March 28, 2017

Why I Am Not a Six-Day Creationist

The Garden of Earthly Delights, Bosch

The Garden of Earthly Delights, Bosch

Updates on the Creation Wars

Recently, Tim Challies posted “Why I Am a Six-Day Creationist.” The reasons he gave were:

  1. The Bible teaches it.
  2. The other Bible writers believed it.
  3. Science confirms it.

After these assertions, he states his conviction:

I believe the Bible speaks with greater clarity and greater authority than what I believe I see or what I believe I experience. Where many interpretations of science appear to contradict a literal six-day creation, I am not ready to re-interpret a clear and natural reading of Scripture to make it fit with these observations. The Bible is infinitely more stable than science and infinitely more reliable.

There has also been another chapter in the back-and-forth between Biologos and Ken Ham from Answers in Genesis.

I encourage you to read the original pieces, but here’s a summary of what has been said.

In 2006, Daniel Hamlin got involved in a local debate about evolution and creationism as a defender of the young earth creation perspective. He soon realized he didn’t know much about evolution. So he determined to learn all he could so he could answer it more effectively. Except that he became convinced of the other position: “After months of reading and studying numerous books, online articles and scientific journals, I realized that the Theory of Evolution accurately described the development of life on earth.”

This caused him to seriously question his faith. He almost threw it out, but he simply couldn’t deny what God had done in his life. So Daniel Hamlin began to try and reconcile his inner conflict. One of the most fundamental questions involved the Bible. He began to see that the writers of the Hebrew Bible were writing from within their own worldview and reflecting an ancient understanding of the universe and its makeup. After further consideration of how Christ became incarnate and was both fully God and fully human, he started thinking about the Bible in an incarnational way.

“The original authors recorded God’s self-revelation as he interacted with humanity and the people of Israel. As these interactions were recorded, they were written within the worldview of the author and in terms that the original audience could understand. Because of this, parts of scripture contain evidence of an ancient understanding of the world. However, God accommodated this understanding so that his story could be told, his message understood, and his love displayed.”

Daniel Hamlin is now a blogger for Nazarenes Exploring Evolution.

Ken Ham excoriates Nazarene universities for having compromised on creationist teachings, and responds to Hamlin’s testimony by saying, “With such disregard for the authority of God’s Word on creation by many Christian college professors, it’s no surprise when I read testimonies like Hamlin’s and see the destructive effects of evolutionary ideas on one’s Christian faith.”

Ham notes Hamlin’s automatic instinct to reject Christianity when he accepted evolution and implies that the two are indeed mutually exclusive — accepting evolutionary teachings will most certainly undermine the Bible’s authority. He then rejects Hamlin’s “accommodation” view of the Scriptures:

This is a false argument, and it is certainly not a new argument. BioLogos regularly claims that God “accommodated” His Word to the supposed primitive understanding of the Israelites. In essence, all that means is that God lied to His people, that the One who created language wasn’t able to communicate His own message truthfully to humans in a way we could understand. This is a clear example of man’s word being lifted above God’s Word. Such a view also undermines the perspicuity of Scripture. [Note: the link here will take you to an AiG page explaining their view of this doctrine.]

He contends that Moses wrote under the Holy Spirit’s inspiration to counter the ancient myths of the nations by writing Genesis as history, and links to another article from AiG which makes this argument. Ken Ham thinks people like Daniel Hamlin, who don’t agree with this, are undermining Biblical authority, will lead many away from the faith, and will one day have to answer to God for it.

* * *

And so the creation wars continue, especially here in the U.S.

Today, I will try to follow Tim Challies’s example of brevity and give you a few main reasons why I am NOT a six-day creationist.

Hebrew Cosmology.drawingWHY I AM NOT A SIX-DAY CREATIONIST

1. The Bible Does Not Teach It

Genesis 1 is not a historical report designed to explain how God created the universe in a scientific sense.

Genesis 1 is a creative theological meditation on how God, the King of the heavens and earth, formed a good land out of an uninhabitable wilderness to be his Temple, filled it with living things, and appointed human beings to be his priestly representatives and to multiply his blessing throughout the world. When God had finished his work, he rested and began to rule.

This theological meditation reflects both Ancient Near Eastern cosmology and Ancient Near Eastern creation myths and served as:

  1. A reflection of the way people viewed the natural world at that time,
  2. A polemic against the gods of the nations (the one true and living God alone is Creator).

Genesis 1 and the complementary creation story in Genesis 2-3 were also shaped to reflect Israel’s history.

Genesis 1-3 anticipates the entire First Testament story of Israel —

  • this chosen people who were brought through water and out of the wilderness,
  • who entered into a covenant with God the King, and settled in a good land.
  • There they disobeyed, and were exiled from that land among their enemies to the east.
  • Yet God promised his continued care and a future.

The Hebrew Bible was formed into its final shape after the Babylonian Exile. The early chapters of Genesis (1-11) were fashioned using terms, themes, and myths from Babylonian sources to communicate to the post-exilic community.

After the exile, Israel faced the same choice as the first covenant people, Adam and Eve: God has brought them back to the land. Will they eat from the tree of life and know God’s blessing?

A “clear and natural” reading of Genesis 1 and Genesis 2-3 means reading them in the context they were given and letting them fulfill the purposes for which they were written.

There are actually seven great Creation accounts in Scripture (Gen. 1, Gen. 2-3, Job 38-41, Psalm 104, Proverbs 8, passages in Ecclesiastes, Isaiah 40-66). They are written using different genres and reflecting various traditions. They complement each other and communicate truths appropriate to their contexts within the Bible’s overall narrative.

Let the Bible tell its story.

* * *

2. The Bible Was Not Given to Teach It

Genesis 1 and other Bible texts about creation have nothing to do with what scientists find through observing the natural world.

  • The universe is the arena of God’s general revelation. To understand it, we use methods designed for observing and analyzing its natural materials and processes. The focus is entirely on the “stuff” of creation and what it tells us.
  • The Bible is the primary source for studying and understanding special revelation about God and his plan for humankind and all creation in Christ. Beginning in Genesis, we find that this is summarized in the prayer, “May your Kingdom come, may your will be done on earth as in heaven.” The fulfillment of that is in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Tim Challies doesn’t give any reasons for his conviction that science confirms a six-day creation, and it is not really my place to answer such arguments anyway. That kind of evidence is beyond my pay grade, and as in so many areas in life, I must learn to trust those who do the study and hard work and become experts in the field. So I’m not going to make any comments here about the science.

What I will say is that the Bible should not come into the discussion at all when analyzing the science.

This is not a matter of choosing to trust the “authority” of science over the “authority” of the Bible. That suggests the two are designed to speak to the same subjects. They are not.

Let the scientists do science and help us understand how the world works.

Let the Bible work faith, hope, and love through Jesus Christ and bring us to God’s new creation.

Comments

  1. I assume that Challies means six twenty-four hour days. He also affirms the young earth position. Calvin had some very perceptive comments on Genesis long before the evolution debate! See quote at end: http://textsincontext.wordpress.com/2012/05/03/in-the-beginning/

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      And since Calvin overrides Bible in so many other things, thus the Young Restless and TRULY Reformed cannot be YECs…

  2. I have been reading John Walton’s book The Lost World of Genesis One which talks about creation as assignment of function rather than of material creation. He describes the creation in Genesis as the inauguration of the Temple not a description of creation ex nihilo. (If I am understanding things correctly.) Its a fascinating study.

    • Thanks for reminding me about this book. It was on my book shelf and is now on my table next to me waiting to be read again.

  3. Seeing the arrogance in his spirit and the way Ham bullies those who disagree, one can “see the destructive effects of YEC ideas on one’s Christian faith.”

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      Even if one is thoroughly convinced of YEC; I do not understand why it rates so highly as an issue. Why YECers must incessantly bring this up at the mere slightest allusion to time, or creation, etc… My issue is not if someone really believes [I do not, nor see any credible evidence for it what-so-ever] but how it manages to squelch or contaminate all other conversation.

      It, like LGBT[Q] issues is becoming in some circles, is a fighting issue, more than anything else. A litmus test if A can cooperate with B regarding anything at all.

      Litmus issues are stupid, and a cancer within a civil society. The ‘cure’ is not so much to convince the other side they are wrong [good luck] but to draw the focus more to *results*. Is the widow cared for? The poor fed? The shut-in visited? The grieving person not abandoned? Touching the suffering of a neighbor will do more against this back-and-forth nonsense than all the dialog in the world.

      There is no charity in the back-and-forth engaged in by many YEC proponents.

      • I originally thought it was adiaphora (what is neither forbidden nor required – free to conscience). However, I spent about 6 months on Biologos, and became convinced that evolution is destructive to Christian doctrine. Deep consideration will cause you to question what is good, the character of God, the nature of the Law, etc.

        • Adam Tauno Williams says:

          > that evolution is destructive to Christian doctrine

          As someone who reads weekly scientific journals, etc… I just do not see it. Biology and it’s evolution is a mechanism, much like the electron migration and capture makes the transistors go which are carrying this blog post and comments across ‘the Internet’ [itself made stable and operational by vast and innumerable mechanisms].

          There are certainly things with threaten Christian doctrine [and IMNSHO threaten just about everything] but I do not see biological evolution doing so. Is that what you are speaking about?

          Because I will stand in your camp if you believe “evolutionary psychology” does so; but I stand in the camp that is deeply skeptical of the ‘science’ of “psychology” in it’s near entirety.

          But we must be specific and be careful to disambiguate in order to discuss sensibly [and civilly].

          • The critical component is common descent (death before the Fall is second, but might be reconcilable).

          • Adam Tauno Williams says:

            > The critical component is common descent

            Why? The purpose of Genesis 1, once you abandoned strict literalism [1], the purpose of the story remains to explain/illuminate the relationship between mankind and the Creator.

            Is it a theological requirement to literally believe that sin is biologically inherited?

            [1 : which, honestly *everyone* does, as even Genesis 1 & Genesis 2+3 do not fit together well – and you still have creation related accounts in Job, Isiah, and Ecclesiastes which *really* do not fit together (I’m willing to toss Psalms out of the mix – it is a different kind of thing entirely). Anyone claiming to believe in a ***literal*** Genesis account has major major problems on their hands.]

            > (death before the Fall is second, but might be reconcilable).

            No, I do not see this as a problem at all. It is *folklore* that describes the Edenic world, not scripture. One must approach the story carefully, and not bring the mountain of cultural embellishments that we have grafted on to it. It is a very very short and spartan tale. Frustratingly so, even for a very non-literalist. So God seems to have come on gone from the garden Adam [2]…. and…. ?? ? ? ? Seriously. Nothing they talked about, or what God communicated to Adam, merited being recorded? Really? These are the most frustrating verses, IMHO, in the entire &@^&*@( bible. So the almighty at some point walked in fellowship in a man, or men, or some men, or some proto-men [who cares!!!] and… no point in detailing that, nope.

            [2 : another literalist problem – why “in the cool of the day”? Was the garden hot? Was Adam ***laboring*** during the other parts of the day? He was put in the garden to take care of it…how? (was it not perfect?) And what form did God have? Was he already incarnated as Christ? Or did he have a pre-Christ incarnate form? Remember that they *heard* God walking in the garden! And why was being naked shameful? It was just Adam, his wife, and the Creator? Is nakedness a sin? The questions go on forever – the story is much too spartan, it is a monument to minimalism. ]

            It is best to lay down our folklore, accept the clear intend of the story, and move on. The scriptures are clearly no Chilton’s manual for fixing the world.

          • Common Descent (CD) is a problem because it creates tension between God’s creative decree and the moral law.

