages for your summer reading pleasure…) The next book in the series, on Paul, is going to be out next year, so the arguments are not going to die down soon.

    (It may indeed be dangerous to read Wright. If anyone alive is responsible for me becoming Orthodox, it’s him… I know of several people who have become Orthodox because of Wright’s work – one while a student at Reformed in Florida. The only acquaintance Wright has with Patristics is from his seminary studies years ago- he’s not setting out “an Orthodox view”. But precisely because he knows the New Testament and Judaism backwards and forwards, he has come to the same conclusions as the great thinkers of the early church about many important theological issues. There is room for him in English Anglicanism, he is committed to the unity of the church, and he is a very loyal person, so I wouldn’t be surprised if he remained Anglican to the end.)

    Dana

  5. Chaplain Mike
    You speak as if evolutionary scientists do not have a “determined conclusion set in stone.” Listen to the current doucumentaries and read the evolutionary articles. They begin with evolutionary thought as the basis for their argument. This is not their conclusion, it is their presuposition.
    So to say that one side of an argument begins with a bias and the other looks with a clear and impartial view is rather unsophisticated. There is no unbiased view. Scientists (and might I say theologians) must know thier own prejudices.
    This is why one scientist may observe raw data and see the unguided force of evolution while some other scientist will see only the hand of the Creator.
    Is it possible to do away with this myth that it is possible to be an unbiased observer? Both sides of the argument have a dog in the fight, as it were.

  6. Kevin;

    Of course scientists want to produce experimental data that matches their theories; at the same time every theory is only ever one experiment away from being disproved. If it’s not, then it’s of no scientific value.

    I’d be very interested in hearing you expand on your last paragraph – in what ways are creation and evolution falsifiable theories? What experiment or observation would disprove each theory?

    I may well be an idealist by expecting scientists to be followers of Popper, but I think it’s a very honest position to hold. Indeed, I think it would help very much in this debate if both sides could say ‘this is the hypothesis we propose, and the following observation would disprove our position’. It would be an interesting excercise to postulate what those observations might be for both sides.

    If the participants in the debate cannot do this then we’re back to my original point, that the debate is not about observation but about appeals to authority.

    I’ll freely admit to being an admirer of Popper, and while the origins debate frustrates me in its popular forms I’m very interested in figuring out an epistemology that can embrace both empiricism and revelation.

  7. Kenny Johnson says:

    Phil R,

    That’s a good point and one that I wish both sides would humbly admit.

  8. Phil R: excellent post; rather than pretend we have no bias, I recommend knowing what they are and working within them. The idea that , of course, the macro-evolutionary stance is the only ‘true science’ possible in this discussion is the heigth of arrogance, matched only by the absurd claim that the ONLY christian position is the YEC position. Talk about border patrol.

    An aside: I greatly appreciate hearing a variety of views on this topic here at I-MONK, and this reminds me that many JESUS lovers have different understandings on it, and probably always will.

    Reminder to self: major in the majors, and this ain’t one of ’em.

  9. Evangelical skepticism towards scientific findings extends beyond evolution. Some other areas of conflict are:

    Climate change
    Genetic components of homosexuality
    Stem cell research

  10. Kenny Johnson says:

    Andrew,

    It’s been my experience that the climate change debate has been mostly a conservative/liberal debate. I know a hard core atheist Libertarian who is a skeptic of man-made climate change.

    I think I’d be a bit of a skeptic of a purely genetic component for homosexuality no matter my religious faith. There are identical twins who have two different sexual preferences. Obviously there is more to it than simply genetics. However, I have no religious reason to deny it’s genetic basis either.

    Stem cell research is an ethical issue. Is there a skepticism involved?

  11. Andrew,

    Please don’t further the misconception that most evangelicals are apposed to stem cell research. While most would oppose embryonic stem cell research, many are in favor of adult stem cell research.

    Phil R

  12. Oops. “opposed”

  13. Kenny,

    I guess I shouldn’t make generalizations about evangelicals based on the emailings I receive, many of which represent the far right wing of the evangelical bird. But anyway, let me flesh out my thoughts on the list of topics above.

