The evolution of a creationist

In the beginning I believed in billions of years.

Then, about 8 years ago, a great friend engaged me in the most infuriating conversation of my life.  He actually asked me to articulate my position.  He wanted me to spell out how I thought Eden and Adam fitted into my evolution story.  How evolved was humanity when they gained the image of God?  When did death enter creation and how?  At what point did I think the bible did start recording historical truth?  What was my basis for distinguishing the mythological from the historical and why couldn’t I equally mythologize other biblical narratives?  On and on it went.  It was horrible.

I decided to think about this a bit more.  As I studied further, issues arose around five areas in particular:

1) An argument from the language

There are other, better words that Moses could have used to indicate an age of time in Genesis 1.  He did not choose them – he chose ‘yom’ which most commonly means ordinary day.  It is true that ‘yom’ has a range of meaning (e.g. daytime as opposed to nighttime, a specific time or even a whole year).  However in Genesis 1 the writer has gone out of his way to qualify ‘yom’ as a 24 hour period.  Outside Genesis 1, ‘yom’ is used with ‘evening’ or ‘morning’ 23 times – in each case it refers to an ordinary day.  ‘Yom’ is used with ‘night’ (as in Gen 1:5) 53 times outside Genesis 1 and in each case it refers to an ordinary day.  ‘Yom’ is used with a number 410 times outside Genesis 1 – and in all those cases it refers to an ordinary day.  And the pattern in Genesis 1?  “And there was evening, and there was morning, the first day.”

Note the comments of Dr James Barr – a man who criticises evangelicals for trying to hold both to the plain meaning of the Bible and an old earth.

… so far as I know, there is no professor of Hebrew or OT at any world class university who does not believe that the writer(s) of Genesis 1-11 intended to convey to their readers the idea that (a) creation took place in a series of six days which were the same as the days of 24 hours we now experience; (b) the figures contained in the Genesis genealogies provided by simple addition a chronology from the beginning of the world up to later stages in the biblical story; (c) Noah’s Flood was understood to be world-wide and extinguished all human and animal life except for those in the ark.

2)  An argument from Scripture interpreting Scripture

Exodus 20:8-11 is difficult to answer.  God has ordained a working week of six days with one day rest because that is exactly how He did His work of creation.  We cannot stand above Scripture to interpret it and we don’t need to – the Bible interprets the Bible, and it does so here with crystal clarity.

3) The failure of any other hermeneutic to handle Genesis 1

James Jordan in this short essay explain this point brilliantly (Update: Even if his conclusions are too strong for my liking).

4)  The parallelism of Adam and Christ

The gospel looks quite different if Christ recapitulates a mythical man’s mythical history.  Union with Christ mirroring union with Adam also goes pretty wonky.  It’s not impossible to salvage, but you lose a lot.

5) An argument from the Gospel

How did death enter creation?  It is clear that this happened as a result of Adam’s sin (Genesis 3; Romans 5).  The blame for the curse and death lies squarely at man’s feet.

Death is not a God-ordained instrument of creation.  His creation is very good.  To believe in macro-evolution over billions of years is to believe in billions of years of death, pain and struggle which God used in creation, then pronounced very good and then blamed on humanity.  This affects dramatically our doctrine of creation and in turn our doctrines of sin and redemption. 

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As these and other points slowly wore me down I found myself evolving into a creationist.  I still remember the moment when I finally decided to take the plunge and become a complete nut-case.  As I saw it (and still see it) I resolved that day to stand with the Scriptures and against the wisdom of men.  As I saw it (and still see it) I decided to follow the bible to conclusions considered utterly ridiculous by the world. 

Looking back, it has been one of the most formative moments in my theological development.  Not so much for the theological implications of creationism over theistic evolution.  At a more profound level it signalled a determination to trust the bible wherever it seemed to lead, even if – shock horror – I became a fool in the world’s eyes.  I had been tethered by a desire to look wise in the world’s eyes.  Now I was cutting those ties and could plunge much deeper into the strange and radically subversive world of the bible.

Of course dangers abound in the degree of emphasis we place on creationism etc.  In future I’ll post on the problems of too much and too little consideration of these things.  I may also post on how to discuss these matter in evangelistic settings.  But for now I simply give you my personal journey.  Not written to provoke debate (though I’ll interact with any for as long as my goldfish-like attention-span lasts).  I’m just laying out a little of where I’m coming from. 

If you want a moral to this story it’s probably 1 Corinthians 3:18:

Do not deceive yourselves. If any one of you thinks he is wise by the standards of this age, he should become a “fool” so that he may become wise.

 

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Posted on by Glen in apologetics, creation, theological method

About Glen

I'm a preacher in Eastbourne, married to Emma.

102 Responses to The evolution of a creationist

  1. Dev

    wohoo nutcases rule! =)

    i remember it was a guy who just asked me..
    (him)”is God your authority?”
    (me)”Yes”
    “So is man-discovered science on par with God?”
    “No – let God be true and every man a liar”
    “So then?”
    “Good point”
    (note to self – delete all man-science from brain)
    (later on – replace with God-Bible-science)

    done deal since then…

  2. theologymnast
  3. Bob MacDonald

    Those arguments were presented to me years ago by my fundamentalist friend. They are not necessary. You put God in the position of the great deceiver – allowing science to deceive all. The entry of sin into the world is not difficult to imagine. There is great lust for power in each of us. The desire to be right rules us. It is a work of the flesh.

    Love works the fulfillment of God’s purpose for us, not a consistent worldview or theory of everything whether scientific or religious.

    What Genesis teaches is that God is good and creation is good – that alone is a challenge to faith.

    If you have by the Spirit put to death the deeds of the body, and you have thereby known the life that the Spirit works in your mortal body, then no amount of special pleading by creationists or scientists will be necessary to allow you to love and worship God revealed in Christ Jesus. Follow him – not your own theories – no matter how ‘Biblical’ they seem to be. This applies to all confessions.

    But I’ll stop – I will agree on one thing – God in Christ Jesus has shown us something new and eternal and worth pursuing and being pursued for (Psalm 23).

  4. Gav

    Glen, thanks so much for the post.

    Its times like these when my faith is like a roller coaster and I forget the times where there has been solid evidence, to me, of the Gospel. Just finished reading your last post on the four horsemen and some of the comments…….. Maybe I should revisit the basics again to gather my breath!

    Dev, good comments. They were very helpful.

    I’ll look forward to your post on explaining it to my collegues and mates.

    Cheers and God bless.

  5. bobby grow

    Glen,

    as you note, I don’t believe that Genesis’ primary goal was to tell us ‘how’ creation all happened (except for creatio ex nihilo); but instead to tell us ‘who’ created contra the pagan gods of the nations surrounding, and even within the covenant people of God. I have written further about this here:

    http://theologyofbobby.wordpress.com/2008/08/17/the-empirical-facts-of-genesis-1-11/

    Having said this, I do agree with the Hebrew of ‘yom’ leading to an understanding of a literal 24 hour day (I think the Ex. usage, that you note, supports this very clearly). Further, what we see in Genesis (as my article highlights) is a competition between metaphysics and worldviews that we do indeed see even in the present: viz. naturalism (i.e. pagan deities) vs. Christian theism (i.e. creatio ex nihilo creation out of nothing). This most certainly will have impact upon how one thinks, even as a Christian, about salvation (i.e. Protestants vs. Catholics . . . relative to variant ideas on the relationship between nature and grace); so, this illustrates how I see this whole issue as an theological vs. an [a]theological issue (pagan deities or naturalism). Anyway I rant . . . keep them coming, I agree with your whole post (although I’m still up in the air on the ‘age of the earth’, but certainly lean young).

  6. Chris Oldfield

    I agree with two points
    – Exodus: establish a weekly sabbath “for in six days the LORD created…but on the 7th he rested” is much more compelling than any arguments from Genesis. It’s hardly insurmountable.
    – creationism solves LOADS of theological problems, most precisely the problem of death & the fall.

    Aside from forcing christians to be utterly postmodern with respect to science, undermining the bases of modern science (eg the coherence of a created order such that universal generalisations are possible [NB not just local regularities or even technology), I disagree on 3 points:

    1. sure, the standard reading of “yom” is day, BUT “day” is used in at least 3 and probably 4 different ways/durations, even on a plain reading, in gen 1v1-2v3. I take it that the seventh day never ended, the sabbath rest of God himself that continues and is still called “today” in the Psalms and Hebrews. There was no “eighth day”…

    2. “death came through sin”. I totally agree that this is the only motivation for creationism. Genesis is a book of beginnings (of creation, of mankind, of Israel, of covenants, of sin, etc) and as I see it the ONLY “beginning” that is at stake in a Darwinian understanding is the beginning of animal death. Read Henri Blocher’s NSBT on Original Sin for a thorough exegesis of Romans 5.

    3. I’ve never met a Creationist who considers the significance of the GARDEN, as opposed to the rest of the world, Presumably it wasn’t a safe place outside – maybe there were even “thorns and thistles” outside – yet God prepares a safe place to work, where he was with us – and willing and able to keep us safe, yet still he commissioned Adam & the woman to spread that garden rule of God to the ends of the earth? I might even read Job to see the wisdom of God in the wild side of creation.

  7. Chris Oldfield

    do you have a background in science?

    there’s also one important nuance – it’s fine to say that reconstructing evolutionary history is extremely difficult, and even that the adaptationist paradigm is unfalsifiable, like just-so-stories

    However, when it comes to physics, namely cosmology, when we say the universe is ~13 billion years old, or when we see light from millions of light years away, we’re not just reconstructing the past; in a very real way, we are seeing the past. That’s why physicists tend to approach all these problems to do with darwinian evolution, old earth, & so on, without much concern – they simply don’t scratch the surface of cosmological time.

    When I consider your heavens,
    the work of your fingers,
    the moon and the stars,
    which you have set in place,
    what is man that you are mindful of him,
    the son of man that you care for him?
    You made him a little lower than the heavenly ones
    and crowned him with glory and honor.
    You made him ruler over the works of your hands;
    you put everything under his feet…
    O LORD, our Lord,
    how majestic is your name in all the earth!

  8. glenscriv

    Dev, I see your evolution was much speedier than mine. My metanoia is far too gradualist!

    Paul, I remember reading that post a while back. I was tempted to comment “Dear Pastor Wilson, I am a C of E creationist… Now what?” Unfortunately I came to the comments too late. Be interesting though to hear how he thought creationism would practically help in the current debates (aside from simply the determination to buck the wisdom of the world).

    Bob, I hear you about the ‘theory of everything’ danger. I guess what really drives me is a suspicion of all the other ‘comprehensive worldview’ stories out there. Everyone’s got them. But let’s not allow someone else’s ‘theory of everything’ to crowd out the riches of our own story. Now I think Genesis is saying more, but even if we’re simply being told ‘God is good and creation is good’ then let’s make sure the evolution story doesn’t make us redefine even that. ie let’s protect point 5) from my post.

    Gav, stay away from the horsemen of Revelation 6! Stick with the Horseman of Revelation 19 – the King of kings and Lord of lords. I’ve got a sermon on Him up in ‘My Sermons’ if you’re interested.

    Bobby, I think we’re in agreement but I’ll riff a little on the themes you bring up.

    No matter what the Scripture in question – I’m always suspicious when scholars say things like “Of course the context of this passage [which is nowhere stated in the bible but which I’ll assert] is the very narrow question of X.” Or “This passage answers the narrow question of X [which is nowhere asked in the bible but which I’ll assert as the interpretive context] and it has no interest in any other questions which may be asked of it.” You’ll recognize that this kind of hermeneutic is used to interpret many other passages in the bible (and more often than not it’s the bad guys using it.)

    And anyway, we don’t want a hermeneutic that says ‘the bible only narrowly speaks into its own original context’. The context is important, but application can and must be made beyond that. Therefore even *if* its context was the refutation of contemporary creation myths, its valid application must be the refutation of our own creation myths.

    If it once refuted creation out of chaos, war, storms, sex and death, then it still refutes such creation accounts. You’ll recognize from that description that the current story aint so different to the ancient myths after all.

    Chris, I guess I am quite postmodern about origins science (hopefully in a good way). What I mean is that I see it telling me a story and asking me to enter into its explanatory world. I am very happy to engage with it and see the world from its perspective (a perspective which may yield fruitful insights) but I am very suspicious of its desire to force a grand metanarrative on me. I think it might well be a power play!

    On 1, absolutely the seventh day is open and this is full of theological import. But you’ve argued my point – the lack of ‘evening, morning, number’ might push you from its usual usage so that you think ‘age-long duration.’ But that just double underlines the ‘closedness’ of the 6 days. “And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.” Every qualifier of yom screams 24 hour period (see my post) – linguistically I don’t think yom can’t do the job you want it to.

    On 2, how did the animals die? In the evolution story – starvation, disease, natural disaster, genetic mutation and decay – nature red in tooth and claw. It’s a dog eat dog world. The theistic evolutionist comes along and puts God’s ‘very good’ stamp on it. I’m not so sure. Romans 5 is important. (I haven’t read Blocher, I suppose I should, I’ll look into that). But Romans 8 is important too – when does ‘subjection to frustration’ happen?

    On 3, have you read much of James Jordan? (I linked to him above – point 3). He’s very much into humanity maturing by spreading out from the garden and cultivating the earth etc. I’m not always sold on all his stuff (how’s that for a qualifier!) but I mention him because he’s also a young earth 6-dayer. I guess he doesn’t see the garden points you make as arguments against creationism. I’m not sure I do either.

  9. glenscriv

    Hi Chris,
    No background in science (though I’m a dab hand at Ikea furniture assembly. I’m sure the skills are transferable).

    I’m surprised to hear you say that physicists don’t just reconstruct the past but “in a very real way” see it. In fact you’re the last blogger I’d expect to say that. Surely there are “wet lenses” at play?? ;-)

    Glen

  10. Chris Oldfield

    lol. touché! I’m glad you at least nod to your postmodernism. I mentioned it because for me there’s a profound irony – it seems to be the fundamentalists, who are most scathing of postmodernism when it comes to their truth claims, history or biblical studies, are the most postmodern when it comes to this particular area of study. Imagine being a thoroughly reformed scientist working in this area and being constantly told that “it’s just the anti-god agenda of the scientific establishment”.

    I’m very sympathetic to creationism in a way that I’m not to most intelligent design ideas, but I’d be much happier if people at least recognised that they were capitulating to the postmodern critique of science, and didn’t try to make “scientific” cases. The questions you raise are the right ones, and very significant, but I doubt you have them as sown up as you suggest. Do read Blocher.

    When I said “in a very real way, we see the past”, I meant by contrast to evolutionary reconstruction. When you see your hand, you’re seeing your hand as it was moments ago, because of the time it takes light to travel from your hand to your eyes, and light travels at a finite speed.

    It’s the old, “if the sun exploded, it would take 8 minutes for us to see it” thing. Now extend that to 4.5 lightyears (roughly the distance to nearest star). The very unit was invented because the distances are so enormous, it was more helpful to think of the time it takes light to travel. If you’re looking at something Alpha Centurai, the light that hits your retina as travelled so far that you’re literally seeing it as it was 4.5 years ago. Now extend that to something 100 million light years away. See the difference with biology – we can never observe evolutionary changes as they happened (although we can observe & reproduce the genetic changes).

    Does that make any sense?

  11. Chris Oldfield

    ps the reason I like blocher is he doesnt, like so many, say “look, science tells us what the bible must mean”. He says, “look, science raises questions. let’s go back to the bible to see what it really does mean.”

    example
    psalms, “the earth is firmly established: it shall not be moved”

    why don’t we believe this means the earth is fixed?

    (NB I’m not just making a point about genre – I don’t think Gen 1-11 is psalm-esque, I’m making a point about hermeneutics: science raises a question about this verse, which makes me go back and look and find something deeper that perhaps I might have missed – the LORD has established the earth for his people’s inheritance – )

  12. glenscriv

    Hi Chris,
    Yeah, I’m extremely relativistic when it comes to truth. Christ is Truth. It’s completely relative to Him. So I’m not ‘scathing’ of postmodernism – but neither do I buy it (to be honest I suspect it’s also a powerplay, but don’t tell anyone).

    Here’s what I’m wondering. If a Christian disagrees with the scientific establishment on its account of (eg) the age of creation, and if it suspects an ‘anti-God agenda’ has a hand, that Christian could be…

    A) a fundamentalist unwittingly capitulating to a postmodernism that they ordinarily disdain

    or

    B) a reformed thinker who understands the noetic effects of sin and the imposibility of pre-suppositionless epistemology.

    Now perhaps I say things that sound like A. To be honest I don’t really mind if I do sound like A. But to be more accurate I think I belong in B. And I think even a ‘reformed scientist’ such as yourself could very consistently find themselves at B. And therefore just as you’d want to provide a radical critique of any community’s agenda, I can imagine a consistent reformed scientist offering a radical critique of the scientific community’s agenda and the shaping power of its presuppositions. In other words, I think a reformed scientist such as yourself could consistently find yourself also questioning the ‘anti-God agenda’ of the scientific community.

    Anyway, I’m certainly not into ‘creation science’ or ‘Intelligent Design’ as any kind of apologetic. I’m pretty anti-apologetics truth be told. (Perhaps that should be ‘Truth be told’ – imperative!)

    So in the post below, for instance, I argue that Intelligent Design is no more *Christian* a solution to cosmic finetuning than the multiverse:

    http://christthetruth.net/2008/11/20/falling-off-either-side-of-the-wrong-horse/

    If you click my ‘science’ tag you’ll see the sorts of things I say on this subject.

    As for the ‘lenses’ through which physicists view the world, there are surely assumptions there that need questioning. Off the top of my head:

    * aren’t there *many* differences between what we know about my hand and what we know about the sun, or for that matter, distant galaxies? What’s calibrating these calculations? (I’m not saying there aren’t answers to these question, just that there are a lot of variables involved – especially relative to the ‘hand’ example).

    * are we certain that light always travels at the same speed – is it constant over time and across all space?

