What do you think about the age of the universe?

Gav once asked me what I thought about a 13.7 billion year old universe.  I gave him an answer which lasted almost as long.  Came across it in comments recently and thought I’d repost it…

The 13.7 billion year old story is told with some very important background assumptions. These assumptions are that all reality has come about through chance and time. (Even if a scientist believes that there is more to the universe, as scientists they operate as though this were the case). But those are the only two ingredients – time and chance.

Now given the astronomically small odds of such an astronomically complex cosmos arising by chance then you’re going to have to have astronomically long periods of time to give rise to it. This is the only real option when time and chance are the only two factors. Small chance must mean big time. The smaller the chance, the bigger the time.

And, to be honest, the story still has immense problems. For one thing, you can give nothing as much time as you like – ‘nothing will come of nothing’ as King Lear once said. And you might also want to ask in a universe characterized by entropy and the overwhelmingly *negative* effects of genetic mutations, whether ‘time’ is really on our side?? But perhaps all those other problems are for another time.

My main point is to say that the ‘time and chance’ story could never be anything other than cosmically long-winded! If time and chance is all there is then the story *must* posit inconceivably long periods of time – there is no alternative.

The Christian story looks very different. This is because time and chance are not the main players in this story. The Christian story begins with a purposeful Creator Father who makes all things in and through and for His Son, Jesus, in the power of His eternal Spirit. Already you can see that the Christian’s story of the world will be very different. You simply don’t need to invoke ‘time’ as the explanation for the world’s complexity. The universe is as weird and wonderful as it is because it’s the love gift of the Father for His Son. It’s as broken and vandalised as it is because of our rebellion against Christ – the Logic of the universe. Time’s just not a big player in this story.

Many Christians (myself included) say the earth is 6000 years old (many others say 10 000. Many also go with the billions of years story as well as the Christian story, though I think there are problems with this). But this comparatively ‘young’ earth position is the result of doing good science.  Not, first of all, the empirical observation kind (though that may well come in later.)  First the Christian will be a good scientist of the word.

All science operates according to methods that are appropriate to the object of study. If you think the speaking God made the world then listening to His word seems an extremely fruitful line of enquiry. So good science will mean good bible study.

The bible itself gives us genealogies from Adam all the way through to the time of Christ’s incarnation – the first Christmas. The bible is extremely keen to trace this through for us (I’ll say why in a second). But what it means is that the evidence is there for all to see. Good science means taking the evidence seriously and on its own terms. Doing so yields an age of 6000 years (or 10 000 if you think some of the genealogies leap-frog generations, which is possible).

Now why is this important?

The bible tells the story of the universe as the story of two men. Adam and Christ. In Adam the creation fell into frustration and death. In Christ, the One who made the world – the eternal Logos (the Logic, the Word) – He enters His world, takes it to Himself and redeems it, bringing glory and immortality. And just as Adam was a real man who really rebelled and really took creation with Him – so Christ is a real man who really obeyed God and really redeemed us. Ever since Adam rebelled the promise of Christ coming to save echoed on down through the Old Testament. The genealogies are carefully recorded to cultivate hope and to show the path from death (in Adam) to life (in Christ). Unsurprisingly, as soon as Jesus is born the bible doesn’t bother with genealogies ever again. But whereever there are genealogies they are emphasizing for us the concreteness of the bible’s story. This isn’t a mythic tale about some heavenly bust-up. In the real world the real man Adam really rebelled.   And in the real world, the real man Christ really redeemed.

The Reason for everything is not hidden in dark matter or found in a ‘God particle’. And neither is He unattainably beyond our world. He has entered in to be known – really entered as a real man. You really can know the heart of the universe – and it’s not a sub-atomic particle. The real explanation for reality is not an equation or an explosion, it’s a Person. And because He’s a Person, He can be known. And His story is a story you can enter.

In a sense you can enter it by being a good scientist. Not running off to the Large Hadron Collider (although I’m sure it’d be great fun to go!). But the science I’m talking about is picking up the bible and asking God to show you His Face who is Jesus Christ. When you see Him walking around planet earth like He owns the place you know you’ve come to the real heart of the matter. To understand and know Him is to have your finger on the pulse of reality.

It might mean leaving behind the old stories – but Jesus gives us a better world to inhabit.

.

Posted on by Glen in apologetics, evangelism, science

About Glen

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

75 Responses to What do you think about the age of the universe?

  1. Gav

    Ahhhh

    Memories…… and head aches

    That was a turning point for me Glen.

  2. Josh

    It would be interesting to see how many evangelicals would change their exegesis of Genesis if all the disciplines of science came to independent conclusions that the earth was only 6-10,000 years old.

    And no doubt they (as I did when I first considered what I would do if this situation occured) would do so whilst proudly defending sola scriptura…

  3. Anonymous

    I’m a big fan of sola scriptura, but I think there are plenty of reasons why sola scriptura doesn’t forbid different interpretations on the issue of creation.

    First, see what Genesis emphasises and what it doesn’t emphasise. The creation of the stars is dealt with briefly – “He also made the stars” – v. 16b (plus surrounding text in v. 14-19). But the creation of man and woman takes a whole chapter and the life of Abraham takes 13 chapters. I believe that taking sola scriptura seriously also requires me to see the lack of emphasis that the Bible gives to the creation of stars and planets.

    Second, all the time we use non-Biblical data to interpret the Bible – we just don’t admit we’re doing it. So when Moses says (Deut. 1:10) “…today you are as many as the stars in the sky”, we have a choice. Either we can say that that is a statement meant to be read in a literalistic way – i.e. there were, as a matter of mathematics, more Israelites than stars. Or we can say that it is a perfectly true statement, but that it is intended to be read figuratively – in other words, the numbers were overwhelming. Someone who loves the Bible and reveres it as the true and trustworthy Word of God could plump for either of those options and it is not disrespectful to the truth of the word to choose on the basis of non-Biblical data (be it experience of the night sky or scientific theories as to the likely number of stars in OT times).

    Third, I’ve always thought it slightly odd that preachers can make points on the interpretation of the Bible if they do it through grammar or linguistics, but not through science. There are some theological schools that are happy to tell us that Greek/Hebrew word x means y because ancient papyruses used in contractual documents used that word in a particular way. Why is it acceptable to run to non-Christian sources to tell you the meaning of a Greek word, but it’s unacceptable to let any scientific data ever influence the interpretation of Biblical passages that could be taken more than one way?

    In Jesus,
    A. Nonymous.

  4. codepoke

    > The 13.7 billion year old story is told with some very important background assumptions.

    Who’s making the big assumptions here?

    An open minded person who understands red shift and the speed of light cannot avoid the conclusion some of the light we are seeing today was emitted billions of years ago. To reach any other conclusion one must bring powerful assumptions to the evidence, and not the other way around.

  5. Si

    Speed of light being constant is a very big assumption there. Without such assumptions science wouldn’t work, but the universality and immutability of the universe – that laws stay constant is a massive bit of faith.

    I’m open to it, but the subjection of creation to futility as a result of the fall is a massive obstacle in the way of any scientific explanation of origins.

    Redshift measures speed of travel of an object, not distance travelled by the light. We estimate the age of the universe by the size of the universe and the size of the universe by how fast things are going (via redshift) and assuming the universe was once a single point and extrapolating outwards. Therefore, it seems rather circular reasoning there to say that the universe is old because things are far away, which we know because they are travelling fast and the further stuff is away the faster it goes because it was all at one point a long time ago, and we know it was a long time ago, because everything’s far away.