    Climate change. My understanding for the resistance of evangelicals to this issue is that it detracts attention from the abortion and gay issues. Perhaps it’s true that it’s more of a conservative-liberal debate, but I know a lot more conservative evangelicals than liberal evangelicals.

    Genetic components for homosexuality. I agree that this one’s still up in the air. But what I find concerning is an unyielding belief that homosexuality is the result of lifestyle choices and a disavowal of the influence of factors such as genetics

    Stem cell research. Perhaps it’s not skepticism, but I sense a resistance to stem cell research and the funding therefor. Oddly though, I sense very little resistance from evangelicals when it comes to IVF.

  14. Kenny Johnson says:

    Andrew,

    Thanks for the clarification. For what it’s worth, I largely agree with you.

  15. FollowerOfHim says:

    More and more I take the line:

    “Creation Science is not a science: it is an apologetic discipline which seeks to bolster a certain Christian worldview using scientific insights concering origins.”

    This takes a bit of the air out of the balloon, I think. The very point of explicit CS is to bring one around to Christ, presumably, or to some sort of generic theism, at the very least.

    Using scientific arguments is not the same thing as doing science.

    There are no open questions in CS. This disqualifies CS, not only as a science, but even as an area of active inquiry. (Falsifiability is thus beside the point.) What DON’T CS advocates know that they’re feverishly trying to figure out? Nothing, of course: CS is an apologetic venture. This is not a shameful thing — it simply clarifies the status of CS.

    Even with CS as an apologetic enterprise, however, we are still at the same point which concerns Karen Armstrong’s in the linked article: belief THAT vs. belief as practice.

  16. FollowerOfHim says:

    I might add that the confusion between the apologetic ends of CS and the open-ended search for scientific truth has parallels in the confusion that exists between scientific findings per se and the public policy based on those findings. This is true of several of the topics mentioned above, such as global warming.

    The only saving grace in that particular debate is that there appears to be a shared assumption that if climate change is indeed man-made, then we do have to do something about it. Based on what I’ve read in her “The Great Transformation”, I’m sure that Ms. Armstrong could comment at length on our reaching such a cultural plateau.

  17. Great post. I too am horrified by what passes as scholarship and thinking in Christian circles today. To belief that the word is 6,000 years old on Biblical grounds is both unscientific and, frankly, pour exigesis.

    I am all for a literal belief in the Bible and for treating scripture as infallible…but please, only insofar as it was intended to be. The creation story is to me the most profound and thologically important literature ever written. But taking it to mean what is was not intending to say is creating an unnecessary barrier to people accepting the really important message of the Bible.

    You don’t have to toss our science to believe in Christ. Its a shame we have forced people to think they must pick sides.

  18. YEC is a popular view because it’s usually purported by the people with the loudest mouths and a slick way of getting you to think there’s a great science conspiracy out to get you. Combine that with rabid atheism (a la Richard Dawkins) and you’ve got a recipe for some serious science hatred.

    The more I read the Genesis account, the less I am prone to think that YEC fits with it. Maybe it could, but it’s not an indestructible iron box either.

    I’m a fan of both Piper and Wright, but I lean more toward Piper. Wright has been a wonderful defender of the resurrection, but I’m not convinced of some of the aspects of the New Perspective on Paul (especially in the realm of the Exile). I think their debate is an important one to follow, and I’m interested to see where it goes.

  19. IMHO, FollowerofHim has nailed it when it comes to YEC and its relationship to science. Excellent posts.

    I would only add that the “Origins” debate has also become politicized and that the main reason we are fighting about it today is because it has become culture war material for both sides to fight about. I’m for anyone who is willing to step back from the culture war debates and have a serious discussion about the actual content. But that is rare.

    BTW, my primary objections to YEC grow out of 30+ years of studying the Bible, not science. I would recommend that folks take a look at John Walton’s new book, The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate, as well as his commentary on Genesis (IVP Application Series), for a much more thoughtful and careful interpretation of Genesis than any YEC material out there.

  20. arprichett

    “…usually purported by the people with the loudest mouths…”

    Can we keep the discussion on a higher plane, please? Name-calling is not defending your position. It should not appear on this blog.

  21. Phil R,

    I re-read arprichett’s comment about the “people with the loudest mouths” He doesn’t seem to be talking to anyone here.

