The GeoChristian

The Earth. Christianity. They go together.

Pleistocene Park

From Yahoo! News/AP — One scientist’s hobby: recreating the ice age

CHERSKY, Russia – Wild horses have returned to northern Siberia. So have musk oxen, hairy beasts that once shared this icy land with woolly mammoths and saber-toothed cats. Moose and reindeer are here, and may one day be joined by Canadian bison and deer.

Later, the predators will come — Siberian tigers, wolves and maybe leopards.

Russian scientist Sergey Zimov is reintroducing these animals to the land where they once roamed in millions to demonstrate his theory that filling the vast emptiness of Siberia with grass-eating animals can slow global warming.

Unlike “re-wilding” ideas in the United States (e.g. Montana), where most land is used for one thing or another, this one is along the Kolyma River (of gulag fame) in Siberia, which is about as isolated as one can get.

Isn’t this a little taste of what nature was meant to be, with the earth, sky, and sea “swarming with swarms of living creatures?” (Gen 1:20,24).

Grace and Peace

Related news: Leaking Siberian ice raises a tricky climate issue

November 27, 2010 Posted by | Biology, Climate Change, Creation in the Bible, Environment, Future, Nature | , , | 3 Comments

Earth Observatory images

A few NASA Earth Observatory images from the past few months:

Mataiva Atoll, Tuamotu Archipelago, South Pacific Ocean, August 30, 2010

Credit: ISS Expedition 24 Crew

This image makes a great desktop background. The full-resolution image doesn’t have labels.


The Water Planet, October 2, 2010

Credit: NASA MODIS

Arthur C. Clarke once remarked, “How inappropriate to call this planet Earth when it is quite clearly Ocean.”


Susitna Glacier, Alaska, October 20, 2010

Credit: NASA/GSFC/METI/ERSDAC/JAROS, and U.S./Japan ASTER Science Team

Note the complex ice deformation along much of the length of glacier. Most of the lower portion of the glacier is completely covered by debris.


Strong Extratropical Cyclone Over the US Midwest, October 29, 2010

Credit: NASA GOES Project Science Office

This low pressure system brought severe weather to much of the central U.S., and set a record low atmospheric pressure for a non-hurricane storm in the U.S.


Matusevich Glacier, Antarctica, November 7, 2010

Credit: NASA EO-1 team


Nile River Delta at Night, November 8, 2010

Credit: ISS Expedition 25 Crew


Grace and Peace

November 26, 2010 Posted by | Geology, Imagery, Meteorology | | Leave a comment

Did Ann Coulter really say “Earth is yours. Take it. Rape it. It’s yours”?

4/22/2013 — For a much more Biblical view of nature than what you will hear from Ann Coulter, see my Earth Day 2013 entry: The goodness and fruitfulness of creationSee also the environmental quotes from Christian authors Francis Schaeffer and Steven Bouma-Prediger.

—————————————————————————–

I’ve seen this quote from conservative commentator Ann Coulter in several places, and I’m curious about its authenticity:

“God gave us the earth. We have dominion over the plants, the animals, the trees. God said, ‘Earth is yours. Take it. Rape it. It’s yours.'”—Hannity & Colmes, 6/20/01

I’ve always wondered why anyone would listen to Coulter—she comes across as fuming with rage and anger. I know she claims to be a Christian, so this quote (if genuine) bothers me for a number of reasons.

  • It is just plain wrong. The concept of dominion in Genesis 1 is to keep and care for the creation as God’s representatives, not to rape and exploit it for our own selfish desires.
  • The creation is not “ours,” it is God’s.
  • The tone makes absolutely no contribution to anything, other than to help most people to see conservative Christians as a bunch of yahoos.

Does anyone know if she really said this? Or is this a distortion that has become entrenched in environmentalist urban legends, sort of like James Watt’s statement (that he never made) that it didn’t matter whether we took care of the Earth because Jesus was coming back soon?

Grace and Peace

 

November 26, 2010 Posted by | Creation in the Bible, Environment | | 14 Comments

Consider atheism? I don’t think so

The American Humanist Association is launching an ad campaign, urging us all to “Consider Humanism.”

This campaign uses a familiar atheist technique: Focus on the evils done in the name of religion; ignore the evils done by atheists.

The graphics I’ve seen have this format:

  • What some believe — a verse from the Bible or Koran urging some repugnant thing, such as slaughtering, hating, oppressing, and so forth.
  • What humanists think — a quote from some “enlightened” atheist showing how far we’ve come from the barbaric days of the Bible and Koran.

Note that religious people just “believe” something, whereas humanists/atheists “think.”

I am not a Muslim, obviously, so I’ll leave it to Muslims to defend themselves against the humanists.

