The GeoChristian

The Earth. Christianity. They go together.

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 »

  1. Creation and the flood
    What is wrong with the idea that the authors of Genesis, wrote from their limited understanding? There is nothing in Genesis indicating God dictated this creation account. Dose it really lesson the awesome message that God created it all in an ordered, deliberate fashion and chose to share it all with us?

    The great flood in the book of Genius, is by some, dismissed as pure allegory. Jesus is quoted in Matthew 24 “37As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 38For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; 39and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 40Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. 41Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.”

    Other important claims in the flood story besides its scope are the rainbow, what was the firmament? Why do life spans begin to shorten in the aftermath of the flood?

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    Comment by Ormonde Butler | November 10, 2010

  2. Hi Kevin,

    I’m sure you won’t be surprised that I think there are strong textual arguments for a global flood from Gen. 6-9. The account is replete with universal language, and some features of the story make little sense if the flood was geographically local (e.g. the need for an ark, provision for birds on the ark, promises that the flood will not be repeated). However, I think that there are even weightier theological arguments that are often overlooked, even by those who accept that the flood was global.

    Consider, for instance, God’s gracious post-flood covenant recorded in Gen. 9. The covenant is made with Noah and his descendants (9:9) and with ‘every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth’ (9:16). I hope we can agree that these post-flood promises are universal in scope – but how can they be unless the flood also was global? Consider too the gospel promise that Abraham would be a blessing to ‘all families of the earth’ (Gen. 12:3). In context, the ‘families’ are those who have come from Babel, a city populated by descendants of the eight people on the ark. Is it possible to separate the universality of this promise from the universality of the flood?

    May I recommend that you take a look at my colleague Steve Lloyd’s chapter in ‘Debating Darwin’ (Paternoster, 2009, ISBN 978-1-84227-619-8), in which he explores these ideas (and others) in greater depth? He also has some interesting things to say on the question of animal suffering and death, but perhaps this is enough for one post!

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    Comment by Paul Garner | November 10, 2010

  3. Ormonde Butler said, “What is wrong with the idea that the authors of Genesis, wrote from their limited understanding? There is nothing in Genesis indicating God dictated this creation account.”

    The main objection to this is that the Bible does claim (elsewhere, e.g. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 *) that it is the inspired word of God. That is, we take it to mean, it contains knowledge revealed by God that the human authors couldn’t know by their own human capabilities.

    * http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2%20Timothy%203:16-17&version=TNIV

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    Comment by Craig McQueen | November 10, 2010

  4. Craig, well, that’s one definition of inspired. There are aspects of that supernatural knowledge contained in “inspiration”, but that’s not what inspiration is generally held to be by Protestant, Evangelical, Catholic, or Orthodox.

    There are groups within some parts of Evangelical Christianity that emphasize the verbal plenary view to the point of a “dictation” view being achieved, but even within Evangelical groups that is a very minority view.

    There are some places where the Bible might contains information that the authors could not know otherwise, but this is the rare exception if it happened at all.

    The most common example put forward is the Creation account in Genesis 1 and 2, but one can’t then use that example to prove that Genesis is supernatural revelation dictated by God to the author. There are a couple other individual instances where some people say God caused the author to write something he couldn’t have known about, but those are very rare, and they’re very shaky at best.

    And, if you’re going to use 2 Tim 3:16, one needs to be careful not to read extra stuff into it – the inspiration is claimed to be “useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness”. Nowhere is it claimed to be a perfect account of historical happenings or perfect accounts of scientific facts.

    “useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness”

    Anything beyond that right there is something we have to put together based on our own logic and understanding of the Bible, so claiming that “inspired” is equal to “God having people write things down that they couldn’t know” is far beyond what the Bible directly states.

    Maybe you can pull together a bunch of verses which when put together generate that conclusion, but basing that definition of “inspired” on 2 Tim 3:16 is … well, not exactly good Biblical exegesis.