    Sure, if you assume there is no God, or view creation as some form of clockwork machine made and set off by an inactive deity, you can’t do anything else but extrapolate back until you can go no further. If, however, you assume Genesis 1:1 is true (ignoring all the other verses in the Bible), you have to allow the possibility that the universe was created as something other than a pinpoint of energy that then expanded.

    Redshift doesn’t tell us the universe is old, it tells us that things are moving fast and that the universe looks old to us if we assume some stuff.

  6. Josh

    Hi Anonymous,

    I agree that if, having done all our exegesis etc, we come to the conclusion that the Bible doesn’t tell us anything about the age of the universe, then we can look to a less authoritive voice (viz. science) to try to obtain some answers to the question.

    If, however, we use science to determine the exegesis of Genesis 1-2, and then, having done the exegesis turned around to use it as an apologetic about how accurate the Bible (as I fear would happen if the verdict of science shifted to be in line with a “literalist” view of Genesis 1-2) then we’re simply being hypocritical.

    I certainly wouldn’t want to assume that every evangelical who assumes an old earth position would change in this way if the science changes: I simply fear that quite a few would.

    As for stars and light, I’ve never understood the problem. When we hear that God made the stars why should we divide the star and the radiance of that star? If we did that we might be tempted to become Arians when we read Hebrews 1:3…

  7. Inilah Kebenaran

    Never heard of redshift and don’t know much about speed of light, but isn’t Jesus the light of the world from the very first day of creation?

  8. Paul Blackham

    I think the aspect of this question that has most frustrated me over the years is the constant assertion that the age of the universe has no theological meaning, that “it doesn’t matter”. I can understand why people think hard about it and I can see the theological ideas all round. I can understand the idea that the long term sovereignty of God might be displayed in the long processes of evolution/big bang. I can understand how the idea of a God who works within the processes is also appealing. However, I find it very hard to handle the attitude that some take when they simply say “well, it doesn’t make any difference what we think about it”. No, it really does make a difference. A “young universe” is part of quite a different storyline than an old, evolved universe. People might argue that the Christian story can be woven into both of those stories… BUT, they are different stories. I can respect those who face the theological challenges of an old, evolved universe and try to do something about them… but I find it hard to respect those who say it makes no difference at all and carry on with the exact same ‘young universe’ story [with death caused by sin; with the cosmos itself being cursed to a bondage of decay, with the expectation of a cosmic redemption from the effects of sin etc.] at all points except when they speak about Genesis 1 or the claims of evolution/Big Bang.

  9. Rich Owen

    Inilah,

    I like what you say there very much.

    You really nicely show the difference between scientific method and theological science. You expose the heart of the issue. What/who is your logos for your method?

    It’s either logic, or Jesus.

    In the Logos :-)

    Rich

  10. Glen

    Thanks for all the comments (and to Gav who prompted the whole thing – all those years ago…). Good to hear from codepoke too – I’ll have to write more annoying sciencey posts to draw him out again ;-)

    I particularly enjoyed Josh’s point about Heb 1:3. And this shows us how to get onto the front foot – not simply *defending* the Christian story (no need!). Instead we say “SINCE there is an essential and equiprimordial unity between Glory and Radiance let’s investigate all of creation in *this* Light. Therefore, going deeper with *this* story does not mean denying the riches of scientific explanations, it actually gives us the tools to go far further than the naturalist ever dreamed.

  11. Si

    Paul – it’s not so much the age of the universe, but the processes that change the story.

    Obviously there’s the billions of years “theistic evolution” and so on (many forms of “Intelligent Design”, for example) that go against the plot of Christian story of the universe, with ‘old man’, death before the fall, fall not an obstacle to science due to it’s bondage of decay, and so on. There’s real danger here, especially in theistic evolution, with the assumptions and implications of such a view spreading like gangrene. The differences here matter massively.

    But then there’s “gap theory” which is basically old cosmos/geology and young everything else. The gap is between Gen 1:1 and 1:2. I can’t see how it changes the story, depending on what happens in those billions of years between “the beginning” and “the first day”. It seems to be a realising of the problems with pseudo-‘scientific’, sub-biblical stories of origins but adding a gap that gives long geological and cosmological time scales, while holding onto what can’t be denied without changing the story.

    Of course, this view wants long geological and cosmological time scales, due to ‘science’ having them, because ‘science’ ignores both Gen 1:1 and the fall, so I’m not for it. It doesn’t quite apply the hermeneutic to everything, only to that which is essential to the story, which just seems inconsistent, though I can see why it has it’s appeal. The differences here matter a lot less – almost (but not quite) to “it doesn’t matter”.

  12. Paul Blackham

    Si, yes that’s a good point. You could easily have billions and trillions of years without any death or decay and I can’t see any obvious theological consequences. You could also have Adam & Eve living in the Garden for billions of years without any death or decay before they fell… except they would have been disobedient about the procreation thing, I guess…

  13. Glen

    Or maybe unfallen fore-play was *really* elaborate!

  14. Glen

    I hope my mum never descends to the comments…

  15. pgjackson

    I love sciencey posts on this blog.

    Just thought I’d say.

  16. Chris E

    “Therefore, it seems rather circular reasoning there to say that the universe is old because things are far away, which we know because they are travelling fast and the further stuff is away the faster it goes because it was all at one point a long time ago, and we know it was a long time ago, because everything’s far away.”

    This is the sort of crass over-simplification that makes me wonder whether some Christians believe that being disingeous in service of truth is ultimately excuseable.

  17. codepoke

    “Therefore, it seems rather circular reasoning there to say that the universe is old because things are far away, which we know because they are travelling fast and the further stuff is away the faster it goes because it was all at one point a long time ago, and we know it was a long time ago, because everything’s far away.”

    Concur with Chris E.

    Look, I was a committed young earther for decades, but I learned the hard way that just because a man can make bold assertions and back them from scripture will make him neither right nor trustworthy.

    The universe is really, really big. I mean the Milky Way is big, but not like the universe. And the solar system is big, but not even like the Milky Way. These things are big even measured with logarithmic rulers. If God made space so big (when Genesis sure seems to almost equate the size of the heavens and the Earth), then why could He not also have made time ridiculously big?

    It took an overwhelming amount of evidence for people who respected the bible’s authority to grudgingly acknowledge the planets moved around the sun. Why not show a little circumspection in responding to people who’ve done similar math with the time side of the space/time equation?

  18. Paul Blackham

    I’m not sure anybody is any doubt about the size of the universe or what the prima facie implication of that is for speculation about the age of the universe. I may be wrong about that though…

    Just on historical accuracy, the idea of the earth going around the sun is an ancient idea and it was Christian theologians of the 4th century who pioneered the idea that the stars are not ‘spiritual’ but must be made of the same ‘stuff’ as the things on the earth. In addition, it is well worth studying the personal notebooks of Galileo to see what made him go so far with the heliocentric model. It is not at all what the modern mythology says.

    The interesting and relevant question is: Why was a heliocentric view so quickly absorbed into Christian exegesis and theology, whereas after 150 years of intense exposure to the ideas and the evidence, the evolutionary account of earth’s history is still largely rejected by the church?