There is a good, well-thought-out answer—yes, we Christians know how to think—for each of the accusations that the humanist ad campaign levels against Christianity. Consider the following ad:

This one is rather silly. Does any Christian really think that Jesus, in this passage, was telling us to hate anyone? Jesus was clearly using hyperbole, as we are told over and over to love one another, and even to love our enemies. Jesus wants our love for him to be so great that all other loves—including our love for ourselves—pales in comparison.

I’ll take Katharine Hepburn’s word for it, that she believes (that must have been a typo on the humanists’ part) that we should be kind to one another. I have to wonder, however, whether that belief comes from the Anglo-Saxon side of her cultural heritage, or from the Christian side.

Here’s another:

The Bible paints things as they really are. The people of Samaria (the northern ten tribes of Israel) had adopted a religious system (Baal worship) that included ritual prostitution (probably involuntary for many of the prostitutes), human sacrifice, mutilation, and incest. The humanists seem to think that God was being rather harsh in sending judgment on all of this, but most of us can discern that something is horribly wrong in a religious system that encourages ritual sacrifice of children.

Albert Einstein may have been guilty of exactly what he said he opposed. He could not imagine a God who punishes, saying this is “but a reflection of human frailty.” I suppose he would have an easier time imagining a God who didn’t punish sin, but then wouldn’t he just be projecting his own personal or cultural biases on that deity?

It wouldn’t be fair for me to pick out the easiest ads (and I think the first two I mentioned were incredibly easy to answer), so I’ll go for what I think is the most difficult:

I’ll start with the atheist/humanist solution that is proposed, and then get to a Christian response.

First, I applaud those who work towards peace, whether they be humanist, Buddhist, Hindu, Moslem, or Christian. I am not opposed to international efforts to prevent genocide.

Having said this, I wouldn’t trust atheists (whether they call themselves “atheists” or “humanists”) to run an international organization that would “adjudicate and enforce measures to punish acts of genocide.” The atheist track record in the past century is one of massive genocide (Stalin, Mao, etc.), and it would be easy for them (or any other group) to start favoring one side over the other in a conflict. Human nature has embedded within it characteristics such as greed, fear, and aggression, and too much power in the hands of one group always ends up in disaster. Christianity recognizes this. Most humanists, on the other hand, put too much trust in the ever-elusive perfectibility of the human species.

Genocide is most certainly wrong. I believe that the atheists/humanists ultimately have no absolute reason for saying it is wrong, but I take them at their word that they really do believe (there’s that word again) it is wrong.

Genocide certainly goes against all of the ethical teachings in the New Testament, and most of the ethical teachings of the Old Testament. But what about instances in the Old Testament where God told his people to fight wars, and to wipe out every man, woman, and child? This is a legitimate issue to raise, as mass extermination of humans—the holocaust, and the genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda, and Bosnia—is a great evil.  From a Christian perspective, it is good to keep the following in mind:

  1. God is the maker and ruler of all. He has the absolute right of ownership over all peoples. If he judges an individual or a whole tribe ahead of time, he is within his rights to do so.
  2. The Canaanites were exceedingly wicked: human sacrifice and so forth. God could have judged them by sending a plague or famine, but in this case he used an army.
  3. All are sinners and deserving of God’s judgment. This goes for everyone from Adolf Hitler to Mother Theresa. The judgment on the Canaanites is therefore a brief picture of what we all deserve.
  4. The commands given in the Old Testament for military campaigns were extremely limited in their scope. These commands were for the conquest of Canaan, and never applied elsewhere.
  5. God is just. The same severe penalty given to the Canaanites (destruction) was later mandated for Israelites who followed false Gods (see what I wrote about the judgment on the Israelites in Samaria up above).
  6. Grace was shown to repentant Canaanites, such as Rahab and her family.
  7. We now advance the Kingdom of God through acts of love and proclamation of Christ.

This is an answer that I find satisfactory. Genocide is evil, and there is nothing in the Bible to justify it or even to suggest that it is an acceptable action for us to engage in.

If you are a Christian, do not be duped by the “logic” and “reason” of the atheists in their ad campaign. Their arguments are not as reasonable and logical as they make them out to be.

If you are a humanist/atheist, I urge you to consider Christianity as a better explanation for the world and human nature, and as a source, through Christ, of hope for the future. I am not asking you to throw out reason or logic, but to find in Christ both the ground and the fulfillment of all true reason and logic.

Grace and Peace

November 16, 2010 Posted by | Apologetics, Christianity | | 33 Comments

John Chrysostom on creation

“There is nothing that has been created without some reason, even if human nature is incapable of knowing precisely the reason for them all.” — St. John Chrysostom (ca. 354-407), Homilies on Genesis

November 16, 2010 Posted by | Creation in the Bible, Nature | Leave a comment

John Piper and the age of the Earth — part 2

The Bible does not teach that the Earth is only 6000 years old.

It isn’t just me and others who have a science background who are saying this.

It isn’t just theological liberals who deny the inspiration and authority of the Bible who are saying this.