            God says everything is good before the first human – yet, there are animals which demonstrate sin analogues (lying, theft, evil desire, conspiracy to murder). Are these good? Why does God’s moral law decree abstention from that which follows naturally from creation?

            • First of all, these theological questions are in the domain of biblical interpretation. We don’t need to even think about the findings of science to discuss them.

              Second, in my reading of Genesis, there is no explanation of the origin of evil or death. They are already present in the chaos in Gen 1:2, the serpent, and the mortal condition of Adam and Eve, who had to eat from the tree of life to live forever. The “goodness” of the land God prepared does not mean perfection but an abundant and fertile creation.

              The death Adam brought was covenant death, being cast out of the Promised Land into exile and barred from the blessing of God through the tree of life. He was the first Israel — the first human with whom God entered into a covenant. Having broken the covenant, he was cast out into the world of death. From there he had to learn the way back to the tree of life.

          • Would you say then that we do not receive physical life, but covenant life? That physical death is good, and continues eternally?

            • No. Adam and Eve had the opportunity to escape all forms of death through the tree of life, and to win that blessing on behalf of the whole world.

              This became Israel’s task later — to receive life from God and be his light to all nations that they too may live.

              They failed, but Jesus fulfilled Israel’s calling, died to pay the penalty for the broken covenant, and rose from the dead to be the Tree of Life for all the world.

          • Nedbrek, re death before the fall: when God told Adam about the fruit of the tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, he said, “the day you eat of it you will surely die”.
            1. How would this info be at all helpful to Adam unless he somehow already knew what “death” was?
            2. Was the word “surely” contrasted with the idea the death would otherwise NEVER occur? Or did it mean that accidental death was possible, or that eating of the tree of life was always necessary to stave off death?
            The point here is that one can even be a YEC (though I myself am no longer YEC) and still find that scripture leaves room for the idea of death before the fall.
            For myself, I realized that my previous insistence on no-death-before-fall was based not on scripture, but on my internal wishful thinking about Eden:
            – Eden was the perfect place
            – my idea of a perfect place and perfect life must exclude the possibility of death
            – therefore Eden, pre-fall, must have not included any experience of death.
            In retrospect, I was reading my own desires into scripture, rather than allowing for other possibilities.

          • Steve, is death not our enemy? Or is it our Creator?

          • Chaplain Mike, I said:
            “God says everything is good before the first human – yet, there are animals which demonstrate sin analogues (lying, theft, evil desire, conspiracy to murder). Are these good? Why does God’s moral law decree abstention from that which follows naturally from creation?”

            To which, you replied:
            “First of all, these theological questions are in the domain of biblical interpretation. We don’t need to even think about the findings of science to discuss them.”

            Sure, but you must reconcile your theological position with the scientific position you take. You cannot say that murder is bad for humans, but ok for sub-humans – that is arbitrary.

          • Ken, good question. Please note that I did not say that death was our creator. My point is that even a literal reading of Genesis allows for the viewpoint that death occurred in Eden prior to the fall.
            Similarly, at the beginning God’s work described in Genesis, the default state of the earth was chaos (formless and void), and this chaos was also prior to the fall of man. Does that mean I must conclude that God loves chaos?
            No. It just is what it is.
            It is quite possible that Eden, and the Tree of Life, may be the exception rather than the rule, representing God’s special loving care and concern to provide the possibility of continued life even in the midst of a universe that would otherwise have been chaos (and death).
            It would also appear that post-fall, the exile from the Garden (which, away from the Tree of Life then meant certain physical death) was actually an act of mercy, so that Man would not have to live forever in a world groaning under the weight of the fall.

          • Re: death in Genesis 2, the important bit for me is that God promised death as soon as Adam and Eve ate the fruit of the Tree. Only they didn’t (physically) die. In my mind that leaves only three possibilities: either God is a liar, or He was referring to some other death, or the story itself is an allegory. In any of those three scenarios, it would seem that the hardline YEC view is no longer relevant.

          • Why do you think the text indicates that they would die immediately after eating the forbidden fruit?

          • I think you’re asking me what I see in the text to make me think God indicated they would die *immediately* after eating the fruit. Well, because it says so (to my untrained eye): “in the day that you eat” (ESV, NASB). (Yes, “day” can mean “era”, but I’m not so sure that doesn’t make my case even stronger.)

            If you’re asking for my opinion as to *why* the text says that at all, I think it’s because separation from God—spiritual death—occurred at the moment in the story when mankind rebelled.

      • Dana Ames says:

        Adam,

        it rates so highly as an issue because it’s an inerrancy/infallability thing. If one does not believe this particular interpretation of scripture (though proponents would not call it an interpretation – it’s simply “the plain meaning”), then one must not believe The Bible in general. And if one does not believe The Bible (which is to say, this person’s/group’s interpretation of it) then one might not believe what one must believe in order to Be Saved. One’s salvation is called into question – not unlike, it seems to me, the mindset behind the Inquisition, with a particular view of “the soul” that justified torture similar to this particular view of scripture that justifies shouting and bullying.

        I understood for a long time that there were differences in interpretation of scripture. As I became more aware of the ramifications of those interpretations, the way I understood God and creation and many other things changed.

        Dana

        • I agree, Dana. Another thing I think is that many people hear evolution and they automatically assume it leads to an atheistic worldview. This has been the most common thing I’ve run into beyond the Scriptural issues. For some reason, people just assume that if evolution is true, it means that God is completely out of the picture. Certainly most atheists are evolutionists (hard to imagine many that aren’t), but that doesn’t mean that everyone who affirm evolutionary theory is an atheist or on the road to becoming one. But I hear this all the time. Honestly, I don’t quite understand it other than the fact that the issue is so entrenched in the culture wars that people are just use to an “all or nothing” approach to these things.

          • Because the evangelical universe is full of people like my mother who when they bump into this issues yell out “my children are not descended from monkeys!”

        • The slippery slope is real. Moderate Christians try to get away with accepting science, but rejecting the more corrosive wing of biblical scholarship, not to mention common-sense observations about the world (e.g., that miracles are impossible and therefore do not happen). This is because their religion can survive the loss of Adam and Eve, but not the loss of Jesus (interpreted in a certain way).

          • Wexel, really?

            So do you (and nedbrek) think that Joshua stopped the sun in the sky? What would that have done to earth? It would not have lengthened the day, since (supposing everything else was held in place by God), the earth would spin and Joshua’s time-zone would have spun away from the sun. Even if, by God’s miracle, the sun stayed still in space, the earth would have continued with its day and night. If the earth stopped spinning, then why didn’t the Bible tell us it was the earth and not the sun. Miracle or not, the Bible gets the Joshua story wrong. lt should have read: the earth stopped in its spin at mid-day Middle Eastern time.

            Because the Vatican once thought this view was a slippery slope and locked up Galileo over it. Faith is faith, it is being sure of what is not seen. You are given no worldly proof for your belief in this lifetime. Evolution will not shake the faith of those of us who have encountered God, just like heliocentrism didn’t shake the faith of our predecessors. God said we have dominion over this earth, Scientist intuitively understand this. My question to you is, do you want Christian scientists in the ring as they splice and dice genetics into all sorts of lifeforms, or do you want Christians hiding under a rock, ears covered, eyes closed, saying “we don’t believe you”? As for me and my house, we will not be bound by fear, for this world God created has many secrets yet to be uncovered and I will never hold my kids back from learning and exploring all the majesty and vastness that exists beyond our naked eye. Genes, God-particles, you name it.

          • The Joshua account is very short on details:

            Joshua 10:13a “So the sun stood still, and the moon stopped”

            All I get from that is that the sun appeared to stay in the same place, and also the moon (if it was visible) – or the moon did not come out at the usual time. The mechanism for this is not given.

          • @nedbrek

            Precisely, the mechanism is not given. The exact same thing can be said of the creation accounts, applying very similar reasoning to your own in regards to the Joshua account.

  4. Good piece Mike, thanks.

    I am an old-earth, very old universe creationist for (among other things) the reason that it simply is the least complicated explanation. It’s the same reason I don’t believe in a dispensational reading of Revelations with lots of numerology and complicated charts and graphs that take hundreds of pages to explain. Occams razor often works. The most simple answer is probably the right one. 6×24 creationists may think they have the most “plain” reading of scripture, but it takes hundreds of pages to explain why the universe looks kind of old anyway. I mean, you can go down that road if you want, but it’s easier to just say, hey, what if it just took a long time? Done.

    Now, I can’t get on the Biologos wagon since I think evolutionary theory has all kinds of problems of it’s own. I’m not interested in hashing out the possible details. I also believe in a completely historical (and relatively recent) Adam because I think the rest of the entirety of scripture is severely undermined otherwise. But old-universe creationism doesn’t undermine anything as far as I’m concerned. So I’ll stick with that. I’m left with more time in the day to read the gospels, or play with my kids instead of arguing on the internet. Sweet!

  5. Good grief. And I suppose Challies and others of his ilk believe the universe rotates around Earth, too.

  6. “Science” was originally about repeatability and observability. History is neither. At some point, it was conflated with philosophical naturalism – which is incompatible with supernaturalism, which is required for Christianity. So, yes, “science” (so-called today) is incompatible with Christianity (as long as your definition of Christianity includes a real resurrection – a supernatural event).

    • If science becomes entwined with philosophic naturalism, or any metaphysical speculations, it has transgressed its bounds as well.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      And once again “Denying YEC = Denying the Resurrection = Denying Christ!!!!!”

      Lather, Rinse, Repeat, Lather, Rinse, Repeat, Lather, Rinse, Repeat…

      CM, you may as well close the comments now. The Defenders of the YEC Faith are rallying against Internet Monk. Again.

      • Klasie Kraalogies says:

        Actually, it seems to be a lot better now than in previous versions of these debates. Now there is just a bit of rotten produce flying through the air – the pitchforks and burning crosses have been left at home.

    • Christiane says:

      But scientists also examine Creation in their way. And what they observe about it has value:

      Here is something to think about:

      “…methodical research in all branches of knowledge, provided it is carried out in a truly scientific manner and does not override moral laws, can never conflict with the faith, because the things of the world and the things of faith derive from the same God.
      The humble and persevering investigator of the secrets of nature is being led, as it were, by the Hand of God in spite of himself, for it is God, the Conserver of all things, who made them what they are.”
      from ‘Gaudium et Spes’, a pastoral letter.

      I’m also fond of this quote:
      “Though faith is above reason, there can never be any real discrepancy between faith and reason. Since the same God who reveals mysteries and infuses faith has bestowed the light of reason on the human mind, God cannot deny Himself, nor can truth ever contradict truth”.

      People like Ken Ham filled with pride and anger towards those who disagree . . . how do they further understanding and dialogue? Ham’s anger is intended to shut dialogue down, to quell questions. That attitude has turned many young people away from the fundamentalist-evangelical Church.

    • I’m a scientist in the modern world, and a Christian. I certainly don’t view science as conflated with philosophical naturalism. I’m distressed at your comment, because it seems to suggest that Christians should eschew science because of this supposed taint, when in fact I strongly believe the very opposite is the case. The reason modern science is seen as being so entwined with philosophical naturalism is because modern Christians don’t take it seriously enough! Nature abhors a vacuum, and the secular world moved in…

  7. Edwyn Bevan, in a series of lectures called “Symbolism and Belief”, 1938, speaks eloquently of the evidence for an old earth and the evidence for a spiritual view of reality behind phenomena. They are 385 pages long, but I think you could just read lecture 16( the last one) and get the power of his thoughts( and his understanding of an old universe and the sunmming up of all things).
    I came upon these lectures when reading the last interview ever given by C.S.Lewis in which he acknowledges the significance of Edwyn Bevan upon his thought.
    If you read the last lecture, it will definitely entice you to read them all, and you won’t be disappointed.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      > I came upon these lectures when reading the last interview ever given by C.S.Lewis
      > in which he acknowledges the significance of Edwyn Bevan upon his thought.