    * why should we ever rule out creation of light ‘on the way’? We know there is an appearance of age of the Garden variety, why not of a cosmic variety?

    The physicist too has presuppositions. They’re not in a different category to the other creation stories competing for our allegiance, are they?

  13. Chris Oldfield

    hi glen.

    of course we all have presuppositions, and I do appreciate the nuanced response concerning the noetic effects of sin (most people don’t realise how close that comes to postmodernism). You’d be amazed how sympathetic I am to your view, but I’m really not talking apologetics here. I’m talking about whether science is possible at all.

    It’s important that you see that saying “the universe is not that old” is really saying “the universe is not that big”, but I’m not bothered about the particular arguments. I’m concerned that the presuppositions of creationism undermine science altogether. Creationism can no longer appeal to the rational coherence of the universe, the pre-requisite for modern science (not just local regularities, but powerful generalisations such as Newton’s law of gravity, or Einstein’s conjecture that the speed of light is constant across all reference frames). As for “do we know the speed of light is really constant”, I wouldn’t be able to explain that simply, but you’d be surprised how much falls apart if not – from magnets, motors & electricity to planetary orbits.

    The situation resembles The Truman Show, where each morning, unbeknownst to Truman, his ‘world’ is artificially set up ready to operate ‘normally’ when he awakes. Without this knowledge, Truman cannot hypothesise correctly about the way his world works, AT ALL. Do you really want to say that no one can do cosmology, or calculate climate change correctly unless they’ve read Genesis 1-9 and done the maths to discover the secret?

    Creationism undermines what historically, protestantism enabled.

  14. glenscriv

    This is fun. Thanks for this Chris.

    Let me say again that I am no scientist. But even I know that there have been massive paradigm shifts in what we commonly call ‘science’. Huge ones. Such that we might even be disinclined to call older views (like Aristotle’s?) ‘scientific’. But the older views were scientific, they just operated upon different assumptions that shaped their enquiries in different ways and yielded (often) different results. Many of those results were utter nonsense (though they seemed *completely* assured at the time!). Some of those results were very beneficial. Some of it (I’m assuming) got the right answer the wrong way. Some of it may have even got the right answer the right way. But overall we look back and say ‘Those were the wrong assumptions and the wrong methods – the whole paradigm was wrong.’

    I think a 6-day, young earth Christian is in a similar position as they look at naturalistic science. Of course non-Christian, Christ-hating, bible-ignorant scientists can come up with all sorts of stuff that’s beneficial. They may get many things ‘right’ but what we’re saying is, they’re operating from a totally wrong paradigm. (Here’s where the ‘Truth is relative’ point is helpful: It’s not that true propositions can’t be stated by non-Christians. It’s the system into which those propositions are fitted and interpreted that ultimately falsifies them).

    I think a creationist looks at a modern naturalistic scientist the way a modern naturalistic scientist looks at an Aristotelian scientist (or ancient Egyptian or whatever other scientific paradigm we now think is untenable). Does it work? Yeah, sort of. Is it right? Nope.

    I mean, let’s run with the Truman Show analogy (though I’m not saying God is deceiving like the creator of the TV show, nor that we’re helpless victims of this deceit etc, etc). But insofar as the analogy holds…

    Is it really true that Truman can’t hypothesise correctly about the way his world works “AT ALL”?

    Couldn’t Truman come up with all kinds of stuff that a) worked in his world and b) might even work in the world outside (even if it’s completely unwitting)?

    On another point, you say:

    “Creationism can no longer appeal to the rational coherence of the universe, the pre-requisite for modern science.”

    Isn’t it the naturalistic scientist who has no grounds to appeal to the rational coherence of the universe? The creationist has every right to appeal to rational coherence.

    Creationism does *not* say the universe is irrational, it says unbelievers are. There’s a big difference. Even so, the creationist knows that unbelievers manage in all sorts of realms of human endeavour – ethically, creatively, inter-personally, as well as scientifically. And they often behave quite consistently within those realms. And, viewed from certain, limited perspectives, many manage to behave in ways roughly consistent with biblical principles of ethics, aesthetics, psychology etc. But do they have ethics, aesthetics, psychology and science right? No sir. And are their mistakes only surface level? No – they require root and branch critique.

    And the creationist says – we believe in root and branch critique. Not because the contemporary paradigms don’t work in their own ways (in a sense they do). But ultimately they are radically off-Centre – the Centre being Christ. When looked at in big picture (and origins science is necessarily big picture) we see how very off it is.

    Therefore if positing BOTH a big AND a young universe requires a root and branch revolution in cosmological understanding – brilliant! Let’s get to it. If I were a reformed scientist (as opposed to a reformed… um… blogger?) that’s the sort of science that would excite me.

  15. Chris Oldfield

    sorry mate, i think you’ve missed the force of what I’m saying.

    1) it’s hardly a choice between “naturalistic science” and creationism! you confuse “the creationist” with “the christian”. Apologetically, the creationist hangs everything on a rejection of Darwinian evolution, but the particular way creationists go about this will, I fear, simply raise a double incredulity to the gospel. I have suggested why it will not just be incredible but implausible to the mainstream scientific community, by effectively undermining unifying explanations.

    2) Aristotle’s science is a good example of what modern science is not. Aristotle assumed he knew what the essential nature of the cosmos was – essences & quintessence. The Christian doctrine of creation says that the world is not necessary, but contingent – and could have been otherwise. In other words, we have to go out and discover what it’s like. Neither Aristotelian assumptions nor mystical allegories can tell us. The reformation tells us that the hidden things of God are not found in creation, which means we actually need to go out and learn to read the book of nature.

    3) when I say “hypothesise”, or modern science, I mean something very precise and very powerful. The chinese developed many “useful things” like technology, but not science in the modern sense of generalisations to laws of nature. Those are precisely the sort of hypotheses that Truman could NEVER get correct, because there is a schism in the way his world works: before he wakes up it’s set up & people stand still ready to start. Once he wakes up, everyone and everything moves in such a way that leaves him unable to conjecture the arbitrary schism. IF he assumes a rational coherence to the world, upon which he makes generalisations, he will ALWAYS be wrong. That’s the point. I didn’t say creationism says the universe is irrational, but that it posits such a schism which undermines the rational coherence of the universe.

    We must be very careful to keep these discussions in perspective – one often gets the impression that the fate of Christian theism hangs by a bacterial flagellum! Personally, I share the opinion of James Sire that since ‘naturalism, not evolution, is the enemy…most Christians should shun the topic of evolution when presenting the gospel’.

  16. codepoke

    Glen,

    I’m no Chris, and I won’t pretend to be. Great discussion.

    In the meantime, I don’t see why you have to fall down into either camp.
    + Galaxies are flying outward from a center point in the universe at a rate that makes a young universe unthinkable.
    + To say God created the universe with a belly button is a ridiculous intellectual betrayal. Why in the world would He create a universe that looks 13 billions of years old if it had not been around for 13 billion years? He gives us no other example of covering His tracks so pointlessly.
    + But He poetically tells us He did the whole job in 6 days.

    Simple. I don’t understand what God did.

    So why is all the posturing necessary? God did something, but He didn’t tell me what it was in such a way as it makes any sense to me. Maybe there was some dodgy trick He pulled with the speed of light on each day to make things happen faster. Maybe white holes worked some kind of magic. Whatever. I assume what He did worked, because I’m here commenting, but when He did whatever He did, He created a world that’s 13 billion years old.

    Adam and Eve were the first two people. There’s no reason to believe anything else. 13+ billion years creating Neanderthals, then God created Adam/Eve right next to them. I’m cool with that.

    But to declare you’re willing to be a fool for revealed truth makes no sense. Isn’t it better to say God’s word is true and the universe is 13 billion years old and you don’t know how to reconcile the two? If you pick a fight you cannot win, a fight God has not commanded you to pick, are you really helping anyone?

    And to declare I’m a gnostic because I say I don’t understand something in scripture (James Jordan) is flatly unproductive.

    I just don’t get this whole series of posts. I don’t see where denominating yourself from confessing believers over this subject gets at increasing the testimony of Christ. I don’t get how you can be so sure science has quit finding things that are true and yet confuse Christians. I don’t get why you want to actively, aggressively align yourself with the guys who silenced Galileo. What’s wrong with saying, “I don’t know?”

  17. Chris Oldfield

    Glen – I’m glad for the opportunity to discuss this here, because I’ve found myself discussing this with many colleagues & students since joining uccf, and have been meaning to blog some relevant thoughts for a while.

    Codepoke – I quite agree. There’s nothing inherently illogical in saying, “look, I don’t know how these things fit together”. But it is worth discussing in order to clarify for ourselves where there can and where there can’t be ignorance – to quote Carson on the mystery of suffering, “if we locate the mystery in the wrong place, sooner or later it can come back to hurt us”.

    Especially with our understanding of sin & the fall: I tend either to find people concerned for scientific integrity OR concerned for evangelical theological integrity. In what I hope is an honest desire for both, if it helps, I would heartily recommend the following books, which I’ve found extremely helpful.

    John Stott, Understanding the Bible, ch.3
    Francis Schaeffer, Genesis in Space and Time
    Henri Blocher, Original Sin (NSBT), ch. 2-3
    Denis Alexander, Rebuilding the Matrix, ch.9
    GK Chesterton, The Everlasting Man
    CS Lewis, The Problem of Pain, ch.5

  18. bobby grow

    Glen,

    I think I already said, what you said back to me. That I see corollary and application to current worldview debates between Christian theism and naturalism.

    What we do need to be careful of is anachronistically foisting current day questions and nuance upon the primary original context of a particular passage — thus allowing our applicational usage of a text to subvert the original point of the text so that we end up with a ‘reader response hermeneutic’ creating meaning (ex nihilo) out of our own concerns, thus emphasizing points, that a particular text was not intending to emphasize (who Yahweh is). But insofar there is corollary between ‘then’ and ‘now’ relative to this conversation, then I would say this text certainly has applicational value.

  19. bobby grow

    Chris said:

    . . . The reformation tells us that the hidden things of God are not found in creation, which means we actually need to go out and learn to read the book of nature.

    This presumes a Nestorian rift between God and nature. While there certainly is a distinction between the Creator and His creatures, this rift has been bridged in the incarnation so that they need to be seen unified, albeit with distinction, but with an inseparable relation. Nature, in Christ, then, becomes the creative habitation of the Spirit from whence even the ‘rocks cry out’.

    So to learn to read nature apart from the lens of Christ only leads us into Romans 1 again. But I’m hopeful you really aren’t saying this.

  20. Chris Oldfield

    bobby: since when is christ a lens? he’s a person, a single person. What you seem to be suggesting is that God is to the universe as a mind is to a body. That sounds to me more like panentheism at best & process theology at worst.

    I was referring to e.g. Bonaventure, who said The creature of the world is like a book in which the creative Trinity is reflected, represented, and written. Compare that to Francis Bacon, one of the fathers of modern science, who says ‘The works of God … show the omnipotency and wisdom of the maker, but not his image.’ .

    I was referring to this post. I don’t think I’m saying anything controversial there. Go read Peter Harrison

  21. glenscriv

    Hi guys,

    Maybe some terms need defining:

    Perhaps I’m being misleading. When I say ‘creationist’ I’m simply using short-hand for any Christian who believes in 6-day creation and a young earth (6-10000 years). Such a ‘creationist’ may never have heard of Charles Darwin, or they may see him as public enemy number one. They may go on fossil digs to prove a global flood or they may have no interest in ‘creation science’ whatsoever. You could probably substitute the terms ‘young earth’ or ‘literal Genesis’ (although that might be contentious.) But you get the picture. In this sense ‘creationism’ has nothing to do with an apologetic stance. I am a creationist and I have no interest whatsoever in advancing ‘creation science’ as any evidence for the truth of Christianity.

    Secondly, ‘science’. When I say ‘science’ I’m using it in perhaps a broader sense than Chris. I guess my definition is something like: a seeking after knowledge according to a method of enquiry that is shaped by the object of knowledge. (Btw in this definition we see that presuppositions regarding the nature of that object of knowledge are both determinative and unavoidable). But such a definition of science still gives us a method and is testable – it’s just that the method and the testing will be different depending on your presuppositions.

    On this understanding Aristotle definitely did science. And he did science every bit as much as CERN is doing science (and, I’d say, every bit as much as the theologian does science when they seek for knowledge in the Scripures). But, as Chris says, pre-suppositions regarding ‘the essential nature of the cosmos’ shaped Aristotle’s method of enquiry. But in that very consistency I would say that Aristotle was very much doing *science*. Since he thought reality was like that, that was precisely the way to study it.

    But then, as Chris says, came creatio ex nihilo (which certainly had its roots in a Christian doctrine of creation) and it brought a massive paradigm shift – reality is not necessary but contingent. In Chris’s linked article above he also outlines how, subsequently, a Protestant understanding of revelation had a part to play in further developments. Brilliant. But two related thoughts on this:

    1) The Christian doctrine of creation does not simply boil down to ‘ex nihilo’. What about the triune nature of the Creator? What about creation being perfected in the Spirit? What about a creation headed towards incarnation, summed up in Man and drawn back to the Creator in consummation?

    http://christthetruth.net/2008/12/24/incarnation-and-creation/

    There are so many more break-throughs awaiting the scientific community if they adopted Christian pre-suppositions.

    But this leads to…

    2) Creation ex nihilo is not (I don’t think) a stand-alone truth that can be divorced from the other christological considerations laid out in 1). Because creation is ex Christus and pro Christus, it is not simply that creation has a freedom from its Creator (the Logos). It also has the deepest union with Him. The real centre of a Christian doctrine of God is not ex nihilo, it’s the fact that the creative Logos became flesh. Without this understanding ex nihilo will not give a proper foundation for science.

    Put it this way – Aristotle may well have had problems dealing only in Logos – relying on an inner rationality without ‘going out’ to creation as a truly ‘other’ contingent reality. Yet there will also be problems with a scientific method that begins with cosmos in order to get to Logos.

    I might develop these two points at another time.

    Chris, I’m still not sure what you think the schism is that the creationist is positing. Unless you think the creationist God truly is like the TV producer who deliberately deceives Truman. The *massive* difference is that in the TV show the false paradigm is set up to trick Truman. In reality God is declaring the true paradigm with absolute clarity, regularity and constancy – the heavens declare the glory of God, day after day, night after night pouring forth speech. God does not provide the false paradigm, sinful humanity does. The schism is not in God nor in the created order – it’s in us.

    Interesting isn’t it how the Teacher looks at the very same regularity and constancy as the Psalmist (Ps 19) but draws *very* different conclusions! (eg Ecc 1:1-11) Now of course the Teacher observes regularity and can generalize towards certain laws. And some of those laws will be helpful in their own way (e.g. it’ll help me not to expect too much from this creation!) but the schism has occurred in the Teacher not in the creation.

    Code,

    There’s lots I don’t know. But I’m pretty sure about those 5 points up there in my post. In particular (number 5) I know that God is good and that His creation is good. And I know He has said futility and frustration and death and decay and curse are not good. They are not His doing. They are not the engine for this creation nor will they have any part in its renewal. We have not come out of explosions and storms, wars and chaos and death. Out of sheer gratuitous generosity we have overflowed from His joyful, exuberant life.

    Now I hope you know (I’ve said it enough times) that I’m not into ‘creation science’ as an apologetic for the Christian faith. I’m not into any apologetic! Christ and Him crucified is what I’m all about. But in taking all thoughts captive to Him, very occasionally (we’re talking maybe 5 posts out of 300!) I will try to think through how this relates to this extremely prominent story in people’s consciousness. Simply telling Christ’s story alongside the 13 billion years story might sound fine, until you say ‘13 billion years of the strong eating the weak, 13 billion years of mostly cold blackness, then starvation and cancer, dog eat dog and the selfish gene. And God called it good and then ‘What is this you have done?… Cursed is the ground because of you Adam!’ These stories actually interact and so we need to figure out how we ourselves should interact, inhabiting the Christ story and being surrounded by the 13 billion year story.

    Now I’ll admit that Jordan’s conclusions are much stronger than what I’d say. And I’ll admit that at times I may have sounded glib, as though I were simply glorying in some fundy seige-menality – “let’s all be fools!” I apoloigise for that – that’s not where this is coming from. It’s coming from the desire to be Christ-centred in everything.

    I wasn’t expecting you to agree Code, but I hope you understand why I say these things.

  22. Chris Oldfield

    1) I think you’re overlooking quite how culturally and socially located young earth creationism is, particularly with respect to Darwin.

    2) it’s precisely the contingency (ie it could have been otherwise) of the created order which motivates empirical investigation, not its having been created “ex nihilo”. If it could have been otherwise then Aristotle can’t just deduce the laws of motion from some necessary essence, and nor can Aquinas render the investigation of the cosmos redundant by saying all we need to do is understand what we now call special revelation (see Bonaventure quote).

    3) I don’t get what’s so confusing about this schism I find problematic. Are you seriously saying that it’s part of human sinfulness that people can’t assume/guess 6 day creationism?

    That’s like saying Truman should automatically know that until 7.30am, the world worked differently – people were standing still, getting into position, ready to act ‘normally’ as soon as Truman woke up. The schism I’m referring to undermines explanation altogether: unless Truman makes the straightforward assumption that people don’t suddenly start moving according to a script at 7.30am, then he CANNOT conjecture rightly about the world he’s in.

    4) Finally, Glen, you say I know that God is good and that His creation is good…We have not come out of explosions and storms, …chaos and death. Out of sheer gratuitous generosity we have overflowed from His joyful, exuberant life.”

    What is it to be a good star? What is it to be a good volcano? What is it to be a good tectonic plate? What is it to be a good Leviathan? Either you’re simply not reading Job on the goodness of God in the wild side of God’s creation, or you’re ignoring the difference between Eden and the rest of creation, which clearly was wild, not safe before the fall.

  23. Chris Oldfield

    *sorry, bad sentence should read

    unless Truman has this special knowledge, he CANNOT conjecture rightly about the world he’s in.