    If we are going to use scientific methodology then it might be wise for us to be as careful and as accurate as we can. It is a powerful tool of investigation even if the history and development of scientific methodology is shrouded in the most fantastical mythology. Quite recently I came across a professional scientist on the radio actually suggesting that science is based on collecting observations first and then gathering the data together into a theory. It is almost as if Polanyi had never existed!

  19. Rich Owen

    Gap theory… maybe we are on to something here. As a Minister, sometimes it does feel as though Sunday goes on for billions of years…. but then the rest of the week absolutely flies by. I think I get Exodus 20:8-11 now

    :-D

  20. Inilah Kebenaran

    “It took an overwhelming amount of evidence for people who respected the bible’s authority to grudgingly acknowledge the planets moved around the sun.”

    Just out of curiosity, have all Christians accepted that the earth revolved around the sun? Might there be strong theological reasons against heliocentricity?

  21. Inilah Kebenaran

    I’m sorry if the above is a really stupid question or red herring… Just thinking about how “the heavens declare the glory of God” (Ps. 19), and whether or not the “glory of God” that is proclaimed by an earth revolving around the sun is different from the “glory of God” that is proclaimed by the sun making a journey across the earth?

  22. Bobby Grow

    Hey Gav,

    You’re still out here :-) .

    I agree with Glen and Paul B. (if he’s a friend of Ron Frost’s he’s a friend of mine ;-).

  23. codepoke

    Paul,

    If everyone agrees the universe is, at “first glance”, old, then the point of the post is rather lost on me. This post seems to be contra all us who are considering speculating the universe might not be < 10,000 years old.

    You make unanswerable points, but they all tend to foster my skepticism instead of reduce it. You semi-quote statements by 4th century fathers, allude to Galileo's notes, and exhort us to argue accurately. On the one hand, none of that goes anywhere to toward proving the universe is young. On the other, your argument directly parallels ones Dan Brown advanced about gnostic gospels.

    Until there's data, it's just FUD. The scriptures demand there be two individual men, one named Adam. Everything beyond that data point is speculation, and I can't just ignore math.

  24. Si

    Chris E and codepoke, can you explain how my point about using redshift to define the age of the universe being circular is a ‘crass over-simplification’? All you did was assert it and put on “not with stupid” T-shirts.

    “If God made space so big (when Genesis sure seems to almost equate the size of the heavens and the Earth), then why could He not also have made time ridiculously big?”
    He did make time ridiculously big – the Bible makes that very clear. But that doesn’t mean that we are billions of years into it already. As far as I can see, and I’m willing to be corrected, it’s more exegetically consistent for the universe to be young.

    The geocentric/heliocentric argument seems a bit of a false comparison if you make Young Earth equivalent to geocentricism, when the comparison is applied to 21st century British evangelicalism. Flip it round and, in my view, you’ve got a better comparison (Old Earth is the establishment and majority view, imported from elsewhere and ‘Christianised’, that has a weaker exegetical argument for it), though it’s not that great an analogy even then.

  25. Paul Blackham

    I’m sorry for not giving more information in my comments.

    The heliocentric view, in the European tradition, has roots going back as far as Aristarchos of Samos in 270 BC. The tradition never entirely dies out even though the Aristotle/Ptolemy system achieves such a level of dominance.

    Probably the best example of Christian cosmology in the 4th century must be Basil the Great’s series of sermons called The Hexaemeron. Sermon 6 on the creation of luminous bodies is a very thorough rejection of the astrological view of the stars. The point of reading such a work is that it warns us not to caricature the thinking of those who lived before the foundations of the modern scientific tradition.

    Whereas the comparison between the geocentric and heliocentric frameworks is not especially relevant, it is often treated as a point at which tradition-bound theological belief was defeated by free-thinking scientific method. That view is, of course, perpetuated in modern mythology, but is not sustainable when we examine what really happened. First, it was not a collision between theology and science but a collision between Aristotelian science and the new science. Theological arguments are found on both sides. I referred to Galileo’s notebooks and letters simply because they are not full of the rigorous, hard-nosed observational data that the mythology depicts. In fact, he can’t see the things that he is convinced he could see if he had better telescopes. Some of the drawings of what he sees through his telescope do not support his arguments. He marvels that Copernicus persisted with his argument even when his observations were so inaccurate. When we compare Galileo’s drawings of the moon with photographs of the moon, it is hard to find similar features. The point is that Galileo was FIRST convinced of the heliocentric view and then began to develop telescopes that would enable him to observe what he was convinced was there. Kepler who wanted one of these new telescopes was disappointed by the results. He found them to be accurate for earthly observations but misleading for heavenly. Yet, the quality of the observations was not the critical factor here. It was the development of a new paradigm for viewing the cosmos, one whose benefits were only unfolded as time went on. In Galileo’s letter to Leopold of Toscana of 1640, he specifically says “I am unwilling to compress philosophical doctrines into the most narrow kind of space and to adopt that stiff, concise and graceless manner, that manner bare of any adornment which pure geometricians call their own, not uttering a single word that has not been given to them by strict necessity…”.

    In other words, Galileo knows full well that his argument is not a matter of pure observation [whatever that may mean] but a philosophical perspective first. Francis Bacon, whose scientific arguments were so vital to the foundation of the entire tradition, argues that we need to view the world with “unbiased senses” – by which he means that our senses need to be rebuilt with a new way of perceiving that mirrors the world rather than ourselves – “For man’s sense is falsely asserted to be the standard of things; on the contrary, all the perceptions, both of the senses and of the mind bear reference to man and not to the universe, and the human mind resembles those uneven mirrors which impart their own properties to different objects from which rays are emitted and distort and disfigure them.” [Novum Organum, Aphorism 41]. He speaks of a need to demolish the way we think and perceive so that a new way of seeing/thinking can be built. In the preface to the Novum he says “Our only hope of salvation is to begin the whole labour of the mind again… after having cleansed, polished and levelled its surface.” Preconceived notions, opinions and even common words all need to be “renounced with firm resolution… so that access to the kingdom of man, which is founded on the sciences, may resemble that to the kingdom of heaven, where no admission is conceded except to children.”

    Copernicus wrote in the preface to ‘De Revolutionibus’ that the astronomical tradition of Aristotle could only solve the classic problems with great complexity and that a new paradigm was needed.

    The point of all this is to simply note that our philosophical/theological convictions do not only shape and colour our observations, but they also determine what and how we observe. There is no escape into geometry or any other simple observation/calculation that is free from the theological and philosophical arguments. This is, of course, just as relevant to the observation and study of the Scriptures. When people say things like “I just believe what it says” I often flinch, even if I agree with their conclusions, because we need to be more careful than that. When we read Luther he has all kinds of Aristotelian science and medieval alchemy littered through his exegesis – and not many of us would find that so persuasive today. When we go forward to the later Puritans they are mostly excited by the foundations and theories of “modern science”. In commentaries of our day, the same kind of synthesis happens. Creationists run towards scientific validation as eagerly as everyone else. The reason that creationists deploy scientific arguments, and in their hurry sometimes make a mess, is that there is strong desire to have some kind of experimental validation of the exegetical findings. Those that feel philosophically comfortable with some form of old/evolved/gap universe do the same thing – short-circuiting exegesis with an appeal to whatever was the killer scientific argument for them.

    All of this means that we need to spend more time on the theological/exegetical task. Perhaps we can know nothing much from the Bible relevant to this… but it just might be that the Bible has more to say about cosmology. Questions about the nature of light and time and death and the stars etc etc are all relevant questions.