    I’ve found that his description of the YEC to be very accurate. If they truly knew how science works, they wouldn’t be so confident.

  22. Todd Erickson says:

    Yes, Paul says “We are justified freely by our Faith, it is not of works, lest any man should boast.”

    But.

    Jesus talks about the goats and sheep coming up before the throne, and the goats call Him Lord, and believe in Him, but refused to commit to works in the world, and as such were cast out.

    and

    In II Corinthians 9, Paul talks about a great work of giving that the surrounding churches are involved in for Jerusalem, and how the giving of all of these churches openly displays the Gospel of Christ.

    So

    For all of the folks who want to deny works of any kind in justification…even James seems to say that Faith without works is dead. You can argue all that you want about sola fide, but in the end, all of the writers of the New Testament seemed to understand that if you truly believed what Jesus said, that you would actually follow His commandments, and in Love, do the same things that He had been doing, rather than just believing in Him.

    If the world is the way that God wants it, and suffering and destruction and corruption only glorifies Him, then what point would there be to responding to faith with works, and being judged by the works rather than by the faith? “Lord, when did we see you?”

    If, on the other hand, stewardship still stands, and we are still meant to work in this world as God assigned us in the beginning, despite the influence of sin that we have brought to the created world (or perhaps, precisely against Sin, that the glory of God’s Love may be made apparent to those who have forgotten it) then works are imminently necessary, for they are the job we have been given.

    People keep throwing around God’s Glory, and somehow seem to be able to detach that Glory from God’s love.

    But God’s Love, Holiness, and Glory are all part and parcel of each other, and any attempt to separate them is to do damage to the character and nature of God.

    To say that a world which suffers and in which the majority die without knowledge of healing glorifies God is an unloving statement, and outside of the character of the Jesus that we know, who actively ministered to the worst of sinners, and openly condemned the most correct of religious individuals.

    However, since I’m not reformed (though I did graduate from a Reformed school) there may be no point in continuing this argument here.

  23. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    I think I’d be a bit of a skeptic of a purely genetic component for homosexuality no matter my religious faith. There are identical twins who have two different sexual preferences. Obviously there is more to it than simply genetics. However, I have no religious reason to deny it’s genetic basis either. — Kenny Johnson

    Apparently the opposing dogmas say that it’s behavior/choice and that it’s genetic. Why can’t it be both? A vector solution of many factors that come together? A vector solution whose resulting orientation and strength of that orientation/behavior vary from individual to individual?

    (Because if you say so, both sides turn on you with “DIE, HERETIC!”, that’s why…)

    “…usually purported by the people with the loudest mouths…” — APritchett

    Pritchett’s right, Phil. I was in an Internet mailing list (God’s Creatures) that melted down into WW3 over Creation vs Evolution, perpetrated as well as “purported by those with the loudest mouths”. The only thing I can compare it to is the screaming denunciations in Chairman Mao’s Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. It killed the list and started grudges that continue to this day.

    And while we’re at each others’ throats screaming over Evolution and Homosexuality, pastors’ widows are still eating out of dumpsters.

    If the world is the way that God wants it, and suffering and destruction and corruption only glorifies Him, then what point would there be to responding to faith with works, and being judged by the works rather than by the faith? “Lord, when did we see you?” — Todd Erickson

    Last week I was visiting my writing partner, a burned-out pastor in rural Pennsylvania. Last Thursday night I tagged along to the Bible study he gave in the second (tiny & grey) church he pastors and heard him speak.

    The study/sermon included a warning about the teachings of some Hyper-Calvinists he had recently encountered. (Pastoral responsibility to warn the flock of bad “teachings which spread like gangrene.”) Part of that warning was exactly what Todd has described above. Since to Hyper-Calvinists everything is Predestined and God’s Will is Supreme (as in Islam), what we have around us is “The Best of All Possible Worlds” because that is What God Hath Willed — all the suffering and destruction and corruption and the majority dying without knowledge of healing — and there is no point in responding to it with works of mercy or ministry.

    • As you can see from what has continued to unfold here, the loud mouths exist on both sides of this debate.

      As my mom used to say as she seperated my brother and me when we were fighting as children, “It takes two to fight.”

