The GeoChristian

The Earth. Christianity. They go together.

Rush is wrong — Analyzing Limbaugh’s statement on God and global warming

On August 12, 2013, Rush Limbaugh made the following statement on his radio program:

“If you believe in God, then intellectually you cannot believe in manmade global warming.”

This, of course, is utter nonsense. Unfortunately, millions of American political conservatives and Evangelicals believe Rush is right on just about everything, but Limbaugh is clearly wrong this time. The error of his statement is not in whether or not climate change is occurring, nor in whether or not observed changes are due to human activities, but in making a false connection between belief in God and whether or not human activities can affect the climate.

To start with, there is no connection between “believing in God”—or even more specifically being a Christian—and having a certain position on a scientific issue such as climate change. The Bible does say that the creation groans because of human sin (Romans 8:22), so we should expect there to be environmental consequences for our actions, but the Bible does not say what those consequences will be. Ascertaining the ramifications of our actions is part of the human task of understanding the creation, expressed in our age through science. Limbaugh’s statement is the theological equivalent of saying, “If you believe in God, then intellectually you cannot believe in genetics” (or chemical bonding theory, or plate tectonics, or general relativity, etc.).

Second, there are sincere and intelligent believers on both sides of this issue—scientists, Bible scholars, and laypersons. All of these have intellectual reasons—biblical and scientific—for holding their positions.

And finally and most importantly, the theological basis of Limbaugh’s statement is flawed. When I’ve heard this sort of statement before, it has been based on the premise that God has built sufficient robustness into his creation to offset or minimize the damage caused by humans. An illustration of this from climate science is the concept of a negative feedback. A good example of negative feedback is how the atmosphere responds to a global temperature increase. If the temperature of Earth were to increase, evaporation of water from oceans and other bodies of water would also increase, which would lead to greater global cloud cover, which would increase the albedo (reflectivity) of Earth’s atmosphere in regards to visible light, which would result in more solar energy being reflected back into space, which would result in a lowering of global temperatures which would offset the initial warming.  This is all good and true, but it isn’t easy to measure or predict the degree to which the increased albedo would offset the initial increase in temperature. But that is a scientific issue, not something to be decided by unsubstantiated theological pronouncements.

If we apply the same sort of reasoning to the human body—another part of God’s creation—the error becomes obvious. The human body uses negative feedbacks as well. If someone smokes a cigarette, the body responds in ways to offset the introduction of foreign material. If a person smokes just one cigarette in their lifetime, the chances that there will be long-term negative consequences, such as emphysema or lung cancer, are negligible. If a person smokes a pack of cigarettes a day over a period of decades, the odds become virtually certain that there will be negative health consequences. This is despite the fact that most of the air that enters a heavy smoker’s lungs in the course of those decades is the ordinary nitrogen-oxygen-argon mix of the atmosphere.

The Genesis creation account states that the Earth God made was good, and that he intended its occupants—human and non-human—to flourish. Once sin entered the picture, human management of the creation could still maintain (or even enhance) that flourishing to some degree, but now the possibility also exists that we can cause serious damage to the creation. It is clear that our activities can all too easily lead in the direction of harming the creation—its water, land, air, and organisms—rather than healing it. The “global warming couldn’t happen” position ignores the reality and disastrous consequences of human sin, and leads many to bury their heads in the sand in the face of potential environmental consequences of that sin.

When Christians enter into the climate change debate (or any other environmental or natural resources discussion) with an attitude of “humans can’t mess up the Earth all that much,” it is inevitable that they will come to conclusions like “global warming, if it is happening, couldn’t be caused by humans.” This is analogous to atheists starting with the assumption that there is no God, and then coming to a “scientific” conclusion that God is not necessary for the origin of the universe.

My short response to Rush Limbaugh’s statement would be:

“If you believe in God, then intellectually you cannot believe that human activities have no environmental consequences.”

One who accepts Limbaugh’s philosophy towards the environment will automatically conclude that the idea of human-caused global warming is wrong at best and an evil Satanic hoax at worst. Scientific evidence will be deemed “good” if it supports their side, and “bad” if it does not. But there is no Biblical support for having this “it simply cannot happen” approach to the scientific question of climate change.

On the other hand, if one adopts what I consider to be a more biblically accurate approach—acknowledging that we do not know the limits to the consequences of our actions—then they can follow the evidence where it leads. Most scientists who are actually involved in climate change research, including Christian scientists, are presently convinced that the evidence points towards a significant human impact on Earth’s climate. That is not the end of the matter, but objectively, that is where things stand right now.

