The GeoChristian

The Earth. Christianity. They go together.

Dealing with an apparent Bible contradiction

“You cannot believe the Bible because it is full of contradictions.”

I’ve heard this stated many times; you have probably heard it as well. You may be one who uses “Bible contradictions” as one of the reasons for rejecting Christianity, or you may be a Christian who struggles because there are things in the Bible that seem to be inconsistent.

There are various kinds of “Bible contradictions.”

  • Internal factual — What were the names of the twelve apostles? How many angels were at the tomb when Jesus rose from the dead?
  • External factual — Was Belshazzar the son of Nebuchadnezzar? How could Quirinius have been governor of Syria when Jesus was born?
  • Doctrinal — Is there a doctrinal contradiction between Paul (save by faith) and James (saved by works)?
  • Ethical — Was it right for David and his men to eat bread consecrated to the Lord? What about the conquest of the promised land under Joshua?

Many of these are easy to deal with and have obvious answers. Most of the rest have plausible answers as well. There are a few that I really don’t know the answer to, but that does not mean there is no answer. These sorts of things really don’t bother me much any more.

THE CALLING OF THE DISCIPLES

Here is my story of how a “Bible contradiction” challenged my faith, and how I came through that experience with a much greater confidence in the Bible as the reliable and trustworthy Word of God.

I came to a full understanding of  the Gospel (good news) through the ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ when I was an undergraduate student. The basic message that I came to embrace was that humans have broken their relationship with God throught their sin, that Christ (fully God and fully man) died on the cross as our substitute, and that by faith in Christ we take on his righteousness. Campus Crusade placed a strong emphasis on the truthfulness—or inerrancy—of the Scriptures. Shortly after this, I started attending an independent, fundamentalist Bible church, in which the inerrancy of Scriptures was a central doctrine.

A year or two later I was at home in the church I grew up in; this was probably in about 1982 or 1983. It is not that the gospel was never preached there; it was embedded in the liturgy and I know the senior pastor at this time believed this good news with all his heart. If I did not understand the Gospel before, it was because of the hardness of my own heart, not because it was not proclaimed.

On this particular Sunday, however, the younger associate pastor was preaching. The topic was “The calling of the disciples,” and the pastor compared the account in John with that in Matthew. In John 1, Peter, Andrew, and others were introduced to Jesus through the ministry of John the Baptist, who was baptizing people along the Jordan River:

The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God!” The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, “What are you seeking?” And they said to him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?” He said to them, “Come and you will see.” So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means Christ). He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “So you are Simon the son of John? You shall be called Cephas” (which means Peter). (John 1:35-42, ESV)

In Matthew 4, the calling of the disciples occurred on the shore of the Sea of Galilee where Peter, Andrew, John, and James were working as fishermen, with no mention of the ministry of John the Baptist:

While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed him. And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him. (Matthew 4:18-22, ESV).

The pastor read these passages, and then commented, “These two passages contradict each other; we don’t know which of them gives the true story.” I don’t remember the rest of the sermon, but I was devastated. After church, I went into my bedroom, closed the door, and wept. The Bible was the foundation of my Christian faith, but what kind of foundation would there be if I didn’t know whether or not what I read was true? I agonized in prayer, read the passages again, and prayed more earnestly.

As I read the passages more closely, I noticed something important. This was not an either-or situation. The liberal pastor (by “liberal” I mean theologically liberal) presented it as a contradiction: that either Matthew gave the true story or John (or I suppose “none of the above” would have been an option to him as well). But there was another possibility that the pastor hadn’t seen: why couldn’t both passages be true? Why couldn’t these be two separate events?

As I read the texts more closely, it became more apparent that I had found a very natural solution to this apparent contradiction. What happened was that the disciples were first introduced to Jesus through the ministry of John the Baptist. John said, “Look, the Lamb of God,” and Peter and his friends went and spent some time with Jesus. Nowhere in John does it say that the disciples left everything at this point to follow Christ. Some time later these men were back in Galilee working as fishermen. Jesus walked up and said, “Come follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” At this point they left their homes and work and followed Christ. There is absolutely nothing in the passages that causes any problem with this interpretation.

At this revelation, my anguish was replaced with joyful exuberation. My faith had been challenged, and by God’s grace my faith had been strengthened.

That evening, I was back in my college town, and went to the Sunday evening service at my church there (Grace Bible Church, Bozeman, Montana). The message from the pastor that evening was on the topic of the calling of the disciples! The pastor addressed the same “contradiction” and presented the same conclusion that I had come up with through tears and prayer. This was a mighty confirmation to me that I hadn’t just made this all up, that the Bible was reliable, and that my faith rested on a solid foundation.

CONCLUSION — HOW I DEAL WITH “CONTRADICTIONS”

This experience greatly strengthened my confidence in the trustworthiness and accuracy of the text of the Bible. There have been other challenging passages, but I have been able to work through most of them. Most of these have come through my daily reading of Scriptures rather than from being confronted with contradictions from skeptics.

Now when I am faced with what appears to be a contradiction in the Bible, I approach the problem with the following principles in mind:

  • My starting assumption is that I assume the Bible is right. This is not because I have a blind faith, but because my experience has been that once I understand the text, culture, and historical context, the Bible turns out to be accurate.
  • Another principle is to assume that the authors of the Bible knew their world, with its culture and history. Skeptics often assume that the authors of the Bible were idiots. They weren’t. I have to assume, for example, that when John wrote about the calling of the disciples, he not only remembered his experiences, but he was also aware of what had already been recorded about this event in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, which were written before John wrote his gospel. When John wrote about the disciples meeting Jesus through John the Baptist, we have to assume that he was also aware of the calling of the disciples at the Sea of Galilee, because he was there!
  • We don’t know everything. For example, skeptics have charged that the lengths of reigns of the kings of Judah in the Old Testament make no sense. This went unanswered for quite some time. It has been shown, however, that the numbers make perfect sense once one considers that sons often served as co-regents with their fathers, so there was often considerable overlap in their listed reigns. The concept of co-regency was common in the ancient Near East, and there are precedents for counting years in reigns simultaneously. It is likely that a number of remaining difficulties in Old Testament chronology and archeology fall into this “we don’t know everything” category.
  • We cannot force our cultural concept of what is acceptable in narrative literature to match that of Biblical cultures. For example, there are a number of places in the Old Testament where stories are arranged in a non-chronological order. If you try to read Jeremiah, for example, expecting a chronological story of Jeremiah’s life and teaching, you will be hopelessly confused. The book of Jeremiah is arranged topically, with chronology being a secondary consideration. Likewise, none of the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) is chronological, as far as we know. This is a source of many apparent contradictions that are not contradictions at all. Did Jesus cleanse the temple at the beginning of his ministry (John 2) or in his final week (Mark 11) (or did he do it twice?). Biblical writers felt free to rearrange events to make certain points. There was nothing dishonest about this, and only our own cultural biases would cause one to call this a contradiction.
  • Differences in wording are not contradictions. Did Jesus say, “Blessed are you who are poor” (Luke 6) or did he say “Blessed are the poor in spirit” (Matt 5)? Either he said both on different occasions, or the writer paraphrased a bit.
  • Parallel passages are often written in different literary genres. Genesis 1 and 2 are not in the least bit contradictory. Either one of these or both of them are non-chronological, but that does not make them contradictory. A similar example would be Judges 4 and 5, which records the victory of Deborah. Chapter 4 records a narrative of this event, and chapter 5 records the battle in poetic form. One could find all sorts of apparent contradictions between the two chapters, but there are no real contradictions. Poetry is poetry, and narrative is narrative.

These are a few things that help me as I wrestle with the issues of apparent contradictions in the Bible. With application of these principles, most apparent contradictions are easily taken care of. None of the remaining issues are unsolvable.