  26. Tim Cairns

    What then is to made of Bruce Waltke’s comments? to remind you of what he said

    “If the scientific data is overwhelmingly in favour 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.”

  27. Paul Blackham

    When I studied theology outside the ‘evangelical world’ it was quite normal to admit that the writer of Genesis believed in a cosmology that is utterly at odds with the modern scientific view. The common view was that the writer of Genesis was wrong, but there are still some useful theological/philosophical ideas to be gleaned. In the UK universities at least that seemed to be fairly unproblematic. What was useful about this context for exegesis was that the texts could be read without concern for whether they fit with any modern ideas of truth. We could simply try to find out what the Biblical writers were trying to say regardless of whether anybody is interested in believing that sort of thing today.

    It only becomes a problem if we want to say that the book of Genesis is providing a completely accurate account of the universe, that the Bible is the inspired Word of God.

    As soon as THAT idea comes into play then the whole situation becomes much more complicated. Then we might not be interested in straightforward study of the original texts. Out of a desire to ensure a connection between Genesis and the modern world we may have another agenda. Then we might try to question the mainstream scientific account or argue that the genre of Genesis 1 does not intend to say anything about cosmology [at least not to a modern reader, but perhaps to a Babylonian culture] or we might argue that when read in the right way the Genesis account implicitly [or even explicitly] teaches some version of the mainstream scientific account.

    It might be possible to take Bruce Waltke’s advice and simply say that before we do any exegesis we already know the truth about origins and cosmology so let’s make sure we keep firm limits on what we take from our reading of Genesis. Or perhaps he is arguing that we need to acknowledge that Genesis 1 is wrong and that we need to take the hit on that now so that we can move on from it. Or perhaps he is saying that whatever exegetical decisions we make we cannot consider the possibility that Genesis 1 depicts a young universe that was created in 6 days because that is already excluded by contemporary science. Whatever he is saying, his theological decisions are not going to be shared by everybody.

    As far as I can see, Glen has argued for a radical way forward. What happens if we take a Jesus-centred view of reality into the scientific enterprise? What does the world look like from that perspective? I think it was T F Torrance who argued that the object of investigation must determine the methods of investigation.

  28. Bobby Grow

    Yep, it was TF Torrance ;-) .

    I give the match to Blackham.

  29. Chris E

    “What happens if we take a Jesus-centred view of reality into the scientific enterprise?”

    I’m not so sure that this is a particularly easy thing to do – or even necessarily possible – if it is to be anything more than a restating of a traditional view with ‘Christ-Centred’ added as an epithet.

    There are plenty of things that the incarnation doesn’t speak to – necessarily so as God outside the incarnation remains hidden. This actually sounds more like an attempt to reason backwards from the Incarnation to divine the thoughts and actions of the God who dwells in unapproachable light.

  30. Chris E

    “The point of all this is to simply note that our philosophical/theological convictions do not only shape and colour our observations, but they also determine what and how we observe.”

    On the other hand, this did not render the Ptolemic and Copernican views equally correct. Nor is there any suggestion that the majority of current scientific consenus is simply built on strongly held opinions.

    I find that in Christian circles these sorts of arguments are often used to cast a sort of vague doubt on the entire scientific enterprise – which might be a good thing in itself – were it not then used as a wedge to make dogmatic claims contra actual evidence.

  31. Bobby Grow

    “. . . contra actual evidence.”

    But that’s the point, we all make dogmatic claims; not just “Christians.”

  32. codepoke

    Paul, you’ve effectively proven not all philosophy was Aristotelian. There was always a counterpoint. Accepted.

    I further hear and understand the argument from assumptions. Materialistic assumptions lead inexorably to a Godless explanation of the universe. I accept that point as well.

    I even further agree Godfull assumptions lead to great science.

    My disagreement comes when pastors tell Christian scientists their science is materialistic because it disagrees with their exegesis. The unfounded certainty of Glen’s statements does us neither exegetical nor scientific favors.

    @Paul> I think the aspect of this question that has most frustrated me over the years is the constant assertion that the age of the universe has no theological meaning, that “it doesn’t matter”.

    At least you’ll get none of that from me. :-)

  33. codepoke

    @Si> Chris E and codepoke, can you explain how my point about using redshift to define the age of the universe being circular is a ‘crass over-simplification’? All you did was assert it and put on “not with stupid” T-shirts.

    Si, I studied physics with great passion in college, and never did anything else with it. My assertion is not based on my own knowledge but that of others I’ve read, so I can’t actually answer you with authority. Hence, I didn’t. I will try now, though.

    At different times, like you, I’ve proclaimed the idea of a variable speed of light, but I’ve never seen anything convincing about it from anyone without a creationist axe to grind. That used to me to be a point for it, but those days are past. Today, it just looks like a pointed violation of Occam’s Razor.

    You might be right, but there’s nothing out there to persuade me except the extreme confidence of people with big assumptions to validate.

  34. Si

    codepoke – my question was about my redshift comments, not speed of light.

    I too studied physics with great passion until VIth form, where I studied it with the laziness and doing just enough that I approached those two years. Physics was probably the subject I did least work in, but that was because it was the one I didn’t need to do much work to get an A.

    Anyway, I’m pretty sure that the speed of light is constant, but it’s a huge assumption to make, especially if you are a materialist – that was my point.

  35. Pingback: More examples of faith seeking understanding « Christ the Truth

  36. Chris E

    “Speed of light being constant is a very big assumption there. Without such assumptions science wouldn’t work, but the universality and immutability of the universe – that laws stay constant is a massive bit of faith.”

    Si – You keep using the word ‘assume’, and to paraphrase the Princess Bride, “I do not think this means what you think it means”. At least not in this context. That the speed of light is constant is an ‘assumption’ based on thousands of observations – it is baked in in different ways into the the behaviour of all four fundamental forces. There is no evidence that it varies significantly within the observable universe – neither is there evidence that it varies significantly across time – if it did we would see phenomena that we just don’t see anywhere in the observable universe. That the laws of nature that we have arrived at from staring ‘out there’ work, is shown by the fact that the devices we are now using to communicate across the internet use the effects predicted by some of these same laws.

    “Redshift measures speed of travel of an object, not distance travelled by the light. We estimate the age of the universe by the size of the universe and the size of the universe by how fast things are going (via redshift) and assuming the universe was once a single point and extrapolating outwards. ”

    The problem with this statement is that you have taken a very simplistic end summary of a whole body of data stated in two different ways to claim that the physics here is based on circular reasoning. It’s rather like – though a lot worse – than the atheist who summarises apologetics as “Christians say the bible is true because it says it is true”. That you then go on to proclaim both your brilliance and your laziness is rather .. ironic :)

    We know the universe is large because we can see objects far away – this wasn’t a position arrived at by an overnight assumption, but a process that started with improved observations at the beginning of the 20th Century – and the realistion that some of those ‘nebula’ out there were ‘island universes’ rather like our own milky way. Methods other than redshift are good for objects many millions of light years away. There is a whole body of reasoning behind the two statements you casually use – there *are* alternate theories, they just don’t have the explanatory power – or indeed the economic success and engineering reality – of the laws and theories we do have.

  37. Chris E

    “But that’s the point, we all make dogmatic claims; not just “Christians.””