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    Comment by WebMonk | November 10, 2010

  5. Hi Paul,

    Good to hear from you on the other side of the pond. I have a question that occurred to me as I was reading Genesis 8 again recently – I don’t know why I didn’t think of it before. My scripture interpretation might be flawed, so I’m open to correction.

    Anyway, at the point in time recorded in Genesis 8:5, “…the tops of the mountains became visible.” Later, in Genesis 8: 8-9, we read: “Then he (Noah) sent out a dove from him, to see if the water was abated from the face of the earth (eretz); but the dove found no resting place for the sole of her foot, so she returned to him into the ark, for the water was on the surface of all the earth (eretz)…” If Noah could see the mountain tops at the point in time recorded in verse 5, why would he later send out a dove to see if water had abated from the face of the eretz (v. 8) and how could water still be over the surface of all the eretz (v. 9), if eretz = spherical earth? That would seem to be a scriptural indication that the Flood was local rather than a global.

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    Comment by Tim Helble | November 10, 2010

  6. Paul (#2):

    You bring up some good points, and I am not sure that I can give a satisfactory answer to all of them (yet!).

    Both the global flood and local flood interpretations of Genesis 6-9 have difficulties of the “but how would this have worked?” variety. For local flood advocates, those unanswered questions include those you bring up, such as, “Why build an ark if they could just walk?” and “Why put birds in the ark if they could just fly to safety?” I could give plausible answers to these questions, such as “The ark symbolizes that it is God who saves, while walking to the hills would only demonstrate that man saves himself.” Perhaps that is the answer to that question, but I don’t know for sure.

    As I said, global flood advocates face difficulties as well, such as “How did the fossils come to be arranged in the Cambrian to Quaternary order that we consistently find them in?” and “How did freshwater fish survive the flood?”

    Both local flood and global flood advocates face a list of such questions, and some of these questions don’t have easy answers. But those difficulties in themselves do not negate the possibility of either view.

    As you states, there are several portions of the flood account that use “universal” language. Young-Earth creationists may be over-literal in their insistence that this means water covering the entire sphere of the Earth. It could also mean universal from Noah’s perspective, or universal in terms of humanity. There are certainly a number of place in the Old Testament (and in the New) where “all the Earth” does not mean “all the Earth.” An example is in Genesis 41:57, where people from “all the Earth” came to Joseph in Egypt to buy grain. Most of us don’t take that to mean that there were (pre-) Zulus, Maori, and Eskimos standing in the queue.

    I agree that the post-flood promises are universal. But note that the blessing given to and through Abraham in Genesis 12:1-3 applies even to all of us who are not physical descendants of Abraham. The blessing does not require ancestry; our righteousness is imputed. Likewise, God could give a promise to “all living creatures of every kind on the earth” (Gen 9:16 NIV) even if they were not all descended from animals killed in the flood.

    I’m not completely satisfied with all of my answers, but I’m not satisfied with the answers given by the young-Earth creationists either. And I’m not just talking geological answers; I think that the young-Earth Biblical interpretation in a number of instances goes beyond what is required by the text.

    Thanks for your comment.

    With respect,
    Kevin N

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    Comment by geochristian | November 10, 2010

  7. Hi Kevin,

    Thanks for your response. My time today is limited, so I want to focus upon a couple of issues:

    1) You’ve suggested that the universal language of the flood account could mean universal from Noah’s perspective or universal in terms of humanity, appealing to verses like Gen. 41:57 in which ‘all the earth’ is used in a restricted sense. Of course no one denies that such verses exist, but their relevance is overplayed by advocates of a local flood. Such isolated statements in no way compare with the repeated use of universal terms in the flood account. When reading a passage like Gen. 7, one is struck by the number and variety of universal terms that are used (‘all’, ‘every’, ‘only’ etc.). Here’s how Steve Lloyd puts it in the book chapter to which I referred earlier: ‘This is no casual statement that everything was killed or that the earth was flooded. The writer repeats himself, itemises the casualty list in different ways (cf. v. 21 and v. 23), and expresses the same truth in both positive and negative ways (all human beings were killed and only Noah and those in the ark were saved).’ Furthermore, from an old earth perspective it is difficult to see how a historically recent local flood could be anthropologically universal when one takes into account the distribution of human beings known from the fossil record – unless one is prepared to place the flood a very long way back in time or question the human status of certain hominids.