A number of Bible believing Christian scholars and pastors are saying this. Like John Piper, the popular Baptist pastor and author.

I’ve written about Piper’s views on the age of the Earth before. What I had read at that time led me to write

“I am not saying that John Piper accepts either an old Earth or evolution,  just that he doesn’t consider the age of the Earth or evolution (apparently) to be issues in terms of Christian orthodoxy.”

I was wrong. Piper clearly states that he accepts an old age for the Earth, and that this is completely compatible with Genesis 1. Read what Piper has to say:

“When it comes to the more controversial issues, such as how to construe Genesis 1 and 2, about how God did it, and how long it took him to do it, there I’m totally sympathetic with a pastor who is gonna lay his view down, having studied it, and is gonna say to his people, “Here’s my understanding of those chapters, these six days, there can’t be any other understanding of 6 literal days, and so that’s how long God took to do it, and this earth is about ten or fifteen thousand years old, or this universe is. And though it looks old, that’s the way God made it, He made it to look old, or something like that.”  Or, he might take another view that these days are “ages.”  Or he might take Sailhammer’s view, which is where I feel at home, namely, that all of creation happened to prepare the land for man in verse 1. (In the) beginning, he made the heavens and the earth, that’s everything, and then you go day by day and He’s preparing the land. He’s not bringing new things into existence, He’s preparing the land and causing new things to grow, separating out water and earth, and then when it’s all set and prepared, He creates and puts man there.  And so that has the advantage of saying that the earth is billions of years old, if it wants to be, and whatever science says it is, it is.” (Video transcription from Sola Sisters: Dr. John Piper Okay With “Old Earth?”)

Watch for yourself (YouTube: John Piper – What should we teach about creation?):

Grace and Peace

November 16, 2010 Posted by | Age of the Earth, Apologetics, Creation in the Bible, Old-Earth creationism, Origins, Young-Earth creationism | , | 3 Comments

Man

“Whatever else is true of man, man is not what he was meant to be.” — G.K. Chesterton.

November 10, 2010 Posted by | Apologetics, Christianity, Creation in the Bible | | Leave a comment

Last night: Missouri Association for Creation — How Scriptural is Old-Earth Creationism?

I attended the monthly meeting of the Missouri Association for Creation last night, and promised here on The GeoChristian that I would report on it.

John Chaikowsky (a friend of mine) spoke on the topic “How Scriptural is Old-Earth Creationism?” Falling in line with Answers in Genesis, John cannot fathom how a Bible-believing Christian (such as myself) can see anything other than a recent creation of the Earth and universe in six consecutive 24-hour days, probably about 6000 years ago.

John gave an excellent presentation. He was articulate, organized, and fair. He discussed some the various approaches Christian scholars since the late eighteenth century have taken in reconciling the Bible with an old Earth, and he did so without distortion. He briefly covered the gap, day-age, progressive creationist, framework, and creation myth viewpoints.

I didn’t think the “creation myth” hypothesis belonged with the rest, as it is not a position that is held by theologically conservative Christians. All of the other positions, however, have solid Christian scholars who support them. John gave a long list of old-Earth creationists, including names such as B.B. Warfield, Charles Spurgeon, Charles Hodge, Francis Schaeffer, J.I. Packer, and C.S. Lewis. He didn’t really address the primary issue raised by this list: many Evangelical scholars over the past 200 years have opted for understandings of Scripture that are compatible with an ancient universe. They have done so because they looked closely at the text of Genesis and decided that 4004 BC simply isn’t there. John, of course, would say that these faithful men have caved in to the world on this issue.

John spent most of his time critiquing the day-age position, which posits that the days of creation in Genesis 1 represent long ages, perhaps with some overlap. The most popular advocate of this position is Hugh Ross of Reasons to Believe. I think John made some valid points, but not enough for me to rule out the day-age view as a possibility. There are some real strengths of the day-age view, such as the correlation between the “days” of Genesis 1 and Earth history as we presently understand it. I also recognize some weaknesses of the day-age view, and they aren’t necessarily the ones that John emphasized. For example, what happens if our understanding of early Earth history changes? A key part of Hugh Ross’s argument is that the original atmosphere of Earth was opaque, which correlates to light on Day One, followed by the appearance of the sun and moon on Day Four when the atmosphere cleared. I would prefer an interpretation that doesn’t depend so closely on scientific reconstructions. (This is a critique of young-Earth creationism as well, as it is heavily dependent on attempted scientific reconstructions).

John stated that most Hebrew scholars say that the clear intention of the author of Genesis was to present a young Earth. I would say that there are two groups of Hebrew scholars who say this: those aligned with the young-Earth creationism movement, and secular, non-believing Hebrew scholars. A third group, consisting of a good number of conservative Evangelical Old Testament scholars, don’t see it this way. It is not that they are desperately seeking to find a way to prop up the Bible in light of science. The peer pressure on these scholars doesn’t come from science or the world, but from theologically conservative Christianity, and yet they hold to various old-Earth interpretations.