  24. Chris Oldfield

    *sorry, bad sentence should read

    if Truman makes the straightforward assumption that people don’t suddenly start moving according to a script at 7.30am, then he CANNOT conjecture rightly about the world he’s in

    or put another way,

    unless Truman has this special knowledge, he CANNOT conjecture rightly about the world he’s in,

  25. Gav

    At the risk of making a fool of myself in front of all this intellectual horse power…….where do you guys sit with the dinosaurs?

  26. Will

    Hi everyone,

    Could I respond to two things Codepoke says:

    “And to declare I’m a gnostic because I say I don’t understand something in scripture (James Jordan) is flatly unproductive.”

    I agree. I thought Jordan’s tone was completely unhelpful. Often people who hold minority opinions can become so angry and defensive that they succeed only in putting people off what they’re trying to say. So they end up consigning themselves to being in an even smaller minority! Tragic.

    Glen, really pleased to see you avoiding that trap here. God bless you as you argue for your minority opinions!

    That said, I hold this minority opinion too, though perhaps tentatively given I am yet to study Hebrew. I have given a lot of thought over the years to Codepoke’s other point though:

    “Why in the world would He create a universe that looks 13 billions of years old if it had not been around for 13 billion years? He gives us no other example of covering His tracks so pointlessly.”

    I wonder if God made the earth like that because in many ways “older” things are more beautiful. And by that I mean things that have come about as a result of quite intricate and involved processes. I live on a farm in New South Wales Australia where there are two main homesteads – one built in the 1890s (as far as we know) and one built in the 1970s. The older one is now in ruins but, at least in my opinion, it is considerably more beautiful than the newer one, because of the long process that got it to that point.

    Similarly there is an old volcano in the area with column type formations coming up out of the ground with sort of raggedy flat tops. Apparently they look that way because the larva that solidified in the column of the volcano stayed there after all the ordinary earth around it eroded away. Magnificent!

    Now I wonder if when God decided to make this mountain, 6000-10000 years ago, he realised that the erosion effect would produce something special. And he was so excited about it that he wanted to bless humanity with it right away. So rather than create an ordinary mountain and let several million years go past, he decided to make a hole in the ground and then let all the larva come up through it, and then miraculously solidify it and blow all the other earth away in an instant. Then it would be ready for the first humans to come down this way. Glory!

    Perhaps it was a bit like the furniture making technique where you make a new table and then, to give it a bit of character, you fill a sock up with nails and beat the table until it looks old and worn, before staining and polishing it. I once saw a table finished that way, and it looked quite good.

    Now I suppose that technique could be considered deceptive. But surely only in the context of an observer’s assumption that a beaten up table could only come about over time. But what about a creator who had everything at his disposal, including time, but was simply in a loving hurry?

    Perhaps, in that regard, the Book of Genesis would be like a little sticker on the side of table saying “this table was made over a few days in late 2008 by an extremely skilled craftsman”. Perhaps some antique dealers would dismiss the sticker as a forgery. But as far as the maker is concerned, surely he’s done all he can to avoid any deception, including taking the gracious step of correcting our mistaken assumptions.

    Anyway that’s my contribution, made without any knowledge of either science or Hebrew.

    Will

  27. Dev

    creation is good… very good
    because now it is set to be handed over to disobedience..
    so that Christ can redeem it and take it to perfection

    the creation story goes wonky when its not about Jesus

    btw I actually am a scientist – phd and all =)

  28. glenscriv

    Hi Chris,

    on 1) I wonder whether most people who hold to young-earth know or actually care that much about Ken Ham or Charles Darwin. We’re talking about a staggering percentage of Americans and a good proportion of UK evangelicals. I might be wrong but I’m guessing that for the most part these people are not occupying entrenched defensive positions. Perhaps I’m naive and reckon it’s just a matter of reading the bible at face value…

    On 2) I’ll have to give that more thought but to me Aristotle and Aquinas (though in many ways similar!) on this one are significantly different. Consulting revelation on Aquinas’s part seems very different to reasoning through the way things must be.

    On 3). I guess I’m saying the Truman analogy doesn’t work because God doesn’t trick anyone. God doesn’t freeze everything and then set it in motion just for His creatures to observe it. Scientists really observe things that are really out there. It’s just a question of the interpretation of those observations and the systems that are posited to explain them.

    e.g. the geological column (this one’s for you Gav) – no-one here is denying that there are dinosaur bones in the fossil record. No-one here is saying God is tricking anyone by putting dino bones in the fossil record. We really believe those dinosaurs lived and they died along with all those other creatures that were cataclysmically buried to preserve this record to the past. We just don’t believe that past was tens or hundreds of millions of years ago. We believe there are better explanations for the data. No-one denies the observations – it’s the explanatory paradigms that the observations are sucked into – that’s the question.

    On 4) In the 13 billion year story good stars die and good Leviathans. Lions do not lie down with lambs but tear them apart. And all of this is the driving force of God’s good creation. There’s a massive difference between post-fall wildness (Job) and pre-fall death, decay and selfishness. Of course, God can and does use even sin and death for good *post-fall*. But the very integrity of His character depends on *man* intending for evil and God intending for good. This is a highliy significant theological point.

    Hi Will – Absolutely! Everything God created has the appearance of age. It wouldn’t be deceiving if the tree of life had a hundred rings (though chopping it down to find them is a scientific enquiry too far methinks!). It wasn’t deceiving for Eve not to appear a minute old baby when she was brought to Adam. Everything – EVERYTHING – was created with the appearance of age. This is not a get-out clause that creations have dreamt up. It’s precisely what we read in Scripture.

    Dev – :D

  29. Dev

    did you know there are a minimum of 100 ways of scientifically dating the earth?
    one even assumes the earth is 500 years old!!!
    one assumes 500 billion

    imagine the elephant and the mayfly created on the same day
    if I date the earth by the elephant – its 60 years old
    by the mayfly – 1 day old

  30. bobby grow

    Chris,

    go read Calvin! Get a grasp on his understanding of God as Redeemer. Then go read Barth on Calvin, and get a further grasp on Barth’s understanding of knowledge of God as Redeemer; then go read T. F. Torrance’s most recently published work Incarnation (edited by Robert Walker) . . . and then you might not go off half-cocked and make presumptuous assertions about what I said — claiming that I am advocating some sort of panentheism, or process theology. Do a little more reading, then get back to me.

    Red herring, anyone?

  31. Pingback: I love Dev Menon… « Christ the Truth

  32. glenscriv

    ok, ok, simmer down people. No-one’s Nestorian or a Process Theologian here. My comments filter is very good.

    My post ended with 1 Cor 3. Here’s how that chapter ends:

    “So let no one boast in men. For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future- all are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s.”

    All the great Christ-exalting stuff that’s been said on this blog is MINE. (And I don’t care who said it!)

  33. Pete Bowman

    Hi everyone, this is a fascinating discussion. I have a question that I think relates, and I’m sorry if the language (e.g. definition of science) I’m using is a bit woolly.

    My question is: how can we have any confidence in the scientific conclusions we reach (by which I mean anything other than that which is straightforwardly revealed in the Bible), when the Bible so often shows us that “what is obvious” is not actually the case? Should we (as I currently do) hold the results of science loosely?

    For example, 2 Kings 6:17. For Gehazi, it was obvious that the hills were empty. But this was not the case. So why don’t I read articles on angels in New Scientist? Why is the existence of the unseen creation entirely missing in scientific thought?

    If, as in 2 Cor 4:4, God has blinded the minds of unbelievers, and we practically do science on the same basis as unbelievers, shouldn’t it be obvious that we’ll get it wrong? Is it possible that we could see “obvious” things that are actually a deception (underestimating the father of lies)?

  34. Chris Oldfield

    Glen, thanks for a very interesting conversation but I think this’ll be my last post, because I disagree but have already explained why.

    1) Will’s suggestions are rather quaint, and a very nice way of thinking about the world, but remind me of allegorical readings of the world. Quaint, but potentially naive. It’s really very difficult to start talking “science” here. Suffice to say the arguments become hopelessly ad hoc. What confuses me is why people with little scientific background assume they have an axe to grind. That God gives rains from heaven doesn’t contradict the water cycle; that God causes the sun to rise doesn’t contradict planetory orbits; that God leads his people throug, “though his footsteps were not seen” (Ex Ps77:19) If you want to think through the particular “arguments” propounded on e.g. geology/dating, please read E. Lucas, Can We Believe Genesis Today, or ‘Some Scientific Issues relating to the Understanding of Genesis’, in Themelios 12/2 (1987), 46-51.

    2) presuppositionalism doesnt help here. Saying “let God be true and every man a liar” simply begs the question, what has God said? I’d read Schaeffer, Genesis in space & time.

    3) To say 6 day creationism is the plain reading of scripture is (a) historically difficult and (b) normally fails to appreciate the nuances of the text. For instance, there is no article until THE 6th day, THE 7th day. Read Gordon Wenham’s commentary

    3) you say the Truman analogy doesn’t work because God doesn’t trick anyone. God doesn’t freeze everything and then set it in motion just for His creatures to observe it. The question whether God is tricking anyone is derivative, but that is exactly what you are saying God did, when you suggest he created everything with the appearance of age (eg “reflected” light already on the way from distant stars…) – remember, the one case I’m concerned about is not fossil records, but cosmology – “the universe is not that old” really means “the universe is not that big, unless God did a Truman. The moral consequences for that are 2ndary, not my primary concern.

    4) forgive me but I don’t understand your comment, “In the 13 billion year story good stars die and good Leviathans. Lions do not lie down with lambs but tear them apart..

    (a) For starters, lions lying down with lambs is a promise for the future, and it’s not insignificant that “a little child will lead them” – cf Gen 1, the world waiting for the image bearer to rule and keep it, Gen 2: the garden waiting for the man to work and keep it, Psalm 8 likewise, Rom 8: the world in travail, waiting for the true human beings to set it free, and 1 Cor 15: the world under the loving control of the MAN, christ Jesus.

    (b) Second, that was a question for you: what is a “good” star? is it something where if humans got near it they wouldn’t die? how about a “good volcano”? how about a good tyrannisaurus rex? how about a good lion? how about a good Leviathan, or a good beast from the sea? or a good serpent? Now, I’m not suggesting these things were in the garden which God had prepared, but aren’t they things that man is commissioned to rule over? to harness for godly ends, if you like?

    3) nonetheless, this is a good point to finish on, because it elucidates the difference between star “death”, plant “death”, animal death and human death. The Man was told he would surely die (Gen 2); the ground was told it was cursed, and would no longer be a blessing at rest (a theme developped through Cain, Noah, Abraham, Joshua, Chronicles, Ezekiel, Jesus & Hebrews). Do read Blocher’s exegesis of Romans 5.

  35. Chris Oldfield

    ps,

    bobby: sorry for offence caused. none intended. I’m familiar with the significance of “word became flesh” for establishing scientific knowledge. Alister McGrath, a great exponent of TF Torrance, taught me a lot last year. I thought Nestorianism was to do with the incarnation, against the truth that Jesus was a unified person. By analogy it sounded like you were suggesting that God and Nature were a single person with two natures. Obviously misunderstood your point. Blogs are hopelessly inadequate sometimes aren’t they!

    Thanks everyone for a very stimulating discussion. I’ll continue to read but won’t comment any more.

    yours in Christ
    Chris

  36. Bobby Grow

    I think what confuses me is why folks with “scientific” training presume that all they are doing is “hard science” when they make their observations/interpretations. We all know, or should know, this simply is not the case. There is always an “philosophy,” at a first order level, behind any discipline; whether that be science, theology, etc. The gist of my first comment here, @ Chris, was getting at just that. It is recognizing that ontology precedes epistemology (being precedes knowing), and until Christ assumes us (assumptio carnis), by the Spirit, into His humanity, sanctifies us (by virtue of His prototypical perfect humanity), and recreates us through His resurrection; then our epistemology will not have the capacity to do anything else but create constructs that start with ourselves (even collectively or at a “peer” level) — instead of outside ourselves in Christ.

    I think this is what Glen is getting at, and it is certainly what I am getting at. It is not that the hard data is not available, it’s what is informing the interpretation of that data relative, and esp., to things like cosmology. To me this all has to do with the noetic effects of the Fall, and how that impacts naturalistic science, or scientism. To say that science, as we have it in the universities today, has no metaphysical commitments (i.e. metaphysical materialism), is just straight disingenuous. And if the metaphysics, and philosophy, underlying the “hard science” is wrong, then the “hard science” is going to be wrong (you know the relationship between orthodoxy and orthopraxy).

    This is certainly the axe I want to grind, and let’s never forget that “theology” is the Queen of all the sciences.

    I understand why scientists want to immunize and cloister their discipline from critiques from theologians; but when “science” engages in theological discussion (at an interpretive level), then they are fair-game.

  37. Bobby Grow

    Chris,

    yes, please forgive me as well . . . I get a little riled sometimes, and often muddy the waters, because of my knee-jerk responses.

    Yeah the Nestorian point was primarily emphasizing the “two-natures” part, and the split-ontology that this presupposes. In other words, I was trying to highlight the problem that is posed by dividing “creation” from the “Creator” in a way that Chalcedonian christology won’t allow; and the subsequent fall-out this presents to epistemology (i.e. the unassumed remains unhealed, and the unhealed cannot rightly interpret creation/self until they are brought into the life of God [healed], and thus become able to rightly ‘know’ creation through the “healed” humanity of Christ).

    In Christ, and “healed” by the way (but not in a consummated way),

    Bobby

  38. glenscriv

    Chris,

    Thanks very much for a great discussion (and others too!). I feel like the grey matter has had a thoroughly good work out.

    I do object to dismissing Will’s suggestion as ‘quaint’. I fear this capitulates to a naturalistic account of knowledge. It begs the question (which Pete has just raised) of what counts as evidence in these discussions? Only testable, repeatable, falsifiable, empirical observations?

    Aristotle wasn’t right. But he wasn’t entirely wrong either (no-one thought they’d read *that* on this blog!). The Christian knows Logos becomes sarx. Not Logos alone (Aristotle). But not sarx leading to Logos either (modern science). Logos becomes sarx. Both Aristotle and modern science have some things right but over-all both approaches are wrong. And we shouldn’t simply dismiss Logos sounding arguments.

    1 Cor 11:14 – “The nature of things” does teach us (and without recourse to empirical testing etc). Why should we disallow such evidence at the bar of human reason? It is an aggressive move by naturalistic science to try to guard the keys to knowledge – I don’t think Christians should play along.

    You’re right in saying the issue is what God has said. This is the evidence question again. Perhaps ‘sola Scriptura’ issues are throbbing away in the background. For me, a scientific creation story can be falsified by a verse from Scripture just as easily as a pagan creation story. To be honest I’ve had significant theological views that have been turned on their head by a verse of Scripture – I’m sure the same has happened to you. I really don’t get the privileging of the naturalistic story over the pagan story or ‘my old (probably faulty) theology story.’ (I think this is what bobby’s getting at in his recent comment). All sit under Scripture and I get into trouble when I try to synthesize those stories with God’s Word.

    I think actually the Truman show analogy has been illuminating. For me I wouldn’t use it – there are too many difficulties with it. But I find it instructive that it can function as an analogy for Chris. As I see it, it is *not* as though the Lord has locked away naturalistic scientists in a self-contained universe in which their calculations work but can’t be generalized to the whole of creation. No. They are looking at the very same creation and the only prison is their fallen minds (2 Cor 4:4; 1 Cor 1:21; Eph 4:17ff). The Lord “catches the wise IN their craftiness.” (1 Cor 3:19). The very trap that’s involved IS the wisdom of the world. The systems of thought in and through which the unbeliever makes sense of her world – that is the prison.

    But that doesn’t mean observations can’t be made of the real and actual world or that regularities can’t be noticed or generalized from. It’s that, like the Teacher of Ecc 1, the same regularities that should lead us to the Glory of God (Ps 19) lead the unbeliever to futility. Their story makes some kind of sense and bears a true relation to the real story but ultimately tells a very misleading one.

    I find it a real betrayal of unexamined ‘lenses’ to think that old-looking creation could ever be considered deceptive. Why should we ever assume that creation should begin by looking young? Only an audacious thinker imagines they know what creation ought to look like. But this is exactly the audacity of an origins scientist: we generalise from empirical data towards a conclusion that ‘further on equals older-looking, therefore ‘in the beginning’ equals young-looking.’ God has not told us that! God has told us He created everything with the appearance of age. If there’s deception, it’s self-deception – it’s not-listening-to-the-Word-deception. It’s not in any sense God’s fault or the creation’s. Both give us clear and trustworthy words.

    Finally, the place of the fall is obviously very important. I am all for the redeeming Lord taking on the wilds of this world and bringing us through to the perfection of peace. Dev kind of referenced Rom 11:32 – I think that’s really important. But we know when this handing over took place – Rom 1:24,26,28 – the fall.

    Creation then fall then redemption. So important!

    Two points follow:

    When these get muddled there’s great theological problems – the integrity of God, the blame for fallen-ness on man, the freedom of God’s decision to enter into fallen-ness, the danger of redemption’s subsumation into some cosmic process. Problems.

    Secondly, any story about origins needs to factor in the massiveness of the fall. We can’t simply look back to the beginning. Scientists take note: We can’t see our origins. There’s a whacking great fall in the way – (and bye bye constancy!). The cherubim are guarding the way back with flashing swords. Obviously no naturalistic scientist factors in the fall – does the theistic evolutionist? Or is it really just one big fall anyway?

    That’ll do me for now.

    i think i’m spent…

  39. timothycairns

    I made a new years resolution not to comment anymore on blogs – 2008 was a bad year I got my IP address banned from a liberal Christian blog out of the States and at the end of the year a conservative home schooling blog put the ban on me as well – So it seems I am an offensive person! Not good getting your IP address on the black list when you work in a church with a school – although I can always blame the kids in the computer lab at lunchtime!