  24. What is the error/sin in understanding creation as a genuine, inexplicable miracle? Jeremiah, Psalmists, and Jesus (to name 3 off the top of my head) affirm the doctrine of creation, and Jesus and Paul seem to historically affirm Adam and Eve (not figuratively, but historically). And it seems to me that the resurrection is a far greater stretch to explain scientifically. Water to wine? Bread and fish for thousands? So … what is the error/sin in understanding creation as a genuine, inexplicable miracle?

  25. Jeremiah Lawson says:

    Andrew, the lack of evangelical objection to IVF might be because of quiver-full theology.

  26. Ah, another creation-evolution discussion is brewing.

    Well, I only want to strike a blow for the dinosaurs, for they are not here to defend themselves.

    My son is 10. Small boys need lots of loud sources of destruction, and if it has red eyes and claws and is as big as a house, all the better. So we have buckets of plastic dinosaurs at my house, and late at night, when my son should be asleep, they can be heard roaring from upstairs.

    Now into this perfectly fun fetish come stomping the Creationist puritans, who are apparently afraid that if children get fascinated by dinosaurs, they will slide all the way down that slippery slope into the maw of hell. You think I exaggerate? I know of parents in the homeschool circles we frequent who keep dinosaurs away from their children. We have to check my son’s pockets before certain playdates.

    The Great Lizards have apparently become the evil icons of evolution in the eyes of many conservative christians. Maybe you have to have children a certain age to appreciate just how far the ghetto-ization of evangelicalism has gone.

    I actually believe whatever Genesis 1 and 2 are saying, but I cannot tell my son that the paleontologists he adores on YouTube have the dates all wrong, or that they are part of a conspiracy to destroy the bible. Good grief, these are good people, telling the truth about what they see in history. They are not the enemies of Jesus.

    My serious point is that we are setting up our children to grow out of their faith when they leave home and we can’t cover their ears any more.

    Let the Ken Hams give their lives to the cause if they must, but leave the dinosaurs out of it. They, also, are not the enemies of Jesus.

  27. Tim

    In your reply you seem to indicate that YEC have a problem with dinosaurs. Please look up Ken Ham’s web site to correct this misconception. These “terrible lizards” are modeled throughout AIG’s Creation Museum.

    My young nephew (homeschooled though he is) can tell you all about the dinosaurs. No visit to their home is complete without a rehearsing of the characteristics of his latest dino model or a fosil discovered in the stream on grandma’s farm. Amazingly, he can even spell their names correctly!

    My sister and brother-in-law do not share your reticence in telling their children when they disagree with his favorite paleontologist.

  28. Roger du Barry says:

    The creation versus evolution/old-earth debate boils down to one very simple point: authority. It is the authority of God versus the authority of modern theories of origins. That is the bottom line. Everything else is a red herring.

  29. Jeremiah Lawson and Andrew: I’m not good at guessing games. I did figure out that IVF probably does not mean Inter-Varsity Fellowship. Now I’m thinking it might mean in vitro fertilization. Am I still wrong and it means something else? I am older and not really a part of the all abbreviations all the time crowd (ROFL, LOL, WTF?, etc.)

    Apologies, iMonk, for this between-the-lines request for clarification. You can’t tell the players without a program.

  30. Mike the Geologist says:

    Roger du Barry:”The creation versus evolution/old-earth debate boils down to one very simple point: authority. It is the authority of God versus the authority of modern theories of origins. That is the bottom line. Everything else is a red herring.” As in “Who ya gonna believe, me or yer own stinkin’ eyes” (joke). Consider these quotes:
    “People gave ear to an upstart astrologer who strove to show that the earth revolves, not the heavens or the firmament, the sun and the moon. Whoever wishes to appear clever must devise some new system, which of all systems is of course the very best. This fool [or ‘man’] wishes to reverse the entire science of astronomy; but sacred Scripture tells us that Joshua commanded the sun to stand still, and not the earth.”
    – Martin Luther, Table Talk