      And it should be noted that C.S. Lewis was certainly not a YEC. Yet he was a reasonably effective apologist and almost certainly one of the most approachable ‘theologians’ of the 21st century. It would be hard to find a Christian in the western world who has not read something of his.

      I like to meditate on what Kenneth Tynan [not a Christian, certainly not ‘conservative’ by any definition, but who spoke at C.S. Lewis’ funeral] wrote of Lewis in his journals: “How thrilling he makes goodness seem. How tangible and radiant.” We need much more of that.

  8. I guess the best description of what I believe would be Theistic Evolution, basically that God guided the evolutionary process here and there, or simply set things up so it would run the way he wanted.

    There is one aspect of this that does cause some significant theological problems for me and that is the origin of Sin. The actual creation part of things doesn’t seem that central to faith, but the origin of Sin is very important to the overall story of the Bible, since the whole point of Christ coming was to reconcile us to God. If there was no particular “Original Sin” why was that necessary?

    I’m sure that others have struggled with this as well, but I haven’t yet been motivated to truly seek out explanations. Can anyone point me in the right direction?

    • Ken,

      I suppose I’m basically on the same wavelength as you. To me, it seems that God had a guiding hand in the evolutionary process in the same way that He guides the world today. Unlike ID advocates, I don’t see anything that cries out for a Divine Push to get us up Mount Improbable, but I do feel that God still somehow, ineffably, guides things. Thy will be done, on primoridal earth, as it is in the cosmic background radiating heavens.

      All of which might begin to speak to your more specific, and wholly valid, question about original sin. Since we agree that there is sin in the world [looks in mirror, shakes head sadly], it must have had a beginning. But when?

      Here a sort of strange thing happens among traditionalists. Namely, the fact that Adam/Eve sinned not only gives a specific event to point to, but it also somehow insulates God from any “responsibility.” In other words, God created a perfect world, but someone else screwed it up.

      A better, and completely uncontroversial, way of stating matters would instead be: “God created a world with the possibility of sin entering into it.” That’s the universe He made. No traditionalist could possibbly disagree. The universe simply wasn’t foolproof.

      And that, for me, is the point: the evolutionary process wasn’t foolproof either. One can ask whether that’s a bug or a feature, but it gives us space to think about various possibilities. I think of sin as a “natural” if unfortunate outgrowth of things. Others might instead point to the emergence of consciousness and work with that. I prefer the more general view, since death has always been a part of life. (Indeed, one of the major flows of traditionalist accounts is the idea of reproduction without death — an ecological impossibility.)

      I don’t know that I’ve helped much, Ken, but I wish you all the best in your continued journey. You’re certainly not alone.

    • I don’t see how the issue of where sin originated from is any more or less of a problem with evolution in the mix than it is without it. Even if a person takes a literal view of Genesis they’re left with a lot of questions. For example, where did the serpent come from? Why was he in the garden if the garden was a place of sinless perfection? These are philosophical problems having to do with theodicy that don’t lend themselves to easy answers.

      The fact of the matter is that Bible wasn’t given to us to provide with an airtight philosophy that gives us the answer to everything. Scripture is given to us to point us to Christ, and to testify to God’s faithfulness. Honestly, the older I get, the less patience I have getting into these sorts of arguments (not saying this in regards to your comment – just the YEC thing in general). I think that they are sideshows, and they simply end doing more harm than good.

    • The Original Sin is the deliberate choice to disobey God and break our relationship with Him by trying to put ourselves in the place of little ‘gods’ by ourselves.

      Does this mean that all humans are descended from one particular pair of humans who committed this particular sin? If there were more humans (truly humans) than that particular pair, did they suffer the same effects? What about their offspring?

      For Catholics, we are bound by the teaching of Pope Pius XII in his 1950 encyclical “Humani Generis” (although some might wish he hadn’t expressed so definite an opinion and cut off theological disputation). The relevant parts are these: (a) evolution itself (b) the doctrine of polygenism (that is, many humans existing and having offspring, not an original couple the parents of all true humans, or that Adam and Eve are only symbolic representations for the original human population):

      36. For these reasons the Teaching Authority of the Church does not forbid that, in conformity with the present state of human sciences and sacred theology, research and discussions, on the part of men experienced in both fields, take place with regard to the doctrine of evolution, in as far as it inquires into the origin of the human body as coming from pre-existent and living matter – for the Catholic faith obliges us to hold that souls are immediately created by God. However, this must be done in such a way that the reasons for both opinions, that is, those favorable and those unfavorable to evolution, be weighed and judged with the necessary seriousness, moderation and measure, and provided that all are prepared to submit to the judgment of the Church, to whom Christ has given the mission of interpreting authentically the Sacred Scriptures and of defending the dogmas of faith. Some however, rashly transgress this liberty of discussion, when they act as if the origin of the human body from pre-existing and living matter were already completely certain and proved by the facts which have been discovered up to now and by reasoning on those facts, and as if there were nothing in the sources of divine revelation which demands the greatest moderation and caution in this question.

      37. When, however, there is question of another conjectural opinion, namely polygenism, the children of the Church by no means enjoy such liberty. For the faithful cannot embrace that opinion which maintains that either after Adam there existed on this earth true men who did not take their origin through natural generation from him as from the first parent of all, or that Adam represents a certain number of first parents. Now it is in no way apparent how such an opinion can be reconciled with that which the sources of revealed truth and the documents of the Teaching Authority of the Church propose with regard to original sin, which proceeds from a sin actually committed by an individual Adam and which, through generation, is passed on to all and is in everyone as his own.

      From the Catholic viewpoint, the idea of evolution of the physical body is not a difficulty, since it is understood that what makes us “formed in the image and likeness of God” is not that we have four limbs and two eyes, it is the possession of a rational soul. (So a methane-breather with twelve tentacles from Alpha Centauri could, if it possessed a soul, equally be considered formed in the image and likeness of God).

      Hacking chunks out of the “Summa Theologica” of St. Thomas Aquinas:

      “I answer that, Since man is said to be the image of God by reason of his intellectual nature, he is the most perfectly like God according to that in which he can best imitate God in his intellectual nature. Now the intellectual nature imitates God chiefly in this, that God understands and loves Himself. Wherefore we see that the image of God is in man in three ways.

      First, inasmuch as man possesses a natural aptitude for understanding and loving God; and this aptitude consists in the very nature of the mind, which is common to all men.

      Secondly, inasmuch as man actually and habitually knows and loves God, though imperfectly; and this image consists in the conformity of grace.

      Thirdly, inasmuch as man knows and loves God perfectly; and this image consists in the likeness of glory. Wherefore on the words, “The light of Thy countenance, O Lord, is signed upon us” (Psalm 4:7), the gloss distinguishes a threefold image of “creation,” of “re-creation,” and of “likeness.” The first is found in all men, the second only in the just, the third only in the blessed.

      I answer that, While in all creatures there is some kind of likeness to God, in the rational creature alone we find a likeness of “image” as we have explained above (1,2); whereas in other creatures we find a likeness by way of a “trace.” Now the intellect or mind is that whereby the rational creature excels other creatures; wherefore this image of God is not found even in the rational creature except in the mind; while in the other parts, which the rational creature may happen to possess, we find the likeness of a “trace,” as in other creatures to which, in reference to such parts, the rational creature can be likened. We may easily understand the reason of this if we consider the way in which a “trace,” and the way in which an “image,” represents anything. An “image” represents something by likeness in species, as we have said; while a “trace” represents something by way of an effect, which represents the cause in such a way as not to attain to the likeness of species. For imprints which are left by the movements of animals are called “traces”: so also ashes are a trace of fire, and desolation of the land a trace of a hostile army.

      Reply to Objection 3. Although the image of God in man is not to be found in his bodily shape, yet because “the body of man alone among terrestrial animals is not inclined prone to the ground, but is adapted to look upward to heaven, for this reason we may rightly say that it is made to God’s image and likeness, rather than the bodies of other animals,” as Augustine remarks (QQ. 83, qu. 51). But this is not to be understood as though the image of God were in man’s body; but in the sense that the very shape of the human body represents the image of God in the soul by way of a trace.

      Reply to Objection 1. Our being bears the image of God so far as if is proper to us, and excels that of the other animals, that is to say, in so far as we are endowed with a mind. Therefore, this trinity is the same as that which Augustine mentions (De Trin. ix, 4), and which consists in mind, knowledge, and love.”

      It is the fact of the soul, the effects of sin on the soul, and as you raise the pertinent problem, that of Original Sin, that concerns us when the question of evolution is raised. Here the Orthodox, who have a different understanding than what has become the classical Western one about Original Sin, may be of help to you? Mule, you want to take this one?

      • David Cornwell says:

        Martha, this is what I find myself liking more and more about the Catholic Church. For therein lies a great body of teaching that is considered, authoritative, and held to be trustworthy. So for Catholics, at least for the most part, this is appears to be a settled issue. My Catholic friends seldom discuss it.

        On the other hand, as Protestants, we are all over the place. Every preacher has an opinion. And on top of that if he can make a dime selling that opinion, then he starts a creationist amusement park somewhere around Cincinnati, Ohio. Many of the same preachers barely know the name of St. Thomas Aquinas.

        • Well, that’s one advantage of being old 🙂 Though a lot of the reasons that Catholics don’t discuss certain things is that they’re either not issues for us at all (the Rapture is my big example here) or we don’t talk about them because the mass of us are not aware of them, even if a few are very much concerned about them and wish the rest of us were too.

          The Eastern and Oriental Orthodox get this advantage too. When it comes to kicking around anything, it’s probably already happened before and there have been hair-pulling, knock-down, drag-out theological fights about it. That’s why I can’t take seriously any arguments that start “For the first time in human history, we are faced with…” No, we probably aren’t. Divorce and remarriage talked about as though these are purely inventions of the 20th century and the early Christians weren’t living in cultures where divorce, multiple remarriages, more than one form of cohabitation recognised by the state, and even polygamy were recognised?

          Even for new technological advances, such as the huge opening up of fields of ethical enquiry that genetics and computer tech have meant, there are still basic principles that can be used to begin debate. Even if you’re a Transhumanist, and I don’t know quite how tongue-in-cheek this comment by an online Transhumanist of my acquaintance is meant to be:

          And what comes after 2100 doesn’t matter, because even on the off chance we’re still using human brains to reason at that point, it sure won’t be human brains in which the genes have been left to chance. To paraphrase Keynes, in the long run we’re all either dead or cyborgs.

          I’m rather on the other side of the “After 2100 we’ll all be caught up in the Singularity” fence 🙂

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            Caught up in The Singularity = The Rapture for Nerds.

            And to both, “This World Is Not My Home; I’m Just Passing Thru (or Evolving Beyond It All)…”

          • David Cornwell says:

            One of the sad things about the Reformation, to me at least, is that many times we seem to have thrown out everything. And so the wisdom of the ages and sages is discounted because of some perceived ancient wrong. The “priesthood of all believers” has turned into “we make it up as we go” with every Rev Tom, Dick, and Harry becoming the ordained experts (sometimes self ordained).

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            Or ordaining each other with Honorary Doctorates in the Larry/Moe/Curly method:
            Larry awards Moe an Honorary Doctorate.
            Moe awards Curly an Honorary Doctorate.
            Curly awards Larry an Honorary Doctorate.
            Nyuk! Nyuk! Nyuk!