    2) With respect to the post-flood covenant in Gen. 9, the significant point is that it uses the same universal language and the same categories as are used in Gen. 6-8. Steve Lloyd again: ‘If it is argued that the language of the destruction of the flood is not universal, then the same must apply to these post-flood promises, since they are framed in the same terms.’ You are right to say that physical descent from Abraham is not necessary for a person to be a recipient of the gospel promise, but surely physical descent from the first man, Adam, through Noah is? Genesis portrays Noah as the new Adam, commanded to be fruitful, multiply and fill the earth (Gen. 9:1,7) and to have dominion over it (Gen. 9:2). Gen.9:19 and 10:32 emphasise that all the nations of the earth came from Noah and his three sons – in context the very nations to whom the blessing would come through Abraham. I can’t see how you can stop the gospel thread running through these OT passages from unravelling if the flood is local and Noah is the ancestor of only some (not all) of the human race.

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    Comment by Paul Garner | November 11, 2010

  8. I most humbly submit:
    Being human, is, for better or worse, mysterious and God, for his divine purpose, holds back knowledge from us. The bible provides insight about God’s will, it dose not provide all the knowledge. From Psalm 19 The heavens declare the glory of God the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech. Night after night they display knowledge… It is up to us to embrace his will with all our heart, mind and soul. I believe, we need each others help and encouragement to make even some of this “all” possible.
    Science has provided some knowledge ( regarding in this writing, to the flood) that appears to contradict how the bible has been interpreted and in our age where we can control many complex things with some degree of certainty, it is creating, I believe, not just an arrogance but an illusion about our ability to grasp the vast entirety of all reality. When the bible then, dose not appear to us to have all the answers it is tempting to dismiss its message.

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    Comment by Ormonde Butler | November 11, 2010

  9. Hi Tim (#5),

    It’s an interesting point you make. I suppose that Noah sent out the birds because he wasn’t sure to what extent the floodwaters had abated. Perhaps the window that he opened in the ark allowed him only a restricted view and he wanted to be sure that the dry land amounted to more than just a few mountain peaks isolated by stretches of water. At least that’s the picture I get from reading the text.

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    Comment by Paul Garner | November 11, 2010

  10. But that’s not what the text says, Paul. The Ark hit land, and three months later there were bits of land sticking up.

    Another 40 days go by and a raven is released which flies around until the water has dried up from the Earth.

    AFTER that, Noah releases a dove, but apparently the water is back because the dove can’t find any land anywhere to do so much as perch because water was all over the surface of the Earth. (all the water came rushing back???)

    Then 7 days later he sends out a dove and it returns with a freshly plucked olive branch. (which grew in the seven days since the last dove went out when the earth had been covered by water?)

    I know you’ve read it and studied this, and I would be interested in knowing how you can reconcile all that.

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    Comment by WebMonk | November 11, 2010

  11. Hi WebMonk,

    Do you have your own view about how the statements ought to be harmonised or are you suggesting that the biblical text is in error?

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    Comment by Paul Garner | November 11, 2010

  12. Sure, Noah’s flood wasn’t intended to be told as a scientific description – it is telling it as a story, a true story, but a story. It tells the true story, but it doesn’t worry about the scientific details which we stress in modern times.

    It was never intended to provide details about the scientific accounting, and so when we go searching for those details we come up with “errors” because we are putting something into the Bible rather than accepting what the Bible is trying to say.