One critique I had for John when I talked to him later was that he left out one of the prominent old-Earth positions, and that is the analogical days interpretation. In this interpretation, the six days of creation are analogous to, but not necessarily identical to, the solar days that we experience. These are God’s work days, and some things are the same as what we experience—sequence, passage of time, work—but other things are only analogous. For example, God rests between each period of creative activity (evening and morning) and at the end on day seven. God’s rest, however, is not like our rest. We rest because we are tired. God rests because he is done. Analogy is not identity.

Obviously, there is a lot more to the analogical day interpretation than my bare-bones description. One of the chief advocates of this is Dr. C. John Collins at Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis. There are a number of things I like about this understanding of Genesis 1, but I’ll save that for another post. Most of John Chaikowsky’s critiques of old-Earth creationism would not apply to the analogical days interpretation.

The final topic John covered last night was the extent of Noah’s flood. Young-Earthers, of course, hold that Noah’s flood was a global catastrophe that is responsible for most of the geological features of Earth’s crust. John examined my recent post, The YEC “Did God really say…?” tactic, where I laid out part of the Biblical argument for a local, rather than global, flood. He asked, “If the flood were local, in Mesopotamia, why would there be a need for an ark? Why such a large ark? Why put birds on the ark? What would hold all the water in the basin for such a long time?”

There are answers to these questions, but I think John didn’t address the real issue here. My main point is that one can make a thoroughly Biblical case for a local flood. The Biblical case for a localized flood event is based on proper translation and looking at what the text actually says. Perhaps this was never done for much of Church history because there was no outside pressure to take a closer look at the text. With the rise of geology in the 1700s and 1800s, the Church for the first time had to think a little harder about what the Bible actually does and does not say. This parallels the geocentrism controversy of the 1500s and 1600s, where science forced a closer examination of Scripture. Very few these days would say that the Bible teaches that Earth is at the center of the universe.

Once we see that a local flood is possible by good Biblical hermeneutics (interpretation), then we can start asking questions about the size of the ark, what animals were on it, and where and when this flood occurred. When John asked his questions about the local flood, I was thinking, “These are tiny problems compared to the mountains of difficulties with young-Earth creationist attempts to force Earth history into a few thousand years.”

I’ll continue to stand my ground: The Bible says what God wants it to say. Young-Earth creationism is neither Biblically necessary nor scientifically workable.

Grace and Peace

P.S. There wasn’t any time for Q&A afterward.

November 9, 2010 Posted by | Age of the Earth, Apologetics, Christianity, Creation in the Bible, Geology, Old-Earth creationism, Origins, Young-Earth creationism | , , , , | 25 Comments

The line in outer space

Today’s Astronomy Picture of the Day: An Extremely Thin Galaxy:

Credit: ESA, Hubble, NASA

Grace and Peace

November 9, 2010 Posted by | Astronomy | , , | Leave a comment

Missouri Association for Creation — How Scriptural is Old-Earth Creationism?

I’ve been invited to attend the monthly meeting of the Missouri Association for Creation tonight. The topic is “How Scriptural is Old-Earth Creationism?” Here’s the description:

How Scriptural is Old-Earth Creationism? by John Chaikowsky

It is surprising how many people and colleges consider themselves Bible believing evangelicals and yet doubt the historicity of the very foundation book of the Bible. This presentation will look at the logic and exegesis of the mainly Progressive Creationist’s beliefs and compare them with Scripture. It will also take a look at the creation week and the Noachian Flood.

Other topics that are part of the discussion: How long were the creation days, was there death before sin, did the consequences of Adam’s transgression have any effect on the animals, was Noah’s flood local or universal, does nature trump scripture and ultimately, why does the earth look old or does it??

John is a friend of mine, and I’m looking forward to the evening. Chances are I won’t hear anything I haven’t heard before, but perhaps I’ll be surprised. There will be a Q&A time, and I’m sure I’ll have a question or two.

John has read my recent blog posts, so he has a good idea where I am coming from. I’ll give a report.

Grace and Peace

November 8, 2010 Posted by | Age of the Earth, Apologetics, Creation in the Bible, Old-Earth creationism, Young-Earth creationism | | 1 Comment

The moral cost of cheaper chicken

Francis Schaeffer, in Pollution and the Death of Man, wrote that “we should treat each thing with integrity because it is the way God has made it” (chapter 4, p. 54). He went on to write about trees:

“The tree in the field is to be treated with respect. It is not to be romanticized… When you drive the axe into the tree when you need firewood, you are not cutting down a person; you are cutting down a tree. But while we should not romanticize the tree, we must realize God made it and it deserves respect because He made it as a tree.”

So how do we treat a chicken with respect? Or a pig? Eat them, but also treat them in a way consistent with how God has made them.