  9. Well, since the “Big Bang” theory came from a Catholic priest, and another priest was a renowned paleontologist, it is pretty clear that we Catholics have no problem with the YEC/six day creation issue. It doesn’t even come up, really….it is a struggle of those who use the Bible translated into English as their ONLY guide to the Lord.

    Science can describe the effect of neurotransmitters, hormones, the instinct to replicate the species, pheneromes, and the compatibility of genitalia and clan behavior to describe a young couple about to be married. Science cannot explain love, fidelity, joy, and planning for the future. Both are accurate, but one is the “how” and the other is the more nebulous “why”?

    Same with the love story of God and His creation.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Well, since the “Big Bang” theory came from a Catholic priest…

      Who got piled on for proposing it — something about “introducing RELIGION(TM) into Science”…

      …and another priest was a renowned paleontologist…

      Tielhard deChardin?

      >blockquote>…it is pretty clear that we Catholics have no problem with the YEC/six day creation issue. It doesn’t even come up, really….it is a struggle of those who use the Bible translated into English as their ONLY guide to the Lord.

      Make that “translated into 1611 Kynge Jaymes Englyshe”.

      And they’ve already anticipated you, Pattie. Remember Landmarkism and the “Trail of Blood”? The reason “Catholics have no problem with the YEC/six day creation issue” is because you’re Romanist Papists, Godless Apostates, Q.E.D.

      • Yes to all of the above, HUG!!!

        [I know, not only is the Earth 6000 years old, Christianity did not exist from the years 200 AD to 1500 AD….Wish the word would spread that God gave us brains to USE and think with!!]

  10. Steve Newell says:

    Theologically speaking, death is the result of sin. When did death come into creation? Since evolution requires death for the system to work, does that mean sin existed at the moment of creation? Is the death that God to spoke to Adam about the same death that is required in evolution?

    Is Adam the first man and Eve the first women? Both Jesus and Paul spoke and wrote that these are real people whose actions affected all humans.

    I am not trying to be difficult, but I struggle with how to answer these type of questions in light of evolution. Any help is greatly appreciated.

    • Steve, those questions are difficult, and fertile soil for more study. Just as we have always had to adjust our understanding as we learn more (the Copernican revolution, for example), we may need to refine our interpretations and positions somewhat.

      • Steve Newell says:

        How far to we “refine our interpretations and positions somewhat” to where we no longer the correct understand of sin and grace, law and gospel. There is a danger of refining to the point that our doctrine is not the same of what Holy Scripture teaches. We have seen this with more liberal church bodies in the last century.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          Ken Ham Lite. If you doubt YEC in any way, you MUST begin to doubt Christ’s death and resurrection and the very existence of God. Inevitable Slippery Slope.

          And total agreement with Richard Dawkins et al.

          • Steve Newell says:

            You are completely missing my point. I am not taking an absolute position but I am expressing a concern that we must take into account how our theology is impacted by this.

            It’s easy to ridicule Ken Ham and not deal with some of the questions that are being asked.

          • I disagree HUG. I think Steve is honestly trying to wrestle with the issues, not issuing fatwas to those who disagree with him. I appreciate his questions (even while agreeing with CM’s post).

            As a side note, A slippery slope argument is not always fallacious. It become fallacious only when the arguer presents no causal connection between the advocated belief or policy and the consequent believe and policies. In this case, I don’t think Steve has failed to show a connection. That is not to say that his point cannot be argued against; just that it is not fallacious.

        • “There is a danger of refining to the point that our doctrine is not the same of what Holy Scripture teaches.”

          We need to then ask: what is clearly the doctrine that Scripture teaches?

          Adam and death are 2 of the hot issues in this discussion, but could they be reinterpreted to still fit into the overall narrative?

          Is Adam just about 1 person, or is it representative of something else (many people? Israel? etc….). Is death physical death, or does it signify something else- such as a damaged relationship to the Creator and His creation? Etc….

    • I think that, taken on its own, the fall causing death to come into the world may is a reasonable interpretation of Genesis 1-3. There are other parts of the Bible where this is considerably more ambiguous, though – see the end of Job where the animal kingdom, even the bloodier parts of it, are seen as God’s work rather than the tragic effects of sin. There are even passages elsewhere in the OT where creation is described in terms of God bringing order by killing a monster (and the pre-existence of some sort of chaotic force before human sin is just beneath the surface in Genesis 1)! So it is not only contemporary science, but other parts of the Bible itself at least leave the possibility of other interpretations open.

      I do think it is important that at some point, there were humans that God established fellowship with and they blew it. Whether it was a single ancestral biological couple, I’m not sure (a Catholic has an interesting take on it here: http://tofspot.blogspot.com/2011/09/adam-and-eve-and-ted-and-alice.html). It should be noted that “Where did Cain get his wife?” (and Seth, for that matter) and “Why was Cain worried about people killing him?” are easier to answer if there were other humans around. The text is not as straightforward as people make it out to be.

    • Steve, you are asking THE question. It is so important that to me that in light of these doctrinal truths I am willing to entertain the YEC position against a clear understanding of science. I remain largely open, but I lean the way of a traditional understanding of theology and Scripture (on just about every issue).

    • Steve, I’ve found a lot of the writing at BioLogos to be helpful here as well. (They don’t just deal with the purely scientific side of things, but also some of these sorts of questions that inevitably arise from a theistic evolution view.) Pete Enns (http://biologos.org/blog/author/pete-enns), in particular, has written some amazing and challenging stuff on the matter, including what to do with a historic view of Adam (that seems so unlikely with genetics and population theory) and similar.

    • Adam Palmer says:

      Steve–

      I second pcg’s recommendation of the works of Pete Enns, specifically his book “The Evolution of Adam.” I’ve also found the work of Denis Lamoureux to be extremely helpful in understanding this topic, specifically his book “I Love Jesus & I Accept Evolution.” Both of these works helped me put some handles on the Adamic references made by Jesus and Paul.

      And I started down the road of accepting evolution after reading Francis Collins’s “The Language of God.” For what it’s worth. And by having some lengthy, in-depth conversations with a good friend who is both an evangelical Christian and a rigorous scientist.

      Hope it helps.

      ap

  11. I quite honestly thought that Challies was trolling with his piece. How else do you explain someone so intelligent and typically so verbose giving such short, simplistic answers to questions he knows are far more complex than that?

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      doubleplusduckspeak.
      The Party Line is recited without engaging any neuron above the brainstem.
      War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery, Ignorance is Strength, etc.

  12. “Ham notes Hamlin’s automatic instinct to reject Christianity when he accepted evolution”

    Well, of course that was his automatic instinct! If you’ve been taught all your life that the only true, reasonable, and plainly apparent reading is a literal six day period of twenty-four hour days in the exact sequence as laid out, and that moreover any doubts on this point mean not alone do you doubt Christianity, you doubt Christ as your Saviour, so that it is a pure and clear matter of faith versus science – then when you are smacked in the face with physical evidence that demonstrates what the science side is saying about rocks or light or how blood clots is true and real, you have been conditioned to think “I can’t have both, I must choose one, I can’t deny reality as it actually is because only crazy people do that, so I have to pick science”.

    A little less emphasis on “You will go to Hell if you don’t believe ‘On Tuesday God created the dry land, on Wednesday God created the moon’ “(whether or not we get down to the level of detail of Archbishop Ussher that “the first day of creation began at nightfall preceding Sunday, October 23, 4004 BC, in the proleptic Julian calendar, near the autumnal equinox”) might do more to keep Christians like Daniel Hamlin from an automatic reaction that “I’ve been told either faith or science is true, not both; I can see for myself science is true; that must mean faith is false”.

    • +1!!
      But also, in fairness, the Evolutionist crowd has a tendency to be the Religion of Science, and they sell their Atheism as being inextricable from their scientific theories.

      • Yes, Umi. I have an agnostic friend who sees the same thing, that for the atheist/scientist/evolutionist some aspects of science become a form of religion, and that they fail to see how that their beliefs are really steps of faith.

        Here’s something I’ve noticed:
        For the religious person, with God anything can happen. God can become or seem like a magic wand.
        For the scientist, with Time anything can happen. Time is like their magic wand, and some scientists wave a billion years around to explain anything that can’t be explained or proven.

    • Yes, that’s what I’ve seen. I meet a lot of young atheists as my partner is an atheist. Just about all the young former evangelicals first considered atheism when they got exposed to geology and biology. After all, once you find out that your religion is so wrong on that topic, it raises the question of where else is it wrong. This is something I have not seen in former Catholic atheists (the majority in my area for the simple reason that it was a formerly Catholic majority area). These folks seem to start with questioning Papal and Episcopal authority, mainly. Of course both groups eventually get to not believing entirely.

    • scrapiron says:

      This is exactly why I take the time and energy to carefully poke holes in the AIG materials my children are sent by their grandparents. I’d much rather be there, live and in person, to do this then leave the job to a brilliant professor in their freshman year who will also lead them to believe that they must abandon their faith when it turns out that the Bible isn’t literally “true”.

      • I was helping out in a Bible class with my daughter last year when the teacher began a lesson on the literal interpretation of 6-day creation and the “facts” behind a 6,000 year old earth. I didn’t say anything in class, but on the way home I told my daughter that I didn’t necessarily agree with that teaching and said if she ever encountered any sort of “faith-shaking” interpretations of the Bible she could come talk to me. She seemed to like that; hopefully she’ll take me up on it when the time comes.

      • One of my burdens is that during my 15 years as a youth minister I was very YEC and emphasized it as much as I did things that were creedal. I set these teens up with old facts and twisted logic and sent them off to Bio 101 with a skewed faith. When their faith crumbled, I didn’t blame myself. I blamed the professors who used modern, logical facts to force the teens to face not only their scientific beliefs but, because of how I framed the importance of YEC, their core Christian beliefs.

        Sigh.

        It actually took my own children to bring me to question my personal indoctrination. In light of full disclosure, my mother-in-law took my boys to the Creation Museum and bought them lots of books from Ken Hamm. They began to look at anthropology and that made our family start looking backwards in time and 6000 years from creation didn’t work with the pottery we were holding. It is one of the most overlooked areas when looking at Evolution. But God used it force us to find out modern science and work out our faith from outside of our fundamentalist Baptist upbringing.

        • That was one of the first things that forced me to rethink my position. Biology is all very well, but I don’t know much about it. Little enough I can be easily taken for a ride by someone on either side who has more knowledge than I (or, for that matter, more technical vocabulary). But I came up very short when a couple of years ago, before taking a trip to Egypt, I discovered in my reading that there were early Pharaohs, whom we know for a fact existed and when they existed, who, matching their dates up with biblical chronology, would have been ruling Egypt before the time of Noah. That didn’t compute at all.

          So my fall off the YEC bus had nothing to do with science at all. What do I know about science? History was more than enough to force a reappraisal.

    • The dichotomy you mention is a sad one, prevalent in both YEC and atheist crowds.

      I find it interesting when I recall my personal journey of faith that I never had an inkling that I had to choose between science and faith. My personal reading of Genesis as a child was, intuitively at least, just what Chaplain Mike outlined above.

      I account this to, well, a healthy childhood. Kids appreciate stories intuitively. It takes bullying and bad parenting to get in the way and demand they choose camps. They don’t invent these bogus dichotomies about interpretation for themselves, they simply get swept away in wonder. That’s the effect Genesis should have on us.

  13. This. Exactly.

  14. I fail to see why we keep talking about this. If these people believe that God is a Big Chicken because the Bible talks about us sheltering under His wings, how is that any skin off my nose? Now if they are planning on taking over the government and enforcing their beliefs with a firing squad or willing to bring down the world economy to support their hermeneutic, that’s a different story and we should be talking about that.