    That’s true Bobby – but that does change the truth of underlying reality – unless we are all going to become solipsists.

    For the record; my physics classes never misquoted religion, though i’ve heard many urban legends quoted as fact in sermons.

  38. Si

    The fun went out of physics when it left the real world behind in VIth form (partially as all my subjects were ones I liked). I could understand it easily, it just didn’t matter – what mattered was doing just enough to be effortlessly superior and get my grade at the end of two years. Some stuff was interesting, but it was mostly rather abstract and theoretical.

    But I still can’t see how redshift works as a way of measuring distance unless you assume the big bang (and yes, I mean assume) and to then use that distance as evidence of age seems messy. Of course, there are other methods of working the huge distances out, but my point was just on redshift – it can only measure distance by assuming the big bang. – a star ten thousand light years away moving at the same speed away from us as a star ten million light years away would have the same redshift. It’s only when we come up with ideas as to why they are moving away that we end up being able to tell distance by it.

    As for the speed of light, that we haven’t seen evidence to the contrary means that we haven’t seen it, not that there isn’t it. This kind of argument from silence isn’t great. It’s why Aristotle rejected helio-centrism. We finally saw the stuff he expected to see if it was that way round in the 19th century. I’m pretty sure it is constant everywhere these last 6000 years that the universe has been shaped and filled, rather than chaos and empty (how long it lasted before that I’m open to, but I currently don’t think it’s long with a “gap” between the first and second verses of Gen 1).

    We seem to infer age from size – this is far away, we can see it, it must be old. That we deceive ourselves with our observations and explanations is infinitely more likely to me than that God deceived us in his word. Of course, my exegesis and theology could easily be wrong. However, 90% of the argument questioning young earth here is along the lines of “the universe is big, therefore must be old”, which on the face of it is a convincing argument, but it ignores, in my view, the evidence of scripture, Occam’s Razor here, for me, points to a young universe and that there is an explanation for that apparent age.

    I can see no reason why the universe could have been created with man able to see the size of it from day 6, even though that, to our modern reasoning, implies age. I feel it a lot less troubling than an old universe where, on the face of it, God says he created it not that long ago.

  39. Chris E

    “I can see no reason why the universe could have been created with man able to see the size of it from day 6, even though that, to our modern reasoning, implies age. I feel it a lot less troubling than an old universe where, on the face of it, God says he created it not that long ago.”

    Your final statement ignores the fact that a uniformly literalistic reading wasn’t the rule even amongst ancient interpreters. Jewish interpreters had ‘literal’ interpretions of Genesis which didn’t necessarily imply a 6000 year old universe – nor was it ‘evident’ to them that the text had to be read this way.

    Sure, it could be created with the appearance of age complete with ancient starlight relaying events that never took place, or some such arrangement. It seems to me though that this is a rather gnostic argument, and that people who make arguments of this sort ignore the consequences it could have on the doctrine of scripture. After all, the universe could have been created any time in the last 2000 years complete with implanted memories of an incarnation that never happened and associated supporting evidence.

    This seems rather contrary to the spirit of Paul in 1 Corinithians 15 – where the resurrection is presented not just as something to be believed, but a historical fact together with supporting evidence. “You want to know whether the resurrection happened? Talk to all these people who saw it”

  40. Si

    I don’t feel it’s contrary to the Spirit of Paul in 1Cor 15 at all. I got 6 days, 6000 years ago by doing what Paul suggests in 1Cor 15 and seeing what those who were there have to say about it.

    As I said, I might be wrong when it comes to my exegesis and theology, but an appeal to tradition doesn’t cut the mustard for me. Did these Jewish interpreters see Christ in scripture? If not, then I struggle to consider their interpretation skills as being useful.

    Given Exodus 20:11,
    “For Yahweh made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and everything in them in six days; then He rested on the seventh day. Therefore Yahweh blessed the Sabbath day and declared it holy.” (HCSB), it seems to me that the days in Genesis are meant to be taken as a literal week.

    As for showing stuff that didn’t happen, why would it? If you made light, you could just have it showing what is there now, not a fictional billions of years ago.

    Billions of years makes it difficult not to have all sorts of problems – death being part of a ‘very good’ creation and the problem of not having a real Adam are the biggest, but that the 10 commandments repeat the 6 days and then resting does cause difficulties with even ‘gap’ theory (note that the creation of the heavens and earth is in there, bringing Gen 1:1 into the six days).

  41. Chris E

    Si –

    It wasn’t an pure appeal to tradition – it was an attempt to demonstrate that an ancient people reading an ancient text – which they were far closer to than we are – read the ‘literal’ meaning of the text quite differently from that which you and Glen assert it holds. So far I have not heard anything – apart from bald assertions – as to *why* a “Christ Centred reading” of Genesis 1/2 naturally leads to a 6000 year old creation. As an example. how and why is Meredith Kline’s reading of the text any *less* “christ centred” than your own ? How about Augustine’s? How about BB Warfield’s?

    “As for showing stuff that didn’t happen, why would it? If you made light, you could just have it showing what is there now, not a fictional billions of years ago.”

    Please outline the physical model which makes it possible for the universe to be large, for the speed of light to be constant, and for the phenomena you describe to be possible.

  42. Bobby Grow

    Chris E.,

    Though the issue remains, the problems that the “noetic” and “ontic” affects of the ‘Fall’ have produced; relative to interpretive fields of inquiry — which we all engage.

    That’s the point of Calvin’s two-fold knowledge of God. “Knowledge of God as Creator” is set up as a ‘possibility’; but shown to be an ‘impossibility’ in light of the knowledge of God as Redeemer; which is required if we are going to have a proper knowledge of God as Father, and then of all of His works as Creator.

    That’s why I reject your points, as I understand them. You seem to present the possibility for knowledge of anything; as if it is possible — in accurate and Christ-centred ways — apart from a Knowledge of God as Redeemer in Christ (to stick with Calvin’s dialectic).

    All knowledge is “religious knowledge,” the next question is whether “my religion” is the correct one? Does it give me the appropriate value-shaped lenses in order to interpret God’s creation with accurate (albeit provisional and broken) conclusions; or am I already biased to interpret the Creation in a way that keeps me at its center?

  43. Chris E

    “You seem to present the possibility for knowledge of anything; as if it is possible — in accurate and Christ-centred ways — apart from a Knowledge of God as Redeemer in Christ (to stick with Calvin’s dialectic).”

    Bobby – I think you confuse me with someone else. Or at least, I’m not the one trying to bless my interpretation of scripture with an appeal to ‘Christ Centredness’.

    Please see above: “This actually sounds more like an attempt to reason backwards from the Incarnation to divine the thoughts and actions of the God who dwells in unapproachable light.”

  44. Otepoti

    If it’s not too late and off-topic, I’d like to ask this: this whole discussion seems to assume that you can insert a knife between the creation and fall accounts and treat them separately. Can you?

    And secondly:

    Codepoke (Hi, Codepoke!) says:

    The scriptures demand there be two individual men, one named Adam.

    What about Eve? Because I can just about stand it that I bear certain consequences of being female in my body, because my ancient ancestress made a horrible, awful choice.

    (Hip dysplasia, I’m talking about here. It puts special meaning into “groaning creation”.)

    What I can’t stand is the idea that the account is simply an allegory or some such. That there was no real choice, by a real person, and that instead God just (arbitrarily) decided to dump an extra dose of physical misery on women, and allowed His prophets through His Word to pile on by despising us for what we can’t help.