CONCLUSION #2 — THE ELCA

ELCA_steeple2

As the ELCA was voting on its unbiblical agenda, a tornado knocked the cross off of the steeple of the ELCA church next door to the convention center where they were meeting. ELCA may now stand for Every Liberal Crazy Agenda. "E" cannot be for Evangelical, nor can "L" be for Lutheran.

The sermon by the liberal pastor which pointed out the “contradiction” between John 1 and Matthew 4 was one of the most influential sermons I have heard in my life, though not in a way that the pastor intended. This sermon was preached in a church that was part of the American Lutheran Church (ALC), which was one of the denominations that merged to form today’s Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA). The ALC officially stated belief in Biblical inerrancy, but that was widely ignored. The present apostasy of much of the ELCA—the recent homosexual ordination vote is just one expression of this—had its roots in abandoning Biblical authority decades ago.

This saddens me deeply. First, it saddens me because I grew up in the ALC/ELCA and see that much that was good has been lost. I would love to see the ELCA return to its Biblical Lutheran roots. Second, it saddens me because as an Evangelical, an important part of my heritage includes Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation. In fact, unlike most in my denomination, I identify more closely with Luther than with Calvin.

A Lutheran’s perspective on the ELCA’s slide away from Biblical Christianity: How the ELCA Left the Great Tradition for Liberal Protestantism (from Christianity Today). This article points out how the liberals built certain things into the ELCA at its inception, such as a quota system for voting delegates,  that would ensure the triumph of their un-Biblical agenda.

Grace and Peace

September 5, 2009 - Posted by | Apologetics, Christianity | , ,

48 Comments »

  1. “There are a few that I really don’t know the answer to, but that does not mean there is no answer. These sorts of things really don’t bother me much any more.”

    That’s not critical thinking. This would imply that no matter how absurd the contradictions are and no matter how many exist, you’d still be a Christian. That’s what’s called “blind-faith”.

    Like

    Comment by Bahram Farzady | September 6, 2009

  2. Bahram Farzady:

    Faith is confidence. I have confidence that the few “contradictions” that I haven’t figured out in the Bible have solutions. The reason I have this confidence is that so many other apparent contradictions have had solutions, whether they were easy to come by or difficult. This is not blind faith, as you assert. Blind faith would be if I hadn’t figured out a single alleged contradiction but was confident that all of them had solutions anyway.

    Other examples of blind faith would be things like:
    –Humans will get better if we just educate them better, even though evidence says otherwise. Nazi Germany and the USSR were very well-educated secular societies, and committed incredible atrocities.
    –The existence of the universe can be explained without God. The alternatives are absurd: either the universe has existed forever, or it created itself.

    I would say that I have faith, and that it is the secularist/atheist/free thinker who has blind faith. Your “critical thinking” has presuppositions built into it that ensures it comes up with certain answers. If the presuppositions are incorrect, the answers will be incorrect as well. As it is, you manage to live with some contradictions as well.

    Like

    Comment by geochristian | September 6, 2009

  3. Confidence that contradictions that render the bible a senseless fairy tale will be solved because others ‘apparently’ have been solved is not critical enough.

    What if I drank one tequila and didn’t get sick. Should I assume that even if I drink a few more I will remain fine? No, your inductive reasoning fails.

    What contradictions? That the universe has always existed only demands that one of God’s qualities (eternity) be transferred onto the universe. It must take less faith than believing that another being with that quality along with several others created the universe out of nothing.

    It also must take a lot of faith to believe that being left no evidence of his/hr existence and also left the problem of evil for us to deal with. Why does a benevolent and omnipotent God allow animals to suffer? No good reason. And yet you still believe in God. I’d call that blind faith.

    Things can create themselves. I think it is called ambiogenesis. Anyways, I don’t say that the universe created itself or has always existed, only that the God hypothesis is senseless and baseless.

    Education isn’t the only key. A well working political system free of propaganda has to go with it. Along with critical thinking, which is not always the same as education.

    I don’t have faith in anything. I live with lots of uncertainty. Things could go bad. I just live with uncertainty. No big deal. You live with false certainty. I’d say I’m better off.

    Like

    Comment by Bahram Farzady | September 6, 2009

  4. “My starting assumption is that I assume the Bible is right. This is not because I have a blind faith, but because my experience has been that once I understand the text, culture, and historical context, the Bible turns out to be accurate.”

    No, not really. You were right when you wrote “…because I have blind faith…”

    Like

    Comment by Bahram Farzady | September 6, 2009

  5. What about the ages of people in biblical times. They live to be 900 years old. That doesn’t conflict with our understanding of how long people live?

    The world was created in six days (and the omnipotent God needed a break the 7th day). That makes sense? (Either that he created the world in 6 days or that he needed a break.)

    None of this sort of thing bothers you?

    Like

    Comment by Bahram Farzady | September 6, 2009

  6. Bahram Farzady:

    Regarding the problem of evil: The real problem with evil is on your side. A Christian can acknowledge that there are things that we can call “evil,” such as murder, rape, child abuse, and stealing. The non-theist can only call these things “evil” by borrowing from the theists, or through making an arbitrary definition. I am not claiming that I have solved the problem of evil, but that I think I have a lesser problem than you do.

    You said Things can create themselves: This kind of blind faith ought to make one blush.

    You said I don’t have faith in anything: Baloney. Your faith that God does not exist is faith just as much as my statement that God does exist. Faith is not “wishful thinking” or “believing something that is silly.” Instead, it is confidence, trust, or a conviction that something is a certain way. We all have faith. The question is whether that faith is in the right thing or not. Christian faith is grounded in historical realities, such as the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. One reason I have faith that God created the universe is because the alternatives are absurd.

    Regarding long ages in the Bible: I don’t know the full answer on this one. One possibility is that the descendants of Seth really did live a long time. The Bible does not say that everyone lived that long. Other proposals have been made, pointing out that there could be astronomical or other symbolic significances to a number of the ages listed that we just don’t understand, or that the numbers could represent dynasties (as some generations are clearly left out), but there is no clear answer.

    Regarding creation in six days: Like many—or even most—conservative Evangelical scholars, I don’t see any necessity of understanding Genesis one as teaching that God created the universe in six consecutive 24-hour days. There is a long tradition in the church of understanding these days as figurative, going back to Augustine and even further. There is clearly a good amount of symbolism in the opening chapters of Genesis, and I don’t feel compelled to read symbolism in a literal way.

    You may need to crank up your critical thinking a few notches. Perhaps you need to spend some time reading about these issues from a Christian perspective. You will find a depth of critical thinking that you were not previously aware of.

    Like

    Comment by geochristian | September 6, 2009

  7. The term evil existed before Christianity and theism. What is an “arbitrary” definition. If you’re right than every term has an arbitrary definition if it is not embedded within Christian dogma.

    The alternatives are not absurd and I explained why: you only have to attribute to the universe one of the qualities you attribute to god to make its eternity possible. Anyways, I don’t have faith in any of them either. I just believe that the magic of God explanation is absurd, and it is. I don’t have to commit to any position to reject another one.

    It takes a suspension of critical thinking to believe that the term “days” is a metaphor. If anything is not, it is that word. It isn’t used metaphorically very much nowadays.

    What does “a day” symbolize?

    “In the natural sciences, abiogenesis, or “chemical evolution”, is the study of how life on Earth could have arisen from inanimate matter (wiki).” That is good for life on earth. As for the earth itself, I regard its occurance as a mystery. Can you provide me any evidence that you have solved this mystery?

    How is the Christian faith grounded in historical realities? Just because a person named Jesus existed does not mean he was supernatural.

    What’s more likely: The laws of nature were suspended? Or, Some ancient jewish people lied?