    Speaking of stories, it might help to start off every discussion with the recognition that what we are talking about here are stories. Good luck with that. The experts on recognizing and understanding stories are children. Many of us somehow seem to lose that ability when we “grow up”.

  15. Here’s yet another hill the Reformed crowd chooses to die on. I know not all Reformed are YECs or the brand of YECs that take the “slippery-slope” fallacy argument against people who don’t agree, but by and large, this idea is in the bloodstream of the Calvinist lines of faith here in the US.

    Here’s a little story just so I can share a couple of links:
    Earlier this year I found this link to a theology student’s blog where he rips the infamous Creation Museum’s theological and historical references a new one: http://benstanhope.blogspot.com/2013/06/a-seminary-student-visits-creation.html (Apologies if this came from here… I can’t remember how I found it)
    The above site linked to the following:
    http://michaelsheiser.com/TheNakedBible/
    Heiser’s site blew my frikkin’ mind. He’s extremely erudite and his theories on Genesis issues are really interesting and much better ideas than anything I’ve seen come out of the YEC/bible literalist/flimsy anthropological camps.
    Anyhow, I shared both of these links on FB, where I admit that I said some pretty mean things about the Creation Museum, but from where I was coming from, I assumed that none of my friends were actually buying any of Ham’s garbage. Oh yeah, this is where I realized that my two particular friends (husband and wife) from my last church had gone theologically after the split from there. The husband private messages me, challenging me to a debate about Ken Ham, Answers in Genesis, etc. He tries to assert that they have good science, and that I shouldn’t make decisions about them until I have read EVERYTHING that they assert (an argument they make a lot… had that one lobbed at me regarding John MacArthur last week). In fairness, I read some of the stuff on AIG, and it turned my stomach… So much deliberate twisting of facts, self-referential citations, and doublespeak. But if someone has absolutely no scientific background, nor any inclination to do their own research, I can see how people are taken in by AIG (especially if you WANT to believe it, which is probably its biggest strength.)
    I studied biology in college, so this whole Evolution/Creationist debate plagued me while I was in school, which coincided with probably my most Evangelical years. When I first read one of Michael Spencer’s posts on it, essentially saying that Genesis isn’t scientific and isn’t even trying to be so, my world got a little brighter. (This may have been the post that made me a permanent fan of his). After more reading and consideration, I felt more firm in the belief that the Bible isn’t and was never supposed to be a scientific manual, or even a ‘manual for life’ as it has often been called by some in the EV world. Unfortunately, working out the science/creation debate in my own head was the first step I took away from Evangelism, for it changed how I saw the bible, and contributed to frustrations every time I encountered the entrenched YEC-ism in the movement as a whole.
    And you know, maybe this is the real slippery slope: that having a nuanced, non-literalist, multi-leveled view of the Bible can, and I believe often does move people away from the simplistic Evangelical worldview. Doesn’t mean you move away from Christ, just from their rigid theology.
    And just a there are those in the religious camp that stand a hard line on the YEC thing, the other side can be just as bad, maybe worse. You have your New Atheists who have turned science into their Lord and Savior (something that they will deny, because they are NOT religious!) It is very difficult to be a scientist with unpopular views or opinions, but this is a subject I could go on and on about and won’t here.
    Anyhow, again, my two cents.

  16. Ken Ham’s penchant for verbal bullying was the reason I took him off the air at our Christian broadcast stations and the reason I refuse to give him airtime on Broken Road. He makes all YEC’s look foolish in their belief because he yells the loudest. However, there are quieter and more reasonable proponents of the young earth position and there is valid scientific evidence that calls into question some of the “givens” of the evolutionary and old earth schools of thought. There are some very large assumptions regarding evolution in particular that yet confine it to the realm of theory as opposed to fact.

    Chaplain Mike, your characterization of scripture is good, right and useful, but does not rule out a young earth. If we could all take a less contentious approach to this discussion we would not find ourselves betting our faith on the foggy underpinnings of either approach. Much of our literal interpretation is due to a Western analytical mindset that would have seemed utterly foreign to the Bible’s original audience. I think they would have been amused at our knit picking. Our challenge is to see Scripture as they did.

    • The age of the earth is a question that belongs to the domain of scientific analysis, not biblical interpretation.

      • Exactly, CM!

        Think about what Galileo had to fight when he observed that the Earth rotated around the sun and not that the sun rotated around the Earth. He had to fight against scriptures that say, “the world is firmly established, it cannot be moved,” “the Lord set the earth on its foundations; it can never be moved,” and “the sun rises and sets and returns to its place.” (Psalm 93:1, 96:10, 104:5, 1 Chronicles 16:30, Ecclesiastes 1:5).

        What if Christians had continued to fight against this scientific evidence? What if we were still fighting against the notion of the Earth rotating around the sun even today? We’d look like complete idiots. Christ’s message would be completely undermined by our rigid stance against physical truth.

        Holding fast to flawed interpretations of scripture in the face of scientific evidence harms the REAL truth of the gospel. Holding fast to a 6,000 year old Earth is NOT why Jesus died on the cross, and it’s not a hill followers of our Savior Messiah should die on.

        • The Galileo comparison is invalid:

          1) The Roman Church had dogmatized the science of the day
          2) There are no theological implications from heliocentrism (apart from “The Church is infallible”)
          3) Relativity has since made the issue moot

          • 3) Relativity has since made the issue moot

            What on earth do you mean by this?

          • I mean that relativity shows that all reference frames are equally valid – possibly even that there is no absolute reference frame (scientific orthodoxy would say there is no absolute reference frame, but I am skeptical 🙂

            In plainer terms, the Earth-centered reference frame has its uses, and the heliocentric frame is useful in other circumstances. Neither is “true” (in that it is the “only right one”)

          • Mild disagreement with you there, nedbrek. Galileo had the bad luck to start on theological interpretation right smack in the middle of the Reformation/Counter-Reformation wars, and that’s what got him in trouble – that, and his truly impressive talent for making enemies out of former friends and supporters. When the Roman Catholic Church was being pilloried by the Reformers for not taking the Bible seriously, having a guy going around teaching theories in direct contradiction of verses such as Joshua commanding the sun (and not the earth) to stand still was casting doubt on how seriously Scripture was taken by Catholics.

            Mike Flynn has an entertaining series of posts on the history of the whole debate before, during, and after Galileo called “The Great Ptolemaic Smackdown”. I would recommend it as great background on all the political intriguing going on, with Galileo enthusiastically making enemies and those enemies enthusiastically seizing on any excuse to dob him in to the Inquistion so as to get him off the scene – the point being that it was generally rival scientists and courtiers, not clerics, trying to use the religion angle to get Galileo in trouble.

            20 Mar 1615. The day before the Holy Office closes out Lorini’s complaint, Caccini (remember him?) calls on Cardinal Michaelangelo Seghizzi, Commissary of the Holy Office, and testifies that “Florence is full of Galileists,” saying things like “God is a sensitive being that can laugh and weep.” (Galileo had said exactly the opposite, and pointed to such Biblical passages as evidence that Scripture is not always scientifically literal.) Caccini sez Galileo “holds Scripture of lowest importance,” and that he is “in correspondence with Germans”! (code-talk for “Lutherans.” Can we say “Kepler”?) Galileo also holds two propositions that everyone knows are “scientifically false and absurd” and are “at odds with Scripture.” The inquisitor nods and says, Got any proof of this? Lorini told me; he’s got a letter you should read. (The inquisitor already has.) Under cross-examination, Caccini begins to backtrack. You ever meet this Galileo? Uh, no. But others have. Yeah? Like who? Umm. Ferdinando Ximenes O.P. — plus one Gianozzo Attavanti, who upheld Galileo. Describe them. Descriptions follow. Witness dismissed. (De Santillana, p. 49)

          • In plainer terms, the Earth-centered reference frame has its uses, and the heliocentric frame is useful in other circumstances. Neither is “true” (in that it is the “only right one”)

            Um, that’s not what relativity is saying… It’s too much to get into all of it here, but you’re not anywhere correct with that statement. The earth and other planets in the solar are orbiting the sun. The fact that from the vantage point of earth objects like the sun and planet can appear to rotating around the earth is inconsequential to what’s actually happening. If I’m on a merry-go-round it looks like the world is spinning around me, but that doesn’t mean the theory of relativity means it actually it.

          • +1 for Mike Flynn. His book “The Wreck of the River of Stars” shows a good understanding of human nature 🙂

          • Muff Potter says:

            nedbrek,
            I’ve got to agree with you on this point. My training is in Mathematics and I can assure you that all coordinate systems are strictly arbitrary. And as you’ve pointed out, whether they are the familiar Cartesian reference frames or even the exotic Riemannian varieties, they all have their uses.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            Martha, I’ve forwarded the link for The Great Ptolemaic Smackdown to most of my mailing list. Great overview of the whole Galileo Affair. It reads like something out of South Park.

            In fiction, I recommend 1634: The Galileo Affair by Eric Flint, part of his “1632” series where a West Virginia town takes a one-way time-travel trip into Central Europe during the peak of the Thirty Years War and has to deal with it. In The Galileo Affair, the difference between what the Uptimers KNOW about what happened to Galileo and what really happened is an important plot point.

    • and there is valid scientific evidence that calls into question some of the “givens” of the evolutionary and old earth schools of thought.

      This I’d really like to see. Every time I’ve seen this in the past it has not held water. But without details, it is just another YEC claim that can’t be debated.

      • I would refer you to creationmoments.com for some of the details ( a much more civil place than Answers in Genesis), but we know now that:

        1) the speed of light is not constant. That may have profound consequences for our assumptions about distances and the age of the universe. E=MC2 is looking a little shaky, too.

        2) Carbon dating has been flawed from the start as it assumes uniform decay rates when evidence suggests there have been at least two periods in the history of the earth where rates changed. It may be the best technique we have for dating organic matter but it is simply not reliable. Other isotope dating methods have similar liabilities.

        3) Soft tissue found in multiple tissue samples obtained from dinosaur bones (not fossils) suggest that the usual assumption of 65 million year dating is seriously flawed.

        4) The evolutionary presumption that evolution moves from the simple to the complex is belied by research at the cellular and molecular levels that indicate ever-increasing complexity (the law of irreducible complexity elicits scorn from the scientific establishment rather than considered scientific refutation. It’s the old axiom that if you laugh loud enough at your opposition no one will take them seriously).

        While my faith doesn’t hang on young-earth or old-earth reasoning, I detect a lot of hubris from establishment science and little effort to refute intriguing assertions by young earth or creationist proponents. If only they would react with “lets take a hard look at that” rather than “you’ve got to be kidding me!” There are a good many scientist who find fault with evolution and support young earth ideas but they risk their livelihoods and professional reputations by speaking up.

        • 1) Really? OK I’ll go visit creationmomenets but I doubt I’ll be impressed. E=MC2 shaky? In a way that makes the universe young. I doubt it but I’ll go look.

          2) Again, what? Reliability gets better all the time. Margins of error are in years or decades, not in 1000s of years. As to decay rates changing, again, I got to see this.

          3) Not really. The person who discovered this is local and attends a church where the pastor is YEC. They are civil to each other. But she is very much in the old earth camp and can explain why much better than I can.

          4) You are conflating Evolution with Natural Selection. Something many do. But they are not the same. E is what happened and NS is why and how.

        • Klasie Kraalogies says:

          Some additional responses.

          1. Relativity is as solid as ever. Explain why you think otherwise.

          2. Carbon dating is generally used for much younger material. For older rocks, there is U-Pb, Rb-Sr, Ar-Ar, Sm-Nd, and a long list of other ones. Most concern single mineral systems, others are cosmogenic isotopes. The process of dating is extremely comprehensive, and many repeats are done to find statistically reliable results.
          3. There is a very clear explanation for that event, which is availsble in the academic literature. A popular level explanation can be found here:

          http://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/earth/geology/soft-tissue-dinosaur-fossil.htm

          4. Irreducible complexity, as used by the ID movdment (Behe’s crowd) is the result of profound misunderstanding, as well as blatant disregard of evidence to the contrary. A simple google search will help you there.