    Anyway…..all that to say I was interested to read the original post as your journey to creationism has almost mirrored my journey in the opposite direction!
    Thanks for the fascinating discussion. Hope you had a relaxing trip. Now thats enough commenting from me before my IP address gets banned again!

  40. codepoke

    Chris corrected me that the discussion was profitable, and I stand corrected, and corrected by a number of other points he made, too. I have the greatest respect for the way Chris interacted with this whole topic. Thank you.

    Glen,

    > It is an aggressive move by naturalistic science to try to guard the keys to knowledge – I don’t think Christians should play along.

    I’m really in favor of this point. I know it may not sound like it. I want to stand in front of the new atheists and wave a solution, but I don’t have one.

    *Something* really happened. That something, for some reason, looks astoundingly like it has a 13 billion year history. DNA shows every sign of millions of years of history. The Earth shows signs of 100’s of millions of years of history. Standing up and waving a 1 page poem at all that apparent history and saying it’s all explainable by a sufficiently complex God makes no sense to me.

    And I believe in a sufficiently complex God!

    > 1) An argument from the language

    This is strong. I’m a YEC about 1 month in every 12 because of this argument. I have no argument to present against this, except that there’s not much independent support for it within scripture. No author in scripture comments on it in a way that hammers it home. In fact, no author in scripture treats of it at all, as near as I can tell.

    > 2) An argument from Scripture interpreting Scripture

    This one was strong to others, but not so much to me. God worked until He was done and then He quit working, but that was only a picture of Christ working in our salvation. So the sabbath is a picture of a picture. The anti-anti-type is of God resting forever. The “7th day” is 2 pictures removed from it’s antitype, so declaring the intermediate picture a literal 6 days doesn’t feel firm to me.

    > 3) The failure of any other hermeneutic to handle Genesis 1

    Which I’d buy if the YEC hermeneutic did. Any hermeneutic that denied gravity starts with several strikes against it. Denying apparent history is in the same league. All evidence does not have to be measurable, but all measurable evidence needs to be respected.

    > 4) The parallelism of Adam and Christ

    Any solution that discards a literal Adam discards something attested to in several places in scripture. The six days are never meaningfully supported, but Adam is the first of all men. Eve and Noah’s daughters and law are all but confirmed to exist by atheistic DNA tracing. They’ve tracked all mankind back to 3 mothers, and then back through them to one. History and theology should and do align where they’re properly understood.

    > 5) An argument from the Gospel

    The death argument is interesting, but there are too many variables. Death entered by sin. I agree, but what death and to whom?

    Adam and Eve had not eaten of the Tree of Life. Does it actually say anywhere Adam was going to live forever without eating of either tree? Does it actually say none of the animals would have died had Adam not eaten? Does it actually say the entire world was just like Eden, and that Eden was not a garden apart from the rest of the world? Does it actually say none of the animals were carnivores before Gen 9? I’m given to understand the Hebrew says Adam was placed in the garden to protect it, not just to tend it. Protect it from what?

    I know spiritual death came to man through his sin. The rest is questions.

    So, how many heresies am I guilty of now?

    (The thing that’s so frustrating about James Jordan’s essay is that it’s a straight chain. He connects his last thought to his previous thought to his previous thought to his previous thought, to a scriptural argument, and then claims scriptural authority for the whole thing. That’s intellectually satisfying, but a man can prove 1=2 that way. And he doesn’t stop there. No, he asserts his point and that everyone who disagrees with his last point is a gnostic who obviously doesn’t believe Jesus is Jehovah Christ.)

    When you start declaring a young Earth, you end up with a lot of evidence problems. Your scriptural evidence is indirect, and none of your evidence answers the direct testimony of history. It intentionally rises above the claims of physical evidence. Somewhere between your invisible and visible evidence there are gaps, and you stuff those gaps with God.

    And the atheists love that.

    The only evidence we have for a young earth is that Gen 1 says so, and Jesus rose from the dead. And Jesus’ rising from the dead says nothing about those 6 days, only about that one poem.

    Oh well. It’s nice to read where you’re coming from. Thank you for laying out your reasoning.

  41. glenscriv

    Let me say how much I’ve appreciated everyone’s comments. I haven’t really said yet but Pete’s recent comment and Bobby’s penultimate comment have been particularly on the money for me.

    Let me also re-iterate Code’s thanks to Chris for both the depth of understanding he brought to this and the manner of his debate. I learnt a lot and I recommend wet lenses as a brilliantly stimulating read.

    Thanks to Code too – whose heresy count remains at zero.
    We’re all brothers here and I thank God for you all – (except you Tim – you’re banned)

  42. Ameryx

    Just finished reading the post and the comments. Quite an informative and mutually respectful discussion, on a topic that does tend to raise hackles all around.

    That said, I would submit that there are philosophical implications to accepting or rejecting Genesis 1.

    If we accept Darwinism as the explanation for life, then we must believe that things are constantly getting better. And, if things are improving, and we understand the mechanisms of how they improve, then by golly, we can help move things along! Hence, eugenics. Hence, the destruction of whatever we choose to believe is standing in the way of progress: Jews, kulaks, gypsies. Mass murder is completely consistent with the view that things are getting better.

    If, however, we believe in Genesis 1, then we believe that things are not getting better. At best, there was a Fall from the goodness of Creation; at worst, we continue to deteriorate. Devolution, if you will. (This has the advantage of being consistent with the second law of thermodynamics…) And the philosophically consistent response to that belief is to work to preserve what we have, because what will follow will not be as good. Let’s call it “stewardship”, since that is what the Bible calls on us to do.

    Darwinism honors death; Creationism honors life. Set aside the question of faith in Jesus for the moment: under which philosophy would you prefer to live? (Hint: do boat people head towards, or away from, Cuba?)

    Glen, I agree with you that this argument is not useful in apologetics. Indeed, since faith is a gift of the Spirit, then apologetics in general don’t really speak to unbelievers. However, I also agree with James Jordan (in the article to which you linked) that this argument can strengthen the faith of a believer; and free the believer to follow Jesus more completely.

    As to the age of the universe: read any account of the Big Bang theory. One moment: nothing. The next moment, a universe hundreds of billions of light-years across. I guess in that instant between the two moments, something must have traveled faster than the speed of light. Really, a description of the Big Bang reads remarkably like Genesis.

    Glen, you are quite right that there is a faith component to modern science; whether scientists acknowledge that or not. How the universe began is, in scientific terms, unknowable. The choices are fairly stark: either God created the universe ex nihilo* or nihil created the universe ex nihilo.

    *Actually, Colossians tells us creation was by Christ and through Christ and for Christ, so perhaps ex Christo would be a more accurate way to put it.

  43. glenscriv

    Ameryx,

    Welcome to the blog. Great comments. I especially liked “Do boat people head towards, or away from, Cuba?”

    And I think the choice between Darwinism and Creationism becomes even more stark when we ask, To which story are we attaching God’s ‘very good’ approbation. Christian Darwinism on this count appears worse than atheistic Darwinism – at least the naturalist is not trying to pretend that the storm of chaos and death is good.

    .

    And well done on declining ‘ex christo’ properly. I said ‘ex christus and pro christus’. I’m sure my latin teacher would have me writing out lines…

  44. Ameryx

    Glen,
    Thank you for the kind words of welcome. I’ll stroll around the site a bit and see what else is here. And I offer, in great humility, a dormant (if not moribund) blog I started, devoted to discussing the implications of believing or disbelieving Genesis 1. My hope was to explore not whether Genesis 1 is true, but how we would behave if we believed it to be true.

  45. glenscriv

    I should probably just say that we wouldn’t want to draw too straight a line between old earth and eugenics. I completely agree that Darwinism honours death but I would not want to call anyone who holds to the billions of years story a latent or unwitting social Darwinist.

  46. Ameryx

    Glen,
    You are quite right that belief in Darwinism (and therefore in an old earth) does not automatically make one a Social Darwinist, witting or unwitting or latent. I would respond that the line between the two is pretty straight, and fairly short; but not everyone takes even the 2nd step on this road:

    1. The less fit did die out.
    2. The less fit should die out.
    3. The less fit impede Progress.
    4. Let’s kill them.

    The problem I see is that those who have taken the first step have no objective foundation for arguing against those who would skip merrily along to step 4. They may have subjective reasons for objecting; but that is a matter of taste. The argument contra step 4 is reduced to individual preference, and thus easily dismissed by the Social Darwinists. Those who are at step 1 and would prefer to defend life lose heart, and either join the march to step 4, or step aside. Think of the Third Reich. Not everyone was a Nazi. Far too many of those who were not allowed Nazi atrocities to take place.

    Those who are, and remain, at step 1 fall into the category Lenin characterized as “useful idiots”. (By the by, it is here that we find the radical commonality of Nazism and Communism, ideologies commonly believed to be polar opposites. They conflicted only on the question of who should be exterminated in order to usher in the New Man.)

  47. Caleb Woodbridge

    Ameryx – I think you need to distinguish between evolution as science and Darwinism as philosophy.

    You say that “If we accept Darwinism as the explanation for life, then we must believe that things are constantly getting better” – but the idea that things are constantly getting better doesn’t follow logically from evolution as science in and of itself. That only follows if you come to it with prior philosophical convictions.

    While evolution, if true, inevitably has philosophical implications, many atheists try and hijack the prestige that science has in our culture to back up their philosophical claims, and go far beyond what the science actually proves.

    Any notion of “progress”, of things getting better or worse, depends on some kind of moral standard that is by definition outside the remit of science. Science is about studying the natural patterns of cause and effect; science attempts to describe what is, but can’t say what should be.

    For us as Christians, we can affirm that science has its place, because God is orderly and reasonable; he has made the world to operate in a consistent and orderly way, he has created us with minds that can understand that order (though sin partially damages this ability), and has given us the responsibility of exercising godly dominion over creation.

    Science is like a magnifying glass that allows us to see better the regularities by which God normally governs creation, how things normally work, by focusing on the natural world. Science works according to methodological naturalism, looking only at the natural world, and because of what we know about God’s creation, we know that this lens is useful for understanding creation some of the time.

    But if we only use the lens of science, of methodological naturalism, then we’re missing the bigger picture. We know that God created and sustains the rules, and can change them. Things aren’t always “normal”, and so while “how things normally work” generally allows us to work what actually happened, God can and does do things differently.

    In that case, scientific knowledge, knowledge of the generalities, won’t help; we need historical knowledge of what specifically happened.

    In some cases, we can use the tools of science historically/forensically to study the impact of God’s miracles: if you went back in time, you’d be able to do a chemical analysis on the water that was turned into wine, for example. A doctor could examine the people who Jesus had healed and by science see that their healing was genuine.

    In other cases, science would be altogether useless at telling us after the event what actually happened. We would need historical information, either by being present or being told what happened from a reliable source.

    It seems to me that if the world was under 10,000 years old, then the evidence of science applied forensically/historically would be able to support that. I think the evidence points quite clearly to a far older world and universe. We can’t just dismiss the evidence of the world around us, because God created the world in an orderly way, and us with minds to understand it, and God does not deliberately mislead us.

    I also think that the opening chapter or so of Genesis can reasonably be interpreted in a way that does not require Young Earth Creationism, and I think to interpret it in a very literal sense buys in to the modern assumption that scientific truth is the only or best form of truth, so if Genesis 1 isn’t scientifically true, it isn’t true at all. I think that’s a very anachronistic assumption to bring to the text.

    It seems to me that most theistic evolutionists aren’t very good at integrating their science and their theology, and prioritise their science, I admit. It also seems to me that most creationists aren’t very good at integrating the two either, and prioritise their theology.

    On the theistic evolutionist side, Denis Alexander seems better than most – his book “Creation and Evolution: Do We Have to Choose?” discusses the theological implications fairly well, though he opts to say that the Fall only brought “spiritual death”, which I don’t think fits the Bible.

    My view is that Genesis 1-2v3 is poetic, with everything that follows being fairly straightforward historical narrative. Adam and Eve came from humans who had evolved naturally (and lived and died), but were the first that God bestowed his image to the extent that they were aware of him and able to enter into relationship with him. Had they remained in obedience to God and eaten from the tree of life, they would have lived forever. Their disobedience did bring physical death, but for them as humans rather than all death generally. This seems to me to be the answer that best holds together science and theology.

  48. Ameryx

    Caleb,

    I find myself in broad agreement with much of your post.God clearly built into His creation the information needed for it to adapt to changing conditions.

    Were Darwinists to limit their claims to the scope of inquiry where the concept is useful, I would not have a problem with them. But they do not. When was the last time someone like Richard Dawkins said that the theory of evolution was of limited utility? On the contrary, they assert that evolution displaces God.

    And what is “survival of the fittest” other than a statement that evolution makes things “fitter”? I will even grant that “fitter” is not synonymous with “better”. I fear, though, that the distinction between the two words is lost on most people.

    As for prioritising: that is very much the question, is it not? I place God’s Word above man’s work. If there appears to be a conflict between Scripture and science, I will first check my understanding of Scripture, to make sure that in my fallen condition, I have not misread God’s Word. If the conflict remains, I choose to believe Scripture.

    I don’t believe Genesis 1-2v3 is poetic, for the reasons Glen has so admirably summarized in his posting. The scientific objections to the historicity of Genesis are based on unprovable assumptions, such as: that the radioactive decay of Carbon-14 has always been at the rate we see today. We simply don’t know whether that is true. So, we have to step out in faith. If I am going to step out in faith, then I will put my faith in God, not man.

  49. Dean Hayson

    Some comments from an atheist

    Good article !

    1 – An argument from the language.
    I agree. Genesis and the rest of the OT us the word “yom” which always means part or all of a 24 hour period (never more than 24 hours). i vaguely remember there is one passage in the NT that says a day could be a 1000 years but that is clearly one man’s reinterpreation of the word. As far as the OT is concerned, yom (day) is no more than 24 hours. Genesis clearly states that God created the world in 6 days.

    2 – An argument from scripture interpreting Scripture (Exodus 20:8-11).
    I agree. Exodus states God created the world in 6 x 24hr periods.

    3 – The failure of any other hermeneutic to handle Genesis 1.
    I agree. A day in the OT is 24 hours.

    4 – The parallelism of Adam and Christ.
    This must be some strange new notion. I have never heard of this. I don’t see any parallels. It is clear in the bible that they are 2 distinctly different figures, existing in different times to each other. Adam is the first human being where as Jesus is God’s son.

    5 – An argument from the Gospel.
    I agree. Genesis 3 and Romans 5 says that all creatures were immortal until Adam sinned. After that all creatures became mortal. This is God’s punishment for mans sins. The bible is clear on this matter.

    glenscriv is correct in thinking that if the bible is to be taken literally (as Fundamentalists do) then it is incompatible with Evolutionary science. There is no way to get around this. To be a Fundamentalist you must believe in Creation as it is stupiulated in the bible. There is no Evolutionary theory in the bible. Fundamentalists cannot draw any support from Evolutionary science. They should steer well clear of it.

    I think Fundamentalists would be wise to reject “creationism science” and “intelligent design science” as these theories have been disproven by scientists. I don’t think it will be long before the proponets of these theories will be forced to remove the word “science” from the title. I understand there has been a number of successful court cases brought about to keep these theories out of government schools. I believe men and women of reason are right to be fighting against this attempt at corruption of the education system. I think it should be a crime to teach children that these theories have anything to do with science.

    Fundamentalists are required to believe in creation however they are not required to believe that creation is a science. When Fundamentalists get involved in science they just look silly. We respect peoples rights ro beleive what they want. If can beleive a God created the world then why can’t you believe he did it in 6 days. Surely a God could do it in 6 minutes if he wanted. You only get into trouble when you start to try and incorporate Geoology and Evolution with your beliefs. They are incompatible. I can’t understand why Fundamentalists are bothering themselves with science at all. You are just going to feel confused if you start messing with it. Why put yourself through all that? Just accept that you “don’t do science”. That’s fine with us !

  50. glenscriv

    Hi Dean,
    Pleasure to have you on the blog.

    I think ‘yom’ can well have a broader meaning than 24 hour day on it’s own. In fact it’s used in three different ways within the creation account (including in Gen 2:4 where it does mean longer than 24 hours). For me though evening, morning and the number are the specifiers that throw me in the 24 hour direction.

    On Adam and Christ – I think this is one of the most beautiful and succinct explanations of the gospel: You find it really spelt out in places like Romans 5:12-21 and 1 Corinthians 15:21-23. But it was set up in Genesis 1. God puts Man in charge. He rules through His King, Man. Of course (Gen 3) Man falls – but God show just how seriously He takes the rule of Man because when Man falls he takes creation with Him. The solution? The Man of Heaven – the eternal Son. He comes into Adam’s position and does Adam’s job right. Where Adam was tempted and disobeyed, Jesus resisted and hammered out an obedient humanity in our flesh, on our behalf. Adam went to the tree to get knowledge and brought death. Christ went to the tree to accept death and brought knowledge for us.

    And we are asked which human and which humanity we will belong to? Will we simply go along with the fallen ruler Adam or be ‘born again’ into Christ’s humanity.

    This is the parallelism of which I spoke.

    As for ‘evolutionary science’ disproving creation science I think you’re claiming too much. Not even evolutionary science is proven. What we have are competing explanations for the data. And I’d have thought that what would benefit the scientific community would be to have other scientists with other explanatory hypotheses that might account for more of the data, provide better reasons for the anomalies etc etc. For instance isn’t the scientific community the richer for having John Baumgardner?

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

    Did his PhD under Stephen Jay Gould, published in Nature magazine, etc, etc. But I take it you’d want him to stop calling himself a scientist. This is an extremely aggressive move Dean – sounds more the ‘Magisterium’ of Pullman’s books than the spirit of free-thinking enlightenment! ;-)

    Glen

  51. Dean Hayson

    Hi Glen,

    Thanks. Nice to be here. I should have phrased things a bit better. I agree that the scientific community benefits from men like John Baumgardner. John obtained a science degree and he practices science so he is a scientist. It is a fact that science makes its biggest advances when people question its existing theories. Scientists that have a faith are as valuable as scientists without a faith. I also have to give credit to proponents of “creation science” and “intelligent design science” for attempting to reconcile science and Christianity. Even though I am now an atheist, I still like the idea of a powerful God giving meaning and purpose to our lives. I have fond memories of the Christian community I used to be a part of.