    Just like has been mentioned before – a lot of times “all” doesn’t refer to the scientific concept of “all”, such as “all the nations” coming to Joseph. Is the Bible in error? No. The Bible isn’t intending to communicate a scientific detail, but rather the story of what happened in a storytelling format. It is only when we try to force something into the text that isn’t intended to be there that we come up with the “error” that “all the nations” didn’t go to Egypt.

    Job is another example – if you think that Job is a word-for-word accurate transcription of what was actually said by them all, then you’ve got some serious interpretation issues.

    Same thing here – the Bible is recording the story of the Flood in a storytelling format which isn’t intended to convey scientific details, so when we look for those sorts of details (the water being all gone from the earth when the raven was flying, and the water being all back when the dove was later sent out) we see “errors”.

    It’s the same sort of “errors” or “nonsense” frequently used to make up the How-Stupid-The-Bible-Is lists on the Internet. One of my favorites was a claim that Jesus was a lunatic because he thought he was a door, and thought he was bread, and thought he was a vine, etc. That’s trying to pull scientific details out of a place where the Bible isn’t trying to convey scientific details.

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    Comment by WebMonk | November 11, 2010

  13. I don’t think the Bible gives a “scientific description” either. I think the flood account in Gen. 6-9 is a true narrative record conveying historical and theological information. It uses the literary forms of the day (e.g. chiastic structure), figures of speech and so on. The chronology of the flood is actually very complex and hard to unravel as a consequence. But you need to explain the repeated emphasis on universal language throughout the account (e.g. multiple uses of “all”, “every”, “only”), features of the account that only really make sense if the flood was worldwide (e.g. provision for birds on the ark), and the universal application of the post-flood promises if only some (not all) of humanity is descended from Noah. Pointing to isolated verses where the word “all” is used in a restricted sense (e.g. Gen. 41:57) won’t do as a response.

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    Comment by Paul Garner | November 12, 2010

  14. So, how do you work the verses I mentioned into your understanding of the Flood? Having all the waters dry up (raven), and then later having them all cover the land (first dove), and then seven days later having them retreated again (second dove) and an olive tree having grown in those 7 days doesn’t sound particularly historically accurate to me.

    Saying the chronology of the flood is “complex and hard to unravel” just talks about the question, not answers. And, perhaps you are seeing something more in there than I am, because there doesn’t seem to be much that is complex about those particular verses if they are giving an accurate historic accounting of the events. The events don’t fit together, that I can see, but there’s nothing complex about them – a straight-forward series of events one right after the other.

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    Comment by WebMonk | November 12, 2010

  15. I think that Webmonk’s approach here is quite sound. We are readint the text in the wrong way – the problem is not with the text, but with our approach to it. I would suggest that our approach is often rediced to a simplistic rationalsitc approach, without adequate understanding of genre, poetry, literature etc. This is partly due to the declining role of great literature, but also to cultural and sociological and ethnological ignorance, as well as chronological snobbery. By the latter I mean that we assume the author had the most simplistic meaning we can attest to, instead of reading the author on his own terms.

    An example: I had a (agnostic/existentialist) colleague who loved Tolkien, but he told me that at first he hated reading The Silmarillion, because it “Sounded too much like the Bible”. In his relative ignorance, he hit much closer to the turth there, I think, namely that Genesis 1-11 is a grand origin Myth (not myth as in nonsense, but mythopoeia, telling essential truths about God as the Origin of All).

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    Comment by The Singular Observer | November 12, 2010

  16. From what I have found on various commentaries on the Internet, they seem to universally ignore the “until the waters were dried up from the earth” part.

    There are several mentions that the raven must have been going out and feeding on the carcasses floating on the water, but they don’t mention that the waters had dried up while it was released (and apparently not returning to Noah).

    No mention at all of why after the raven was flying and after the waters had dried up that the dove went out and couldn’t find anywhere to land because water was covering all the land.