    Be careful how you answer. It matters to me.

  45. Pingback: The search for identity, or emotional gold-digging « Christ the Truth

  46. Si

    Chris E – “Please outline the physical model which makes it possible for the universe to be large, for the speed of light to be constant, and for the phenomena you describe to be possible.”

    “Then God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.”
    (note how there are no stars at this point, on day 1, for the light to come from) ;P

    There’s no reason why God couldn’t have created light that would show us what was actually out there, show us how big the universe is, without waiting for the light to reach us from the stars.

    As for 6000 years – you can have gaps in the genealogies, to get 10000 years ago that Adam was created, but I can’t see a single reason why day doesn’t mean day (and the 4th commandment in Exodus is a strong reason for it meaning such), so that you end up with Adam being created when the universe is less than a week old.

  47. codepoke

    Otepoti! Nice to see you too. :-)

    I’m sorry for the confusion about Eve. I promise she has a special place in my heart (though you should have seen my wife’s ears perk up when I read her your question. :-D)

    First, I don’t believe Eve sinned away mankind’s future. That was Adam’s job. In 1 Tim 2, Paul goes to special care to say she was deceived, but Adam sinned with his eyes open. Deception made her party to the sin, but Adam rebelled. It’s Adam that gave us hip dysplasia.

    So Paul describes Adam as (in very much not an allegorical way) the entry point of all sin and death to the world (more on that in a moment.) Jesus came along as the entry point of all holiness and life to the world. Those two men have to exist, and Jesus faces every temptation only victoriously. Jesus replays the whole Adam debacle as a man, and wins the victory as a man.

    That’s why I say those two must exist. It was not to say Eve is optional, but to say they cannot be allegorical.

    As to the consequences Eve endures, you have my profound sympathy. I will add gratuitously, one of those consequences seems to be submission. Her desire will be to the man, so in the fall she becomes submissive to him. Therefore, one of the healings in the kingdom is the end of wifely submission as lived out before Christ. Marital submission after Christ is a different thing than it was before Him.

    I have no such promise for the pain of childbirth, but I do think Paul was refering to “the” childbirth in chapter 2 of 1 Tim., Mary’s bearing of Jesus.

  48. codepoke

    @Otepoti> I’d like to ask this: this whole discussion seems to assume that you can insert a knife between the creation and fall accounts and treat them separately. Can you?

    I have for some time. No, though, that doesn’t mean I can validly.

    “Death entered by sin,” is a big statement. If there were millions of years of life on Earth being intelligently designed or whatever, it would be rather awkward for nothing ever to die until Adam came along to sin and free us from overpopulation.

    I see a different scenario, though. Things lived and quit living, but “Death” was not here. Nothing died as a consequence of sin. Adam ate the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, bringing “Death” into the picture, but he could just as easily have eaten the Tree of Life.

    If nothing and no one was ever going to die before the fall, what’s the purpose of the Tree of Life?

    I’d say Life and Death both have capital letters in the case of these two trees. These trees are about spiritual Life and Death, not ceasing to breathe. God said in the day Adam ate he would die, but he breathed for another several hundred years.

    I have less trouble believing God intelligently designed the inhabitants of this place and several million years later breathed life into one of them on one specific day, and that that one disobeyed one specific day than I do believing God created everything in 6 days.

  49. codepoke

    @Si> There’s no reason why God couldn’t have created light that would show us what was actually out there, show us how big the universe is, without waiting for the light to reach us from the stars.

    Redshift tells us things are moving. Some things are moving toward us and some things away from us. That happens because we are toward one edge of an expanding sphere of stuff.

    If we were in the exact center of this expanding sphere of stuff, redshift would tell us nothing. Everything would be moving away from us at a uniform velocity, and we’d get the same redshift from every object. But if we’re at an edge, then we see a different redshift from things moving obliquely to us than from things moving parallel to us.

    This draws out Chris E’s brilliant extrapolation about the universe being of any arbitrary age. If you can believe God created in 6 days a universe of which we are not the center, but created its light in a state of redshift such that it would look like all the stuff was moving uniformly away from a single center point, then why can’t you also believe God built a universe 500 years old with a bible that said the universe was 6000 years old?

    If God is in the business of faking immense history, why shouldn’t He just fake everything right up until “we” were born?

  50. Glen

    I suppose I should stop being shocked when the young earth position is accused of positing a deceptive God. It happens every time. But it still has the power to make my jaw drop.

    Surely the shoe’s on the other foot:

    Let me quote from James Barr in 1984 – Professor of Hebrew at Oxford:

    “so far as I know, there is no professor of Hebrew or Old Testament 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 extinguish all human and animal life except for those in the ark.”

    Who’s in danger of painting God in deceptive terms? And on page 1!

    God does not deceive.

    And it’s interesting that we don’t make such accusations of God with regards to any other culture or creation story. We’re not concerned that God *deceived* the Babylonians into thinking the universe is the body of a dead god. We’re quite happy to conclude that *they* were plain foolish and wrong. But not us. Not *our* creation story! If that turned out to be wrong, it couldn’t possibly be *our* problem. God would have to be the deceiver.

    Did Eve look like she was a minute old when she was created? Did Adam? Did the garden? If it turned out the tree of life had, say, 60 rings, would that be called ‘deception’? Of course not. You’d only even think to call such a thing “the appearance of age” if you had a very different backstory in mind. Get rid of the backstory and there’s not even a hint of ‘deceiving’.

    To Codepoke – Are you descended from Adam? What is humanity’s link to that one man?

  51. Si

    If the universe is old, then God’s in the business of faking history, unless my understanding of what he’s said is wrong: why would God require the pattern of six days work and one day rest and give the reasoning as because he created the universe in six days and rested on the seventh unless he either did that, or was lying?

    As God is not a liar, then the universe is how old he says it is, no more, no less. If we think it’s a different age than God says it is, then we’re fabricating history. We can waffle on and on about light and big universe and redshift till we’re blue in the face, but get no closer unless we look at what God says.

    Why would the light necessarily be showing us what’s happening in a fictional past? Why can’t it just be God telling us what’s happening there now? I see that as far far less fabrication to do that and not tell us explicitly, than to tell us something that was a barefaced lie, like that he created the universe in 6 days, and on the 6th day there, he created Adam, who lived about 900 years and died a few thousand years ago, if that wasn’t the case.

    What’s an old earth explanation of Ex 20:11? How can God not be lying here, if the earth is old?

  52. Chris E

    “What’s an old earth explanation of Ex 20:11? How can God not be lying here, if the earth is old?”

    One possible explanation is that the days are the periods over which God makes a successive set of decrees, sending out his creative word to make the universe. That these things take time to occur is neither here nor there, it is done, because his word does not return void.

    Could God do it differently, sure, but he choses from the beginning to work through that which he has already created. Could he create vegetation and animals directly in the same way as he creates man? Sure. But he choses to command the earth to fabricate his designs.

    A good parallel would be Psalm 104 – the processes described all have naturalistic explanations which few Christians would argue with, what is hidden is the will and activity of God in sustaining his creation.

    That’s one possible explanation – and I don’t insist upon it – but I don’t think that in principle the difficulties you have with passages like Exodus 20:11 are insurmountable.