    Whether atheists like it or not, atheism is a belief system. The belief is that there is no God. At the moment atheism looks pretty good because it can point to science and say “There is no scientific evidence for God” HOWEVER science is impartial and is continually being updated as new facts are discovered. If evidence supporting God is uncovered and verified by the scientific community then atheism is not going to look so good. At the moment the weight is with atheism which is why I made the switch but who knows what the future will bring.

    Many great western scientists have been Christians. These men sought to reveal God’s machinery. Science owes a small debt to Christianity. It would have been a bigger debt if the Catholics hadn’t thrown Galileo in jail. You loose some points for that :0)

    There is one way in which evolutionary science can be amalgamated with creation but it requires a little reinterpretation of Genesis. Because reinterpretation is required its not an option for Fundamentalists. Fundamentalists take the bible as it is, unaltered, word for word. For those readers who are not fundamentalists here is how it works:

    Evolution theory deals with biology however it enters the arena 1 second after life begins on our planet. It does not say anything about how life came about, it only deals with how life behaves. While it is true that biology is slowly coming to grips with how life began, their work is incomplete. At the moment the door is open for some Christians to say that evolution is a part of God’s plan. Fundamentalists cannot do this because if Genesis is taken literally then God is still playing a hand after the first life has begun which contradicts the facts of evolution. Personally I don’t mind which angle people take but I think the old and new testament show an interventionist God. If you believe God is involved with the world today you’d be wise to stay away from evolution science. Evolution only allows for Deism.

  52. glenscriv

    Hi Dean,

    Thanks for reply. Just got it now. Am off to bed so I’ll get back to you tomorrow.

    All the best,
    Glen

  53. Bobby Grow

    Dean,

    I think your characterization of “Fundamentalist” Christians is a bit reductionistic. Within and under the label “Fundie” there are various approaches to hermeneutics . . . there certainly are “literalists” (associated much with the American dispensational construct), but then there are also “literary[ists]” who (most) do see all the players and events in the Bible as “historical,” but instead of emphasizing complimentarian points of contact — relative to science and secular history (such as creationism reflects) — there is the realization that the primary purpose of the Bible is to introduce Yahweh as the Creator God contra the pagan (naturalist) gods of the nations.

    The point of scripture correlates with this discussion insofar as competing “worldviews” and “metaphysics” are imbibed (metaphysical supernaturalism vs. metaphysical materialism). Scripture as metanarrative frames this current discussion, in advance, as materialism vs. supernaturalism (Christian theism) . . . and narratively shows where both lead (one to life the other to death). Prudence would suggest that we follow the wisdom of God’s Word, and not the wisdom of men (this certainly does not necessitate a “faith vs. reason” paradigm — just the opposite, it recognizes the need for an ordo cognoscendi (order of knowing) which starts with first things — the life that stands supremely over nature vs. the one that is shackled to it (fallen humanity—thus assuming the noetic effects of the fall).

    Furthermore, I always find atheism interesting, semantically. It is a very “negative” approach, illustrated, anecdotally by its name. It first must assume “theism” in order to negate it [thus the *a* on theism], and attempt to live off of its host [theism]. Naturalist ethics and epistemology bear out this rather “parasitic” approach; so there is methodological consistency to naturalism, it is just working within primordial goo, instead of pneumatic creativity.

    It’s really not about the “physical evidence” but about the “invisible” apparatus, that we all have by the way, that we bring to the evidence. To say that atheism, via naturalist evolution, has stronger evidence, is really a non-starter; it is circular (petitio principii), it assumes that the “evidence” that apparently supports atheism, is objectively understood, apart from the assumptions that under-gird atheism in the first place. In other words, the observable evidence is not synonymous with atheism, instead it is only synonymous with what atheism interprets it to be (as an aside this is much like the first wave of historical Jesus studies, one looks down the proverbial “well of history” to find the face of the historical Jesus, and what really is reflected back, is the face of a Jesus who mysteriously reflects the face of the interpreter [and his/her socio/cultural concerns]).

    One more point, true scientific inquiry is determined and shaped (or should be) by the “object” under consideration; not vice versa. What this means for “natural science” is that it has the ability to speak to “second order observable” realities, i.e. describe things as they “appear” . . . but it should not go beyond, when it does, it is no longer “scientific” inquiry (which must stay within the realm of the physically observable); but humanistic speculation which starts with self (by the way this approach also has roots within theology, see folks like Rene Descartes, Spinoza, Schleiermacher, Locke, et al).

    Here is how very respected Christian theologian and respected scientist, by the way, speaks about the order of knowledge relative to Christ:

    Our task in christology is to yield to the obedience of our mind to what is given, which is God’s self-revelation in its objective reality, Jesus Christ. A primary and basic fact which we discover here is this: that the object of our knowledge gives itself to us to be apprehended. It does that within our mundane existence, within our worldly history and all its contingency, but it does that also beyond the limits of previous experience and ordinary thought, beyond the range of what is regarded by human standards as empirically possible. Thus when we encounter God in Jesus Christ, the truth comes to us in its own authority and self-sufficiency. It comes into our experience and into all the midst of our knowledge as a novum, a new reality which we cannot incorporate into the series of other objects, or simply assimilate to what we already know.

    We cannot compare the fact of Christ with other facts, nor can we deduce the fact of Christ from our knowledge of other facts. The fact of Christ comes breaking into the continuity of our human knowledge as an utterly distinctive and unique fact, which we cannot reduce to what we already know. It is a new and unique fact without analogy anywhere in human experience or knowledge.

    And yet Jesus Christ gives himself to be known as the object of our experience and knowledge, within our history and within our human existence — but when we know him there, we know him in terms of himself. We know him out of pure grace as one who gives himself to us and freely discloses himself to us. We cannot earn knowledge of Christ, we cannot achieve it, or build up to it. We have no capacity or power in ourselves giving us the ability to have mastery over this fact. In the very act of our knowing Christ he is the master, we are the mastered. He manifests himself and gives himself to us by his own power and agency, by his Holy Spirit, and in the very act of knowing him we ascribe all the possibility of our knowing him to Christ alone, and none of it to ourselves. (Thomas F. Torrance, “Incarnation: The Person and Life of Christ,” 1-2)

    Sorry for the length, but I think this is important to grapple with. It assumes a principle of science (which actually was proscribed by the Protestant Reformation and some of her Reformers), the one on “object” I mention above, and should be helpful in providing distinction between genuine scientific knowledge. If Christ is under consideration, then He alone is allowed to determine the “inner logic” and shape of inquiry (and all that implies), conversely, if “nature” is consideration there is a shape of inquiry that is allowed. Maybe if you could accept this, Dean, you might come back to the “fold.”

    Certainly if nature is all there is, as William Provine (Cornell atheist and scientist) has admitted, there is no basis for morality, justice, ethics in general, etc. — which really then does not provide very good explanatory power for the human experience, and reality in general.

    You know what, I better stop, I’ve run very long :-).

  54. Bobby Grow

    One more point, Dean,

    given the above, what is called for, is abductive logic, not an coherentism that works within its own self-referential circle through its own pragmatic concerns. I know you really won’t like this, because it means you have to abandon your own scientia and ratio — and allow an object and subject, external to yourself to confront you on His own terms instead of your own. But if you are going to be a genuine self-reflecting self, I would suggest that this is exactly what scientific inquiry calls for.

    I really would like you to realize that it’s not all that noble to be an atheist, and in fact is untenable in light of the evidence under consideration.

    Peace in Christ,

    Bobby

  55. Dean Hayson

    Hi Bobby,

    Thanks for your depth of response. I am unfamiliar with a portion of the termonolgy you are using but will respond to what I recognise.

    Atheism is a tenable position because there has not been any scientifically validated evidence for the existence of God. I am open to the possibility that some evidence may turn up in the future and will welcome it if it does.

    I don’t think its especially noble to be an atheist, its just what has worked for me. If someone was to ask “who are you?” I wouldn’t answer “an atheist”. I would say “I am who I am” and let them work it out for themselves. I mention this because I don’t think Atheism is much of a defining element to someones character. An atheist is just a non-believer. Of course that’s going to sound negative to a Christian but then I am sure you don’t believe in Santa Claus. Does a disbelief in Santa sound negative to you? Of course not. I am not trying to be rude, I realise the deep conviction people have for their gods. I wish you could see it from the point of view of a non believer. It’s hard to take a negative attitude towards something you don’t believe exists at all.

    If you see someone walking the streets angrily shouting “There is no God” he’s probably a loony and I hope he gets locked up. You don’t have to become negative when you give up a belief. I didn’t loose my sense of morality when I gave up my belief in God. Now I do what is right because it is right, rather than because someone told me it was right and threatened to punish me if I disobeyed.

    Take Buddhism for example. Their scriptures term things in the negative by using the suffix “an” which means “non” in the Pali language. This has led some people to describe Buddhism as negative when its far from it.

    You were discussing systems of knowledge at one point so I’ll admit to a penchant for Objectivist Epistemology. For readers unfamiliar with the term, it is Ayn Rand’s theory of knowlege. It is based on a belief in objective reality. I believe in objective reality. You can have all the metaphysical experiences you like but I am just going to see them as products of your brain. Please understand, I don’t seek to devalue personal religious experiences. If you think you have a personal relationship with God thats fine by me. As long as its not aliens I am not concerned.

    You are correct in thinking that I subscribe to a reductionist mode of thinking. You can frame experience in deep terminology but I just want to see things with my own eyes. Until god appears before me as a burning bush or I see his picture on the front of popular science I will remain a non-believer.

    I am not here to wave the flag of atheism. I initially posted because I am of the opinion that if you are going to believe in the bible you should believe in the whole thing. If you are going to believe in God, that God had a son, that he performed miracles, then you should accept that he created the world in 7 days. My belief is that theistic evolution does not make sense for Christians; that it is infact Deism dressed up in a cheap tuxedo. I don’t want science to be blamed for Christians turning into Deists. Christianity relies on a personal relationship with god. This is incompatable with evolution theory. As yet there is no bridge between science and religion. The idea of Theistic evolution is as damaging to you Christians as it is to us atheists. Lets work together and chuck it out.

  56. Bobby Grow

    Hi Dean,

    Let me clarify on the “negative” point. I didn’t mean, “attitudinally,” instead I was referring to metaphysics, and logical order. In other words atheism must presuppose theism in order to negate it. Like evil needs goodness to negate, in order to be evil (i.e. absence of good); or like a “lie” needs the “truth” to be a lie (e.g. absence of the truth). This is what I meant by atheism being “negative.”

    As far as evidence, I am a proponent of Intelligent Design (just wrote a post over at my site on this); but I don’t think, even if you accepted the findings of ID, you would necessarily believe in the God of the bible (you might just be a deist or something)— and of course this is what the T. F. Torrance quote above was intended to get at (the role that the “object” plays in determining scientific inquiry).

    I could try and build a cumulative case for the existence of God, using typical and classic apologetic tools for trying to prove his existence (i.e. kalam cosmological, teleological, ontological, even C. S. Lewis’ moral arguements; and engage some of the findings of ID), but I don’t sense you’ll bite on those (and there isn’t enough space in the comment meta to do it right anyway).

    But let me just point you to the Jesus of history, who by the way, is the same Jesus of faith; He is the invisible God, made visible. He became man to reconcile us to God (but you were a Christian, so you know this). The thing is, Dean, any evidence provided, given your “naturalistic” world-view, about a man who performed miracles, resurrected from the dead (well attested by anormal historiography), and ascended to the right hand of the Father will be, ipso facto (out of hand) rejected by you. Because your metaphysic/worldview (belief in a closed universe and such) will simply not allow for such a thing. The fact that all things must be empirically verifiable (I’m assuming for you), in order to pass for evidence of God’s existence is indeed untenable — since the intangible concept itself, of empirically verifiable things, is itself untestable, by empirical means; which means that there is a reality beyond the empirical, and opens up the possibility for criterion of verifiability of “evidence” that supersedes “seen/observable” reality (even regular historiography attests to this, “proving George Washington’s existence). There are many ways to “get at” reality, and the empirical only works if indeed the data correlates to such methodology; so I still think your position is untenable, because it is not sustainable in any kind of genuine way.

    Its also interesting that you would make a metaphysical universal statement about brain states, which naturalistic atheism cannot account for . . . illustrated by the “particularist” appeal to an “individuals” (including collectivism) brain state. This is what I was getting at with atheism being a negation of theism (Christian in particular), you have to piggyback and borrow metaphysics, in order to make your naturalist claims, which naturalism (given its physicalist and particularist and determinist metaphysic) just cannot support. In other words, you must talk like a Christian (belief in universal, unchanging, transcendent reality), when naturalism believes in a closed, determined (by natural cause-effect), universe . . . this is just not sound.

    It’s fine that you want to bolster Glen’s claims (and even mine) about the literal 6 day thing . . . but you did realize that you were posting on an “Evangelical” (historically speaking) Christian theo-blog, right ;-) ? What did you expect :-) .

    One of my scientist friends at work (and no I’m not a scientist, unless you consider theology a science ;-) is in the same boat you’re in . . . apparently . . . we’ve gone back and forth, and he really has no responses left, so I’m hoping and praying Christ will confront Him in a real, saving way, and I’ll pray the same for you.

    In Christ,

    Bobby G.

  57. Bobby Grow

    I’m off to bed (I’m in the States), it’s late, so I won’t be able to correspond further, until later tomorrow (after church ;-) . . . but I’m sure Glen will be available; after he’s done preaching, at church ;-).

  58. bobby grow

    Oh yeah, and I realize you’re not really here to debate . . . but my favorite topic with atheists is cosmology (thank you ‘Hubble’ ;-); this is the issue (the finiteness of the universe) that is really conflicting my atheist or agnostic friend at work. It’s interesting, on the cosmological points, that atheists (reductio ad absurdum) always must end up in an infinite regress at this juncture . . . and actually take a blind faith posture.

    Okay, I’m done, I have prayed for you, Dean; and will continue to — I am praying that the LORD will not quit badgering you, until you finally come into His loving arms of salvation.

    Good night,

    Bobby

  59. glenscriv

    Three bloggers in three different time-zones. :D

    I guess we can all agree we love modern technology!

    Dean, “Deism in a cheap tuxedo” has been making me laugh all day! Nicely said.

    Let me draw attention to some of the things I think we can agree about:

    You say:
    “I think the old and new testament show an interventionist God. If you believe God is involved with the world today you’d be wise to stay away from evolution science. Evolution only allows for Deism.”

    I think that’s right. Perhaps other Christians on this blog might disagree saying things like ‘who punctuates the equilibrium huh?’, but broadly speaking I agree.

    You say:
    “Christianity relies on a personal relationship with god.”

    Yes indeed.

    So on the one hand there is a biblical God who is a hands on personal God and on the other an evolutionary science driven by impersonal, self-perpetuating processes.

    We can probably agree that study of the latter will never get you to the former.

    But then you say:

    “Atheism is a tenable position because there has not been any scientifically validated evidence for the existence of God. I am open to the possibility that some evidence may turn up in the future and will welcome it if it does.”

    Also you say:

    “Until god appears before me as a burning bush or I see his picture on the front of popular science I will remain a non-believer.”

    So here’s where I want to challenge you. You’ve already said you don’t much care for the god of Deism (me neither). But you’re expecting that if any god will show up he’ll show up via a science thoroughly beholden to the impersonal evolutionary process!

    But wait a minute. The God of the burning bush is an interventionist God. And the God who has a ‘picture’ (could we even say ‘a Face’?) is a personal God. So why on earth would you look to an impersonal, self-perpetuating evolutionary process to find an interventionist and personal God?

    It’s like the man looking for his car keys in the house because there’s light in there when he knows he’s dropped them out in the backyard. If he wants to find his keys he should go to where they’ll be found. And if he can turn his lights on *that* area then he’ll find them (if they really are there).

    And this is precisely how science is done too. I test hypotheses in ways befitting the nature of the hypothesis. So if my hypotheses involve comets, my tests will probably involve the night sky and telescopes. If my hypotheses involve bacteria, my tests will involve microscopes and cultures etc. No scientist uses the microscope for the comet or the telescope for the bacteria.

    So then, don’t use the evolutionary process to test the personal interventionist God.

    Here’s my advice. Do good science. Seek after the Object of your enquiry in ways befitting His nature. The personal God, who has been infinitely and perfectly personal in His relations as Father, Son and Holy Spirit – this personal God has intervened. The Son has become one of us. This is so much better than a burning bush. So much better than an explosion or an equation or an evolutionary process or an existential truth. The explanation for all things has turned up in Person. And He can be encountered. By His Spirit He has equipped others to leave a faithful testimony to Him. You can pick it up and read it. And our prayer is that in reading this testimony to Jesus, you would find Him to be the very Logic of God, the creative Power of the universe (John 1:1-3).

    Why not pick up a Gospel like John as ask God to show you if these things are true. I believe there is a self-authenticating truth to the identity of Jesus. Just as you know the sun to be bright and honey to be sweet, you can know Christ to be who He most manifestly is – the Maker and Saviour of this world. In Him you are introduced to the most awesomely Personal God.

    Must get on with the sermon now.
    … Though you might think I’ve already begun! ;-)

  60. Dean Hayson

    the first of 2 replies

    Hi Glen,

    I have to admit to borrowing the “cheap tuxedo” bit from Richard Dawkins. His famous line is “Intelligent Design is Creation Science dressed up in a cheap tuxedo.” I also have to credit him with pointing out that the Deisistic position is tennable within Evolution theory. Apart from being a renowned atheist, he upholds the duty of disclosure and makes clear to his readers that you can Evolution theory and Creation but only if God stays out of the picture once he has set life up on our planet. Like him, I understand that Deism is unlikely to appeal to people that believe they have a personal relationship with god (no matter what their religion). As “a personal relationship with God” is what most religions promote these days it is clearly not in their interest to start messing with Evolution science.