    Why would I read about these issues from an idiots point of view (e.g. a Christian perspective)?

    Like

    Comment by Bahram Farzady | September 6, 2009

  8. “One possibility is that the descendants of Seth really did live a long time.”

    ARE YOU MENTAL!?

    “but there is no clear answer” aside from more symbolism and some astrology we don’t understand. And that’s enough for you?

    You think that back in the day when medicine was made from tree bark and blessed by witch-doctors, people actually lived hundreds of years?

    Yah, for you, that qualifies as a possible explanation. I have another one: The bible is a book of old jewish fairy tales.

    What is this historical evidence of the bible you point at. I have to imagine that it is disputed. Aside from which, in what part of the history books does it write about supernatural occurrence?

    Like

    Comment by Bahram Farzady | September 6, 2009

  9. Have you heard of Occum’s razor. According to that, you do have blind faith. You complicate the […] out of what – for me – are extraordinarily simple explanations in order keep your faith in the divinity of Jesus.

    You haven’t addressed the problem of evil either. Why isn’t that stronger than your supposed “historical realities”.

    The resurrection is not a historical reality!

    Like

    Comment by Bahram Farzady | September 6, 2009

  10. You’re a bright guy, but for Jesus, you sure make yourself sound stupid.

    Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Lets focus on the resurrection. Provide some great, knock down evidence to a skeptic like me.

    I am not sure that Socrates existed, by the way. There is a lot of evidence to suggest that Plato made him up to make some points or distance himself from his dialogues.

    But lets see the evidence for the resurrection of christ. This is gonna be good.

    Like

    Comment by Bahram Farzady | September 6, 2009

  11. Scholarly opinions on the historicity of the New Testament accounts are diverse. At the extremes, they range from the view that they are inerrant descriptions of the life of Jesus,[3] to the view that they provide no historical information about his life.[4] The sources extant contain little evidence of Jesus’ life before the account of Jesus’ Baptism, and it has been suggested by many [5] that the events recorded in the gospels cover a period of less than three years. Historians subject the gospels to critical analysis, attempting to differentiate authentic, reliable information from what they judge to be inventions, exaggerations, and alterations.[6]

    Wikipedia on the Historicity of Jesus.

    How do you like them apples?

    Like

    Comment by Bahram Farzady | September 6, 2009

  12. Bahram Farzady said: Why would I read about these issues from an idiots point of view (e.g. a Christian perspective)?

    So much for open-minded “free thinking.”

    Like

    Comment by geochristian | September 6, 2009

  13. I was agnostic. I’m not anymore. You people have proven yourselves stupid to me.

    So, what about the historical “reality” of the resurrection.

    I like how you brush off the points you are grossly mistaken about and which prove how un-critical your thinking is in regard to the divinity of jesus.

    Like

    Comment by Bahram Farzady | September 6, 2009

  14. Christianity is no longer a philosophically tenable position. I call astrologers, alchemists and scientologists morons as well. Doesn’t mean I’m not open-minded.

    Like

    Comment by Bahram Farzady | September 6, 2009

  15. Bahram Farzady said: Christianity is no longer a philosophically tenable position.

    I think you’ve buried your head in the sand, and labeled this as “free thinking.”

    “You might think from the recent spate of atheist best-sellers that belief in God has become intellectually indefensible for thinking people today. But a look at these books by Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens, among others, quickly reveals that the so-called New Atheism lacks intellectual muscle. It is blissfully ignorant of the revolution that has taken place in Anglo-American philosophy. It reflects the scientism of a bygone generation rather than the contemporary intellectual scene.

    “That generation’s cultural high point came on April 8, 1966, when Time magazine carried a lead story for which the cover was completely black except for three words emblazoned in bright red letters: “Is God Dead?” The story described the “death of God” movement, then current in American theology.

    “But to paraphrase Mark Twain, the news of God’s demise was premature. For at the same time theologians were writing God’s obituary, a new generation of young philosophers was rediscovering his vitality.”

    From Christianity Today: God is not dead yet. Read the entire article.

    I suspect your impulse will be to say, “This article was written by an idiot.” I hope that sometime before you get your degree in philosophy you learn that dismissing your opponents as “idiots” without dealing seriously and respectfully with their arguments won’t get you very far in the world of academic philosophy.

    Like

    Comment by geochristian | September 6, 2009

  16. Lets address the issues than. I’ve mounted dozens of arguments against Christianity and you have yet to mount a coherent response.

    There a very few of those philosophers and they are oft ridiculed for good reason.

    Anyways, Nietzsche’s critic of God does not reflect a foregone scientism, nor does mine. Stop pretending like you’re arguing against Richard Dawkins. Will you actually address one of MY points for once.

    Also, what iss the revolution the article refers to?

    Like

    Comment by Bahram Farzady | September 6, 2009

  17. Less than about 20% of philosophers – even in America – are followers of any religion. This is greatly disproportionate with the rest of the population.

    Like

    Comment by Bahram Farzady | September 6, 2009

  18. Make Christianity a philosophically tenable position. Argue for it! You’ve tried, and failed every time so far. Why don’t you try again?

    Like

    Comment by Bahram Farzady | September 6, 2009

  19. Bahram Farzady:

    Your main argument against Christianity seems to be “They’re a bunch of idiots.”

    Your approach to further study seems to be “Ignore what the Christians say because they are a bunch of idiots.”

    Is this “free thinking” or “critical thinking?” I guess ignorance is bliss.

    Could you please make a short list of your arguments against Christianity? I’d be happy to make an attempt to answer them.

    I’m sure you can get better answers from a scholarly source such as the New Dictionary of Christian Apologetics or the Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics. You will find that there is a depth of Christian thinking that you were not aware of. Or you can continue to practice your “free thinking” that really isn’t all that free.

    Like

    Comment by geochristian | September 6, 2009

  20. That wasn’t my main argument! That was just a large part. No, but I have written far more you have completely ignored. None of my arguments are primised on that, its more of a side note.

    I know the arguments against my position. I’ve taken philosophy of religion and religious studies courses, not to mention read Aquinas and Augustine’s confessions and Kierkegaard.

    Suffering of Animals. How could God be all powerful and all good and allow it. I don’t have to argue against Christianity. You have to argue for it. The burden of proof is on you. You are trying to evade that, and I’m not going to have any of it.

    Like

    Comment by Bahram Farzady | September 6, 2009

  21. I consider your position. I don’t have to reconsider it ad infinitum. I considered astrology as well, but eventually its just not practical.

    That’s not un-free thinking. That’s just how things are. I can’t give the worse philosophical positions as much of my time as the best. And, I’ve determined it is worse. I thought through it.

    Like

    Comment by Bahram Farzady | September 6, 2009

  22. Regarding the suffering of animals:

    –I’ll start by reminding you that you have the larger “problem of evil.” At least I can speak of animal death as evil in some way (though I distinguish between “natural evil” and human evil). Again, you can only speak of animal death as evil by borrowing the concept from somewhere else, or by making an arbitrary value judgment.

    –If there is no God, then does it really matter if one were to torture puppies and kittens just for fun? How can one say that torturing puppies is wrong if there are no moral absolutes?

    –How can a good God allow animal suffering? I don’t know the complete answer. Some Christians tie animal suffering to Adam’s sin, but that is not explicitly stated in Scripture, and is tied to young-Earth creationism, which I reject for both Biblical and scientific reasons. Perhaps there is something to this argument, but I would need to see it expressed in a way that separates itself from young-Earth creationism. Other Christians (Augustine, for example) believe that in the end we will see a greater good that comes out of the temporary evil we see in the world.

    –As a Christian, I believe that suffering (animal or human) will some day end. For now, however, I am called to alleviate suffering where I can.