Grace and Peace

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The Christian Post has printed at least three guest columns which discuss Rush Limbaugh’s statement. The first and third of these are critical of Limbaugh; the second is in agreement. Here are some excerpts:

1. Climate Change: Evangelical Scientists Say Limbaugh Wrong, Faith and Science Complement One Another — by Katharine Hayhoe and Thomas Ackerman, Evangelicals, and meteorology/climatology professors at Texas Tech and the University of Washington.

Rush Limbaugh doesn’t think we exist. In other words that evangelical scientists cannot subscribe to the evidence of global warming.

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Talk radio personalities often make hyperbolic statements. It is what their listeners expect and want to hear. But in this instance, Rush’s uninformed rhetoric is demeaning to Christians who care deeply about what humans are doing to God’s Creation and ignorant of the consequences that future generations will face if we don’t respond quickly to the challenge of climate change.

We are both atmospheric scientists who study climate change, having earned advanced degrees in our respective fields and having devoted our lives to increasing knowledge through scientific research. We know climate change is real, that most of it is human-caused, and that it is a threat to future generations that must be addressed by the global community. We are also evangelical Christians who believe that God created the world in which we live.

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We were appalled at the ignorance behind Rush Limbaugh’s statement but we weren’t surprised. One of us had previously been dismissed by him as a “climate babe.”

This isn’t meant to invoke pity, but rather to highlight the absurdity of our public debate around faith and climate change. Rush Limbaugh has a very big megaphone but no expertise or formal credentials to be considered an expert on the changes in climate occurring all around us. He has no theological training or record of leadership within a faith community. He’s simply a radio show host willing to say controversial things, regardless of whether they are true or not.

2. God, Rush, and Global Warming — by Calvin Beisner, founder and national spokesman of The Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation

Ironically, these climate scientists-Katharine Hayhoe and Thomas Ackerman-acknowledged at the outset, “Talk radio personalities often make hyperbolic statements ….” Why is that ironic? Because, having acknowledged that, they then took Limbaugh literally-precisely what one must not do with hyperbole-and castigated him for meaning something they acknowledge he didn’t.

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So, what was Limbaugh’s point when he said, “If you believe in God, then intellectually you cannot believe in manmade warming”? Not that no theist can believe that human emissions of greenhouse gases can contribute positively to earth’s temperature. Rather, that it is difficult to reconcile belief in the infinitely wise, infinitely powerful, and infinitely faithful God of the Bible with belief that a minuscule change in atmospheric chemistry-raising CO2 from 27 thousandths of 1 percent to 54 thousandths of 1 percent of the atmosphere-is likely to cause catastrophic harm to human and other ecosystems. It’s that latter belief that’s encompassed by the shorthand “global warming.”

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Now I ask you, does an infinitely wise designer plan something to be so fragile that a proportionately tiny stress will cause it to collapse? Does a good architect, for instance, design a building so that if you lean against a wall, the rest of the building reacts by magnifying the stress of your weight until the building collapses?

But that’s what’s assumed in the theory of catastrophic, anthropogenic (manmade) global warming (CAGW): that a proportionately tiny stress can cause catastrophic consequences. The theory is that CO2’s rising from 27 thousandths of 1 percent to 54 thousandths of 1 percent of the atmosphere-which itself is a relatively tiny part of the entire climate system, which includes the oceans, land masses, all living things, and even energy from the sun and cosmic rays from stars in distant galaxies-will raise earth’s temperature so much as to threaten catastrophic harm to human and other life.

Such a result would come only from a design that made positive feedbacks vastly outweigh negative feedbacks. In other words, it would make the rest of the climate system magnify rather than offset the warming effect of CO2. Yet natural systems are dominated by negative rather than positive feedbacks-otherwise they’d all have collapsed long ago.

So God’s wisdom in designing earth’s climate system is hard to reconcile with belief in CAGW [Catastrophic Anthropogenic Global Warming].

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So, does belief in God make belief in CAGW utterly impossible? No. But it’s very difficult to reconcile the two beliefs.

3. Are Climate Skeptics Ignoring God’s Design? — by David Jenkins, president of ConservAmerica Education Fund (ConservAmerica used to be called Republicans for Environmental Protection).