    You say that “So on the one hand there is a biblical God who is a hands on personal God and on the other an evolutionary science driven by impersonal, self-perpetuating processes.” Yes, these are the 2 options available to people. The first option gives people meaning to their lives where as the second option forces people to make their own meaning for their lives.

    People that choose the first option have a variety of books available to them where God provides a framework for their lives. 2 good examples are the Old and New Testaments. I prefer the New Testament as God is much friendlier. Its almost as if he has had a makeover. I especially like the Sermon on the Mount which I think is one of the greatest collection of philosophical guidelines, though I’ll admit that “the meek” seem to be having a long wait for their inheritence :0)

    I believe the first option has its good and bad points. Take the O.T. for example. God continually flip-flops between reward and punishment. Even his chosen people bear the brunt of this. Fear of punnishment hangs heavy in the air until Jesus comes along with a simple yet profound solution – “Believe in me”. Its the faith aspect that turns the Sermon on the Mount from a philosophy into a religion. The miracles provided the circumstantial evidence to back up the faith. Nowdays people skeptical of claims of miracles demand a personal relationship with God and so that is where religion is at the moment. It seems to work well for a lot of people and I don’t wish to see the apple cart upturned. People need meaning for their lives and the N.T. offers a non-violent one. This is why I encourage Christians to put aside the contradictions between Genesis and Evolution. Concentrate on Jesus message instead. His philosophy is spot-on in my opinion.

    The 2nd option has its good and bad points too. Atheism may lead some people to think that if there is no God then they can do what like so I am cautious about promoting it. I await a single atheist bible that provides clear justification for moral behaviour based on more than just the survival of the species. It will eventually appear but until it does I think religions like Christianity and Buddhism are valuable.

    You say that “But you’re expecting that if any god will show up he’ll show up via a science thoroughly beholden to the impersonal evolutionary process!”. I need to clarify my thinking. I am not expecting any scientific evidence for the existence for God will turn up. If it does it will mean that God has created Evolution which, as you have correctly pointed out, is a “impersonal, self-perpetuating process”. It will mean he has wound up the mouse and let it go and left it alone. It will mean that God only partakes in human affairs, not human biological development. I am sure both you and I will be asking him why? It seems unlikely that a loving God would create such a cruel thing as Evolution. As you probably know, “survival of the fittest” has nothing to do with morals. Evolution does not seem like the kind of thing the God of the bible would do. Its not in his nature. He likes to reward good behaviour and he likes to stay involved. God will not be found in Evolution science.

    You say that God “can be encountered”. I am not going to argue against this in any great detail. I think I have already crossed the line with my comment about things existing in peoples heads. You don’t seem to have taken offence by this which is a sign of the strength of your faith. I don’t seek to diminish peoples faith for the reasons I have outlined. I am open to the possibility of an encounter with God. I have some tough questions for him regarding his “plan”.

  61. Dean Hayson

    2nd reply

    Hi Bobby,

    You say “…atheism must presuppose theism in order to negate it. Like evil needs goodness to negate, in order to be evil (i.e. absence of good); or like a “lie” needs the “truth” to be a lie (e.g. absence of the truth). This is what I meant by atheism being “negative.””

    Atheism presupposes the concept of theism but denies it has any validity beyond that of a concept by the use of the negative prefix “a”. The concept of God is alive and well and will likely remain so for a few more centuries. A “lie” presupposes there is a “truth” but again, it has no validity beyond that of a concept. If I tell a lie about something the only validity it will ever have is if people believe it. The unfortunate fact is that people will believe in things without checking to see if there is any evidence for them. They often get handed books by other people. Sometimes they will personally relate to what they read and follow it. Thats how Mao’s little red book got going. If you meet a Maoist he will tell you about “truth”. It won’t be the same as your “truth” but then he got his from another book. He is likely to tell you that not only does he “believe” it is true, he “knows” it is true. You’ll both end up debating the meaning of “knowledge” and “truth” while the scientists will be busily digging up evidence to prove your both nuts. You’ll both question the scientists trust in empiricism but that won’t stop them using that empiricism to dismantle your long held beliefs in the public arena. You’ll both wish you never tangled with the scientists. Trust me on this. Us atheists once went to the scientists and said “There is no God”. The scientists said “Prove it”. We said “You can’t prove a negative” and they said “Well sod off then.”

    In the Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams shows a philosophical man demonstrating that black is white and then getting run over on a zebra crossing. If you doubt empiricism you will face the same fate as the dodo. Where was the God of the dodo when they needed him?

    You “assume” I have a “metaphysic/worldview” that consists of a “closed universe” containing only that which is “empirically verifiable” and so not allowing for “intangible concepts” such as “God” which you believe “supersedes” the “seen/observable reality”. You are correct ! HOWEVER I am open to the possibility of a divine invasion into my closed universe. I have the god of reason locked up in my basement ready to let loose. Keep that to yourself. Its a military secret.

  62. glenscriv

    Hi Dean,

    I like your version of the jibe better than Dawkins’!

    I agree that theistic evolution can simply be Deism dressed up, which is bad. But that’s not the same as saying ‘ID is is creation science in a bad tuxedo’. As you have already noted the scientific community can benefit from IDers and creation scientists. I don’t think either are a necessary (or even helpful) apologetic for the christian faith. But Dawkins is playing a power game if he wants to denigrate the scientific integrity of fellow-practitioners simply because they work with radically different hypotheses.

    I’ve heard Dawkins speaking about the possibility of allowing for a deistic god. I find it hilarious. And I think even atheists should find it hilarious:

    From the christian perspective, it’s a case of:

    ‘This is the kind of god I will allow.’ said the lump of clay.

    From the atheistic perspective, it’s a case of:

    ‘This is the kind of god I will allow.’ said the product of a naturalistic process.

    Again we return to this critical point: *where* and *how* do we look to find our evidence. Your ‘where’ and your ‘how’ have been determined in advance by your world-view. This is true with of every enquirer in every field of human endeavour. And Dawkins, far from being an exception to this rule of ‘radical pre-commitment bias’, is a wonderful example. To say ‘maybe I’ll allow a deistic god, but not one who cares about my sins’ betrays so much of Dawkins’ problem. His precommitment to naturalism will never and can never get him to the latter position. It’s not good science leading him to say such things, it’s a faith position. This faith position determines the science he does – it makes him a less critical not more critical thinker.

    And we should all be aware that we’re not dispassionate, unbiased collators of ‘the facts’ that are out there. We are not simply sober-minded rational interpreters of those facts either. We are the very opposite of disinterested observers. Being sinners, we have every epistemological prejudice against a hands-on and holy God.

    Variously, religious minds have come up with hands-on gods *or* holy gods. But we have a decided bias against a hands-on AND holy God.

    This leads me to my final observation. Your comment above is so reminiscent of Scripture it’s really worth making a comparison:

    You said:
    “Until god appears before me as a burning bush or I see his picture on the front of popular science I will remain a non-believer.”

    Here’s what 1 Corinthians 1:22-24 says:

    “Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling-block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”

    The demand for a burning bush is a very Jewish-like-miraculous-sign demand. The looking to popular science to produce a picture of God is a very Greek-like-wisdom demand. What’s the solution?

    Some are scouring the heavens for signs of power, others are looking within for rational proofs, all the while Christ hangs on the cross. He is the place for sinners like us to find God. He is the power and the wisdom of God. He is a power who looks so unlike our worldly notions of power and a wisdom who sounds so unlike our worldly notions of wisdom. But I wonder if you can look to Christ crucified and see a power and a wisdom *beyond* anything the world can offer. Here is a power that sacrifices for enemies. Here is a wisdom that looks shameful to enlighten fools.

    God has shown us the place to enquire after Him – Christ crucified.

    Let me highlight two benefits of focusing our enquiries here at the cross:

    1) it’s a place where sinners *can* meet a holy and hands-on God.

    I am judged as a sinner when I look to the cross – this is what *my* sins deserve. But I am also saved as I look to the cross – because there is my Lord perishing in my place. My radical pre-commitment bias towards a false god or a no-god can be exposed here. I really am that rebellious, not only morally but also epistemologically. But I can admit it! I can come clean because there is a God who loves and dies even for rebels.

    2) at the cross, your ‘tough questions regarding God’s plan’ find a centre.

    We all have tough questions regarding God’s plan! Now if we try to reason them through beginning with the power-god or the wisdom-god or a combination then we will run into all sorts of problems. I’ve got a million questions for the big and clever deity in the sky. But my questions are very different for the God on the cross.

    The One on the cross enters into suffering and death and even godforsakenness! The One on the cross even knows what it’s like to ask for a different plan to unfold but to have heaven silent (garden of Gethsemane). Our questions about God’s plan take on a radically different character when we ask them of the Suffering Servant who bleeds for His people.

    Dean, I can’t tell you how great Jesus is. He loves you and He’s seeking you. Really glad you dropped by the blog.

  63. glenscriv

    Hi Dean,

    You said:

    “I am open to the possibility of a divine invasion into my closed universe.”

    John 1 says:

    “In the beginning was the Word (the Logos, the Reason!), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In Him was life, and that life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it….

    14 The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

    The invasion has happened. Reason is not in your basement. He was with God in the beginning and He invaded that first Christmas.

    Truth is a Person. Go do good science – pick up John and investigate further. ;-)

    Glen

  64. bobby grow

    Glen,

    yes, the remedy here is indeed The Theology of the Cross , and I truly hope that our friend Dean will be touched by the Spirit, take your advice and go read the Gospel of John.

    Also, this whole engagement is really revealing to me, it is showing me that I still have tension in my “apologetic” approach. I’m still trying to imbibe, primarily, an “evidentialist” approach; which just doesn’t jive with the more fideistic that the scriptures assume — that the cross assumes. I certainly will always believe that there is a place for “evidence,” but I ‘know’ that the real problem is always a moral/ontological problem that impinges on epistemology. So that the “hiddeness of God” will always be such, that until the veil is torn (by the Spirit of Liberty) and who God is will never be “seen” until He is seen at the cross. Man-centered wisdom will always see this as foolish and weak, until it is confronted with the superabundant love and wisdom of God at the cross. I hope Dean, indeed will have this “encounter” (sooner than later).

  65. bobby grow

    Dean,

    indeed, but if truth is a Person (Jn 14:6), and it/He is then this presupposes that “truth” is not delimited by “our” (private) reason; but instead it presupposes that truth is “external” (and outside) of us. Of course the question of epistemology is how does one gain genuine knowledge of such “truth?” Of course this is indeed answered by the wisdom of God, whom becomes humanity (assumes humanity) in the incarnation; takes our “broken reason;” recreates the broken epistemological apparatus (so the implication of God becoming man — the good news the “Gospel”) in Himself; and finally we can break out of the “basement” and see the Hidden God in all His glory at the cross (where we should be, where human “basement level” reason leads—viz. to ourselves, and our own finite end, death). This is what both Glen and I are getting at, just with different grammars in some regards ;-).

    On another point, I still don’t think you’ve overcome the problem of negation I presented —abrogating one “truth” for another (i.e. your Mao example) only illustrates the circular “locked-in” problem that a closed universe works from, and even to do this, you’re still presupposing an external universal standard of truth to deny it (which is an self-refuting exercise) —- but anyway, I am glad you’re open to being confronted with the “truth,” I can only hope that you’ll prayerfully go read the Gospel of John; encountering the God of life disclosed through His hiddeness in Christ.

    Peace in Christ,

    Bobby

  66. Dean Hayson

    Hi Glen and Bobby,

    You have both given me a lot to chew on. I came to my chosen worldview, which is a closed but expanding universe, after some consideration however I will always leave open the possibility of an encounter with the intangible.

    Here are some ideas you might like:

    Big bang theory enters the arena at the start of an explosion. The theory says nothing about what caused the explosion. Maybe it was God (the intangible). From that explosion came matter (the tangible).

    The size of the universe is measured by how far light has travelled since that explosion. It’s a long way but maybe God is sitting beyond even that.

    Quantum theory tells us (through a process called ‘entanglement’) that distance is not an issue; that things seperated by thousands of light years can be connected. Maybe God, even if he exists out there beyond the bounds of what light can probe, is connected to us.

    All these things are allowed by modern science.

    Thank you both for for sharing your worldview and God’s worldview with me. I am off to debate the Scientologists now. Apparently some evil galactic emperor is afoot. They are going to tell me more about him but first I have to check how much is in my savings account. I think I have $12. I hope that will be enough :0)

    Cheers,

    dean

  67. bobby grow

    Dean,

    it has been really good to interact with you, you are a very charitable atheist (unlike one I’ve had at my blog recently), a very charitable human being; and I hope our engagement will have proven to be fruitful in the “end”—I guess if we meet in heaven, it will have been ;-).

    I will continue to pray for you, seriously, and I hope that you will “taste and see that the LORD is good!” It is often a strange experience for me to talk with atheists (or non-believers in general), because the “one” the atheist talks about as non-existent, I know in a very personal, intimate way. I have seen Him do things, both “intangible” and tangible (in my own life, continuous with what He set in motion at the cross) in my life that reflects the love and care of a Great Shepherd (cf. Ps. 80:1 the OT ;-); and it has been and is a sweet experience, Dean. When I feel the emptiness of your own worldview, and realize that all you have, is yourself, to create meaning (existentialism) in the face of the absurdity of death and a black, empty, cold universe; it sincerely saddens me. I hope that you’ll see that your worldview is presupposed by what has been already described in the OT (Gen 3), and the reality of man being “god,” creating his own reality as he goes; I hope that this may somehow, subvert, your worldview by placing it in perspective.

    Anyway, peace . . . and watch out for those scientologists, Christians dealt with such sects early on, they were called Gnostics.

    In Christ,

    Bobby G.

  68. glenscriv

    Dean,
    Keep Truth seeking. As all good blogs will tell you Christ is the Truth.

    And drop by any time, love to hear your thoughts on other topics too.

    all the very best,
    Glen

  69. glenscriv

    Bobby,

    Yeah ‘evidentialism’ depends on the assumptions that we agree:

    a) on what counts as evidence,
    b) on how it should be interpreted, and
    c) that we are all competent and unbiased observers,

    I think debates like this show that these are precisely the points of disagreement.

    Glen

  70. Caleb Woodbridge

    Firstly, I’d like to pick up on the argument that evolution only allows for deism. Glen says that “Perhaps other Christians on this blog might disagree saying things like ‘who punctuates the equilibrium huh?’”, but asking “who punctuates the equilibrium?” assumes that an interventionist God would of necessity intervene in the natural processes in that way.

    I agree that God is an interventionist God – revealing himself to a long line of people from Adam to Abraham to Moses and to the world by his Son, often with miracles, and involving himself in history. However, I don’t think that it follows logically and necessarily from that God would intervene in natural processes in order to create, as opposed to working through natural processes to create.

    God’s power is shown in the orderliness of creation, just as much as in his miracles. Between the God of deism, who winds up the clock of the universe but takes no further role, and the God of the gaps, visible only in the willy-nilly breaking of his own rules, there is a third option: the God who is intimately involved in sustaining every moment of creation, whose power is the force behind all the so-called laws of nature, who keeps nature running in an orderly and consistent way because he is orderly and consistent. The apple that falls is as much a sign of his power as the apple that levitates.

    When we look for gaps that science can’t explain as evidence for God, we are a bit like characters in a story looking for plot holes as evidence of an author. But if the creator is really skilled at his craft, the characters would not be able to find any internal evidence of the Author in the forms of contradictions, discontinuities, and arbitrary interventions. A well-crafted creation will be internally consistent. You won’t be able to “see the joins” in his work. Rather, the creator is revealed by his work as a whole.

    But if the Author decides not just to write the story, to determine its course from the outside, but to write himself into the story, making himself a character and actor within it, then this is a very different sort of intervention. His characters, who could previously only have at best a general idea of a creator, will be able to meet him personally, and not through any defect in his craft, but out of his deliberate intention and purpose.

    In summary, I think God creating by breaking his created order would be analagous the author cheating in his story and having plot holes, whereas God revealing himself, the miracles of the Bible and the incarnation are analagous to the second type of action, where he writes himself into the story. It’s only an analogy, and it’ll break down if you push it too far, but I think it expresses my distinction in a way that’s more easily understandable.

    My second main point is that the orderliness of creation need not imply impersonality. We talk about the orderliness of creation through the metaphor of “obeying” the “laws of nature”. This is a metaphor, of course: a rock is not a citizen which decides to submit to a legal code. This metaphor is not without its problems: it implies an essentially impersonal universe submiting to an impersonal law. The Bible, by contrast, shows us that the basic nature of reality is relational, because God is trinity – the loving unity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit in relation to one another.

    In the medieval worldview, God was the Unmoved Mover, and nature was moved by love for him. Creation’s orderliness is not submission to an impersonal law, but a dance of love. Again, a rock does not have mind or affections to literally love God, but in many ways “love for God” is a far better metaphor than “obeying the laws of nature” for the orderliness of creation.

  71. Pingback: Piper or Darwin - Who is the more controversial target? « Christ the Truth

  72. bobby grow

    Caleb sounds like he’s been reading him some Jonathan Edwards ;-) . . . or at least, Piper.

  73. glenscriv

    Hi Caleb,
    How would we go about knowing whether God was a hands-on interventionist Creator or a hands-off, unfolding-natural-processes kind of God?

    How we seek to answer that question is very telling.

    If we try to answer it via study of natural processes we’ve already capitulated to the naturalistic worldview. It can tell us nothing else than that the universe operates according to impersonal processes – the whole thing is founded upon this assumption.

    If we answer the question via study of the Scriptures I submit we learn something quite different. This God breaks all the ‘rules’ just because Joshua needs a bit more time (Josh 10:12-13). Such an event sounds utterly ridiculous to the naturalist. The inter-dependent ‘processes’ affected make such an occurence unthinkable. But the Christian is in quite a different place as they think this one through – or they ought to be anyway.