  53. Chris E

    “Not *our* creation story! If that turned out to be wrong, it couldn’t possibly be *our* problem. God would have to be the deceiver.”

    God doesn’t deceive – but that doesn’t mean that our interpretations cannot be wrong.

    I’d again pose the question – what makes your interpretation more Christ-Centred than this:

    http://www.asa3.org/ASA/resources/WTJ/WTJ58Kline.html

    Or like some of the ideas outlined by John Fesko in his book “Last things First”.

  54. codepoke

    @Glen> To Codepoke – Are you descended from Adam? What is humanity’s link to that one man?

    I gather you’ve not read my comments. No biggie.

  55. Glen

    Hi Code – I’ve read and re-read them, and perhaps I’ve missed it again but I just wanted to check whether you believe Adam was the *first* man. Not just that he existed. (i.e. I wanted to check if you go with the Denis Alexander type stuff with Adam selected from a whole race of pre-existing hominids etc). There are lots of people who believe in a ‘literal Adam’ but the question of our connection to him is another thing.

    So to Chris and Code – that’s the ‘Christ-centred’ story I wanted to highlight in the post. The parallel between Adam and Christ is crucial to uphold.

    For me Adam is the *one* man in whom *is* all humanity by nature. And I mean that quite literally and physically. Humanity was in Adam because humanity *was* Adam. The sum total of humanity’s substance was in the garden. We all derive – body, soul and spirit – from that one man. So our link to Adam is at the level of our *being* – this is not simply about God capriciously decreeing that this guy rather than another will be our representative. It’s that I was in Eden. I sinned. I was driven out. In the flesh (again, I mean this very literally) I was born in Adam.

    And so by parallel, by the Spirit I am born again into Christ. Again, this union is at the level of being. Just as I *was* Adam, now there’s a deep sense that I *am* Christ. In His body, a part of His very self.

    I think that’s a ‘Christ-centred’ story to tell. And it demands that humanity began on earth around 6000 years ago.

    Now is it the case that you want to tell the 13.7 billion year story but have humanity emerging only 6000 years ago? And therefore sin and death (yes, I know ‘whatever that means’) entering only once 99.99996% of history has already elapsed?

  56. Glen

    Ah sorry Code, just found the relevant comment from you:

    “I have less trouble believing God intelligently designed the inhabitants of this place and several million years later breathed life into one of them on one specific day, and that that one disobeyed one specific day than I do believing God created everything in 6 days.”

    So, something like the Denis Alexander thing?

    Again – I want to ask “So what is our *link* to that one man?” God just decreed that Adam’s sin was humanity’s? On what basis? And then He decreed that I’m part of that sin? On what basis?

    Mike Reeves wrestles with the implications of Alexander’s position here – it’s well worth a read.

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

  57. codepoke

    Glen, I don’t know Denis Alexander, so I can’t answer those questions. I do believe all of us are related to one guy named Adam by direct descent on the basis of Paul’s argument, but I could be stirred from that position by sufficient evidence.

    Exegetical evidence is evidence, but at some point exegetical evidence got kind of lonely to me. It needed a little corroboration I didn’t ever see it receiving.

    Have you ever heard of Truman Show Syndrome (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Truman_Show#.22The_Truman_Show_Delusion.22)? Once you start down the road of believing the things you see are all put there specifically for you to see them, things start getting weird. YEC began to take on that look and feel for me. God created light with red shift on day one so we’d think/feel/believe what? He created the continents so they’d look like they’d drifted apart from a single super-continent to impress whom? All living beings share fundamentally similar DNA with traceable and mingled inheritances to teach us what?

    I parroted the YEC guys until I just couldn’t swallow my own points any more. They have interesting and creative ideas. Maybe rapidly decaying electromagnetism proves the Earth is almost exactly 10,000 years old, or maybe it’s just one more strained reach for what “could” explain something. Give me a coherent world view that includes all these things instead of “explaining” them, and I’ll get back on board.

    And, for the record, telling me God created everything in 6 days because that gave Him the most pleasure sounds to me a lot like “it’s turtles all the way down.” It may be lovely, but it fails to get to the argument. Everything about God’s creation seems purposeful and efficient, and we are wired to find beauty in it. Red shift is purposeful and efficient in an expanding universe billions of years old. It’s pointless in a 10,000 year old universe.

    God was in Christ creating, sustaining, reconciling, and returning the world to Himself. God breathed into exactly one man from whom we all inherited fallen life, the knowledge of good, the knowledge of evil, and the inability to control our lusts. Christ overcame that weakness, supplies us with Life, and atones for our sins.

    It is offensive to me that I am asked to verify things like that because one Christian with whom I wish to fellowship believes every other Christian who hears valid observations in origins science is a materialist.

  58. Bobby Grow

    Glen,

    If you ever feel like you need to rev up your comments on your blog; you certainly know what to post on, either this or if you’re in a bind eschatological posts often work wonders in this regard as well ;-) :-).

  59. Bobby Grow

    @Chris E.,

    You’re right on my confusion, sorry :-). I was thinking of another Chris who has commented here before . . . woops.

  60. Inilah Kebenaran
  61. Glen

    Hi Codepoke,

    When I ask you what you think about Adam and our connection to him I don’t mean to offend you or doubt your gospel integrity or call you a materialist.

    I hear your concerns when you say this:

    “My disagreement comes when pastors tell Christian scientists their science is materialistic because it disagrees with their exegesis. The unfounded certainty of Glen’s statements does us neither exegetical nor scientific favors.”

    As a pastor, I’m not qualified to tell anyone how to co-ordinate “speed of light” and “red-shift” into a coherent story about the universe. And this post and my comments are not about that. I’ve only been interested in co-ordinating the gospel story of Adam and Christ with the story we tell about the universe.

    I take *that* co-ordination very seriously. And I don’t think it’s beyond my remit as a pastor.

    I’m not calling your Christian faith into question at all when I ask you about our relationship to Christ. But I am pointing to the fact that our connection to Adam needs far closer scrutiny and far greater priority in our thinking. Neither on this blog nor elsewhere have I heard anything that satisfies me that the Adam and Christ story is not compromised by the 13.7 billion year story.

  62. Glen

    Sorry, I meant to say:

    “I’m not calling your Christian faith into question at all when I ask you about our relationship to *Adam*.”

  63. codepoke

    Thank you, Glen. The question in the air, though, is whether a person can believe in a speaking God and an old universe.

    > If you think the speaking God made the world then listening to His word seems an extremely fruitful line of enquiry.

    This post implies strongly if I believe in an old universe it’s because I don’t believe it’s for, about, through, and to the Word and His Father. That my Christ is mute. You don’t see how I can consistently hold a position in which Christ speaks across 13.7 billion years, but I fail to see the compelling reason those 6 days need to take 144 hours. On the other hand, I need to give you room to strongly hold to a position that (so far) I can only really justify exegetically.

    We’ll get there.

  64. Glen

    Good to have you on the blog Code.

    Just to clarify on the “speaking God” point – that was more on the “method” of our enquiry rather than the *centre*. As to “method”, I’m guessing ours does differ to a degree because I’m less concerned than you when it appears my position is “only” justifiable exegetically.

    As to the *centre* of the discussion, I hope I’ve tried to keep the centre as the Adam-Christ story. And I hope if Chris is reading that he understands that it is this “Christ-centred” desire that drives me.