Beisner writes “The Bible teaches that earth and all its subsystems – including the climate system – are the product of a God who is an infinitely wise Designer.” Nothing to quibble with there, but he then concludes – as Limbaugh has – that an infinitely wise designer would not create something so fragile that mankind can mess it up.

That view is at odds with both Biblical scripture and physical evidence.

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Just as God has charged us with the responsibility to care for His creation, he has also granted us the ability to harm it. Man has demonstrated the capacity to level mountains, foul the air and water, drive animal species to extinction, develop weapons capable of mass destruction, acidify rain and damage the earth’s ozone layer.

While nature is resilient over time, it is also intricate and fragile. The smallest bacteria or virus can kill the largest person or animal. A minute amount of airborne mercury can travel up the food chain and ultimately harm an unborn child.

Another climate-related viewpoint Beisner and others have expressed is that fossil fuels, such as coal and oil, are gifts that God wants us to dig up and use without limitation.

One must be careful when ascribing intent to God, especially when the claim appears to run counter to His design.

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Does it not then stand to reason that God, after designing the earth’s processes to sequester excess carbon, might prefer that we respect His design and look for other ways to heat our homes and power our cars?

Beisner and Limbaugh, in peddling the notion that God designed the earth and its atmosphere to be immune from mankind’s actions, are also implying that we can do anything we want to it without serious consequence.

Does that sound like something God would say?

Actually, it sounds a lot more like something the snake in the Garden of Eden would say.

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Notes:

I was alerted to Rush Limbaugh’s statement by Climate Conservative: Are Climate Skeptics Ignoring God’s Design?

October 24, 2013 Posted by | Christianity, Climate Change, Creation Care, Environment, Ethics | , , | 7 Comments

Around the web 10/16/2013 — the latest Jesus conspiracy theory and YEC attacks on old-Earth Christians

AN INVENTED JESUS? — The media has started giving publicity to the latest Jesus conspiracy theory: Story of Jesus Christ was ‘fabricated to pacify the poor’, claims controversial Biblical scholar: Christianity was a sophisticated government propaganda exercise used to pacify the subjects of a the Roman Empire, claims scholar.

So, the Romans invented a story in which Roman soldiers crucified the peaceful leader of a new religion to make themselves more palpable to their subjects? I don’t think so.

Parchment and Pen has an introductory analysis: Ancient Confession Found: ‘We Invented Jesus Christ’ (Hint: no “ancient confession” has been found).

Also see Never Read a Press Release Headline at Stand to Reason Blog.

FROM THE “OLD-EARTHERS ARE IN LEAGUE WITH THE DEVIL” CLUB — Here’s an excerpt from a loving note from the head of the Creation Science Hall of Fame:

Dear Creationists & Friends,

Hugh Ross must be stopped! He has caused many good Christians to stumble. I have witnessed good Christian Churches argue over the interpretations of Genesis more than any other topic. I have now witnessed good Christian Churches that have broken up directly as a result of Hugh Ross teaching a mixture of evolution and Christianity.

The Bible teaches us to judge other Christians by their fruits. Hugh Ross has no fruits, but he has caused many Christians to stumble in their faith. He is causing so much harm among Christians all over the world and he must be stopped. Evil is using him in a great way.

Etc…

It seems that to the folks at the Creation Science Hall of Fame, the age of the Earth is more important than the gospel, Christian unity, truth, or love.

HT: Old Earth Ministries: Creation Science Hall of Shame

WHO’S FAULT IS IT? — Another YEC who blasts old-Earthers, of course, is Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis. Here’s what Mr. Ham recently wrote about Daniel Hamlin, a member of a Nazarene church, who had written a testimony about how evidence for biological evolution had caused him to have a crisis of faith:

Well, Hamlin shares that when he began reading about evolutionary ideas, he came to the conclusion that “Christianity is a lie and I’ve been duped.” He believed he had been “deceived” by Christian leaders, and he writes that he “chose science and for a time questioned the existence of God.” Wow! Those kinds of statements really demonstrate the way evolutionary ideas can undermine the authority of the Word of God and the gospel. Hamlin’s automatic conclusion was that Christianity had to be false if evolution and millions of years were true—these things are mutually exclusive!

So here’s what happened:

  1. Christian hears “If the Earth is old, then Christianity is false” (or if evolution is true, then Christianity is false).
  2. Christian learns that there is plenty of evidence for an old Earth, or for biological evolution.
  3. Christian concludes that Christianity might be false.