    –I would rather live with the tensions that flow out of Christian theology than to live with the tensions that flow out of the skeptic’s problem of evil.

    Like

    Comment by geochristian | September 6, 2009

  23. I’ll remind you that all my value judgments are very meaningful. You call them arbitrary, but that does not make them so. I value the negation of suffering. Call it arbitrary. It is not.

    One can say that torturing puppies in wrong like Hobbes (atheist/possibly deist) literally wrote that to Descartes (Christian) when he took stray cats and dogs off the street and nasiled them down to a board, opened up their chests and tried to identify which way their blood flew (before we knew which way blood flows in the body).

    Descartes thought this was okay because he thought that the outside world was created in our minds by God, and that we are the only sentient beings, and that animals just “look” to us that they feel pain, but they really don’t. Afterall, why would God make them like that if they had no chance for redemption?

    Johnny is cleaner than he was even if he cannot become absolutely clean. Torture is worse than the negation of torture even if there are no moral absolutes. (I’ve explained this before. You have to change your argument to conform to my counter-arguments).

    Augustine’s explanation is not good enough. And even if animals suffering is tied to original sin, they can’t sin because they don’t have free will, so why do they suffer?

    What tensions do I live with? You’re the only one living with contradiction and folly when it comes to animals suffering. I believe that suffering is a part of existence, not that I do nothing about it, but its not a metaphysical “problem” for me.

    Like

    Comment by Bahram Farzady | September 7, 2009

  24. Its not a matter of nothing in reality contradicting the existence of God, but a matter of a part of existence confirming that also God exists. Right now, even if I lose this argument (although I won’t), you’ll still have to mount the positive case for God’s existence.

    You can neither negate the contradictions, nor mount a positive case for God at this point. Try again.

    Like

    Comment by Bahram Farzady | September 7, 2009

  25. I don’t know what to make of the many comments of Mr. Farzady, except that he has made himself a parody of the kind of name calling narrow mindedness he purports to condemn.

    I was a member of an LCA church before the merger which created the ELCA. I saw firsthand the senseless, mechanical way in which the numbers game applied. There were only a couple of African American families in our congregation, and they were begged to be on every committee. It was really silly.

    Our congregation split over a draft statement on sexuality in ’94. At a meeting at which people were asking how various changes squared with traditional theology, those who tried to apply Sola Scriptura were told to take a hike.

    There are many questions a thinking Christian may ask, and we should all be humble enough to concede that we do not have all the answers, but the decision to redefine sin as “not sin” is a very serious one. It is hard to find your way without a compass.

    Like

    Comment by Rod | September 7, 2009

  26. “Scholarly opinions on the historicity of the New Testament accounts are diverse. At the extremes, they range from the view that they are inerrant descriptions of the life of Jesus,[3] to the view that they provide no historical information about his life.[4] The sources extant contain little evidence of Jesus’ life before the account of Jesus’ Baptism, and it has been suggested by many [5] that the events recorded in the gospels cover a period of less than three years. Historians subject the gospels to critical analysis, attempting to differentiate authentic, reliable information from what they judge to be inventions, exaggerations, and alterations.[6]

    Wikipedia on the Historicity of Jesus.

    How do you like them apples?”

    I don’t exactly understand how this “source” provides support to a weak view of scripture… I mean this statement actually seems more in line with a support for good scholarship of the Bible, examining it with good textual criticism, something almost every Bible scholar thinks is a good thing. I just don’t understand what point you think this proves or why it proves it.

    Like

    Comment by Fenris | September 7, 2009

  27. Bahram Farzady, a cursory examination of the geochristian’s blog provides a number of good resources for the defense of Christianity. He covered a number of arguments, such as the teleological and cosmological arguments, that show that Occam’s Razor can be equally directed at atheism in defining a world view that is as efficient as possible in its assumptions.
    However, I feel that you are probably looking for more of a direct debate approach where I perhaps respond with certain ideas about the problem of evil and you explain the problems of each and every one of my arguments for this or for any other philosophical view we disagree on. From what I have seen of how human’s appear to be wired, I would say that at some level both of our arguments do not stem from reality or logic but are rather founded on some emotional belief. You might say you have arrived at your beliefs from a pure logical progression and yet some so called Christians that you have encounter have “proven their stupidity” to you and you dismiss an entire intellectual position… that seems truly blind to me.

    Like

    Comment by Fenris | September 7, 2009

  28. Geochristian, I disagree with the commonly raised claim that an atheist has a larger problem of evil, because the only way we can say something is “right” or “wrong” is either to borrow those concepts from theists, or adopt an arbitrary definition.

    I claim that both you and I adopt an arbitrary definition, based on our evolved empathy and socialization. The major difference between us, I’d argue, is that you seek after the fact to justify your definitions with references to scripture, while I do not.

    I don’t think there’s really anything in scripture which would forbid you to torture puppies and kittens, for instance. There is something in scripture which forbids you to wear clothing made with both cotton and wool. You choose not to do that which is not forbidden (torture puppies), and don’t feel it’s important enough to check to see whether you’re inadvertently doing that which IS forbidden (wearing mixed fibers). This is not a “moral absolute,” it’s a way of living which tries to avoid causing others unnecessary suffering. Your fundamental motivation, like mine, is empathy — we know how we would feel if someone caused unnecessary suffering for us.

    To address Rod’s point (which seems, if I’m reading between the lines correctly, to be opposed to granting homosexuals the same rights enjoyed by heterosexuals), it isn’t enough to craft our morals simply to conform to what we like or don’t like, or what is most convenient for us. If we’re going to forbid something, we need to ask, “Who gets hurt by it?” That’s why I think equal rights for homosexuals is inevitable; the private acts of two consenting adults don’t harm society any more if they’re homosexual than if they’re heterosexual. Indeed, since no unwanted pregnancy can result, it might reasonably be argued that there is LESS chance of harm to society.

    But back to you, geochristian, I don’t borrow my morality from Christianity or Confucianism, though it will be found to share many points of agreement with both of those philosophies. I do admit that my sense of right and wrong has an element of arbitrariness, but I believe yours does too. In this country, where people are free to change religions if they choose to, it is often the case that people gravitate to religions whose gods define right and wrong the same way they themselves do.

    Like

    Comment by lightsmith | September 9, 2009

  29. lightsmith:

    Some interesting points, but I would say that while scripture doesn’t necessarily forbid the torture of animals, things like the relationship between man and the environment established in Genesis as well as verses like Proverbs 12:10 say that Christians, and righteous men, should be good stewards of all that God has created.

    Also the verse dealing with fabrics, I think there is one in both Leviticus and Deuteronomy, seem to either be talking about making an inferior product or about another way of separating the nation of Israel from those that were around it. Either way this sort of statute doesn’t necessarily apply to the mixing of all fabrics, just linen and wool, and it also may fall under the type of things that passed away with the forming of the new covenant.

    Whatever the case the point of a lot of the Israelite law was to stress how impossible it was to live up to it, as well as how we can not be clean and approach God accept through sacrifice. Uncontrollable things were outlawed but more important was the spirit behind how you lived and went about your daily life… and this continues today for Christians. Christians can not hope not to sin… we will. That is the point, that is why we have our mediator in Christ who will speak on our behalf for our sins, but along with that comes a relationship where we pursue Christ and try and purify our lives as much as possible.

    Like

    Comment by Fenris | September 9, 2009

  30. To me, the fact that you can speak of a “new covenant” strengthens my argument, that the standards men take from the Bible are not absolute and eternal, but subject to change as the society which would apply them changes.