    I got a kick out of one bit of exposition about the olive tree growth – it made a point of how olive trees have to grow in well-drained soil, and offered this as proof that the earth was now habitable. I’m not sure they ever stopped to think of how soil that was entirely covered seven days before could be “well-drained” and then have an olive tree growing to the point of having a leaf all within seven days.

    I can’t possibly be the first person to notice this, and I would dearly love to know how the explanation goes.

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    Comment by WebMonk | November 12, 2010

  17. Hi WebMonk,

    I’m away from home at the moment and don’t have access to my library, but I think you’ll find that English translations obscure some of the complexities of the flood account, for instance the elaborate use of chiastic structure. Having said that, I’m not really sure I understand your difficulty concerning the raven. The text simply says that Noah released a raven which went to and fro until the waters were dried up. It doesn’t say that the waters had actually dried up by the time Noah released the first dove; indeed from 8:9 they clearly had not. I think your problem arises from trying to read the account as a strictly chronological record. Narrative accounts don’t always set things out in a neat chronological order and if that’s what you’re expecting from the text I think you’ll be disappointed. Non-chronological narrative is not unique to Genesis; you’ll find it elsewhere in the Bible including in the Gospels.

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    Comment by Paul Garner | November 13, 2010

  18. If I understand correctly, you’re saying that “Then [Noah] sent out a dove” which follows “[the raven] kept flying back and forth until the water had dried up from the earth,” doesn’t actually indicate that the events followed each other in the order they are written and the order which the grammar places them.

    The words and grammar clearly state that the dove was released after the raven AND after the waters dried up. If you want to say that the “then” only refers to the raven’s release, and not the waters drying up, then you need some sort of support for that, other than it needs to be that way for your view to be tenable.

    But, let’s go past that and look at the even bigger problem. Back in verse 5, the land was starting to show. We will ignore the raven/drying question in verse 7, and go straight to verse 8 which is 40+ days after verse 5. The waters are specifically described as covering all the earth. So, in the 40+ days since land first started to show, the waters rushed back and covered the land again.

    But then, just seven days later (v. 10&11) the dove returns with a freshly-plucked olive leaf.

    In the seven days between when the first dove went out and the waters covered all the earth and when the dove was released the second time, the waters drained away and an olive tree had time to sprout and grow enough to generate at least one leaf. AiG even points out that olive trees need “well drained” soil to grow.

    Seven days certainly is WAY, WAY too little time for the waters to drain away AND for the grownd to become “well drained” AND for an olive tree to grow up and produce a leaf.

    Now, if you want to toss out the chronology of the whole account, feel free, but AiG won’t be very happy with you as they are very adamant that the finest details are accurate even in the chronology. (there are quite a few articles about how the Biblical flood is so much more precise and orderly than the other flood accounts of that area)

    But, we toss out the order of the account except maybe in the large scales. Then we toss out the accuracy of the lengths of time recorded to allow the olive tree to grow between the first dove release and the second. Then we toss out the totality of “all” in verse 9. Then we toss out some of the recorded events because they were inserted/repeated to create the chiastic structure.

    So, we toss out all those things, but then insist that the word for “world/land” has to mean “global”. Insist that “mountain/hill” has to equal “mountain”. That the flood was 300-whatever days long. ………..

    Heck, if you go with http://creationwiki.org/Chiasmus they say that the entire flood was less than 200 days long (40 days is included in the 150 days, and the two mentions of 150 days are actually referring to the same days).

    Shall we say I am “less than impressed” by the patchwork of ad hoc interpretations which willy-nilly assign some things to be historically precise and other things to just be literary structure based only on the need for a particular interpretation to be true.

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    Comment by WebMonk | November 16, 2010

  19. Hi WebMonk,

    I fear that you are mischaracterising my position. Where have I said that I “toss out” the chronology or the accuracy of the recorded account? All I’ve said is that the chronology needs a little more work to understand it than you are suggesting. To deal with specifics, I think your claim that the first dove was released only after the waters had dried up is questionable. Yes, the dove was sent out after the raven, and, yes, the raven went to and fro until the waters were dried up. But does the text actually say that the waters had dried up before the dove was subsequently released? No.