So who’s fault is it? I would say these crises of faith are due primarily to the bad science and false dichotomies presented by the YECs.

Read Hamlin’s story: Evolution and Faith: My Journey Thus Far.

October 16, 2013 Posted by | Age of the Earth, Around the Web, Evolution, Young-Earth creationism | 5 Comments

Days, nights, Jonah, and Jesus

I recently had a GeoChristian reader raise the issue of “Bible inconsistencies and errors” in a comment. Specifically, they brought up the reference in the Gospel of Matthew to “Jesus being in the tomb for ‘three’ nights.” If Jesus was crucified on Friday and resurrected on Sunday, isn’t it an error to say that he was in the tomb for three nights?

My 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 accounts of the calling of the disciples in Matthew and John. This caused a brief crisis in my faith, but quickly led to a strengthening of my confidence in the accuracy and reliability of the Scriptures. I am now at a point where, though I cannot give an explanation for every difficult passage in the Bible, I have had enough answers that I no longer struggle just because I don’t understand something.

Let’s take a look at the “contradiction” in question this time. In Matthew 12:39-41, Jesus stated,

“An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.” (ESV)

Was Jesus literally in the tomb for “three days and three nights?” The answer seems to be “no.” Christians traditionally hold that Christ was crucified on a Friday afternoon (Good Friday) and rose from the dead early on Sunday (Easter). There was part of one day (Friday afternoon), a night (what we would call Friday night), a full day (Saturday), and part of a night (what we would call Saturday night). Then Jesus rose from the dead. There was only one full day and almost two full nights. It doesn’t matter whether one counts days using the Jewish or Roman systems; it doesn’t add up to a literal “three days and three nights.”

So is this an error in the Bible?

The first part of my answer has to do with the competence of the writer of the first Gospel, traditionally (and justifiably) regarded as the apostle Matthew. Basically, one can only read this passage as a contradiction by assuming that Matthew was somewhat of an idiot. Either he was a competent writer who could follow the relationships between what he wrote in chapter 12, and what he recorded later about Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection (Matthew 26-28); or he was a sloppy writer who couldn’t keep his story straight. Given the quality of the writing in Matthew, one should assume that if there were a contradiction, the author would have caught it. If Matthew and the early Christian writers didn’t see a problem, we should not either.

The second part of my answer has to do with differences in culture and language. Knowing that Matthew was a competent story-teller, one can look for better solutions, rather than concluding that his Gospel contains an error. One scenario that has been suggested is that Jesus was not crucified on Friday, but perhaps on Wednesday. This would account for three full days, but then there would be four nights, so it doesn’t really work. Plus, it doesn’t explain how Friday came to be regarded as “Good.”

A more reasonable answer is that “three days and three nights” was a figure of speech that meant “three days, counting the first and last.” Good Friday was the first of these three days, then came Saturday, and Easter Sunday the third. It is a very plausible solution to the “problem.” We don’t have any first century Aramaic-English phrasebooks laying around, but there is external evidence that the Jews of that time used the phrase “three days and three nights” in this way, so I am quite satisfied with this solution.

If this is correct, it is an example of where we cannot read our culture into someone else’s culture. A modern example of this is how to answer the question, “How old are you?” My answer to the question would be, “I am 52.” But in some eastern Asian countries, a person born on the exact same day as me would truthfully answer, “I am 53.” Why? Because they count the day a person is born as their first birthday, whereas in Western societies we consider a person’s first birthday to be one year after they were born. Different cultures have different ways of counting things. We should not find it surprising that two thousand years ago the Jews used the phrase “three days and three nights” differently than we do.

There are plenty of skeptics who will tell you that the Bible is full of errors and contradictions. For most of these it can fairly easily be shown—as in this case—that it is the skeptics who are in error, not the Scriptures. Even those “contradictions” that are more of a challenge should not cause us to disregard the Bible as God’s Word, as the difficulties are likely due more to our ignorance than anything else.

Grace and Peace

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Notes:

The ESV Study Bible notes for Matthew 12:40 state,

“Three days and three nights in Jewish reckoning is inclusive, meaning no more than three days or the combination of any part of three separate days. Jesus was raise “in three days” although he was buried Friday afternoon and resurrected Sunday morning (i.e., part of Friday is day one, all of Saturday is day two, and part of Sunday is day three).”