          • Klasie, I’m no scientist, but the article you reference seems to indicate only disagreement with Schweitzer’s findings …some on the grounds that, because dinosaurs ARE 65 million years old there must be a mistake, contamination or some defect in her research. It seems to be out of bounds to even suggest a younger age for dinosaurs.

            As to relativity, if the speed of light is not a constant, would that not degrade the usefulness of the equation, at least to the point of making it an approximation? As I recall, Einstein had reservations in that regard. Just askin’ …

            I’m open to learning here, so I thank you for your thoughts, Klasie. You and David might be interested in listening to our Broken Road podcasts with Dr. Don Clark. Heis a biochemist who chats with us on-air weekly about these matters. Each conversation lasts about a half-hour. I offer two links to relevant topics:

            Regarding Carbon 14 dating: http://brokenroadradio.com/morning-show-november-2-2012-2/

            Regarding soft tissue in dinosaurs (with microbiologist Mark Armitage): http://brokenroadradio.com/morning-show-august-26-2013-click-here-to-reveal-links/

            David and Klasie, thank you both for the information you offer. I wish I had the time and energy to dig into this further, but now is not the time. I’ll try to catch any more responses from you.

  17. >>> *What I will say is that the Bible should not come into the discussion at all when analyzing the science.*

    In fairness, then, you should not allow science to come into the discussion when analyzing the Bible.

  18. David Cornwell says:

    Karl Barth in a letter to his niece, who had enquired of him about the problem of creation and evolution said the following (partial):

    “Has no one explained to you in your seminar that one can as little compare the biblical creation story and a scientific theory like that of evolution as one can compare, shall we say, an organ and a vacuum-cleaner—that there can be as little question of harmony between as of contradiction?

    “The creation story is a witness to the beginning or becoming of all reality distinct from God in the light of God’s later acts and words relating to his people Israel—naturally in the form of a saga or poem. The theory of evolution is an attempt to explain the same reality in its inner nexus—naturally in the form of a scientific hypothesis. ”

    From what I know about the teaching of Barth on creation, the letter seems to be authentic.

  19. Don Rappe says:

    In my opinion, Genesis 1 is a reworking of the main structure of the “Enuma Elish”, the Agadian or Babylonian story of the creation of all things as a result of a war in heaven between the old (bad) gods and the newer (good) gods. I presume that the Jews in captivity remodeled it to attribute the creative work to the divine spirit(s) (Elohim) that protected Israel. In a similar way, the book of Esther gives an alternate explanation of the Babylonian New Year festival in which Jews can participate.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Genesis is not a “reworking” of the Enuma Elish, Genesis is a PARODY of the Enuma Elish, full of digs discrediting the Enuma Elish. It’s like Fred Saberhagen’s “Dracula Tapes”, pointing out all the plot holes in Bram Stoker’s original as retold from Dracula’s POV.

      The general dig is everything God creates in Genesis is something that was worshipped as a god in its own right by the Egyptians and Babylonians. (And if a god was created by another god, who has to be the greater god?)

      The specific dig I remember is the Sun, Moon, and Stars. Sun is mentioned first as “the greater light”, since every word for “sun” was actually the name of the local Sun God. Then the Moon second as “the lesser light” for the same reason as the sun. And finally the stars as a barely-mentioned afterthought. How is this significant? In Mesopotamian mythologies, the STARS were the Mightiest Gods, the Moon God inferior to the Star Gods, and the Sun God weakest of all, inferior to the Moon God. And Genesis completely reverses the order and importance, demoting all from gods in their own right to creations of a greater God.

      • Thanks for that, HUG.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          I’m very familiar with one-eighty twists in storytelling. Not the “See How Clever I Was?” Shymalan Twist endings; more like the Prodigal Son, where Jesus twists a typical rabbinical Old Story one-eighty and makes the returning Prodigal the hero instead of the (usual) Older Brother who kept Torah.

          I’m familiar with it because I tend to do something similar when I write fiction. Setting up something, dancing right up to the edge, then taking it in a different direction. It’s storytelling, not a checklist.

  20. Vega Magnus says:

    I watched Ken Ham’s videos in Sunday school ten years ago and got really into creationism, but now, I can accept theistic evolution without issue. It just makes sense to me. Can’t really explain it beyond that.

  21. Vega Magnus says:

    And it just seems to me that this isn’t the right hill to die upon even if you believe in YEC. This is the sort of situation where YEC people should accept that others will have different views on it and not make it a “you gonna go to hell” issue.

  22. “Such a view also undermines the perspicuity of Scripture.”

    All I have to is no, it really doesn’t.

    If, in order for Scripture’s meaning to be “clear” to the average reader, you insist it can’t use language in an illustrative or mythic sense, than it’s you who are undermining a text’s clarity. Human beings naturally, without any help from “liberals” know how to interpret language (and art of all kinds) this way. It’s the ham-fisted, shallow, sub-literate readings of stories that gets in the way of imaginative people’s clear understanding, not their own imaginations. Please. His comment here is an insult to everyone who cares about literary quality. Ham is to science what Thomas Kinkade is to art.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      I remember Hal Lindsay’s “clear” meaning of the Book of Revelation (which superseded the rest of the Bible). As in the premise of the book being God showing a supernatural movie of The End (all events occurring before 1988) to John who had to write it all down as he best understood it using 1st Century imagery. As in all the Plagues of Revelation REALLY being Nuclear Weapons Effects and Aftereffects from the Inevitable Global Thermonuclear War. As in the Plague of Demon Locusts REALLY being helicopter gunships armed with chemical weapons and piloted by long-haired bearded hippies. All the Clear Meaning of Scripture(TM).

      • Oh, I remember seeing that in a movie shown at Christian coffee house in 1980! I guess we can all laugh about it now; it was pretty intense at the time (the dramatic music as the camera pans in on the drawing of the hippy-manned gunships). How about in the giant scorpions in thief in the Night trilogy? I was expecting the blob or the creature from the black lagoon to show up next.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          By “giant scorpions in the Thief in the Night trilogy” I assume you mean the Giant Rubber Scorpion Stinger scene? For those without the proper Gnosis, that is a classic bad movie scene which goes as follows:

          1) Handful of characters hiding out in a wilderness cabin during The Great Tribulation.2) SOMETHING knocks on the door.
          3) The one Heathen among the characters answers the door. As he opens the door…
          4) Giant rubber scorpion stinger SLOWLY extends through the open door from offstage, nails him in the chest.
          5) Guy goes down screaming.
          6) Giant rubber scorpion stinger SLOWLY retracts through the doorway, closing the door after itself. Guy on floor keeps writhing and screaming.
          7) Cut to stock footage of galloping horse’s hooves, while a voice-over reads the verses from Revelation describing the Plague of Demon Locusts.

      • “All the Clear Meaning of Scripture(TM).”

        Indeed. Infallability of scripture often really means infallability of interpretation.

      • “All the Clear Meaning of Scripture(TM).”

        Indeed. Infallability of scripture often means infallability of interpretation.

      • For some reason I’m distinctly glad that I wasn’t around (or at least wasn’t paying attention to the church) at the time.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          And good thing you weren’t, Nate. Over thirty years after-the-fact and the damage is still there.

          Remember the marching song of End Time Prophecy, “I Wish We’d All Been Ready”? Larry Norman sang it as a tragic lament, NOT cackling with lip-smacking glee. And you saw way too much of the latter at the time. Even when they weren’t gleeful, End Time Prophecy Smackdown types tended to be very glib and shallow about The Four Last Things; the Jewish Prophets called The End “That Great and TERRIBLE Day of God”, not a spectator sport with catered box seats.

  23. Christiane says:

    One thing that is strange I have noticed among some Calvinist Southern Baptists . . . there are some who teach that our souls were not given to us by God, but were inherited genetically because we are descendents of Adam. It is noted that some of those who profess this strange teaching tend also to believe in ‘total depravity’, one of the five ‘TULIP’ branches of Calvinism.

    I had never heard of that teaching until recently, as the Church has always taught that our eternal souls come to us directly from God Himself.

  24. I think it was Brian MacLaren that taught me the idea of Genesis as the /poem/ of creation, rather than the literal account of creation. That takes nothing away from the the truth of creation, and any rational person can see that it was written not to teach science, but to show ownership; not how, but who. I get a much purer sense of who God is from this song that teaches me about God’s sovereignty as opposed to a prescribed process.

  25. CM,
    I agree with what you say in your post. But I have a few questions that continue to bother me:

    Do you believe in the traditional doctrine asserting that God created everything that exists out of nothing, ex nihilo?

    If you do, do you base your belief on the Bible?

    If you base your belief on the Bible, which texts do you ascribe your belief to, and why are these trustworthy as factual accounts of the beginning of things?

    If you do not believe in creation ex nihilo, do yo have an alternative religious account for why there is something rather than nothing and how God is related to the existence of other things? What is the source of that account?

    If you do not believe it is important for Christian theology to have a cosmology, doesn’t this completely negate the essential Creedal affirmations that God is creator of everything else that exists, and seriously alter the nature of Christian faith?

    The purpose of my questions is to try to understand how, after deconstructing the traditional interpretations of texts that have been used as sources in the formation of our ecumenical Creeds, one can construct new interpretations that support the traditional Creedal affirmations without falling into the same mistake of using the Scriptures as factual sources in places where the Scriptures are not actually dealing with facts, as scientifically understood?

    • Robert, I would suggest I have not “deconstructed” Genesis 1 in any way that would threaten creedal affirmations. In my original iMonk post on Genesis 1, I say that Genesis 1:1 is a clear statement that God created everything that is. The Hebrew Bible contains more repetitions of this basic premise than I have taken time to count, and the NT is equally clear.

      What the creeds most definitely do not do is say how God created the heavens and earth, and they certainly show no interest in such matters as the age of the earth or any of a hundred other details that Young Earth Creationists advocate as essential historical facts.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      > if you do not believe in creation ex nihilo,

      I will readily say I do *NOT* believe in “ex nihilo” creation. I will say that at the same time I believe everything is created by the Creator. There is no discord in this because I have no useful understanding of what “creation ex nihilo” means.

      > do yo have an alternative religious account for why there is something rather than nothing
      > and how God is related to the existence of other things?

      Nope. And personally, I am completely comfortable with that. In casual conversation I’d use the phrase “way beyond my pay-grade”. It simply is not relevant to me; I am what I am where I am when I am and have no shortage of issues to attend to. I have always been impressed by the simple practicality of scripture; and the way God answers questions either with questions [as you read you discover that frustrating habit of his] and Christ continued this habit in his ministry. People either (a) already knew the answer and just didn’t like it or (b) it was simply the wrong question.

  26. Jason Coates says:

    Headless Unicorn Guy deserves a hug on the parody observation. Reminds me of Mel Brooks movie: Dead and Loving it.

    Helsing: What we are dealing with here is… a VAMPIRE!Dr. Seward: Vampire?Jonathan Harker: Vampire? What are you saying?Van Helsing: I’m saying, vampire!Dr. Seward: But professor, modern sciences don’t admit to such a fanciful creature!Van Helsing: Modern sciences pish posh! She has lost a great deal of blood, ja?Jonathan Harker: Ja…Van Helsing: Well look! [walks to Lucy’s bedside] where did all the blood go? Look at the sheets, the pillowcase, her nightgown! Do you see anything? How does your modern science explain zhat? Can you explain zhat? Can you explain zhat?Dr. Seward: I can’t explain zhat.Jonathan Harker: I can’t explain zhat.Van Helsing: NO ONE CAN EXPLAIN ZHAT!