Leslie Leyland Fields writes about The Grim Realities of Factory Farms in Christianity Today:

Factory farms, also known as CAFOs (confined animal feeding operations), contain half of the nation’s meat, egg, and dairy animal populations, operating on a scale inconceivable to previous generations of farmers. Sanderson Farms, the fourth largest chicken producer in the United States, annually processes 397 million chickens. Circle Four Farms in Utah annually raises more than 1 million hogs for slaughter. CAFOs are characterized by the following conditions:

Confinement: Animals are strictly confined to prevent any unwanted, energy-wasting movement. Chickens are kept in “battery cages” so small (50 square inches) that they cannot turn around or open their wings. Calves raised for veal are kept in “veal crates” that prevent turning around during their 16- to 18-week lives. During pregnancy, hogs are kept in “gestation crates” typically 2 feet wide. Just before birth, they are moved to “farrowing crates” that are equally small.

She continues with a description of drugs, unfit feed, and disease in these massive meat factories.

The motive behind having chickens spend their entire lives in a cage no larger than your dinner plate is simple: cheaper chicken. However, “cheaper chicken” is not a very strong moral argument.

Treating each part of creation with the respect it deserves, on the other hand, ought to be compelling to us as believers.

My personal moral decision on this has been to purchase cage free eggs and chickens when I can. I haven’t done anything about pork yet.

Grace and Peace

November 7, 2010 Posted by | Apologetics, Environment, Ethics, Nature | , , , | 10 Comments

The ESV Study Bible on creation — Introduction and Introduction to Genesis

The following item was originally posted on The GeoChristian in October 2009, and I have added it to my blog recycling program. Because I have new readers of The GeoChristian, I will occasionally go back and re-use some of my favorite blog entries. 

I am re-using this post about the ESV Study Bible for a couple reasons. The first is because the ESV Study Bible is a theologically conservative Evangelical work, yet it presents a wide range of interpretations of the opening chapters of Genesis. The authors of the study notes, though firmly committed to the inspiration of the Scriptures, believe that it is not necessary to hold to the “literal” young-Earth interpretation of Genesis.

My other reason for using this post over again is because I feel that I didn’t really follow through on my original intentions. I had planned a multiple-part series on the doctrine of creation as presented in the ESV Study Bible, but ended after only two posts. I plan on extending this series in the upcoming months.

ESVStudyBibleThe ESV Study Bible (ESV is the English Standard Version translation) is a masterpiece of conservative Evangelical scholarship. The scholars who put this volume together are highly-qualified Bible experts who have a high respect for the Bible as the Word of God.

For those of you not familiar with the concept of a study Bible, this contains more than just the text of the Bible. It contains many thousands of cross-references and explanatory notes, plus drawings, maps, articles, and an extensive concordance (index). The ESV Study Bible is a massive work, with over 2,000,000 words on 2750 pages.

INTRODUCTION

The Introduction to the ESV Study Bible makes it very clear that the authors of the various articles and study notes share a commitment to the Bible as the inerrant Word of God. The Introduction was written by Lane Dennis of Crossway Books and Bibles, and Wayne Grudem of Phoenix Seminary. Here are some quotes from the introduction:

The first kind [of words in the ESV Study Bible] is the actual words of the Bible, which are the very words of God to us. (p. 9)

The notes are written from the perspective of confidence in the complete truthfulness of the Bible. (pp. 10-11)

Because of this commitment to the truthfulness of the Bible, many would think that the ESV Study Bible would give a strong endorsement of the “literal” six-day interpretation of the young-Earth creationists, with a roughly 6000-year old Earth and a global flood that deposited most sedimentary rocks. The authors of the notes, however, take a cautious and broad approach to questions of the age of the Earth and the extent and work of the flood.

There are two groups of people who insist that Genesis teaches a young Earth. The first of these is the young-Earth creationists, led by organizations such as Answers in Genesis and the Institute for Creation Research. They are convinced that the Bible requires a young Earth, and distort science to make it fit their interpretation. The other group is the atheists and skeptics. It is in their interest to say that the Bible requires a young Earth, as it makes it easier for them to not believe. For the most part, neither group is willing to consider Biblical scholarship that would upset their preconceptions.

INTRODUCTION TO GENESIS — Genesis and Science — Overview of interpretations

The ESV Study Bible‘s Introduction to Genesis (which is different than the Introduction I have quoted from already) was written by T. Desmond Alexander of Union Theological Seminary in Belfast. It has a section called “Genesis and Science,” which begins with an overview of the various positions that are held by theologically-conservative Biblical scholars.

The relation of Genesis to science is primarily a question of how one reads the accounts of creation and fall (chs. 1–3) and of the flood (chs. 6–9). What kind of “days” does Genesis 1 describe? How long ago is this supposed to have happened? Were all species created as they are now? Were Adam and Eve real people? Are all people descended from them? How much of the earth did Noah’s flood cover? How much impact did it have on geological formations?