    I think this is good — I’m glad we don’t live in the sort of brutal society in which headstrong children are dragged to the edge of town and stoned — but I don’t think you can credibly pick and choose those bits of the Bible we can both agree it makes sense to follow, and simultaneously maintain that it’s some kind of objective, universal standard. It isn’t. Menstruating women aren’t unclean creatures who have to be segregated from polite society for a week, that’s just a silly prejudice that some desert dweller codified a few thousand years ago. We know better today.

    As I say, I think it’s inevitable (and I think it will happen in my lifetime) that we’ll reach a place of enlightenment as a nation that will no longer permit the sort of discrimination toward homosexuals that is practiced today.

    Like

    Comment by lightsmith | September 9, 2009

  31. The uncleanliness of menstruating women, or men with nighttime emissions for that matter, had little to do with a moral standard and more to do with not approaching God lightly. The vast amount of things that could make a person unclean was a reflection of man’s sinful nature and his inability to easily approach God. The “change” that was brought about with the coming of Jesus, the new covenant, merely made it easier to come before God, it didn’t change any of the moral absolutes.

    Like

    Comment by Fenris | September 9, 2009

  32. I guess I don’t understand the distinction you’re making between “moral standards” and “sins”. Leviticus 15:30 speaks of atonement via a sin offering for befouling oneself with a discharge. Many Christians claim that sin is what separates people from God, and that Jesus made reconciliation possible by giving himself as a universal sin offering. So it seems to me that a menstruating woman who fails to isolate herself for a week is not doing what God says to do in the scriptures, just as much as the man who wears mixed fabrics, the farmer who plants mixed seed, the parent who chooses not to stone his disobedient son, and the man who lies with another man as with a woman.

    Many Christians who claim to subscribe to eternal or objective standards, and say “I don’t say it’s wrong, GOD says it’s wrong,” are doing exactly the same thing I’m doing — applying their own innate and societaly shaped sense of right and wrong to a situation. While we may agree that it isn’t morally wrong for a person to have “discharges” (in many cases, there has not been a willful choice, the cornerstone of morality), the Bible still depicts such things as sinful, as something which requires atonement. If one chooses not to atone as prescribed, he is not living in accordance with scripture, with his own self-professed almighty standard.

    Anyone who chooses not to condemn the farmer who plants two kinds of seed in a field, or the parent who refuses to stone his incorrigible son, but who nevertheless condemns homosexuality, is not doing it because “God doesn’t like it” but because “I don’t like it.” He’s only pretending he has a less arbitrary reason.

    Like

    Comment by lightsmith | September 10, 2009

  33. Bahram Farzady:

    “Why does a benevolent and omnipotent God allow animals to suffer? No good reason. And yet you still believe in God. I’d call that blind faith.”

    Correction: No good reason within an old-earth theology. In young-earth theology the fall of Adam affected the animal kingdom as well as mankind.

    (Qualifier: it appears that some old-earth Christians inconsistently accept that the Fall DID affect the animal kingdom, insofar as it was genuinely “very good” initially. Such e.g. is Norman Geisler who unadvisedly wrote a preface commending one of Hugh Ross’s books, apparently without reading it carefully or he’d have gathered that Ross doesn’t believe that! At least Ross is consistent here in his unbiblical approach.)

    “Things can create themselves. I think it is called ambiogenesis.”

    It’s clear enough that you neither spell well nor understand that abiogenesis by definition is life created by/from non-life, so not creating itself. Anyway naturalistic abiogenesis is a myth, and impossible. It is plainly you that have the blind faith.

    Like

    Comment by Dan | September 14, 2009

  34. Kevin:

    “Some Christians tie animal suffering to Adam’s sin, but that is not explicitly stated in Scripture”

    Yes it is. In Genesis 3:14, as a result of that sin, God cursed all animals along with the serpent. Animals have no spiritual component – they are all material. So this was a material curse – obviously suffering of some kind.

    You reject this because you priorly rejected the YEC theology that undergirds it. I reason in the reverse direction: since only YEC theology reconciles the observed phenomena with the concept of God’s justice, that’s just one more reason to reject the old-earth theologies that signally fail to do this.

    Like

    Comment by Dan | September 14, 2009

  35. “But lets see the evidence for the resurrection of christ. This is gonna be good.”

    For starters – 600 more eyewitnesses than for goo-to-you-via-the-zoo. Now go lie down in a darkened room.

    Like

    Comment by Dan | September 14, 2009

  36. “Regarding long ages in the Bible: I don’t know the full answer on this one.”

    Kevin: an earnest appeal to think this through. If you now doubt this presumably because your fellow-scientists say it’s biologically impossible, how will you maintain your faith in Christ’s virgin birth against precisely the same criticism?

    Please work it out quickly before Bahram pounces on it.

    Like

    Comment by Dan | September 14, 2009

  37. As it seems no one has commented on the ELCA error on homosexuality, I’d like to offer some thoughts.

    First then, Kevin, thank you for posting a stunning picture of that deposed cross atop the steeple. I’d heard that this had happened, but oh how good to actually see it for the first time!

    Poor old Luther would vomit in his grave. Were he there he’d undoubtedly rage that there was a locust storm of demons under every roof panel of that conference center, and would chuck an inkpot at the posterior of everyone who voted for that!

    However, I now have a very direct quotation for you to think about. As you know this matter of homosexuality is in ferment in many groups of denominations, and in the Anglican Communion one of the foremost defenders of orthodoxy in this matter is Peter Jensen, the robustly Reformed Archbishop of Sydney. But a few years ago a secularist critic went straight for his theological soft underbelly with this incisive logic:

    ‘Romans 1:26–27 seems pretty clear in its condemnation of men who “burn with passion for each other.” But Genesis 1 is equally and literally clear that the world was created in just 7 days.’

    That, Kevin, I suggest, is your problem too. Of course, you already know it’s not mine. I see it as doing much to explain why all these denominations are now sliding at an alarming rate towards accepting homosex – and more.

    Which leaves me wondering about an intriguing question: are there any circumstances in which you would be prepared to say that someone can be a thoroughly orthodox evangelical Christian and believe in sodomy? I know you say in your blog that the title “evangelical” no longer properly belongs with the ELCA – so I’m assuming your answer would be No. If you maintain that stance, be prepared for plenty of people who’ll call you a zero-tolerance heresy hunter and the like.

    Like

    Comment by Dan | September 14, 2009

  38. “Anyone who chooses not to condemn the farmer who plants two kinds of seed in a field, or the parent who refuses to stone his incorrigible son, but who nevertheless condemns homosexuality, is not doing it because “God doesn’t like it” but because “I don’t like it.” He’s only pretending he has a less arbitrary reason.”

    No matter how many times these shallow arguments are soundly refuted, the internet continues to “cast up mire and dirt.” Heave-ho, here we go yet again.

    The civil laws of ancient Israel, along with their penalties, were all part of a polity designed to keep Jews separate from Gentiles – a dividing wall which Christians know has been abolished in Christ (Ephesians 2). The same New Testament that teaches this also reaffirms the law against sodomy several times over.

    The first definitive statement of that law is in Leviticus 18:22. That whole chapter is taken up with sexual sins. the others are adultery, bestiality and incest (described in several examples of close kindred). Pray tell us which of these is obsolete?

    Furthermore, the chapter concludes as follows:

    “Do not defile yourselves in any of these ways, because this is how the nations that I am going to drive out before you became defiled. Even the land was defiled; so I punished it for its sin, and the land vomited out its inhabitants.” (vv. 24, 25)

    Which shows that it was also sin for Gentiles before Moses. In other words, a universal moral law.

    Like

    Comment by Dan | September 14, 2009

  39. Lightsmith:

    Thank you for your respectful tone, and I appreciate your comments.

    I liked Fenris’s answers, but I’ll add a few thoughts of my own.