John MacArthur writes,

“The matter of three days and three night is often used either to prove Jesus was mistaken about the time He would actually spend in the tomb or that He could not have been crucified on Friday afternoon and raised early on Sunday, the first day of the week. But as in modern usage, the phrase “day and night” can mean not only a full 24-hour day but any representative part of a day. To spend a day, or a day and night, visiting in a neighboring city does not require spending 24 hours there. It could refer to arriving in the late morning and leaving a few hours after dark. In the same way, Jesus’ use of three days and three nights does not have to be interpreted as 72 hours, three full 24-hour days. The Jewish Talmud held that “any part of a day is as the whole.” Jesus was simply using a common, well-understood generalization.” — The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Matthew 8-15, p. 329.

October 16, 2013 Posted by | Apologetics, Christianity | , , , | 4 Comments

Who created God? An answer from John Lennox

One argument for the existence of God involves the impossibility of an actual infinite past. We cannot trace a pattern of cause and effect back into an eternal past. One difficulty is that we could never have arrived at the present point of time. What created the universe? The big bang. What caused the big bang? A quantum fluctuation in the multiverse (one possible scenario). What caused that multiverse to exist? Some previous multiverse. What caused that previous or broader multiverse to exist? And so on forever.

There are many problems with this naturalistic picture of an infinitely old cosmos. The Christian solution (as well as that of other theists such as Jews and Muslims) is to say that the universe is not eternal; that it was created by something other than the universe, and that is God. But then someone will ask, “Who created God?” This is actually a rather silly question, though some of those who ask the question have taken to calling themselves “Brights.” As Christian apologist William Lane Craig once replied to the “Who created God?” question: “That’s really a meaningless question. It’s like wracking your brain wondering, ‘What is the cause of the First Uncaused Cause?'”

John Lennox, professor of Mathematics at Oxford, gives his answer to this question in his excellent book, God’s Undertaker: Has Science Buried God? Lennox writes:

There is another objection to the existence of God that is related to the preceding one [about God needing to be more complex than the universe]. Much attention has been drawn to it by the fact that Richard Dawkins has made it a central issue in his best-selling book The God Delusion. It is the age-old schoolboy teaser: If we say that God created the universe we shall have to ask who created God and so on, so that, according to Dawkins, the only way out of an impossible infinite regress is to deny that God exists.

Is this really the best that the Brights can do? I can hear an Irish friend saying: ‘Well, it proves one thing — if they had a better argument they would use it.’ If that is thought to be a rather strong reaction, just think of the question: Who made God? The very asking of it shows that the questioner has a created God in mind. It is then scarcely surprising that one calls one’s book The God Delusion. For that is precisely what a created god is, a delusion, virtually by definition — as Xenophanes pointed out centuries before Dawkins. A more informative title might have been: The Created-God Delusion. The book could then have been reduced to a pamphlet — but sales might just have suffered.

Now Dawkins candidly tells us that he does not like people telling him that they also do not believe in the God in which he does not believe. But we cannot afford to base our arguments on his dislikes. For, whether he likes it or not, he openly invites the charge. After all, it is he who is arguing that God is a delusion. In order to weigh his argument we need first of all to know what he means by God. And his main argument is focussed on a created God. Well, several billion of us would share his disbelief in such a god. He needn’t have bothered. Most of us have long since been convinced of what he is trying to tell us. Certainly, no Christian would ever dream of suggesting that God was created. Nor, indeed, would Jews or Muslims. His argument, by his own admission, has nothing to say about an eternal God. It is entirely beside the point. Dawkins should shelve it on the shelf marked ‘Celestial Teapots’ where it belongs.

For the God who created and upholds the universe was not created — he is eternal. He was not ‘made’ and therefore subject to the laws that science discovered; it was he who made the universe with its laws. Indeed, that fact constitutes the fundamental distinction between God and the universe. The universe came to be, God did not.

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Notes:

The William Lane Craig quote is from Reasonable Faith, 3rd edition, p. 193.

The long quote from Lennox is from the 2009 edition of God’s Undertaker, pp. 182-183.

October 10, 2013 Posted by | Apologetics, Atheism, Christianity | , , | 2 Comments

Analyzing an atheist ad campaign

The following item was originally posted in November 2010, 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.

Yesterday, I wrote about a new advertising campaign from Answers in Genesis. In this present entry, I’ll take a look again at an advertising campaign sponsored by the American Humanist Association. I have done a little editing to improve the article.