Faithful interpreters have offered arguments for taking the creation week of Genesis 1 as a regular week with ordinary days (the “calendar day” reading); or as a sequence of geological ages (the “day-age” reading); or as God’s “workdays,” analogous to a human workweek (the “analogical days” view); or as a literary device to portray the creation week as if it were a workweek, but without concern for temporal sequence (the “literary framework” view). Some have suggested that Genesis 1:2, “the earth was without form and void,” describes a condition that resulted from Satan’s primeval rebellion, which preceded the creation week (the “gap theory”). There have been other readings as well, but these five are the most common.

None of these views requires denying that Genesis 1 is historical, so long as the discussion in the section on Genesis and History is kept in mind. Each of these readings can be squared with other biblical passages that reflect on creation. (pp. 43-44)

Note that only one of the five primary alternatives—the “calendar day” reading— requires a young Earth. The others each have room—or require—an Earth that is older than 6000 years. I personally make no commitment to a specific view, except to say that I rule out the calendar day interpretation based on external evidence (keeping in mind that all truth is God’s truth).

Note also that the Introduction to Genesis indicates that even Exodus 20:11 does not require a literal, seven consecutive day interpretation:

The most important of these [passages] is Exodus 20:11, “in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day”: since this passage echoes Genesis 1:1–2:3, the word “day” here need mean only what it means in Genesis 1. Therefore, it does not require an ordinary-day interpretation, nor does it preclude an ordinary-day interpretation. (p. 44)

INTRODUCTION TO GENESIS — Genesis and Science — Is Genesis 1 a scientific account?

Genesis gives a true account of the origin of the universe, but one should be extremely cautious when attempting to correlate the words of Genesis to specific scientific concepts. Genesis 1 wasn’t written to tell us about the degree to which populations can vary (reproduction “according to their kinds” doesn’t place any kind of limit on variation), Genesis 2 wasn’t written to tell us that it never ever rained before the flood, and Genesis 3 wasn’t written to tell us how snakes lost their limbs.

Should Genesis 1 be called a “scientific account”? Again, it is crucial to have a careful definition. Does Genesis 1 record a true account of the origin of the material universe? To that question, the answer must be yes. On the other hand, does Genesis 1 provide information in a way that corresponds to the purposes of modern science? To this question the answer is no. Consider some of the challenges. For example, the term “kind” does not correspond to the notion of “species”; it simply means “category,” and could refer to a species, or a family, or an even more general taxonomic group. Indeed, the plants are put into two general categories, small seed-bearing plants and larger woody plants. The land animals are classified as domesticable stock animals (“livestock”); small things such as mice, lizards, and spiders (“creeping things”); and larger game and predatory animals (“beasts of the earth”). Indeed, no species, other than man, gets its proper Hebrew name. Not even the sun and moon get their ordinary Hebrew names (1:16). The text says nothing about the process by which “the earth brought forth vegetation” (1:12), or by which the various kinds of animals appeared—although the fact that it was in response to God’s command indicates that it was not due to any natural powers inherent in the material universe itself. (p. 44)

INTRODUCTION TO GENESIS — Genesis and Science — The purpose of Genesis

The primary purpose of Genesis 1 seems to be to identify God as the Creator of everything who is completely separate from the creation, and to contrast him to the gods who appear in the creation accounts of the nations the Hebrews had contact with.

This account is well cast for its main purpose, which was to enable a community of nomadic shepherds in the Sinai desert to celebrate the boundless creative goodness of the Creator; it does not say why, e.g., a spider is different from a snake, nor does it comment on what genetic relationship there might be between various creatures. At the same time, when the passage is received according to its purpose, it shapes a worldview in which science is at home (probably the only worldview that really makes science possible). This is a concept of a world that a good and wise God made, perfectly suited for humans to enjoy and to rule. The things in the world have natures that people can know, at least in part. Human senses and intelligence are the right tools for discerning and saying true things about the world. (The effects of sin, of course, can interfere with this process.) (p. 44)

The doctrine of creation is much richer than merely addressing questions of how and when God created the universe, life, and human beings.

INTRODUCTION TO GENESIS — Genesis and Science — Adam and Eve

I often state my position as “I believe in a real creation of the universe by the Triune God of the Bible, in a real Adam in a real garden, committing a real sin with real consequences, and in Jesus Christ as God’s only solution to those consequences.”

It is clear that Adam and Eve are presented as real people. Their role in the story, as the channel by which sin came into the world, implies that they are seen as the headwaters of the human race. The image of God distinguishes them from all the animals, and is a special bestowal of God (i.e., not a purely “natural” development). It is no wonder that all human beings share capacities for language, moral judgment, rationality, and appreciation for beauty, unlike and beyond the powers observed in the animals; any science that ignores this fact does not faithfully describe reality. The biblical worldview leads one to expect as well that all humans now share a need for God and a bent toward sin, as well as a possibility for faith in the true God. (p. 44)

Young Earthers often say that to accept an old Earth undermines the foundations of the gospel, but it is clear that one can accept an old Earth, a real Adam, a real Fall, and therefore a real need for a Savior.