    This is not to say there isn’t a certain orderliness to how Christ upholds the worlds by the power of His word. But His word aint the same as the laws of thermodynamics and thinking of one in terms of the other leads to problems on both sides.

  74. Chris Oldfield

    Hi everyone. surprised this is still going!

    Caleb – excellently put. That’s vintage Lewis all the way down.

    Glen – there are crude and sophisticated forms of evidentialism, both of which are slightly naive, but you’d be surprised how close, for instance, an anti-foundationalist evidentialism comes to reformed or presuppositional thinking.

    I don’t think this debate illustrates the “precisely the points of disagreement”, but rather what happens when well meaning, intelligent theologians neither understand nor want to understand the scientific thinking, assume it’s false, and seek to justify that with fideism.

    If we hold to a radical fideism such that we’re postmodern with respect to science unless done from christian (read creationist) presuppositions about the age of the world etc then the rubber hits the road when we consider whether we can work together with non-believers for the common good e.g. on climate change:

    If the scales are totally totally wrong [eg charts showing cycles of ice ages/global temperature cycles over 100,000s of years being overridden in this century], then the projections are totally wrong, and so fideism can thus be used precisely to “evade the need to think and evaluate evidence”. I completely understand Richard Dawkins’ frustration there.

    As for wisdom/folly in 1 corinthians, it’s precisely the message of christ crucified, not of any old thing christians say (eg intelligent design), which is the stumbling block. Further more, it’s not when they don’t understand it, but when they do that they reject it, both Jews & Greeks, because they boast in other things. The cross subverts our boasting and so the christian’s only stumbling block would be to put anything in the way of people believing the gospel (cf 1 cor 9) [eg fideist attacks on science?]. I fear the “wisdom of the cross” rhetoric being extended to all knowing undermines the notion of proverbs or predictions. An un-nuanced focus on antithesis makes me wonder what the “common good” even means, and if christians can work together with non christians for it.

  75. Chris Oldfield

    ps fair point on the open universe Glen – “his word aint the same as the laws of thermodynamic” – amen.

    Caleb – what would you say on miracles? (obviosuly they’re not arbitrary interventions [a la intelligent design] but very much interventions of the author tied to the plot – whether pre incarnate or not)…

  76. glenscriv

    Hi Chris,
    Nice to hear from you.
    I’m off out the door for a couple of days (though it mightn’t look like it since I have a post scheduled to publish this evening).

    Let me leave alone the ‘fideistic’ and ‘postmodern’ jibes (in debating terms I think that’s called ‘hurling elephants’).

    I will also let this one pass through to the wicket-keeper:

    “…this debate illustrates… what happens when well meaning, intelligent theologians neither understand nor want to understand the scientific thinking, assume it’s false, and seek to justify that with fideism.”

    Wow! I mean really, wow! If any other creationists on this blog want to take issue with you on that one, I’ll let them. And you should brace yourself!

    As for whether we can work together on climate change…
    Well we already know that Dawkins and creation scientists dont work together.

    But is it the case that the scientific community is of one mind on this and that only the creationists are obstructing? Is it the case that alternative explanatory hypotheses retard good science? Doesn’t your argument assume that creation science is simply bad science and can only hinder the good of the planet? Is it possible that the models used by young earth scientists could actually explain climate change better? Perhaps it’s even worse than we think, but are they allowed a seat at the table? Would you consider it at all possible that creationists are best placed to save the planet – whether by saving us from wrong views of climate change or pointing us in another direction?

    Your final couple of sentences get to the nub of the disagreement for me:

    “I fear the “wisdom of the cross” rhetoric being extended to all knowing undermines the notion of proverbs or predictions. An un-nuanced focus on antithesis makes me wonder what the “common good” even means, and if christians can work together with non christians for it.”

    For me the wisdom of the cross is a radical, out-of-this-world logic that requires complete epistemological revolution. Hence this blog. Hence my points to Bobby about evidentialism, etc, etc

  77. Chris Oldfield

    fair enough. I’m not surprised you extend 1 corinthians 1 to epistemology in general, and I really respect that position, but that’s where i think we’re disagreed.

    apologies if you heard the charge of fideism as pejorative – I was quoting bobby who said an “evidentialist” approach…just doesn’t jive with the more fideistic [approach] that the scriptures assume — that the cross assumes.

    As I’m hearing it, you’re saying since 1 corinthians 1 tells us God will destroy the intelligence of the intelligent, then all human thinking is bound to be in antithesis with reformed christian thinking.

    – the reason I don’t buy that reading of 1 corinthians is because it’s specifically about God’s rule & rescue of people – the OT quote shows this well – in context, God’s promise through Isaiah to Hezekiah, faced with a massive foreign army was “I’m going to save you, but not with a bigger army, not with a better strategy, I’m going to save you in a way no one of you would have guessed, because it gives none of you any glory – I’ll do it all myself, and it’ll be humiliating to your boasts of power.” – and it says in kings, something like “that night the angel of the Lord went out and the next morning all 150,000 of the attacking army were dead”. It’s specifically about the a king who saves by the cross. Not some theological abstraction to legitimise all our christian claims to knowledge.

    I don’t deny that there is a great deal of mature, faith-seeking-understanding in this conversation, but there is a lot of misunderstanding & misrepresentation of the science. All I meant to say was there’s a really practical payoff of this discussion if you think creationism is simply a matter of consistently following christ: if the world is no where near as old as the mainstream scientific community (including many straightforwardly evangelical brothers & sisters such as Prof Bob White & Sir John Houghton, whose father started Banner of Truth publishing]) says it is, then our long term climate projections cannot be trusted. My creationist friends (and I realise they may not be typical) simply say the recent fluctuations are just that – recent, temporary fluctuations, and we have no basis to say anything radically of the ordinary is happening. That for me is a serious threat to following Jesus more faithfully.

  78. Chris Oldfield

    ps a few caveats
    1) I’m not aware of mainstream critiques of climate change
    2) I’m not aware of creationist arguments on climate change
    3) I thoroughly respect your view, and the integrity you have in pursuing an “out-of-this-world logic”. it must be exhausting!
    4) have a good few days away.

  79. Larry Norman

    two hundred comments after the post started and I remain convinced of one thing.

    I am not going to bother having an opinion on evolution or creationism for a while yet. I’m used to talking to clever people – some of my best friends are geeks, but the above…
    Ouch. I have a headache…
    Gav wins comedy prize for the dinosaurs question tho :)

  80. Bobby Grow

    Wow,

    I didn’t realize this was still going.

    Glen,

    I agree, evidentialism is not really the issue, but what apparatus one is using, or what is informing one’s interpretation of the “evidence;” and then how that interpretation is correlative to broader worldview issues, and what in fact counts as worldview (i.e. what is it that makes a Christian theistic worldview vs. a Naturalistic one).

    Believing that the universe is billions of years old, or in climate change models, for me, is of second order concerns; of course to say that is not so cut-and-dry. Insofar as second order issues are shaped by first order (metaphysics) is probably the crux of this discussion. Kant seems to be involved in our discussion here, to some degree, but then again, I think the incarnation overcomes Kantianism, when framed correctly.

    On another point, and a simple one, uniformitarian logic must be assume, a priori to age the earth as naturalist science does; in fact all naturalist science is based on this assumption. But even natural history (i.e. the Cambrian explosion) speaks against such uniformity . . . and illustrates the impact that cataclysmic happenstance can have upon the “apparently uniformed” universe. And this gets at what apparatus we are going to use to interpret the “evidence” or “data.” What’s the broader macro-epistemological scheme such natural happenstance will be interpreted through? This is my concern, which probably is a little different, but related to Glen’s points.

  81. Bobby Grow

    Btw,

    I actually did my Master’s thesis on I Corinthians 1:17-25, and, Chris, I think you’re only half right. It certainly is about a/the king who overcomes by the cross; but you have to take the whole context into consideration. Paul is most certainly attacking the “wisdom system” that the church of Corinth was imbibing. The whole context (I Cor 1–4), is most certainly about epistemology, and how that is related to the “ontology of the cross” (i.e. by Christ’s life). Paul is rebuking the Corinthians for “thinking” with the “wisdom of the world,” with the “wisdom that is of those who are perishing.” They were thinking like the “pagans” (both of the Jewish and Gentile variety), and it was causing them to interpret the cross as both foolish and weak. Here is a quote that helps summarize what I am getting at here, and with this I’ll close on this front (he is speaking against socio/cultural approaches to exegeting this pericope, and how that impacts the schismatic nature of the church of Corinth–but I think it helps illustrate my point on epistemology):

    Although such discord [I Cor 1:10ff-my brackets] colors nearly all of the issues which the epistle addresses, it would be a very serious mistake to imply that internal unity as an aspect of ecclesiology dominated the subject matter of the epistle. To the degree to which Corinthian Christians imbibed secular Corinthian culture with an emphasis on peer groups and local value systems, the church had indeed become embroiled in what we have termed a postmodern pragmatism of the market with its related devaluation of truth, tradition, rationality, and universals. However, the value system is corrected not by reformulating an ecclesial polity, but by placing the community as a whole under the criterion and identity of the cross of Christ. (Anthony C. Thistleton, “The First Epistle to the Corinthians,” NICT, ed. I Howard Marshall and Donald A. Hagner, 33)

    I think you overstate, by a lot, with your comments on I Cor. It has everything to do with “wisdom” and “epistemology” and the impact that the “cross and life of Christ” has upon such things. This is certainly sustained by the fact that Paul felt compelled to write this epistle in the first place. He’s essentially telling the Corinthians to quit thinking through the “lens” that the wisdom (man-centered) systems of the world think through. That is my concern, I just want to make sure that we Christians are thinking with Christian assumptions, and not trying to piggyback on assumptions that are “man-centered” and somehow back-load those assumptions under the guise of Christ-centered wisdom.

  82. Caleb Woodbridge

    Hi Glen. Thanks for your response. You ask a very good question:

    “How would we go about knowing whether God was a hands-on interventionist Creator or a hands-off, unfolding-natural-processes kind of God?”

    My short answer is by studying both what God’s Word tells us and what God’s world shows us.

    (By the way, I’m not arguing for a “hands-off” God. Rather, I’m suggesting that God is very hands-on, but that on his hand he often wears the glove of nature. There’s a world of difference between a God who winds up an impersonal universe, and a God who is purposefully involved in every movement of a personal creation, which usually reflects his orderly personality. I can’t stress this distinction enough.)

    It might be helpful to describe the development of my own thought a bit… I used to be a Young Earth Creationist, but I changed my mind primarily from studying Genesis more closely, developing a greater appreciation for its poetry and structure, and coming to the conviction that the text does not require a literal interpretation of the Creation account in Genesis 1:1-2:4, but allows a range of possibilities.

    Given that Christians disagree on what Genesis implies about the “scientific” details of creation, is it legitimate to look to the natural world to throw light on this question? Can a study of the natural world be a legitimate source of knowledge for us as Christians as we seek to understand the Bible? I believe it can be and must be.

    You say:

    If we try to answer it via study of natural processes we’ve already capitulated to the naturalistic worldview. It can tell us nothing else than that the universe operates according to impersonal processes – the whole thing is founded upon this assumption.

    I think this contains some false assumptions. Orderliness does not necessarily imply impersonality, and study of natural processes needn’t be based on, or be a capitulation to, a naturalistic worldview. The natural sciences arose out of the Christian worldview, on the basis of God’s revelation of himself in the Bible.

    As I said in my earlier comment, as Christians we have good basis in the character and nature of God as creator of the world and of us as rational creatures, to accept the study of natural processes as a generally reliable way of discovering truth about the world around us.

    Unlike the naturalist, we recognise that science can only give us a partial understanding of reality because there is more to reality than the natural world, and the Bible tells us that God is involved with his world.

    I was very excited by the Intelligent Design movement for a bit. I think one of its strengths is its philosophical critique of methodological naturalism, but I quickly became disillusioned with its claims to have clear scientific evidence for design. However, I agree in principle that there are ways in which God could intervene that could be detected using scientific tools.

    Miracles couldn’t be studied by ‘science’ in the strict sense, because science is about studying the orderliness of creation; it is naturalistic in the sense of being the study of nature; and so supernatural interventions are outside its sphere of competence.

    It would, however, be possible to use scientific tools “historically” or “forensically” to study the natural impact of a supernatural event. If God struck me down with a lightning bolt on a sunny day, science wouldn’t be able to explain where the thunderbolt came from, but it sure would be able to tell that my body had been fried!

    I’d also expect us to be able to tell the truth from creation because God the creator is not a liar and does not contradict himself. Granted, we can come to the wrong conclusions due to our own Fallenness (which means we are inclined to suppress the truth in unrighteousness), and just by our own Finiteness, that we can make mistakes. But it seems to me to be inconsistent with God’s character for him to give us minds, and then to ask us to believe something contrary to what good sense tells us to be the case; he will not contradict himself between world and Word. If we approach the natural world with a genuine openness that God can intervene, and a willingness to be guided by his Spirit, then I believe that we can expect to be able to discover truth.

    So to study origins from a Christian worldview, you don’t just look at the natural world with the standard scientific method of looking at the orderliness of creation and extrapolating from it – that is, working out what would have happened if we assume that the usual rules all applied. You also have to examine the evidence on the historical basis of what actually happened, with the possibility that God intervened. We should strive to look at the evidence and draw whatever conclusions it compels us to, whether or not they agree with our prior commitments.

    What I found was this: even though I approached my study of origins open to God being able to create the world in six days, for example, and so without any presumption of naturalism, the evidence still doesn’t seem to stack up for a young earth. Across every discipline of relevance – physics, astronomy, geology, biology, archaeology, history, etc – the world appears to be far older than the 10,000 years or so at most that a strictly literalistic reading of the Bible would allow.

    Another factor that helped me move away from Creationism was reading books like The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind by Mark Noll, which discusses the history of Creationism. One of the things I found is that Young Earth Creationism, far from being a simple acceptance of “the plain truth of scripture” as is sometimes claimed, is just as much a product of our modern culture as the scientism it opposes, and shares many of the same assumptions. YECism buys into the idea that scientific truth is the only or best form of truth, and so if Genesis 1 is not literalistically true, it can’t be true at all.

    It cuts both ways: there is no neutral position which doesn’t depend on interpretation, and this applies just as much to the interpretation of Genesis as the interpretation of the natural world. But I don’t think this means that what one accepts is just a leap of faith, divorced from reason. With careful thought, humility and prayer, we can get better at looking at things from different sets of assumptions, learn to try on different mental spectacles, and see which way of looking at things better explains and takes in all the available information.

    Because of this, studying the Bible should help correct our interpretation of the natural world, and our study of creation can also help us correct our interpretation of the Bible.

    Anyway, there’s a lot more I could say – my exact interpretation of Genesis, for example; arguments from science; how God relates to us both as Author “outside” the story, and as an actor “inside” the story, and how those two relate and how miracles fit in; but I’ve already spent a lot of time writing the above and need to get to bed, so I’ll spare you all that!

  83. Bobby Grow

    Caleb (sleep well ;-),

    I agree, and the post of mine that I link to on Gen 1–11 in the beginning of this thread (somewhere), on the literary/theological concerns that should be brought to bare on approaching Gen (although I disagree with your conclusion on the “literalness” of Gen 1—11 — this certainly is one hazard of the Canonical approach of interpretation).

    But as far as that, you’re not dealing, whatsoever with the question of the impact that the noetic has here. You seem to follow what has been called the complimentarian approach (see J. P. Moreland, maybe you have, in his book: Foundations For a Christian Worldview); which assumes a rather rationalist anthropology. To say, as you have “. . . The natural sciences arose out of the Christian worldview, on the basis of God’s revelation of himself in the Bible. . . .”; is only a descriptive statement that you have given prescriptive force. Sure Descartes and others (even Thomas Aquinas) provided seeds for “naturalism” (even atheism), and contemporary science; but this is not necessarily a good thing, and it reflects a post hoc connection (there is not a necessary causal relation between what was spawned in its name, and what the Christian worldview actually says — i.e. think of the Crusades).

    At bottom YOU determine what corrects scripture from nature, and what corrects nature from scripture; and this reflects the anthrpocentrism contra the christocentrism that has been under discussion, relative to both ontology and epistemology, this whole thread . . . so we’ve come full circle.

    As far as God as author and actor, certainly, He is both the object and subject of knowledge . . . you should read T. F. Torrance’s newly posthumously published book Incarnation, he speaks directly to this issue; and the rationalism you’re following just cannot cut it (another book of his you might like is his “Theological Science”).

    Peace.

  84. Bobby Grow

    Man, I forgot to close my bold tag (stupid html ;-) it certainly couldn’t be my fault, Eve).

  85. Chris Oldfield

    hmmm. “1 cor 1-4 is most certainly about epistemology”? I’d say it was about ministry. Besides, “wisdom” in corinthians hardly means what we mean by a fully developed epistemology. It’s specific ties between wisdom, weakness, boasting & stumbling blocks (which repeats again and again through the letter, particularly chs 8-9 & 12-13) which are subverted by the message of the cross – and by “the cross” I don’t mean some theological abstraction about the shattering of human epistemology. I’m not averse to Thiselton, but I think it’s overstating the case to load Paul as if he’d read Barth or Van Til. At best it’s a philosophical extrapolation inspired by a passage; it’s hardly exposition.

    Caleb – thanks. That’s helpful on miracles. Psalm 77:15-19
    Bobby – I’ll try to get a copy of Incarnation, but the comparison with the crusades is rather grotesque, don’t you think? I like Moreland, but found his work on origins both in “scaling the secular” and that hopeless “3views” series, very disappointing. American discussions take place in an often ignored but unique context – both historically (as Caleb/Noll highlights), but also sociologically: the parallel social issue of “getting God back into the classroom/prayer in schools”.