    “Those who assert that ‘the earth moves and turns’…[are] motivated by ‘a spirit of bitterness, contradiction, and faultfinding;’ possessed by the devil, they aimed ‘to pervert the order of nature.'”
    – John Calvin, sermon no. 8 on 1st Corinthians, 677, cited in John Calvin: A Sixteenth Century Portrait by William J. Bouwsma (Oxford Univ. Press, 1988), A. 72
    There are 67 Bible verses that “affirm” geocentrism, more so than “affirm” a young earth. But you don’t believe in geocentrism, tell me why not. Also, I’m willing to bet you don’t really take Genesis literally. To take Genesis literally would be to conceive of the earth as a flat disk with waters below it and waters above it, with the waters above it held up by a dome-shaped firmament on which the sun, the moon, and all the stars are hung. None of us believe in that cosmology today, nor should we. Nor do God’s eternal truths expounded in Genesis require us to believe that cosmology. Consider this verse of scripture: Revelation 6:12 When he opened the sixth seal, I looked, and behold, there was a great earthquake, and the sun became black as sackcloth, the full moon became like blood, 13 and the stars of the sky fell to the earth as the fig tree sheds its winter fruit when shaken by a gale.(ESV). I agree with the host of this site when he wrote concerning this verse: “I do not believe the stars will fall to the earth. I don’t. I don’t believe stars are in the sky. I don’t believe the writer understood what stars are or how they operate or the distances involved. I think this is pre-scientific language, and it is meant to tell us truth in its own way. A simple illustration, but it clearly shows that literary purpose must come before “literal” interpretation.
    Now if I insist on a literal interpretation of this verse as a way of saying it is true and inspired, I am not treating the text with reverence and respect. I may be well motivated, but I am damaging the text.(http://www.internetmonk.com/articles/C/creation.html.
    When we misuse the Genesis text we undermine the authority of scripture to the next generation.

  31. I remember coming across the piazza in Rome where they burnt Bruno for believing the earth revolved around the sun.

    Was this right or wrong? Was it OK because the people doing the burning stood on the “authority of God” rather than modern theories?

    Is teaching children that the earth is 6000 years old right or wrong? Is it OK to teach untruth because the teachers stand on the “authority of God” rather than modern theories?

  32. Jjoe

    I think your illustration does not make your point. Evolution is the accepted creation myth in our culture and, evidently, of many churches. Evoultion is not some minority report held only by a few.

    YEC are the ones who disagree with the accepted paradigm of our culture, and of many who read this blog (of which I am a huge fan! imonk, you are the only blog I read every day!).

    “Is teaching children that the earth is 6000 years old right or wrong? Is it OK to teach untruth because the teachers stand on the “authority of God” rather than modern theories?”

    I will make a note: There is a right way to think and a wrong way to think. Clearly reasoned viewpoints that disagree with your understanding must not be taught to children, impressionable as they are.

    At least you are consistant with you agreement with the new athiests. They too view the teaching of a literal view of the Biblical creation account to be child abuse. Please be a little more careful where your reasoning leads.

  33. Sarah O says:

    “What is the error/sin in understanding creation as a genuine, inexplicable miracle? Jeremiah, Psalmists, and Jesus (to name 3 off the top of my head) affirm the doctrine of creation, and Jesus and Paul seem to historically affirm Adam and Eve (not figuratively, but historically). And it seems to me that the resurrection is a far greater stretch to explain scientifically. Water to wine? Bread and fish for thousands? So … what is the error/sin in understanding creation as a genuine, inexplicable miracle?”

    -Robert TRJ

    It seems to me the theory of evolution is still genuinely miraculous. The theory explains the mechanism of the process- in no way does it account for the whys or hows of the process. The miracle to me is that we, the planet, the world etc, exist at all. Existence is in and of itself a miracle. The process of how existence changes from one form to another is pretty amazing, but knowing about how it works, or thinking we know, doesn’t take away from that initial, central shock of miracle- that where there could be nothingness, there is something.

    I imagine standing in front of a blank canvass, watching it slowly transform into a painting. The hand is invisible to me- but I can watch the strokes and the gentle piling up of color. Is that less miraculous than the painting existing- pooof- all the sudden? To me, both are pretty amazing miracles.

  34. “Darwin’s theory of evolution”

    What this means to 99% of the people who use the term is NOT what the hard science folks understand.

    Evolution is change over time. The theory of natural selection was Darwin’s way to explain the evolution he felt took place. Ramming them together adds a huge amount of confusion to this issue. And all sides do it.

    Most scientists in paleontology and biology support evolution. A much smaller percentage support natural selection.