INTRODUCTION TO GENESIS — Genesis and Science — The flood

Young Earth creationists insist that the Bible requires a global, catastrophic flood. Many conservative scholars, including the editors and contributors to the ESV Study Bible, have looked closely at the text and determined that this is not necessary.

One must take similar care in reading the flood story. The notes will discuss the extent to which Moses intended to describe the flood’s coverage of the globe. Certainly the description of the flood implies that it was widespread and catastrophic, but there are difficulties in making confident claims that the account is geared to answering the question of just how widespread. Thus, it would be incautious to attribute to the flood all the geological formations observed today—the strata, the fossils, the deformations, and so on. Geologists agree that catastrophic events, such as volcanic eruptions and large-scale floods, have had great impact on the landscape; it is questionable, though, whether these events can in fact achieve all that might be claimed for them. Again, such matters do not come within the author’s own scope, which is to stress the interest that God has in all mankind. (p. 44)

Conclusion

Could the introductions and notes in the ESV Study Bible be wrong on these things? Yes. Could the young-Earth creationists be wrong in their interpretation of these things? Also yes. But it is clear that there are a number of conservative, Bible-believing scholars who either advocate or are willing to accept an old Earth and local flood. Based on external evidence, as well as Biblical exegesis, I choose to side with the old-Earth Biblical scholars.

Grace and Peace

November 6, 2010 Posted by | Age of the Earth, Apologetics, Blog Recycling, Christianity, Creation in the Bible, Geology, Old-Earth creationism, Origin of Life, Origins, Theistic evolution, Young-Earth creationism | , , , | 3 Comments

Self-refuting arguments

A self-refuting argument is one which must be false if it is true.

The excellent blog Tough Questions Answered has a list of self-refuting arguments: Are You Refuting Yourself?

“No English sentence is longer than three words.”

“There are no truths.”

“I do not exist.” The problem here is that a person must exist to make the statement that they do not exist.

“Anyone who is biased should not be trusted.” Isn’t the person who is making this statement biased himself?

“Only science gives us true knowledge.” How do you know that statement is true?  It isn’t a statement of science.

“All truth is relative.” Is that truth relative?

“There are no absolutes.” Is that statement absolutely true?

“It’s true for you, but not for me.” Is that statement only true for you or is it true for everyone?

“You should be skeptical of everything.” Should we be skeptical of that statement?

“You can’t know anything about God.” Do you know that God is unknowable?

“You ought not judge.” Isn’t that a judgment?

“You should be tolerant.” Aren’t you being intolerant of me?

Some of these are commonly used by atheists/agnostics/skeptics (e.g. “Only science gives us true knowledge”) but I see them more commonly coming out of postmodernism. Of course, one can have a postmodern atheist, and that person can pick and choose which self-refuting arguments to use.

This doesn’t seem to be a logical mistake that Christian apologists make all that often.

Grace and Peace

November 6, 2010 Posted by | Apologetics | | 2 Comments

The GeoChristian on Ken Ham’s blog

Ken Ham, president of Answers in Genesis, blogged about our point of agreement today: Do Old Earthers and Young Earthers Agree on Anything?

Ham wrote:

Recently, a blogger commented on my recent blog post about a religion professor at Butler University and his testimony of how he became a “born-again Christian.”  Frankly, I saw little evidence in this professor’s testimony that he in any way understands what a “born-again Christian” really means from a biblical perspective. At the same time, without knowing the professor, I want to be careful about commenting on what his walk with God might actually be.

The blogger—who commented positively on what I wrote—believes in an old earth and thus is not an AiG supporter. The blogger stated the following:

[long quote from my blog].

Yes, old earthers and young earthers can agree in regard to the message of salvation, as this blogger and I do.

I decided to comment on this blog post for two reasons:

  1. I appreciate reading an old earther quoting me in regard to salvation, understanding that I do not say, and have never said, that a person has to believe in a young earth to be a Christian. Salvation is conditioned upon faith in Christ—not what one believes about the age of the earth.  I have stated this clearly many times over the years. But sadly, I still read those who falsely claim we at AiG tie salvation to the age of the earth, which brings me to my second point.
  2. We do not tie salvation to the age of the earth, but we do tie biblical authority to the age of the earth. Although this old earther I quoted above does not agree with us (well—not yet anyway :) ), nonetheless I stand by our insistence that to add millions of years into Scripture is to apply a hermeneutic whereby one is taking the fallible results of man’s fallible dating methods to reinterpret the clear reading of God’s Word (e.g., reinterpreting the days of creation, adding a a gap of time, or presenting the many other similar positions).