    Nor am I trying to force a particular interpretation of the events surrounding the sending out of the birds because my belief in a worldwide flood depends upon it. In fact, I don’t think the case for the universality of the flood rests at all on the textual nuances that we’re currently discussing. I do think it rests on other biblical and theological arguments: the repeated emphasis in Gen. 6-8 on universal destruction, details that only make sense if the flood was worldwide (e.g. provision for birds on the ark), the universality of the post-flood promises, and the manner in which the flood acts as a climactic turning point in salvation history that parallels the second coming of Christ.

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    Comment by Paul Garner | November 16, 2010

  20. After forty days Noah opened a window he had made in the ark and sent out a raven, and it kept flying back and forth until the water had dried up from the earth. Then he sent out a dove to see if the water had receded from the surface of the ground.
    Genesis 8:6-8

    But does the text actually say that the waters had dried up before the dove was subsequently released? Yes.

    Like I said, the text does say that the dove was released after the waters had (at least to some extent) dried. I’d love to hear your explanation of how you can read that and somehow say that the dove wasn’t released after the land had dried. You’ve only repeated, yet again without any support, that the text doesn’t say the dove was released after the water dried up. I put in the text (something I really hate doing), which clearly states the dove WAS released after the waters dried up. So, where do you have any support for your position?

    There has been no explanation or examination of anything from you so far, nothing, just repeated statements that the story supports your interpretation.

    Look at how Genesis 1 is approached for a contrast to how you are approaching Noah’s Flood. The tiniest details of individual words are mined for the obscurest of hints (think of the many volumes generated by the word “kind”) when it comes to Genesis. (oh, and the vast cosmological theories based on word connotations)

    But, now when it comes to Noah’s Flood, we can’t use that sort of analysis, such as how land is starting to show in 8:5 and the land is all covered in 8:9 and then is all gone again with an olive tree already significantly grown merely seven days later in 8:11.

    Why not? Because the detailed examination doesn’t support the YEC view. For the Flood, it isn’t the details (which are used in Gen 1), it’s the larger picture.

    The interpretative techniques for a YEC view changes, not according to the text of scripture, but according to what will support a YEC view.

    Genesis 1 – extremely poetic and formal in structure, but every word is examined for the smallest scientific detail and the literary structure is brushed aside.

    Genesis 8 – certainly less poetic (though still formal and structured) has the literary genre and structure used to excuse the difficulties such as what I’ve pointed out here which come from the exact same type of examination used in Genesis 1 by AiG.

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    Comment by WebMonk | November 16, 2010

  21. I think you’re reading too much into a particular English translation of what is essentially a parenthetical note in the text.

    The KJV translation of Gen. 8:6-9 may help me to make the point more clearly: “And it came to pass at the end of forty days, that Noah opened the window of the ark which he had made: And he sent forth a raven, which went forth to and fro, until the waters were dried up from off the earth. Also he sent forth a dove from him, to see if the waters were abated from off the face of the ground; But the dove found no rest for the sole of her foot, and she returned unto him into the ark …”

    Now, consider a somewhat analogous set of statements: “On Monday my son went out to work, but didn’t return home until all his jobs were done at the weekend. Also, my daughter went out to work but came home that same evening.” Would you insist here that my daughter could not have gone out until my son had got all his jobs done? I hope not.

    Having said that, I don’t think any of this has any bearing on the universality of the flood, which rests on other biblical and theological arguments altogether.

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    Comment by Paul Garner | November 16, 2010

  22. So you’ve picked out the only translation that allows your view and decide to run with that. Awesome interpretive technique. I’m not sure the discussion of the raven/dove can go further than that.