    As for a criticism of “uniformitarian logic” & “the cambrian explosion”, it’s precisely that kind of semi-engagement that scientists, christians & non, find so trying. To imagine that the gradualism debate is unknown in biology is one thing, but to think that some form of “catastrophism” can sufficiently alter the speed of light & hence the size/age of the Universe, or sufficiently alter half lives in radiodating, or fusion rates of Hydrogen, or even to try to fit the cambrian explosion into some sort of creationist grid is quite baffling. I know that pseudo-scientific papers are rife which assert that sort of thing, but their “arguments” twist the presentation of results and extrapolate way out of context. That’s why they’re rejected out of hand by academic peer review – not because they threaten the atheistic agenda. And it’s not only non-christians. Again, I’m with Caleb & Blocher – Genesis is the question, but if creationists will continue to claim scientific backing, I think E. Lucas, Can we believe Genesis today? (IVP) explains simply where such arguments go wrong. With a few exceptions, most critiques of mainstream science are incredibly inflammatory, and some distort the truth. It’s really depressing and does a lot of harm to working christian scientists.

  86. bobby grow

    Paul is attacking a false “wisdom system” (probably many); and his usage of Is 29:13, and the surrounding context substantiates this thesis. Who said anything about Barth or whoever else? Thistleton wasn’t a primary source for my exegesis, but still think his quote well illustrates the theme (maybe in an overstated way or anachronistic way) of what is going on in that context.

    Who said that I was talking about a fully developed epistemology? The problem in Corinth was that they had assumed a man-centered sofia, which subverted the wisdom of God’s message; causing them to view the cross as both weak (from the Jewish perspective) and foolish (from the Greek). The wisdom of God, in context, is shown to be wise and strong, because it has real power, which does not lead to schisms (and the rest of foibles dealt with throughout the epistle).

    If you stumble over language like epistemology, then lets not use it, the problem in Corinth was an imbibing of man-centered wisdom which caused the Corinthians to “think” like the world (I have a hundred pgs to back that assertion up).

    I Cor 2:2 illustrates the significance of the cross, relative to “knowledge” and “wisdom.” Paul says look to the cross, that’s the power and wisdom of God; it takes man-centered wisdom (both Greek and Jewish) to its logical conclusion, death. So boasting is taken out of the way (4:7), because of the cross (boasting in what? My wisdom).

    Anyway, I guess you can try to marginalize I Cor as relevant to this discussion (on the problems with “thinking” like the world); but any expositor/exegete (i.e. Fee, Barrett, et al) I’ve read would totally disagree with you on that point.

    As far as the crusades, reductio’s are often grotesque, that’s the point.

    The reason I mentioned Moreland, with Caleb, is because his approach (Caleb’s) reminds me of Moreland’s (and others in that tradition).

    My point on uniformitarianism was to underscore the fact that there are certain a priori commitments that scientists make, and base their interpretations on (at a fundamental foundational level) that themselves (certain principles unif. etc.) are not and cannot be based on empirical data . . . so then they have a “blind faith” of sorts; which takes shape and is informed by their worldview and thought-processes (formerly known as epistemology), given certain value-laden lenses that they have inherited from Adam (i.e. like metaphysical materialism, in the OT it was the problem of worshipping creation, I would dare say it still is, it’s just not “parlanced” that way).

    Btw, I’m really not committed to Creationism per se (at least not the ICR Henry Morris style) . . . I would, if anything, be more of an advocate of ID. I actually don’t think that the Bible’s primary intention was to talk about “how” necessarily, but “who.”

  87. Chris Oldfield

    Again Bobby, I’m sorry I seem to have offended or riled you. I don’t regard this as a competition. You raise many interesting directions, but all my comments have been assuming that this discussion was about Glen’s creationism (a position I deeply respect for its theological motivation – it desires to follow Jesus and gets rid of a whole ton of problems). I’ve never even met Glen, but I really like his attitude & he holds a helpfully different position for me to engage with and learn from. That’s why I’m interested in this conversation. This will be my last comment for a couple weeks.

    1) I’m fairly comfortable with epistemology, I’m fairly confused if we start talking about the biblical theological stream of wisdom as if it were modern epistemology. I’m tempted to leave this to Glen, as I think he’ll pick up what I was referring to. It was a response to what I thought was a powerful & interesting Barthian & Van Tillian idea that as Glen put it, “the wisdom of the cross is a radical, out-of-this-world logic that requires complete epistemological revolution”. I often find 1 corinthians 1 used to justify however christians happen to be reasoning, in particular “creation science”, with various spurious references dotted around to materialism, philosophy of science, science itself & Kantian critical apparatus. I’ve read & enjoyed Thiselton, Fee & Barnett’s commentaries but I’ve not read CK Barrett’s. I’m sure I would enjoy yours too.

    2) I’m surprised to hear ID proponed. That seems to be a separate question altogether. While “intelligent design” is a phrase any thoughtful christian would cherish, it has been hoodwinked to mean something quite technical – irreducible or specified complexity. The former is tragically naive, the second potentially fascinating, but neither solve any of the serious theological problems about e.g. the fall at all. What’s odd is that the ID rhetoric is often used to “back up” young earth creationism somehow. It just doesn’t take us there.

  88. bobby grow

    Chris,

    not riled, just passionate :-). When irresponsible assertions are made (like the one you’ve been making about the relevance of I Cor), then my responses become passionate. Sorry, I don’t buy into academic dispassonatism, it doesn’t fit into the object of theological study, who’s end result is passion and doxology. Glen is certainly more patient in his approach, than I, so you’re right about his attitude.

    As far as epistemology, you seem to think “we” have progressed beyond the basics of any knowledge system . . . as if modern epistemology and past wisdom systems have nothing in common; ironically they have everything in common. This is what I meant by your marginalization of scripture’s relevance to this discussion. You say that fideism is used to evade; but then again so can creating a “ditch” of sorts between “now” and the “past.” Knowledge is knowledge, wisdom is wisdom, and the wisdom of God does the same to both; subverts them, makes the “wisdom of the wise,” foolish (btw Paul’s usage of Is illustrates this further, e.g. I can’t imagine the “commandments of men” Is 29:13 were anywhere near developed as the wisdom systems that were at play in 1st century corinth [and this is the primary connection between the two contexts, at least that’s what Paul emphasizes between the two contexts]; nevertheless, there is “timeless” relevance, the wisdom of God will always subvert, indeed sovereignly/kingly, the wisdom of man–no matter what era–so if we have so called wisdom “today” that causes humanity to view the cross of Christ as foolish [e.g. naturalism] then there is no false parallel going on, and I Cor 1 certainly applies to any period of epistemology, no matter how its developed). Btw, you should read Barrett, you’d like him.

    I don’t think I’ve ever used I Cor 1 in re. to “creation science.” And I don’t think Glen is putting forth any Van Tillian ideas, certainly Barth would be influential here, but I know Glen isn’t into rationalism or presuppositionalism [and presup. is just as rationalist as evidentialism]; and that’s why I know Glen would not be an advocate of that.

    Yes I’m aware of irreducible complexity and specified complexity; maybe someday you could debunk all of that for us little naive “followers.” Of course I have heard folks, even scientists try to debunk Behe’s “spurious” view to his face, but were unable to do so, conceptually (I think they were on Harvard’s campus). So there are often assertions made, like yours, but when put to the test, they flounder. But I suppose this, once again, gets us back full circle to what our a priori assumptions are.

  89. bobby grow

    Chris, one more point,

    You said:

    . . . The former is tragically naive, the second potentially fascinating, but neither solve any of the serious theological problems about e.g. the fall at all. What’s odd is that the ID rhetoric is often used to “back up” young earth creationism somehow. It just doesn’t take us there.

    So now you’re conflating, and thus equivocating ID and Creationism? You’ve bought into the public relations rhetoric of the “Naturalistic” Academy? Intelligent Design has no desire to explain the “Fall.” It has no theological commitments, at least not anymore than neo-Darwinianism (ID assumes metaphysical supra-naturalism vs. Neo-Dar. assumption of metaphysical naturalism/materialism). And it actually offers some “positive” working scientific models, which you have yet to debunk. When you make assertions like this it just does not come off sounding very careful.

  90. glenscriv

    Oh gosh!
    Just when I thought entropy had taken hold, the discussion has evolved. And not gradually. A Cambrian explosion of thoughts.

    No time to engage I’m afraid. but I’d just point out that I’m not pinning my whole epistemology to 1 Corithians.

    Perhaps this posts explains a bit more of my position:

    http://christthetruth.net/2008/11/30/beginning-with-jesus/

    And since we all believe in 1 Cor 1-4 let’s make sure we’re cross-shaped as we minister the gospel to each other. Trembling and weak (1 Cor 2:1-5) and giving thanks for all (1 Cor 1:4).

  91. Chris Oldfield

    oh dear I’ve gone and got myself in a mess here. I should learn to keep shtum, and I will, as I said I would, but think I’d better just clear up:

    1) when I said irreducibility is naive I meant Behe’s formulation seems to overlook biological exaptation – not everything has to be adaptation. I hear Dembski is finally offering some research proposals (for a long time, Templeton offered grants and none were forthcoming). But that’s neither of our concern in this discussion because:

    2) We’re agreed that ID is a different question to creationism/evolution. It’s interesting, but different. I didn’t say you linked ID with creationism. Some do, and we’re agreed they’re wrong.

    3) We’re agreed that 1 cor 1 is relevant: wisdom is subverted by the cross. We’re disagreed over what is being referred to by what you called “a wisdom system”.

    4) I think you, Glen & I are all saying different things on how non-christian epistemology is folly.

  92. Chris Oldfield

    ps thanks again for stimulating & provocative conversation. I don’t know about you, but I find blogs to be both wonderfully free & yet phenomenally difficult modes for discussion! However much we may disagree (and I must admit I’m increasingly confused!!) I’m certainly encouraged by the depth of concern & interaction with our cultures for Christ’s sake. God bless, Chris

  93. bobby grow

    Chris,

    I agree with you, blogs are great, in the sense that I never would’ve talked to a “brother” in Belgium (is that where you’re at), nor an Aussie “brother,” Glen, in the UK . . . or wherever else cyberspace may lead. I also agree with you on the difficulty (and rather “flat”) discussion this mode tends to foster. I have a feeling if we were talking in person (face to face) a lot of the “confusion” would not be present (or maybe it would’ve come to “blows” — totally kidding ;-) hehe).

    I think we agree on the main thing, that Jesus Christ is the only way, truth, and life; and no one comes to the Father except through Him . . . so that’s where we fellowship, Chris — and beyond that, I don’t know ;-).

    Let me apologize for getting too rambunctious, at points; by nature I am a rather competitive person, but, sincerely, my goal in our dialogue has not been to necessarily engage a “one-upsmanship” kind of jousting match; I really do feel passionate about what “I” believe, but of course the “I” part can often get in the way of that — and insofar that that happened, Chris, I’m sorry.

    In Christ,

    Bobby

    P.s. Glen, I agree, we need to keep all of this Christian, esp. since we know the elect Angels are paying attention to this discussion . . . and so are some atheists.

  94. Ameryx

    Chris,

    Re: your caveats,
    1. You are unaware of any mainstream critique of global climate change. Yet there are numerous books and articles by climatologists that question whether we are in a warming or cooling period; and whether whatever change may be taking place is anthropogenic. Unless you define “mainstream” as “believes in anthropogenic global warming”, your confession to being unaware would seem to disqualify you from discussing the subject. It would be as if someone who believes in Creation were to state that he was unaware of any mainstream critiques of Creationism.
    2. You are unaware of any Creationist explanation for climate change. This may be because Creationists are unconvinced that anthropogenic global warming is taking place, and so see nothing that needs explaining. But let me offer this thought: God created the universe, and Man is not capable of destroying God’s work. To believe otherwise is hubris.

  95. Pingback: Happy Creation Day « Christ the Truth

  96. John B

    I’m currently discussing the issue of creationism with some friends at church. I found this long thread from last year and have been looking into it to get a glimpse of the thinking here on this topic. There’s lots of good insights and depth of thought expressed in the thread.

    What degree of doctrinal agreement is necessary on this question in order to maintain unity within the church body? Is there room for a diversity of teaching on this topic within a communion?

    The question arose because of the recent well-publicized news story of the resignation of a professor and renowned Old Testament scholar from an evangelical seminary due to a controversy over his views on creationism. In brief, this professor supports theistic evolution, while also professing creation ex nihilo and the historical Adam.

    I understand that many would answer these questions differently, in large part due to the particulars of their own confession.

    In short, can theistic evolution operate within the bounds of orthodoxy?

    (Hope it’s OK to comment here on an older thread.)

  97. Otepoti

    Chris says,

    “I’ve never met a Creationist who considers the significance of the GARDEN, as opposed to the rest of the world. Presumably it wasn’t a safe place outside – maybe there were even “thorns and thistles” outside”

    You just met one. It does not follow that the area outside the garden was inimical to humans.

    Rather, wilderness soils, though they may be full of potential, are simply not very fertile for food production. It takes a good few seasons of human work, of composting, manuring and liming to make them so. I see no more implied by the garden/wilderness divide than that the Lord provided an area of terrapreta to give our first parents a start.

    Now, back to John’s more important question.

    I’m going back to the garden. Ah, gardening – our first and best work.

  98. Glen

    Hi John,

    I think a Waltke or an Alexander who go for an historical Adam still have their work cut out for them. Mike Reeves’ article on this is good:

    http://www.reformation21.org/articles/adam-and-eve.php

    I also found the reasoning for Waltke’s position as given in the video to be revealing:

    “If the data is overwhelmingly in favor of evolution, to deny that reality will make us a cult . . . some odd group that is not really interacting with the world. And rightly so, because we are not using our gifts and trusting God’s Providence that brought us to this point of our awareness. . . . To deny the reality would be to deny the truth of God in the world and would be to deny truth. So I think it would be our spiritual death if we stopped loving God with all of our minds and thinking about it, I think it’s our spiritual death.” (source)

    What I take from this is:

    a) the important issues only really emerge when the details are pressed.

    b) the reasons for a position are as important as the position itself.

    c) those who teach the position with its attendant details and rationale should be judged more harshly.

    I don’t know what it’s like in the States (I can guess!) but in the circles I run in, creationism is the minority position and I’m in no position to be picky about who I can and can’t work with. I certainly think you can be a Christian and a theistic evolutionist but I worry about a, b and c.

    Otepoti,

    Going back to the garden eh? I’m just heading off to the city (Brighton). Goes to show how important eschatology is in all this :)

  99. John B

    Thanks Glen.

    The Mike Reeves article is excellent. Christians believe that the historical person, Adam, fathered the human race. All other evidence and ideas about human origins are understood as illuminated by this divinely revealed truth.

    I do find a lot of value in the idea of *homo divinus* as a way of interpreting the scientific evidence, though there are some difficulties with the specifics of Alexander’s version of this theory.

    Waltke’s statement is consistent with the views on creation that I’ve recently heard expressed by Thomas Hopko (Eastern Orthodox). The East is very open to dialogue with science, acknowledging both literalist and allegorical hermeneutics within the patristic tradition.

    I’m in accord with your three take away points. Teachers in the church are called to a higher biblical standard.

    I think that Orthodoxy’s encouragement of constructive philosophical engagement with science is healthy. Six literal 24-hour days has traditionally not been a dogmatic position within the church. It seems to have arisen relatively recently as a reaction against naturalism. Hebrews 4 describes the continuation of the seventh day.

    There is a big Creation Museum here that includes large pictures depicting dinosaurs grazing in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve.

    That’s just so wrong…

  100. Josh

    For my penny’s worth I think it’s very important to work out how one’s views on things like theistic evolution affects other doctrines – and to work those things out based on talking to individual people concerned.

    Take an unrelated example: If someone says that the OT saints didn’t have faith in Christ I’d be concerned because (in my mind) the logical conclusion is that faith in Christ is an optional extra to salvation, which in turn means that someone today doesn’t need to believe in Jesus to be saved.

    Talking to such a person I’d probably discover one of three things:
    a) He agrees. Faith in Christ is an optional extra (though he might say it’s very rare today for someone to be saved outside of faith in Christ)
    b) He agrees with the logic, is stumped by the conclusion because he violently disagrees with it, and goes away to rethink his views on the OT
    c) Disagrees with the logic because of reason x – which in turn becomes something we need to discuss.

    Person a) is far outside of orthodoxy – and I wouldn’t want to be committed to doing evangelism with him, whilst persons b) and c) could be people I’d be happy to work with. (And a key point is that I would only know whether a person was an a, b or c by talking to that person – not by sitting in my study working out the logical deductions of theological error).

    When it comes to theistic evolution the two big issues I’d want to ask questions on are:

    -Is the Bible the ultimate authority in all things. For instance, if science suddenly changed its mind and said the world could be no more than 10000 years old, would I change my reading of Genesis 1-2? If so science becomes the hermeneutical key to the scriptures and has an authority over scripture. (This was the question that changed my mind on the whole issue).

    – Was there death in the world before the fall? What are the implications for the universal impact of Adam’s sin? What are the implications for Christ’s death as the one act that brings salvation to the whole cosmos?

    In my mind getting the right understanding on whether a day is meant to mean 24 hours or not is a fairly trivial issue, but saying the Bible needs to be testing against an external benchmark of objective truth is serious – and that differentiation can only come about through (loving) discussion with the individual involved.

    I’d suggest that someone who fails to listen attentatively to those who hold different views on non-(directly)-primary issues might well lie safely in orthodoxy, but fall far outside orthopraxy. (And thankfully, by God’s grace, someone like me who can easily fail in this task, are still safely in Christ’s hands).

  101. codepoke

    Hey Glen,

    I did a quick Google to try to find your most recent evolution post. I kind of doubt this is it, but maybe it’s close enough.

    I wanted to throw a little fuel on your “scientists starting from materialist preconceptions find a material creation” fire. This article reaches some profound and profoundly obvious conclusions, but I really enjoyed it. I hope you do too.

    http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2010/12/13/101213fa_fact_lehrer?currentPage=all

  102. Glen

    Thanks Code, very interesting.

    And this post probably is the last time I addressed 6-day creation – head-on at least.

    It’s been two years now. Give it another two years and I might just be recovered enough to give it another shot

    ;-)

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