    ——————–

    #28

    Regarding whether or not torturing puppies is forbidden by Scriptures:
    1. In Genesis 1, humans were placed in a position of being stewards over the creation. This means taking care of it as a gardener takes care of a garden, with the goals of sustainibility, productivity, and reflecting the character of the owner of the Garden (who is God, not us).
    2. Proverbs 12:10 says, “Whoever is righteous has regard for the life of his beast,
    but the mercy of the wicked is cruel.”
    3. Many Christians would refer to natural law as well, that somehow we all know (unless our conscience has been twisted somehow) that torturing puppies is wrong. The fact that you as a skeptic acknowledge that torturing puppies is wrong is a reflection of the fact that you too are created in the image of God and often can discern right and wrong even aside from Scriptural revelation.

    In regards to the Scriptural prohibition on the Jews wearing mixed fabrics, it was symbolic of not mixing with the pagan nations that surrounded them, who practices included child sacrifice among other things.

    Regarding Christians picking and choosing their morality, to some degree I agree with you. Divorce is a greater threat to Christian marriages and families, but we spend a lot more time focusing on the sins of others than on our own sins. We also don’t spend a whole lot of time preaching against materialism or greed (both of which are forbidden in Scripture); it is easier to preach against tobacco or alcohol (neither of which is forbidden in Scripture).

    ——————–

    #30

    Regarding rebellious children being stoned:

    This command wasn’t about little children who threw temper tantrums or hit their siblings. This was about near-adults who lived lives of rebellion. So picture 17-year old kids who are in juvenile detention centers, not 6-year olds whose parents have sent them to their bedrooms for misbehavior. The punishment seems awfully harsh by our standards (which we seem to think are the best standards in our pride), but these youths were a danger to society and an affront to the holiness of God.

    ——————–

    #32

    Menstruation and other bodily discharges are never treated as sin in the Levitical laws. Some things that are not in themselves sinful are treated as a picture of what sin does to us. An example would be skin diseases, such as leprosy.

    Like

    Comment by geochristian | September 14, 2009

  40. Dan:

    #33

    Your point that old-Earth Christians have a problem with animal suffering while young-Earthers don’t is not all that strong.

    The whole idea that animals did not die before the fall of Adam is found nowhere in Scripture. The passages cited by young-Earth creationists say absolutely nothing about animals! (Gen 3, Rom 5, Rom 8, 1 Cor 15).

    I agree that it apears right now that abiogenesis (spontaneous appearance of life on early Earth) seems to be a blind leap of faith. The complexity of even the simplest imaginable bacterium is magnitudes above what the origins of life researchers have demonstrated is possible through their laboratory experiments. (Some theistic evolutionists would say that if life can self-organize it is only because God has set up the universe in such a way as to make this possible).

    ——————–

    #34

    Genesis 3:14 says nothing whatsoever about animal death before the fall. It is something young-Earth creationists read into the passage that is simply not there.

    The Lord God said to the serpent,

    “Because you have done this,
    cursed are you above all livestock
    and above all beasts of the field;
    on your belly you shall go,
    and dust you shall eat
    all the days of your life. (ESV)

    ——————–

    #35

    I agree the evidence for the resurrection of Christ is strong.

    –eyewitnesses
    –radical change in the lives of the disciples
    –the empty tomb — the skeptics of the day (Sanhedrin, etc) could not deny this.
    –the absence of a body
    –the failure of alternative explanations

    ——————–

    #36

    I acknowledged in my response to Bahram that I am perfectly willing to accept long ages from the early chapters of Genesis. I am also open to alternative explanations (which you probably are not).

    There are problems with taking an AiG approach to these genealogies as well. For example, few conservative Old Testament scholars would say that it makes sense to have Noah still alive until Abraham was an adult, but that is what a “literal” meaning would indicate. Reading the narrative, you get the idea that Noah was dead a long, long time before Abraham was born.

    I’m not denying the Scriptures in any way, just taking a closer look.

    ——————–

    #37

    I’ve thought about the issues you have brought up as well, and don’t have final answers. I’ll make a few points however:

    –I believe that the young-Earthers read a lot into the Scriptures that are simply not there (no animal death before the fall, sedimentary rocks deposited by the flood). I also believe that the ELCA has read a lot into Scriptures that isn’t there in regards to human sexuality.

    –I believe that there are indications in the Scripture that point to the days in Genesis 1 as being something other than six consecutive 24-hour days (Gen 2:4, Ps 90:4, either Gen 1 or Gen 2 must be non-Chronological, etc.)

    –There is absolutely nothing in Scripture that would lead me to read Rom 1:26-27 as anything other than a condemnation of homosexual behavior, no matter how much the two men or women love each other or are committed to one another.

    –In regards to the skeptic’s response to Peter Jensen, there are two types of people who are committed to saying that the Bible requires a young Earth. 1. The young-Earth creationist. 2. The skeptic. Neither wants to listen to conservative Biblical scholars who say otherwise. The YEC does not want to listen because he is afraid of some slippery slope. The skeptic does not want to listen because YEC gives him an easy reason to not believe in Christ.

    ——————–

    #38

    Good answer. What is next in the decline of sexual morality?

    ——————–

    Thanks for your comments.

    Like

    Comment by geochristian | September 14, 2009

  41. Dan #38

    “The civil laws of ancient Israel, along with their penalties, were all part of a polity designed to keep Jews separate from Gentiles – a dividing wall which Christians know has been abolished in Christ (Ephesians 2). The same New Testament that teaches this also reaffirms the law against sodomy several times over.”

    So they WERE the law, this set of decrees which the Bible says came directly from God, but God later abolished them. Thank you for once again affirming my point – that the “word of God” contained in the Bible does not provide eternal, unchanging, universal guidance, but time-limited, changeable, context-dependent guidance.

    “The first definitive statement of that law is in Leviticus 18:22. That whole chapter is taken up with sexual sins. the others are adultery, bestiality and incest (described in several examples of close kindred). Pray tell us which of these is obsolete?”

    The only “sins” I see in Leviticus 18 that I’d say are obsolete are the prohibition on having sex with a woman who’s having her period, and the prohibition on homosexual sex. Most of the prohibitions on having sex with relatives and animals seem like good advice from a “social harmony” viewpoint.

    What’s interesting to me is what we currently disallow that’s condoned in Leviticus 18. I’m speaking, of course, about polygamy. Leviticus 18:17 advises one not to have sex with both a mother and her daughter, or her nieces. The implication is that it’s okay to have sex with a mother and other, unrelated women. 18:18 says you shouldn’t marry a woman and her sister; again, the implication is that multiple “rival” wives are acceptable, but if it’s her sister you’re just asking for trouble.

    Many passages in the Old Testament show that polygamy is acceptable to God, though there is one which apparently advises against it for a future king of Israel (one assumes Solomon). For instance, you’re not supposed to neglect your existing wives when you take a new wife, and primogeniture is to be respected.

    I’m curious, and I honestly don’t know — is there anyplace in the Bible where pedophilia is condemned? This is a big taboo today. Can that taboo be traced back to a Biblical injunction, or did it arise (like the modern Western ban on polygamy) outside the Biblical system of morality?

    “No matter how many times these shallow arguments are soundly refuted, the internet continues to “cast up mire and dirt.” Heave-ho, here we go yet again.”

    Ha ha, is that what you’ve done? You’ve completely ignored the point I raised about stoning disobedient children, claimed that the “old” laws were abolished (but some are repeated in the New Testament, and presumably they’re still in force?), and then claimed that everything in Leviticus 18, anyway, is still “a universal moral law.”

    Does that “universal moral law” carry over into Leviticus 19? That’s where we see mixed fabrics, mixed sowing, and mixed breeding condemned. Still a moral law? Or just a metaphor for separating Jews from Gentiles?