The American Humanist Association is launching an ad campaign [in 2010], urging us all to “Consider Humanism.” I can summarize the logic of their ad campaign with one word: Nonsense!

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 from the surrounding nations—including worship of Baal and Molech— 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.” But then isn’t the God whom he could imagine one modeled after Einstein’s own thoughts in some way?

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, Muslim, 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 quite simply wrong. I can say that as a Christian who believes in objective morality. I believe that the atheists/humanists ultimately have no absolute reason for saying it is wrong—right and wrong are at best social constructions to them—but I take them at their word that they really do believe for some reason that genocide 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 before the final judgement, 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 all sinners 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 not given as a general command for how Israel should interact with its neighbors.
  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, including morality and ethics. This ad campaign by the American Humanist Association was downright silly, and demonstrated that their rejection of Christianity has an irrational side to it.  Christianity, in contrast to atheism, offers a solid foundation for both reason and morality.

Grace and Peace

October 8, 2013 Posted by | Apologetics, Atheism, Blog Recycling, Christianity, Ethics | | Leave a comment

Thankful to God that the atheists are wrong

Answers in Genesis has some new billboards that I actually like, highlighted on today’s Around the World With Ken Ham blog. Here’s one of them:

aig_billboard

As I recently reminded one reader here on The GeoChristian, I am on the same side as the young-Earth creationists. We may differ on a secondary issue—the age of the Earth—but my goal is the same as theirs: to point people to Jesus Christ, the creator of the universe; the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

I have many reasons to be thankful that the atheists are wrong. Here are a few:

  • I can actually know the God of the universe through knowing his son Jesus Christ as revealed by God in the Scriptures.
  • I can read about mass murderers, human traffickers, drug dealers, and child abusers, and objectively say “these things are evil.” Atheists also view these things as evil, but don’t have a strong foundation for doing so.
  • There is such a thing as a Final Judgement. In the end, all wrongs will be dealt with, and every teardrop will be wiped away from the eyes of God’s people.
  • Good works matter. It really does matter if I give a cup of cold water to the thirsty, or sponsor a child in Africa.
  • Matter matters. God created the universe and proclaimed it to be good. It really does matter what we do with the physical world. It is not just stuff be used for our own purposes, but it all belongs to God.
  • Beauty matters. Art, music, drama, and other expressions of human creativity are not just evolutionary anomalies, but point to God who created humans in his image.
  • The future of God’s people is bright and full of promise. To an atheist, the ultimate future of humanity as a whole is death.
  • Human beings have inherent value and dignity, because they are created in the image of God.
  • Humans also have purpose. Purpose does not have to be constructed or invented, as in Sartre’s depressing work Being and Nothingness. That purpose is to love God and love people.
  • My individuality matters. I am not just a cog in the wheel, but make a unique contribution to my part of the world.
  • For those in Christ, the end of this life is not the end, but the beginning of real life.
  • That new life—which we have a taste of now—will be free of all the hurt and ugliness that mar this world.
  • In the resurrection, we won’t be floating around in “heaven” with harps (that is not a Biblical picture of “eternal life”), but we will be walking around in resurrected bodies on a renewed Earth. That is going to be awesome.
  • For believers, death is only a temporary separation. I am going to see my Dad again!
  • There will be no more pain or sickness.

Grace and Peace

 

October 7, 2013 Posted by | Atheism, Young-Earth creationism | , , | 12 Comments

Around the web 10/4/2013 — Super-duper fast volcanoes, dashing dinos, pornography, powerful forgiveness, and more

KEN HAM, PROFESSING CHRISTIAN? — To Answers in Genesis president Ken Ham, any Christian who disagrees with young-Earth creationism is a compromiser who undermines the authority of the Bible. In a recent blog post—Never-ending List of Christians Who Compromise—Ham wrote about a Christian biology professor who is an advocate for theistic evolution, referring to him as “Dr. Jeffrey Schloss, a professing Christian.” I know from previous experience that many young-Earth creationists would blow their tops if I started referring to YEC leaders such as Ham as “professing Christians.” But for some reason Ken Ham gets off the hook.