    I personally feel you can be a Christian and support evolution as noted above. Or at least admit it might have happened. The theory of natural selection has a lot “non support” amongst both Christians and non-Christians as having way too many issues to be believable.

  35. Roger du Barry says:

    Mike the Geologist

    Yes, I take Genesis literally. No, Genesis does not teach that the earth is flat disc. To say that I should think it does is a false argument. Yes, the universe is earth-centric, but not in a geological or astronomical sense. From my perspective the sun rises and sets. If I were on the sun the opposite would be that case. To state the obvious, the Bible is written for earthlings, not aliens, so for us the universe is geocentric.

    In my eyes it is you who is misusing the Bible by using sources external to it to make it fit in with what you have been taught elsewhere. That is not interpretation, but imposition.

    You are making the Bible conform to your geological education. Again, it is a matter of authority. You trust your geology lecturers more than the Bible.

  36. If you want this thread to continue, do not tell another commenter they don’t believe the Bible when they believe it, but interpret it differently than you.

    • Roger du Barry says:

      Michael, I am not one of your school pupils, so please do not adopt an authoritarian tone with me. I am a grown-up man with a family, and a church to pastor. Please treat me with respect. If you are not willing to do so I will gladly move on from your site. Just let me know of your decision.

      Also, you are missing my point. This is not about a different interpretation. It is about a wrong interpretation that is in fact not interpretation at all. It is subjecting scripture to science, indeed, modifying scripture to conform to it.

      As a school teacher, you should know better than anyone else that every piece of literature must be granted its own integrity, that is, its wholeness. Adding other material to it, in this case an old earth theory, destroys that integrity and thus cannot be counted as interpretation.\

      We don’t do that to Mark Twain, so why do it to God’s word?

      James Barr knew this, and respected it, and said that every Professor of OT and Hebrew known to him believed that the author of Genesis taught six day creation – but they all disagreed. That is the honest and informed position.

      I am not ascribing dishonesty to anyone here, but I am ascribing a certain literary naivety. I have found that people with a scientific education tend to be unaware of the rules surrounding textual integrity, or wholeness.

      I am saying to Mike the Geologist that his position is not interpretation as defined by the rules of interpretation. You have made your own position clear, and I say to you that you need to rethink things in the light of a proper exegetical method.

  37. Donalbain says:

    Most scientists in paleontology and biology support evolution. A much smaller percentage support natural selection.

    Well, yes.. in the sense that 99.99999999999999999999999998% is much smaller than 99.99999999999999999999999999%

  38. “Well, yes.. in the sense that 99.99999999999999999999999998% is much smaller than 99.99999999999999999999999999%”

    If you drop off all the advocates of each position and just follow the people doing research in the areas you’ll find than natural selection has a lot of troubled followers. They don’t like it but outside of a “god” they can’t come up with anything else so they don’t so much champion it but more tolerate it as they have nothing (from their perspective) better. Things like eyes and reproductive systems coming about by random mutations is a hard nut to swallow but jumping to “God did it” is harder for many of them.

  39. Mike the Geologist says:

    Roger, I really think you are conflating proximate cause with ultimate cause. To borrow an illustration from the Glover series I referenced earlier: If you come to my house and there is a kettle boiling on the stove and you ask me; “Why is that kettle boiling” I could answer you two ways. One I could say it is boiling because the heat from the burner is transferred to the metal of the kettle and hence to the water. The temperature of the water is raised above 212 deg. F and there is a phase change from liquid to gas. Or…I could say because I want a cup of tea. One is a proximate cause the other is an ultimate cause. Now notice you could empirically reach the same proximate cause as me but you could not reach the ultimate cause unless I reveal it to you. I submit to you the Bible is not a book of proximate causes, you don’t reference it if you want to build and program a computer, build and fly an airplane or a space shuttle, etc. The Bible is very much of book of ultimate causes which we could not know unless its author revealed them to us. Let us take another example closer to the controversy; did God create you or did your biological parents have sex, and your father’s sperm fertilized your mother’s egg, you became an embryo, developed in her womb and was born. Did God form you in your mother’s womb or did you naturally develop. Neither answer contradicts the other. One speaks of God’s providential sovereignty through natural laws, the other speaks to God’s special purpose in creating you. My belief in an old earth is based on my understanding of proximate causes, but I still firmly believe that God created this earth and all that is on it. I believe that God created me therefore my life has meaning and purpose. In fact it was the teleological and moral arguments that caused me to drop my atheism. I could not believe the materialist assertion that my life had no meaning or purpose except to exist. At least at the time that is how I saw it from my viewpoint. I know now that God was patiently and lovingly revealing himself to me through Jesus Christ. No amount of so called “scientific” arguments or data i.e. proximate causes could ever cause me to disbelieve the Bible, BECAUSE I know and am known by its author. I trust Him implicitly, even when so-called scientific facts seem to contradict. I know ultimately that His general revelation will NEVER contradict His special revelation- The Word. Any seeming contradiction is always a matter of misinterpreting either the Bible or the natural data. Hope that clarifies my position.