    Otepoti’s question is good. Where does Eve come from? From Adam or from Adam’s already existing tribe of pre-homo-divinus primates. What happened to this tribe? Were they not just dying but also *sinning* before Adam was singled out and made the scapegoat? And many more questions like that…

    I recommend Mike’s article:

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

  65. John B

    I like the idea of the homo-divinus, as it seems to let scripture be scripture, and science be science. I’ve heard some of those who favor this view suggest that Genesis 3, especially v. 21, explains that Adam and Eve received physical, biological, natural bodies, like our own, in the Fall. This accords well with what I remember reading in some Church Fathers, who expressed the view that before the Fall Adam and Eve had spiritual bodies, more like those of angels than the natural, earthly bodies that we have now; i.e., Adam and Eve had the same kind of new creation, “life of the world to come”-bodies that believers will receive in the resurrection of the dead. It was a very great Fall.

    No matter how thoroughly science explores and learns about the dust, there is a cherubim with a flaming sword guarding the way to the tree of life.

  66. Josh

    John B – do you happen to be the one speaking up for Christ at samizdata.net? If so – good on you!

    I’d say the problem of Adam and Eve receiving physical bodies at the fall is that it makes our physicality look bad and not a good part of creation. Also I think our “life of the world to come” bodies are much more physical than we often think – presumably they will be like Jesus’ post-resurrection body and able to touch, eat, drink etc.

  67. Si

    Physical bodies being a result of the fall is Gnostic Greek thought coming in there.

    That said, the fall would have affected the bodies of Adam and Eve.

  68. John B

    Hi Josh,

    No, I’m not the one at samizdata.net. But thanks for the tip! I’ll check out that website, as I’m always looking to read pro-homo divinus exegetes who know and have thought about this view.

    All of creation is good, because it is by, through, and for Christ. The sin and rebellion of his image bearers is such a deep corruption that it results in death and non-being. Peter said that, “the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire”. When God sees us in our natural bodies, we look very bad.

    I think that the natural is life now in the “shadowlands” between true life everlasting and non-being, so I hold to a supernatural understanding of bodily resurrection. (Like you, I too anticipate that there will be sensory experience, surely far more glorious than anything we’ve experienced in mere nature!)

    I don’t see in Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances a preview of resurrection life, but rather an exhibition of his vindication by the Spirit, which was essential to the ongoing witness of his church. Before he was taken up in glory, it was only at the Mount of Transfiguration that Jesus exhibited the glory of his being.

    Each of the synoptic gospels gives the account of Jesus chiding the Sadducees for not recognizing God as the God of the living, and he likened those in the resurrection to angels in heaven.

    And in 1 Corinthians 15, Paul really presses the distinction in the kind of bodies, e.g., perishable and imperishable; dishonor and glory; natural and spiritual.

    Even though we come to different conclusions on this, I think that it’s good for us both that we look to better understand the creation through Jesus’ cross and resurrection.

  69. Chris w

    Sorry to enter into this comments thread uninvited! But this one is to Si:

    “That said, the fall would have affected the bodies of Adam and Eve.”

    Come on now, you’re not one of those heretical post-umbilicists, are you? ;-)

    http://www.theologynetwork.org/merrie-theologiane/2008-08/navel-or-no

  70. Si

    Chris is one of the heretical umbilicists! Why would Adam and Eve have bellybuttons? Cain had the first bellybutton – an outy, which together with Abel’s inny is symbolic of why the offering of Cain was rejected (all outward show) and Abel’s was accepted. Lets have a new post, Glen, about navels, so we can discuss this in depth – I can gaze at them all day!

    Or maybe not… ;-)

    Apologies for the tangent.

  71. John B

    Yes, innies are a physical sign of God’s favor, as clearly seen in Solomon’s delight in his bride in Song of Solomon 7:2! :-#

    Leaning toward a mid-umbilicist position here. ;-)

  72. Chris w

    On a more serious note though,

    The ID movement often do make serious mistakes when they try to explain away scientific evidence using pseudo-science.

    But stop for a second and think: modern cosmology and natural theories of origins have only been around for a couple of hundred years, yet they work with timescales of billions of years. Given the limited experience of any human person or even civilisation, isn’t it a little arrogant to assert that we *know* how these things happened? It’s extrapolation to the extreme and it’s all untestable (unless we can invent time-travel!).

    Exodus 20:8-11 clearly says that Jesus “made” (not just spoke of making) the heavens and the earth in six ordinary working days. On the seventh day of creation, God rested and continues to rest up until this very day (Hebrews 3-4). This ‘rest’ is a resting in the kingdom of God, a resting in Christ Jesus himself:

    “for he who did enter into his rest, he also rested from his works, as God from His own.” (Hebrews 4:10)

    “Come unto me, all ye labouring and burdened ones, and I will give you rest, take up my yoke upon you, and learn from me, because I am meek and humble in heart, and ye shall find rest to your souls, for my yoke [is] easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

    So rest in Jesus! Trust his own words in Exodus and don’t fall for the ways of the world. Evolution is the product of naturalism; sin, death and suffering do not belong to the original order of creation – it was a beautiful world inhabited by Jesus himself, on the mountain of Eden.

    Note: I appreciate that this is a secondary issue though!

  73. roger penrose

    religion gives us the reason to fight wars, science the means.

  74. Glen

    Hey Roger,

    The common denominator in all wars is not God but man!

  75. Tom Lake

    Coming into this six months after the horse has bolted (!), but it is one of great interest to me.

    It strikes me that the issue boils down to this: which testimony are we to place higher in our estimation? The Word or the Creation?

    The Scripture itself warns us of this dilemma, which was precisely the issue that faced Adam in the garden. Would he listen to God through his word (i.e. the command not to eat…) or would he listen to the creation (i.e. to the serpent – a part of the created order).

    Romans 1 also outlines this theme. The sin of man is to abandon the Creator in favour of the creation.

    But the truth is that creation focus is actually me-focus. Adam and Eve wanted to ‘be like God’ and listening to the creation instead of the Creator was a convenient way to ‘achieve’ this.

    Reading some of the above posts I find it amazing that a person who is convinced of the age of the earth because of the testimony of the Word is considered contemptuosly. But those who are convinced of the age of the earth because of the ‘testimony’ of creation are somehow unbiased truth seekers.

    In reality, people who do this are actually considering themselves to be the unbiased truth seekers, whilst those who disagree with them are the fools. Appeal to the ‘testimony of creation’ is a smoke-screen.

    Science is mind-numbingly guilty of consistently over-valuing the ability of man. But lurking behind this is the Scientist himself, who consistently over-values himself and his own abilities.

    There is absolutely no way that we can confidently claim to have unravalled the mysteries of the universe through Science. Modern Science cannot even tell a pregnant woman if drinking alcohol is ok or not, whether an egg is good or bad for you, or what trajectory an ash cloud will actually follow. And these are things which are immediately open to study. To imagine that the Scientist can tell me, on the basis of his current observations, what was going on in the distant past is, I’m afraid, man-centred naevity. And to pretend that there are no un-testable assumptions which feed into this is worse.

    Ps 138:2: “You have exalted above all things your name and your word.”

    Trust in the Word must always take precedent over the shifting sands of creation-focused interpretations. Thus the key issue is exegesis of Genesis 1 – 3. But I have never heard a single decent argument to counteract the above James Barr quote.

Add a Comment

Rimons twitter widget by Rimon Habib