    What we have in the Flood account are inconsistencies when the standards applied in Genesis 1 by groups like AiG are applied to Genesis 6-9. Land is showing, but 47 days later it’s all covered, but then 7 days after that the land is dry (well drained) and a tree has grown up and has leaves. (just to keep harping on the ones I’ve already brought up) Noah didn’t look out himself, but instead just sent birds while waiting months inside. If you follow the chiastic structure, then several events that were listed as separate events were actually the same event (maybe). The waters may or may not have been rising and falling. The flood may have lasted anywhere from 200 days to nearly 400 days. Noah may or may not have been waiting 40 days (or 7 days) at different points.

    Everything screams out that a story is being told without intent to give scientific facts about events. But, to extract a YEC-supporting interpretation, everything needs to be assumed to give a global and scientific perspective (“all” = global frame of reference, land=whole earth, hill=mountain, etc), EXCEPT where it suddenly isn’t and is instead doing repeats/insertions/adjustments and giving non-chronological accountings.

    The modern YEC interpretation uses whatever standards needed to support the YEC view from the text at hand.

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    Comment by WebMonk | November 17, 2010

  23. Once again, you imply that I’m trying to read the Genesis text as though it is a “scientific” account. I don’t know how to make it plainer, but let me say once again that is NOT how I approach it. I do think it’s an historical account written in Hebraic style and literary form, and that’s why I’ve been arguing that we need to interpret it carefully. If anything, your weird insistence that every statement must be chronological and that nothing can be said in parenthesis suggests that you are wanting to read the account as though it were a “scientific” description. You’ve also ignored the parts of the account that speak more obviously and relevantly to the universality of the flood, apart from pointing to isolated verses elsewhere in the OT where the word “all” is used in a limited sense. I’ve argued that that simply doesn’t begin to address the strong textual and theological arguments for universality. But I agree that we should leave the discussion there; I think we’re unlikely to make further progress at this time.

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    Comment by Paul Garner | November 17, 2010

  24. Not approaching Genesis text as a “scientific” account, huh?

    And the massive volumes of text discussing the intricacies of the word “kind” and their impact on how we should understand genetics?

    The tomes on the precise measurements of the Ark and exactly how many animals and food could fit in there for how long?

    The entire cosmologies extracted out of “spreading the heavens like a tent” from Psalms?

    Variations in gravity based on “gathered” when discussing the movement of water on Day 3?

    Numerous treatises on how the fine details of the ordering of the Creation “makes sense” according to the selected bit of modern scientific discovery?

    The massive sets of claims about entropy and radioactive decay based off the term “good”?

    The list could go on for pages. And you seriously expect people to believe anything you say when you claim that you don’t read the Genesis text as though it’s a scientific account?

    What is done is that parts are read as scientific accounts when they support the YEC view, and the parts that don’t support the YEC view get the style and literary form approach.

    If you take the style and literary approach to the Flood, there is absolutely nothing that requires a global flood. Everything that says “all” would naturally be understood to refer to the storyteller’s perspective. But, that approach gets tossed out when the word “all” gets used and for that word it is understood in the scientific meaning which refers to the entire globe.

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    Comment by WebMonk | November 17, 2010

  25. Hi WebMonk,

    Having said that I’d leave it there, I thought this worth adding. Since both you and I are relying on English translations of the Scriptures, I thought I’d ask a Hebrew scholar about the text and order of events in Gen. 8:6-9. His reply was very instructive. He confirmed that not everything in v.7 needed to have been completed by the time v.8 happened. The Hebrew simply doesn’t require it. He said it perfectly acceptable to read the word ‘Then’ at the beginning of v.8 as relating to a point after ‘the end of forty days’ not to after ‘the waters were dried up from the earth’. In fact, he suggested that this is much more clear in the Hebrew than it is in the English, since both v.7 and v.8 begin with the same Hebrew wayyeshallah ‘and he sent out’.

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    Comment by Paul Garner | November 18, 2010


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