    • Roger du Barry says:

      Mike, I am fully aware of primary and secondary causes. Thank you for the trouble you took, but you are missing my point.

      The Bible is a literary work. Rule one in interpreting literature is to recognize and respect the integrity, the wholeness, of the finished work. That means that you do not subject it to outside sources and material in discovering its meaning. You consider the internal evidence on its own.

      For example, the Lord Jesus in Luke three has a genealogy that goes all the way back to Adam. Adam was created on day six of time and space, about 4000 years BC according to Genesis 1, when you add up the life-spans in the genealogies provided in Genesis.

      The fourth commandment has God in person speaking to Israel at Sinai, and he explicitly says that the reason for the Sabbath is that he stopped working on day seven of the first week of the creation. It all ties in.

      That is the way that Luke, Moses, and God himself at Sinai, interpret Genesis.

      You are subjecting the text to external material, and in doing so you have violated its wholeness, and in doing so, violated its meaning. Literature, like science, has its method. Don’t mix them up.

      Finally, I fully accept your sincerity when you say that you trust God above science. However, I would suggest that you are a little naive in your reading of the text. That is not a sin. For your part, i would hope that you do not ascribe stupidity, ignorance, or deliberate willfulness to six day people. After all, it is the historical position of the entire Christian Church.

      Peace

      • Since you’ve decided to talk to the moderator of this site like he’s one of your students, you’re now on moderation. Your posts will be approved before they are posted.

  40. “The creation versus evolution/old-earth debate boils down to one very simple point: authority. It is the authority of God versus the authority of modern theories of origins. That is the bottom line. Everything else is a red herring.”

    For the last 2000 years this position has failed miserably. I hate to bring it up but this was exactly the same position many of the faith took when telescopes revealed the way the solar system worked. And their arguments were lost. But not without a lot of name calling and burning at the stake and driving many from the faith. Now days we skip the burning but continue with the name calling and driving from the faith.

  41. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    When did Young Earth Creationism become THE Gospel?

    Did Christ somehow abdicate His throne and YEC grabbed the empty seat?

    Oh, and Roger Du Barry?

    Look up a Victorian movement called “Zetetic Astronomy” sometime. It was founded to preserve God’s Word from Godless Science, and used many of the same arguments you currently hear from Ken Ham et al regarding “Authority of God (in Scripture) vs authority of modern man”, i.e. “God Said It, I Believe It, That Settles It.”

    They’re still around, but they’ve changed their name in the intervening century and a half.

    Now they call themselves The Flat Earth Society.

  42. Hey, how about a little more Christian love, fellows (and ladies)? There seems to be more heat than light being created here.

    Just picked up my copy of Francis Collins The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief. I also looked up iMonk’s essay on this topic. As a YEC advocate I have always wondered how Gen. one is interpreted by “the other side.”

    Thanks for the leads, people.

  43. “Hey, how about a little more Christian love, fellows (and ladies)? There seems to be more heat than light being created here.”

    With me and others I know and from what I read in comments on this site to past postings, many of us who feel YEC is very wrong, mostly stop there. We just feel it’s bad science and thus wrong. (And yes a few zelots go past that and thus too far.)

    But I and others have been told that not only are we wrong we are likely not saved if we don’t believe in YEC. By multiple people multiple times. In no uncertain terms.

    Lots of heat like that tends to generate some heat in defense.