    Headless Unicorn Guy deserves a hug on the parody observation. Reminds me of Mel Brooks movie:

  27. The YEC people are right to be suspicious. If the biblical authors are admitted to have been influenced (i.e., misled) by the beliefs of their time and setting, then on what basis can a Christian affirm that Christ was born of a virgin, or rose from the dead? Both are rather typical mythological claims, made by any number of ANE religious cults. The first shows evidence of having been inspired by a Greek mistranslation of Isaiah. Beyond that, the very notion that we need to be “saved” (or that Christianity is superior to other religions) is, on inspection, a very culture-bound prejudice. The end result of allowing scripture to be judged by scholarship, is a merely cultural Christianity (similar, perhaps, to Reform or Humanistic Judaism) which lacks any of its traditional convictions.

    • I find your reasoning unconvincing, Wexel. No such implications follow from a theological rather than a journalistic interpretation of Genesis 1.

      • Why are you willing to approach Genesis 1 (and presumably 2) this way, but not the gospels? Are not all of them the work of fallible human authors laboring under archaic worldviews and hermeneutics, whose stories therefore cannot be taken at face value? Do not all of them contradict some well-established fact about the world, such as the principle that virgins do not get pregnant (at least without considering situations that Christians would exclude anyway) and the dead do not live again (ditto)?

        • I can’t speak for everyone here, but I don’t think people who believe in an Old Earth necessarily discount the ability of God to have created the world in 6 twenty-four hour days, just that there doesn’t seem to be evidence of that being the case AND we do not see the adherence to a dogmatic 6d/24hr creation as essential to the faith. That’s where the difference lies in what you are comparing. Additionally, comparing the book of Genesis, which is prehistoric, to the relatively new Gospel reports using the same criteria seems unhelpful at best, confusing at worst (thus this ongoing argument….)

        • Beyond the scope of this post. However, in brief, I think the resurrection falls into a different category and is presented in Scripture differently than other “miracles.” The long answer, for me, is best explained in N.T. Wright’s The Resurrection of the Son of God.

        • On the surface, the answer to your question is that Genesis and the Gospels are two very different genres of literature. I don’t believe that that Genesis was ever written with the intention of being a historical account of the creation of the earth. The Gospels, however, are clearly written to give some sort of historical account of the life of Christ. Now people will disagree as to how much of the Gospels are actually historically factual, and I suppose there’s room for debate there, but simply put, they weren’t meant to and can’t be read the same way.

          • James the Mad says:

            My thinking exactly. The Gospels aren’t poetry, where the creation accounts in Gen. 1 & 2 are.

            That being the case I have all the leeway I need to interpret the creation accounts as defining man’s relationship to God, rather than trying to treat it as a scientific treatise.

          • I think you underestimate the oral folkloric / midrashic elements of the gospels.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          Why are you willing to approach Genesis 1 (and presumably 2) this way, but not the gospels?

          And here is where Ken Ham and Richard Dawkins are in complete agreement. Any doubt of any part of the Bible invalidates the ENTIRE Bible. The only difference is the Ken Hams of the world keep shoring it up with rigidity while the Richard Dawkinses gleefully swing the sledgehammers.

          • You’re right. The two franchises rise and fall on keeping this fallacy in play.

          • It’s a slippery slope, you know. Once people start believing in things like the Resurrection, next thing you know they’ll be beating their wives and promoting homophobia.

          • Marcus Johnson says:

            If you’re going to make the statement that all who believe in a resurrected Savior are wife-beating homophobes, then aren’t you just as guilty of the ignorance you claim resides solely with Christian communities?

            Seriously, Wexel, the only difference between you and the religious right is your creed. Other than that, you are pretty much the same person.

          • Exactly, Marcus Johnson. There’s an comment somewhere earlier that says, “All Christians are like Ken Hamm, each in his own way.” My reply to that is that agnostics and atheists are, too! There ain’t no one living who isn’t a bit like Ken Hamm for one reason or another, and ain’t no one living who doesn’t look hypocritical at some point in their life.

    • If we’re allowing Scripture to be judged by scholarship, it’s no less true of literalists. Scripture IS going to be judged by something. Let’s not pretend it’s possible to step outside hermeneutics and get some sort of “pure reading” that isn’t influenced by anything.

      I would also submit there is no “scholarship” necessary to come to the non-literalist’s conclusions. Just a basic appreciation for literature.

      Genesis 1 and 2 are very clearly a different type of text then say, Luke. The Gospels’ fourfold, meticulously documented eyewitness account of the Resurrection is radically different in breadth of observation and witness than Genesis 1-2. Genesis 1-2 is written by someone who wasn’t there. It’s written rhythmically, so there’s a good chance it was intended to be sung. It’s sparse in it’s vocabulary and short.

      There’s a world of difference between trashing any possible historical factuality whatsoever to a text, and acknowledging that there has always been a basic appreciation for things like literary device among writers and astute readers. This doesn’t make you “liberal” or something. It makes you a human being. As such it also dehumanizes the text, docetizes it, when you deny the obvious existence of such devices.

      • “Let’s not pretend it’s possible to step outside hermeneutics and get some sort of ‘pure reading’ that isn’t influenced by anything. ”

        +1

      • Oh, I can accept that the gospel authors CLAIM all sorts of implausible things. The issue is whether we ought to judge these claims as rigorously as we judge YEC claims, since both violate natural law.

        • Wexel, as I’ve said repeatedly, my primary reason for rejecting YEC teaching is not because of the science. That’s a separate discussion and I made that clear in the post.

          I gave 2 reasons for rejecting YEC: the Bible doesn’t teach it, and the Bible was not written to teach it.

          I view Genesis as a masterful piece of theological writing that accomplishes its authors’/editors’ purposes, not as a piece of failed historical writing because they didn’t understand what we know today.

          There is theological writing in the Gospels too. They are well-crafted ancient biographies. I don’t expect them to be written in the form of modern history or journalistic reporting. That doesn’t mean they don’t communicate things that actually happened. Richard Bauckham has written an impressive study concluding that the Gospels incorporate strong evidence of eyewitnesses that were still living at the time the Gospels were published and thus give credibility to what Jesus said and did. And when it comes to the resurrection, the Gospels and the Epistles are consistently insistent that their claims are based on empirical evidence.

          The Gospels and NT witnesses serve a different purpose than the writings of the Hebrew Bible. The Hebrew Bible is a theological reflection on the history of Israel, designed to give comfort and hope to the post-exilic community. The Gospels were written as a witness to Christ.

          • I’m curious how you handle 1 Cor 11:8-9 (“For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; 9 neither was man created for woman, but woman for man”)

        • The YEC claim is not silly because it’s against natural law. If God indeed wanted to make the earth 6,000 years ago and then give it the appearance of a much greater age, he could, much like he could raise Jesus from the dead.

          The YEC claim is silly because people are dying on a hill that nothing in the BIble stakes any claim to.

          • The appearance of age is debatable. I would not say the Earth has an appearance of age.

            There do not on the surface appear to be any issues related to the age of the Earth, however, you will find a great many things actually interact with it.

          • I would not say the Earth has an appearance of age.

            Really? You must have a very narrow lens that you’re looking through.

  28. Chris Auten says:

    Is it OK or permissible to just love Jesus and try to follow him without really caring too much about whether the earth was created in 6 days or 6 billion years?

    • Yeah. People are just turning this into a life-or-death issue when it is not.

    • Sure, you’re entitled to believe what you want, but doesn’t it matter to you that your entire religion might be wrong?

      • Chris Auten says:

        Well, I guess my response would be that following Jesus is not a religion but a relationship. I quit doing the religion thing a long time ago.

        • +1.

          Religion would say, “You must believe in a 6,000 year old earth or else…” As many have suggested here, that’s not a hill Jesus has asked us to die on.

          • If you can accept uncertainty about the one, how can you be sure what Jesus did nor did not ask us to do? As historical documents, the gospels do not seem very trustworthy…

          • Four eyewitness accounts. Gospels seem more trustworthy historically than any other documentation of any other person or event of that day.

          • What makes you think they’re eyewitness accounts? At least three are products of multiple, unknown authors and unknown editors, the fourth is equally murky. All were produced at least a generation after Jesus was executed, and read like sectarian religious tracts.

          • I don’t think the Gospel writers themselves were eyewitnesses, but I do think that a good case can be made that they are built upon oral history passed down from eyewitnesses. And such accounts are often relatively stable. Richard Bauckham, as Chaplain Mike mentioned, does a good job at presenting this. James Dunn also does. I would say the Gospels don’t really read so much as typical religious tracts as there’s plenty of information in them that could actually work against the case they were trying to make. The fact that the first witnesses to Jesus’ resurrection were women in the synoptic Gospels is something that would have been seen a big negative.

          • Exactly, Phil M. My reason for stating that the four gospels were eyewitness accounts was to see if Wexel would pounce on that as an argument against their historical accuracy. What we have are four oral histories that go far beyond any sort of documentation we have for most other ancient historical events, yet people love poking holes in those accounts while completely accepting other events without question.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            Four eyewitness accounts. Gospels seem more trustworthy historically than any other documentation of any other person or event of that day.

            Make that four eyewitness accounts (or rather four after-the-fact compilations of eyewitness accounts) that differ in the little details. This adds to their credibility, as actual accounts will always vary slightly from witness to witness. (Ask any cop.) Having ALL the stories agree exactly is as much a sign of a false account as having none of them agree; just the first is evidence of collusion/cooking up a story.

          • What a specious argument. The synoptics resemble one another, because Matthew and Luke copied almost the whole of Mark. They are not independent accounts. As for the supposed reliability of oral accounts, consider urban legends. A number of gospel vignettes seem to be modified retellings of OT stories, but with different protagonists (e.g., Jesus rather than Elisha as the miracle-worker).

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            I assume Wexel is New Atheist or Skeptic?
            He has that distinct tone.

      • It would if the entire religion being wrong was the natural extrapolation from not caring about such trivialities. But in reality the faith doesn’t live or die on real estate that’s anywhere near six-day creation issue. The fact that so many people think it does is evidence that the church doesn’t really care about the core of the faith all that much.

  29. This weekend I’m teaching a class and it is covering the great gifts that God has given us. We are covering how over time, God has carefully and lavishly prepared earth to receive and nourish humanity. The gifts of God for humankind culminate in Christ and continue until Parousia*. In response, humanity has a special responsibility to assist God, with both hands and heart, in the transformation of the world, bringing it into the fullness of the life that God desires.

    To me this thinking is a way of looking at creation with the emphasis on God. (Kind of the way non-dispensationalists look at Revelation.)

    Although I’ve already had to have a conversation with a mom as not to upset her YEC (Apologia, home school curriculum) views. She informed me that they prayed through what to teach their sons and God told them YEC – a la AIG. Nothing like pulling out the “God card.” I assured her that I’m not conflicting with her views; I’m presenting the concept that either God made the earth to appear 15 billion years old or it is that old. Scientists have the ability to calculated how long the light from the furthest star is and that is the number. So, we’ll see if we can stay on topic and not get off into the fruitless debate.

    * Using the concept in the now and yet to come understanding – i.e.: thy kingdom come on Earth as it is in Heaven and Christ is in me and I’m living in Him, and when Christ returns and is all and all where death will be swallowed up in victory.

    • +1

      Great post, great attitude!!