    Like

    Comment by lightsmith | September 14, 2009

  42. lightsmith, once again some interesting and challenging points:
    “Many passages in the Old Testament show that polygamy is acceptable to God, though there is one which apparently advises against it for a future king of Israel (one assumes Solomon). For instance, you’re not supposed to neglect your existing wives when you take a new wife, and primogeniture is to be respected.”

    I see polygamy, like slavery, as a cultural issues that when pressed with true faith can not stand as a practice. God gives guidance on them that creates a loving but nonetheless constricting environment that discourages its continued practice. In the case of slavery the master and slave are equals before Christ and in fact both slaves to Christ and this creates an environment where eventually the concept of slavery in the New Testament church can not easily or rationally exist. Polygamy, another carry over from the ancient world where it helped increase your chance of fertility, becomes pointless when you put your trust in the Lord for your provision in your family. In Genesis many of the patriarchs are polygamists but you often see God work through them in spite of this problem. The Bible does not explicitly condemn polygamy but it does show monogamy as God’s intent for marriage as seen in Genesis 2.

    “I’m curious, and I honestly don’t know — is there anyplace in the Bible where pedophilia is condemned? This is a big taboo today. Can that taboo be traced back to a Biblical injunction, or did it arise (like the modern Western ban on polygamy) outside the Biblical system of morality?”

    There is no where in the Bible that explicitly condemns non-incestuous pedophilia (I am guessing that is what you are referring to since you are quoting Leviticus 18 where it repeatedly condemns all forms of incest). Pederasty, an ancient combination of pedophilia and homosexuality, is condemned in the Bible like all forms of homosexuality. Heterosexual pedophilia falls into the broader category of sexual immorality that also similarly condemns premarital sex. Premarital sex is also not explicitly condemned in the Bible but is clearly inferred in places like 1 Corinthians 7:2 and Hebrews 13:4. Pedophilia most likely involves sex outside of marriage or at the very least the lust of an individual towards another unwilling or not understanding individual and both of these are condemned as sexual immorality.

    The age at which a child matures into an adult and can make decisions about sex and relationships is a highly complex issue. Most governments arbitrarily assign an “age of consent.” The Bible takes a harsher stance with it in condemning all forms sexual relations outside of the marriage bed.

    Like

    Comment by Fenris | September 14, 2009

  43. Thanks again Kevin for your replies to my several-in-a-row as a Johnny-come-lately to this forum and thread.

    Allow me to continue the conversation –

    “The whole idea that animals did not die before the fall of Adam is found nowhere in Scripture. The passages cited by young-Earth creationists say absolutely nothing about animals! (Gen 3, Rom 5, Rom 8, 1 Cor 15).”

    I’ve never heard of a YEC claiming that Rom 5 and 1 Cor 15 speak to this issue. But Romans 8 is indeed cogent. In a sense we need to take in a bigger picture than just animal death: Paul here asserts that corruption set in to the whole natural world when Adam fell, whereas all old-earth schemes must deny that Adam’s fall had any physical effect bar (perhaps) the introduction of human death alone.

    “Genesis 3:14 says nothing whatsoever about animal death before the fall. It is something young-Earth creationists read into the passage that is simply not there.”

    The quotation of v. 14 you supply shows that God imposed two physical curses on the serpent. I’ll repeat that there was also a curse on all the “livestock”, which in the nature of things must also have been physical. Regardless of whether that was death or some disease falling short of it, the big point is that all old-earth views fail to accept any non-human physical change whatsoever at the Fall.

    Meanwhile do you accept that this verse implies that all fossils of legless land snakes are certainly post-Adamic? I don’t think so, and wonder how you manage to deny the obvious conclusion.

    “I agree the evidence for the resurrection of Christ is strong.

    –eyewitnesses
    –radical change in the lives of the disciples
    –the empty tomb — the skeptics of the day (Sanhedrin, etc) could not deny this.
    –the absence of a body
    –the failure of alternative explanations”

    Yes, very strong – but what’s your distinction between points 3 and 4? (Is 4 a stronger version of 3?)

    “I acknowledged in my response to Bahram that I am perfectly willing to accept long ages from the early chapters of Genesis. I am also open to alternative explanations (which you probably are not).”

    But the point I was making is that your uncertainty here led me to wonder how you would defend your faith against unbelievers in the cases I described. After all, old-earthers start by saying that the Bible ALLOWS for the world to be very old, therefore we can’t be certain, therefore can’t be dogmatic, therefore if some extrabiblical source loudly tells us to believe something, we should yield to it. Why then not simply yield to atheistic biologists who’ll say 900-year human lifespans are biologically impossible? And then, the Virgin Birth?

    I don’t think you’ve yet assuaged the earnest concern contained in my questions.

    “There are problems with taking an AiG approach to these genealogies as well. For example, few conservative Old Testament scholars would say that it makes sense to have Noah still alive until Abraham was an adult, but that is what a “literal” meaning would indicate. Reading the narrative, you get the idea that Noah was dead a long, long time before Abraham was born.

    “I’m not denying the Scriptures in any way, just taking a closer look.”

    I appreciate that – and you may be fascinated to learn, if you didn’t know it, that in an appendix to “The Genesis Flood”, Whitcomb and Morris themselves take this tack for the very sort of reason you mention, viz. the apparent implausibility of Noah’s living into Abraham’s time and so on. In fact they were prepared to accept as much as 5,000 years of extra time, which I suppose is why for quite a while afterwards YECs would speak in terms of the earth being “under 10,000 years old” rather than sounding more Ussherite.

    You probably also know that mainstream YEC opinion has since tended to revert to a stricter sort of chronological genealogy, without making it de rigueur – i.e. it’s not in AiG’s statement of faith, so it’s inaccurate to call it an “AiG approach”.

    However, W&M never cast any doubt at all on the lifespans given, and I don’t suppose any modern YEC does either.

    “I’ve thought about the issues you have brought up as well, and don’t have final answers. I’ll make a few points however:

    –I believe that the young-Earthers read a lot into the Scriptures that are simply not there (no animal death before the fall, sedimentary rocks deposited by the flood). I also believe that the ELCA has read a lot into Scriptures that isn’t there in regards to human sexuality.”

    What an interesting approach, making YECs seem parallel to sodomists! However the examples of supposed YEC eisegesis are not good. I’ve already commented on pre-lapsarian animal death, but there’s a lot more to be said Scripturally against it, only it gets rather more theological. Meanwhile – when first created all land animals were vegetarian – weren’t they? When did that change, and how and why? There’s only one Biblical candidate – the Fall – isn’t there?

    Therefore, once again, that means you accept that all fossil examples of one land animal eating/having eaten another are certainly post-lapsarian. But you don’t, because your latter-day “Aristotle” says No. It’s not eisegesis, but a “good and necessary consequence” of Scripture teaching. And I’ve still not warmed up on all the Biblical reasons that invalidate all OE theories.

    As for rocks – the Bible says that the Flood was global. If a global flood doesn’t form sedimentary rocks, what can?

    I still wonder why you think YECs read “a lot” into Scripture, if these two are your best examples. Surely it would be very easy to produce a long list of instances where OEs insert ad hoc concepts by way of special pleading?

    “I believe that there are indications in the Scripture that point to the days in Genesis 1 as being something other than six consecutive 24-hour days (Gen 2:4, Ps 90:4, either Gen 1 or Gen 2 must be non-Chronological, etc.)”

    I’m sure you do, yet none seems convincing. The argument from Gen 2:4 was neutered long ago by Whitcomb comparing it with Num 7:84. What in Ps 90:4 or its context links it to Genesis 1? Both Gen 1 and 2 are chronological, with the sole exception of the parenthetical explanatory remark about the animals’ creation.