Yes, at Answers in Genesis, we are an evangelistic ministry. We proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ.  However, we recognize that the gospel message comes from the Word of God, and if the Word is compromised, it can lead to (and has lead to) doubt that turns into unbelief. The results of such undermining of God’s Word are set out clearly in our book, Already Gone, which I urge you all to read. You can find out more about Already Gone and why so many young people are leaving the church from the AiG website online bookstore.

I have a strong desire that the unity we have in Christ will be stronger than our differences over secondary matters, however important those secondary matters might be to us. I really do believe that AiG is wrong in its interpretation of Scripture and its forcing of that interpretation on Earth history. I try to be careful in how I write about these matters on this blog, knowing that these are my dear brothers and sisters in Christ. I will be bold and blunt at times, but I hope to always do so in love.

And, sorry Ken, but I’m not on the verge of becoming a young-Earth creationist. Yes, I am fallible, and science is fallible. Our understanding of the Scriptures is also subject to human fallibility. As it says in the first chapter of the Westminster Confession of Faith:

All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all: yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed for salvation are so clearly propounded, and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them. [link]

The gospel is crystal clear in the Bible. Things like the age of the Earth, the extent and work of the flood, and limits on biological change, are not quite so easy to sort out.

Grace and Peace

November 3, 2010 Posted by | Age of the Earth, Apologetics, Creation in the Bible, Origins, Young-Earth creationism | , , | 60 Comments

Martyrdom

From Yahoo News/Associated Press: Baghdad church siege ends with 52 dead.

Within Christianity, a martyr is someone who is killed because they are a Christian. These believers were peacefully gathered together for worship. Al-Qaida in Iraq has threatened to “exterminate Iraqi Christians.”

Within Islam, a person who is killed because they are a Muslim would also be considered a martyr. But so is anyone who is involved in the violent struggle to extend Islam–against Israel, against the West, against the Hindus.

Jesus was a man of peace. He did not advocate the violent overthrow of the evil Roman empire, but urged his followers to pay their taxes to Caesar, and to love their enemies. For the next three centuries, Christianity spread from India to Spain by love and proclamation, not by force.

Mohammad was a man of violence—he led battles and raiding parties against his enemies or just for loot—and for the next few hundred years Islam spread from India to Spain by sword and spear.

I know that there have been wars and violence done in the name of Christ, and that there are millions of peaceful Muslims, but…

If a Christian kills in the name of Christ, it is a violation of the character and message of Christ.

If a Moslem kills in Jihad, it is consistent with the character and message of Muhammad.

The cosmological argument will get you to God. Why is there something rather than nothing? But how does one get from there to Christianity? If choosing between Christianity and Islam, look at Jesus and Muhammad.

Grace and Peace

November 1, 2010 Posted by | Apologetics, Christianity | , | 4 Comments

Ken Ham and I are in complete agreement

I believe the Earth is about 4.6 billion years old, and that the Bible doesn’t say much one way or the other about biological evolution. I believe that young-Earth creationism is neither necessary Biblically nor valid scientifically.

Ken Ham is president of Answers in Genesis, and believes the Bible requires an approximately 6000-year old Earth and that most fossils were deposited during Noah’s flood. He believes that to accept an old Earth is a compromise of Biblical truth.

But we are in agreement on something that is far more important than the age of the Earth or the extent of Noah’s flood, and that is the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Ken Ham had a blog post yesterday (A Warning to the Contemporary Church) where he responded to a Christian critic whose testimony of how he came to be “born again” was rather ambiguous. Ham writes:

To me this kind of testimony is a warning to the contemporary church, as it appears to me this testimony involves some sort of experience or feelings. He is trying to come to God through experience, but what is missing? Not one verse of Scripture was quoted—not one.  What also was missing were any mention of words like these: sin, repentance, salvation,  faith, Jesus—the Son of God, grace, and belief.

There is no mention of Jesus—no doctrine of humanity (that man is fallen), and no doctrine of the Son (we can only come to God the Father through the Son).

…that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved  (Romans 10:9)

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.  (Romans 6:23)

For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.  (Romans 5:17)

“He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”  (John 3:36)

“You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.”  (John 5:39-40)

But Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” (John 6:68)

For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus. (1 Timothy 2:5)

So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. (Romans 10:17)

The gospel isn’t “God gave me peace when I listened to a song.” It is not a warm, fuzzy feeling.

The gospel is the good news that Christ died on the cross for our sins and that those who trust in Christ have a new relationship with God and will have eternal life in and with him for all eternity.

I don’t know where this critic, a professor of New Testament Language and Literature at a liberal arts college, stands before God; only God knows. I would expect a New Testament professor who professes to be a Christian to be able to give a clear statement of faith, and he didn’t. Ken Ham, on the other hand, gave a clear outline of the gospel.

Amen brother Ken Ham. Preach Christ and Christ alone as the way to God.

Grace and Peace

November 1, 2010 Posted by | Apologetics, Christianity, Origins, Young-Earth creationism | , , | 25 Comments