    • Marcus Johnson says:

      You handled that situation so much better than I would have. I would have just checked out of the conversation with that mother as soon as she said, “I prayed about… and God told me…”

      Or I would have said, “That’s funny, because I prayed, too, and God told me…”

      Is this why I’m not teaching Sunday School?

  30. Marko Requena says:

    “Let the scientists do science and help us understand how the world works.

    Let the Bible work faith, hope, and love through Jesus Christ and bring us to God’s new creation.”

    AMEN!!!!!!

  31. Klasie Kraalogies says:

    Oh my!

    I alwys find it hilarious, in these types of “discussions” (more like guerrilla wars) that the YEC camp likes to prescribe what science is and what it isn’t – and most often it is non-scientists saying this. The University of Georgia has a nice set of workable definitions: http://www.gly.uga.edu/railsback/1122sciencedefns.html

    One can even condense all of those by saying science is the application of reason to observed data, in order to understand the cosmos (which includes humanity). The data can be observed directly or indirectly. The process of advancing science is Bayesian in nature – ie repeated observation, refinement etc. In this, I sharply disagree with Karl Popper – (and I’m not alone in this). Repeated observation cannot always be controlled – as in repeating an experiment. But it can be found, as in repeated evidence of similar events.

    Occasionally, the YEC camp brings up a PhD fellow that also happens to be YEC. That is an entirely suprious argument – after all, we have PhD’s that are AIDS denialists, and all sorts of wacky ideas. Even the most rational of fields have their lunatic fringes.

    The evidence has been examined, and the weight is firmly against YEC. Those that want to perpetuate it have to (and mostly do) resort to conspiracist language (that is why the sound like truthers, birthers, anti-vaccine types, new age natural everything types, Illuminati-fearing types etc etc). It becomes a pathology. Yes, I can say that, because I started life as one. I wen through university as one. I even survived university as one, but only by effectively surrendering to an extreme post-modern epistemology, where I denied that any true knowledge could be gained from our senses. Of course, we also read Scripture through our senses – so eventually simple logic put a nail in that. But the cognitive dissonance lasted a long time.

    Insisting to read Holy Writ through modernist/post-modernist lenses is disrespectful to the text: The modern reader is but a tertiary audience – the primary having lived thousands of years ago in a different culture, and the secondary being the translator. To insist on absolute literal interpretations now, in that framework, is willfully ignorant at best.

    • “science is the application of reason to observed data” that reminds me of the RISC vs. CISC debate in computing (“RISC is good engineering, therefore RISC is better” – he who controls the definitions wins the debate 🙂

      Anyone who denies reason or data is not logical. Are you claiming there is no logical approach which is consistent with the YEC position?

      • Klasie Kraalogies says:

        There is a serious lack of reason, a blatant disregard for evidence, and an effort to shoe-horn data that would make a contortionist envious.

        My definition of science comes from 2 decades of being a scientist, looking at data, and seeing its relation to reality and other disciplines – mostly outside of academia, in industry, where the answers could have billion dollar impacts. Also from reading a lot.

        • Among some (or many), certainly. But I am talking about all. Are you familiar with Todd Wood (http://toddcwood.blogspot.com/) – is he unreasonable and illogical?

          • Klasie Kraalogies says:

            Todd has to indulge in a lot of cognitive dissonance. He looks carefully at some geology (for instance), yet ignoring others. Very few of his more academic articles prove anything – they generally say that maybe there is an alternative explanation, but it is too much like dabbling than comprehensive research. Fot instance, he ignores simple contrarian evidence wrt his Coconino Article at the last Origins conference – see this laymen-level article: http://www.oldearth.org/coconino.htm

            But he is quite a bit nicer than most others, I give you that.

          • Will you acknowledge that the OE side has serious issues with defining original sin?

          • Will you acknowledge that the OE side has serious issues with defining original sin?

            What does that matter, even? If part of theology asserts something, but then we come to find out the facts we observe make it harder for that bit of theology to stand up, we don’t have the luxury to turn around and, “well, it looks like our facts are wrong…”.

            I’m skeptical of agenda-driven research in general. If a company paid someone to do research on the effectiveness of the product it was selling and the researchers and came back and said, “this is greatest product of this kind we’ve ever seen!” people would naturally be skeptical. To me, that is what a lot of the YEC apologetic material reads like. They have a pretty big ulterior motive. Certainly other scientists can, but after a while, the things that are the facts of the situation will emerge.

          • Klasie Kraalogies says:

            No, since you entirely depend on a very specific literal reading of the origin of original sin. See my original comment regarding tertiary readers reading a primary source.

          • Phil, are you saying we should reject the doctrine of original sin?

            Klasie, I am not talking about the origin of original sin – but whether such a thing has any meaning at all.

          • Phil, are you saying we should reject the doctrine of original sin?

            If we construe the doctrine in such a way that it means that we essentially have to be intellectually dishonest, yes, I’d say it would need to be rejected. Personally, I do think that we can still hold to the concept of original sin without needing for there to be a literal Adam… Actually, to be picky, I think the phrase “sin of origin” is a better concept.

            This quote is from here: http://otagosh.blogspot.com/2012/02/original-sin-and-sin-of-origin.html

            It is helpful to keep in mind the crucial theological distinction expressed succinctly by Lutheran theologian George L. Murphy. This distinction is between “original sin” and “sin of origin.” The former, as bequeathed to us through Augustine, refers to an event at the beginning of history and requires a historical Adam as the first human to sin and transmit that sin to all subsequent humans. The latter affirms the absolute inevitability of sin that affects every human being from their beginnings, from birth. In other words, Murphy and others counsel that we must remain open on the ultimate origins of why all humans are born in sin (original sin) while resting content in the observation that all humans are born in sin (sin of origin)… the notion of “original sin,” where Adam’s disobedience is the cause of a universal state of sin, does not find clear – if any – biblical support.

            I don’t need to know the exact reason why we sin or where sin came from to realize that all humans sin. That is simply something that can be observed.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            And while the Theological Arguments and Anathemas fly, pastors’ widows are still eating out of dumpsters.

          • Marcus Johnson says:

            nedbrek: I see some flawed logic if that you assume that the concept of original sin is based on the concept of a young-earth, literal, six-day creation process and that, if the six-day process goes, out goes original sin. The claim of most folks in this forum is that the former is not premised on the latter.

          • “I don’t need to know the exact reason why we sin or where sin came from to realize that all humans sin.”

            There are some who will deny that sin exists. What would you say to them?

          • Marcus Johnson says:

            nedbrek: I’m sure that, in addition to the people who deny that sin exists, there are the folks who still think that Obama was born in Kenya, or that the moon landing never occurred, or that the purple Teletubby really is a subversive character designed to make kids go gay. Trying to prepare an answer for every single question that could possibly stem from a line of reasoning like the one proposed in CM’s article is an effort in futility.

            Now, if by “there are some who will deny that sin exists,” you are really stating, “I don’t believe sin can exist if we cannot affirm a literal six-day creation narrative,” then let’s drop the smoky mirrors and address that, rather than attribute the thought to “some.”

          • There are some who will deny that sin exists. What would you say to them?

            Don’t see how the question relates, really… If someone does deny that sin exists, I don’t suspect an argument of original sin with the presupposition of YEC certainly isn’t going help anything.

          • I guess it is not clear to me if you are ok with saying that God is the originator of sin – that we sin because of the way God made us.

          • I guess it is not clear to me if you are ok with saying that God is the originator of sin – that we sin because of the way God made us.

            That’s not what I’m saying… I don’t really feel like getting into it all in detail right now, but CM’s posts where he talk about “surd evil” are a good resource, as he mentioned earlier. In creating the cosmos, God brought order to the chaos. That chaos seems to be at war with God’s intentions even still. That would be my starting point.

            I could say a lot more, but, frankly I don’t think this is going anywhere, and it’s not really what I want to spend my Friday afternoon doing.

  32. I have posted these before. I still believe they are foundational to any discussion regarding science and religion.

    The first is Albert Einstein’s essay on the subject, first published ine the New York Times Magazine on November 9, 1930:
    http://www.sacred-texts.com/aor/einstein/einsci.htm

    Notable quote:

    “…a conflict arises when a religious community insists on the absolute truthfulness of all statements recorded in the Bible. This means an intervention on the part of religion into the sphere of science; this is where the struggle of the Church against the doctrines of Galileo and Darwin belongs. On the other hand, representatives of science have often made an attempt to arrive at fundamental judgments with respect to values and ends on the basis of scientific method, and in this way have set themselves in opposition to religion. These conflicts have all sprung from fatal errors…Now, even though the realms of religion and science in themselves are clearly marked off from each other, nevertheless there exist between the two strong reciprocal relationships and dependencies. Though religion may be that which determines the goal, it has, nevertheless, learned from science, in the broadest sense, what means will contribute to the attainment of the goals it has set up. But science can only be created by those who are thoroughly imbued with the aspiration toward truth and understanding. This source of feeling, however, springs from the sphere of religion. To this there also belongs the faith in the possibility that the regulations valid for the world of existence are rational, that is, comprehensible to reason. I cannot conceive of a genuine scientist without that profound faith. The situation may be expressed by an image: science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.”

    The second is a rebuttal by Paul Tillich, published in his book, “Theology and Culture”:
    http://www.delsearegional.us/academic/classes/highschool/english/intellectualheritage/student/unit1/introductory/tillich.PDF

    Notable quote:

    “Firstly we can agree entirely with Einstein when he warns the theologians not to build their doctrines in the dark spots of scientific research. This was the bad method of some apologetic fanatics of nineteenth-century theology, but it never was the attitude of any great theologian. Theology, above all, must leave to science the description of the whole of objects and their interdependence in nature and history, in man and his world. And beyond this, theology must leave to philosophy the description of the structures and categories of being itself and of the logos in which being becomes manifest. Any interference of theology with these tasks of philosophy and science is destructive for theology itself. Secondly we must ask every critic of theology to deal with theology with the same fairness which is demanded from everyone who deals, for instance, with physics—namely, to attack the most advanced and not some obsolete forms of a discipline.”

  33. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    Ken Ham excoriates Nazarene universities for having compromised on creationist teachings, and responds to Hamlin’s testimony by saying, “With such disregard for the authority of God’s Word on creation by many Christian college professors, it’s no surprise when I read testimonies like Hamlin’s and see the destructive effects of evolutionary ideas on one’s Christian faith.”

    This is because to Ken Ham, Young Earth Creationism IS the entire Gospel. Young Earth Creationism IS the entire BIble. Young Earth Creationism is THE Litmus Test of whether you are REALLY a Christian, whether you are Saved or Lost.

    Like Predestination and TULIP to Calvinists, or Speaking in Tongues to Pentecostals.

  34. Marcus Johnson says:

    If the Bible was any other book, any other piece of literature, we would publicly deride anyone who approached the interpretaion of its text with the same interrogative process that we use to read the back of a box of Pop-Tarts (unwrap from foil, drop in toaster, toast, eat). Yet, somehow, when it comes to Scripture, we are totally okay with saying, “This verse says _____, so I should do what it says,” with no regard to its immediate audience, historical and cultural context, author’s intent, etc. If we had any respect for the Bible at all, shouldn’t we hold it to a scrutiny higher than any other work? Shouldn’t we ask if we are looking at allegory, metaphor, myth (not a bad word), poetry, etc., before we assume that we are reading a direct imperative?

  35. I always see the discussion of Genesis 1-3 w/ regard to this debate – but what about Exodus 20:8-11? Does it not speak in terms that the post-exilic Israelites would have understood, namely the make up of “days”? I’ve not landed solidly on either side of the debate so this is just a neutral question (so to speak).

  36. ashley haworth-roberts says:

    I think Challies should have written YEC-ism teaches the Bible NOT the Bible teaches YEC-ism.