    “There is absolutely nothing in Scripture that would lead me to read Rom 1:26-27 as anything other than a condemnation of homosexual behavior, no matter how much the two men or women love each other or are committed to one another.”

    Absolutely – and we say precisely the same about the natural sense of Genesis, which the NT does nothing to abate, but mightily reinforces.

    “In regards to the skeptic’s response to Peter Jensen, there are two types of people who are committed to saying that the Bible requires a young Earth. 1. The young-Earth creationist. 2. The skeptic. Neither wants to listen to conservative Biblical scholars who say otherwise. The YEC does not want to listen because he is afraid of some slippery slope. The skeptic does not want to listen because YEC gives him an easy reason to not believe in Christ.”

    I’m afraid that here you’ve slipped into a type of ad hominem which C S Lewis called “Bulverism”, i.e. to dismiss an argument in case its user has some bad motive. Doubtless Roger Magnusson wanted to justify sodomy, but that doesn’t make his comparison any less telling.

    Re. the charge that YECs refuse to listen to arguments by OE scholars, I trust you’ve read my penultimate post over on Sirius Knott’s website where I gave solid examples that if anything, the opposite is the case. You’re such a fair-minded chap that I think you’ll have been embarrassed on reading about it, and I’d hope for better things from you.

    You seem to be implying that YECs have an irrational fear that OE sets Christians on a slippery slope. Actually that concern is well-founded by consideration of so many individuals and indeed whole “demonicdamnations” over the course of several recent decades (as per ELCA!), e.g. as in the textbook case of Charles Templeton, who according to his autobiography addressed his famous peer as follows:

    ‘But, Billy, it’s simply not possible any longer to believe, for instance, the biblical account of creation. The world wasn’t created over a period of days a few thousand years ago; it has evolved over millions of years. It’s not a matter of speculation; it’s demonstrable fact.’

    That was just before he went to Princeton Seminary where needless to say he was easy prey for worse to come.

    Re. skeptics, I’m not even sure they all believe that the YEC view of Genesis is correct, but let’s suppose they do. It’s useless to pretend that if only that were changed, they’d come to Christ forthwith. On the contrary, they show very little respect for Christians who move mountains to deny the obvious and (yes, again) historically universally-accepted teaching of the Bible (not just Genesis) on origins.

    I’m thinking of big guns like T H Huxley who tore into the compromisers of his day, basically saying – “Don’t you know what the Hebrew says? And don’t you realise the NT writers build their doctrines on it?” Then there’s ol’ Dawkins with his “barking mad” retort to modern compromisers, albeit he appears to have more had TEs in mind. But same old, same old.

    I’d like to conclude this section with reference to another atheist whose story has a happier ending:

    “I know that in my own experience when I was an atheist at university, the ‘compromisers’ got very little respect for their position from myself and my fellow (at that time) humanists. Evolution/long-ages is so obviously not what the Bible teaches that the various ‘woolly compromise’ positions on Genesis are seen as an obvious cop-out.”

    Who was that? None other than Carl Wieland. I commend the whole essay to you:

    http://creation.com/loving-the-bible-too-much

    “Good answer. What is next in the decline of sexual morality?”

    Good question, and the one our modern sodomists always refuse to answer, because they know that admitting the only true and honest answer would wipe out their political support overnight. Usually they try to pooh-pooh it away by the very method you used just previously, viz. accusing us of a phantom fear of a slippery slope.

    While this situation pertains, YECs will have every cause to ask of OE compromises, “What is next in the decline of Biblical history/theology?”

    “Thanks for your comments.”

    And of course for yours Kevin. Any time!

    Like

    Comment by Dan | September 16, 2009

  44. Dan #36:

    “Kevin: an earnest appeal to think this through. If you now doubt [that people lived to be 900 years old] presumably because your fellow-scientists say it’s biologically impossible, how will you maintain your faith in Christ’s virgin birth against precisely the same criticism?”

    I’m not sure Kevin said he doubted it, just that he couldn’t offer a scientific explanation for it.

    But let me ask you a question. Why is a virgin birth an important part of Christian doctrine? Did Jesus ever make the claim that his mother was a virgin? Does any part of what he taught depend on his mother’s chastity?

    To me, as a complete outsider, it’s only important to prop up a chain of rationalizations. Jesus died as a blood ransom for the sins of mankind, because God requires blood and sacrifice before he will forgive such sins. In order to do this, Christians say, he had to live a sinless life. They claim he was the only person in the history of mankind to do so.

    I’m not sure why it’s important to claim that he was sinless — maybe the only way to have room to soak up all men’s sins is to be devoid of sin yourself. I’d also question the claim on the grounds that he was rude to his mother, and violent with the moneychangers, but let’s set that aside too.

    When people claim that Jesus was the only sinless man that ever lived, what can they mean? That he was actually less sinful than a baby who died being born? What possible sin could such an infant have committed to justify the claim that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God”? That baby didn’t do anything but breath and die. Which of those was the sin?

    Ah, but this is where the Christian concept of ORIGINAL sin enters the picture. That baby doesn’t have to DO anything; the sin is simply being born human. “The sins of the fathers” is the stain that taints the baby’s soul, and it’s apparently carried in a man’s seed. THIS is the reason it’s important to insure that Jesus didn’t have a human father, and indeed, that his mother had never been tainted with seed herself, because it might rub off.

    So we have one of my favorite Bible contradiction, the two different genealogies given for “Joseph” in Matthew 1:1-17 and Luke 3:23-28. Why bother with two genealogies for a guy who isn’t even Jesus’ father? Well, it’s important to show that the prophecy has been fulfilled that Jesus came from the House of David. But Joseph isn’t even his father. Ah, but that’s why they’re DIFFERENT — one of them is actually MARY’s genealogy. So Jesus is descended from David, and is untainted by original sin by being born of a virgin. If half of his DNA came from Joseph, he’d be just as sinful as you and me, or that stillborn infant.

    Is that why it’s important to you?

    Like

    Comment by lightsmith | September 19, 2009

  45. The resurrection is ground-zero of Christian apologetics. Jesus rose from the dead? Then he is Lord. The resurrection validates his claims about himself and his teachings. He speaks for God (and as God).

    What was Jesus view of the OT? The word of God. If Jesus is powerful enough to perform miracles, and connected-enough to rise from the dead, then he is smart enough to entrust his story to faithful witnesses who will accurately record his gospel. That is the reasonable basis by which Christians trust the NT.

    He personally called the apostle Paul to be his minister to the Gentiles? Then we can trust the Pauline epistles.

    So, when there are Bible difficulties, it is not a matter of “blind faith” as has been suggested here. It is more like, “I know Him whom I have believed, and am persuaded…” Because we know and trust the risen Christ, we have confidence in the Old Testament and the New Testament.

    Our faith, ultimately, is not in the New Testament or the Old Testament. It is in the resurrection of Christ from the dead — predicted in the Old, and testified to in the New. And authenticated to the individual believer in the Christian’s experience of regeneration.

    Like

    Comment by Richard Ball | November 7, 2009

  46. Richard Ball:

    Thanks for your comment. I’m not sure who you are referring to when you say, “So, when there are Bible difficulties, it is not a matter of “blind faith” as has been suggested here.” Are you referring to something I said or someone else?

    Like

    Comment by geochristian | November 17, 2009

  47. GeoC: someone else; see comment #3: ” I’d call that blind faith.”

    Like

    Comment by Richard Ball | November 18, 2009

  48. […] basic approach to “Bible contradictions” can be found in my article Dealing with an apparent Bible contradiction, in which I shared my story of how I had to work through an apparent discrepancy between the […]

    Like

    Pingback by Days, nights, Jonah, and Jesus « The GeoChristian | October 16, 2013


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