GIANT VOLCANOES BUILT SUPER-DUPER FAST — Tas Walker’s BiblicalGeology blog has an article on a recently described Large Igneous Province (LIP) in the northwestern Pacific Ocean, known as the Tamu Massif. Walker’s article is The Tamu Massif, the largest single volcano on earth, erupted during Noah’s Flood. One problem with Walker’s proposal is that LIPs tend to be complex features that defy explanation in terms of the single-emplacement models that are required in the very short time frame of the YECs.  This ties into one of the basic problems with YEC flood geology: too many events, too little time. Near the end of the article, Walker writes, “If these scientists who are so puzzled would read their Bibles and take what they read seriously it would all make sense.” I take my Bible seriously, and I am confident that it does not say anything about Cretaceous volcanism. Like most YECs, Walker is reading a lot of stuff into both the Bible and Earth history that simply is not there.

RUN DINO RUN — Walker also writes about dinosaur footprints in Alaska: Dinosaurs caught fleeing rising waters of Noah’s Flood along the Yukon River, Alaska. “Footprints like this are classic evidence for the Inundatory stage of Noah’s Flood, in particular the period as the waters were approaching their peak.” So, even though many areas where dinosaur footprints are found are underlain by many hundreds of meters of earlier sedimentary rocks that cover tens or hundreds of thousands of square kilometers, the YECs want us to believe that dinosaurs somehow survived in some refuge and then had the energy to go on long walks more than half way through the flood? Fortunately, the Bible does not require me to believe such stuff. I’ve written about dinosaur footprints before: Dinosaur footprints part 4.

SEASONED WITH SALT — Speaking of Tas, I have now had some correspondence with Tas and Stef Heerema, author of the article I critiqued earlier this year on salt magmas. They have been very cordial, but haven’t presented anything that will make me revise anything I wrote.

YECS WILL NEED MORE INVERTED REASONING FOR THIS ONE — Naturalis Historia presents an excellent three-part series on inverted valleys in Utah. An example of an inverted valley is when a lava flow fills a river valley, and then because the volcanic rocks are more resistant to erosion than the surrounding sediments, the sinuous lava flow that was once in a valley becomes a ridge. In the third part in the series, there is a list of all the events that would have to happen in a very short period of time if YEC were true. Once again, too many events, too little time. See The Exhumed Paleochannels of Utah and MarsAncient Lava Flows and Inverted Valleys in Utah, and Inverted Valleys – A Question of Age.

HAVING ISSUES WITH ISSUES ETC. — I think Issues Etc. is one of the two best programs on Christian radio (the other being White Horse Inn). When I lived in St. Louis I regularly listened to Pastor Todd Wilken on IE during my afternoon commute home, and I miss that. But… every once in a while Wilken would get on the topic of the age of the Earth, and there is only One True Interpretation of Genesis in the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, and that is young-Earth creationism. J.W. Wartick has written a nice response to Wilken: Responding to “Nine Questions for the Old Earth Creationist”.

THE CONSEQUENCES OF OUR PORNO CULTURE — There is a growing understanding among secular people that pornography is a great threat to our children. As an example, read through the disturbing article by Martin Daubney, former editor of a semi-porn “mens” magazine in Britain: Experiment that convinced me online porn is the most pernicious threat facing children today. Someday I’ll incorporate this into the “sexual argument for the existence of God.”

FORGIVENESS AS A CHRISTIAN WITNESS — I read three powerful stories this week that testify about the power of forgiveness in Christ:

Grace and Peace

October 4, 2013 Posted by | Around the Web | 10 Comments

Many top advocates of Biblical authority accept an old Earth as completely compatible with Scripture

Can one believe in the authority of the Bible and also believe that Earth is on the order of a few billion years old?

Are Christians who accept an old Earth “compromisers” who deny obvious truths of Scripture?

Many young-Earth creationist (YEC) leaders insist that acceptance of an old age for the Earth—billions of years rather about six thousand years—is a direct assault on the authority of the Bible. To them, the Bible clearly teaches about Earth history, and any attempt to find room for “deep time” is conformity to the philosophies of the ungodly world. In the words of Answers in Genesis president Ken Ham:

The old earth is such a key issue today in fighting for the full accuracy and authority of the Bible. AiG does not only present the arguments against evolution. You see, it is just as important to offer arguments against an old age for the earth and universe. When it comes to biblical authority, the question of the age of the earth is just as vital as the question of whether evolution is true or not. The chronologies in the Bible and the length of the days of the Creation Week (they were 24 hours each) show that the earth is young. Why try to reinterpret the very clear teaching of Scripture to accommodate the fallible ideas of man that say the earth is old? Such reinterpretations undermine the authority of the Word of God.

Of course, I view this as nonsense. There have been a great number of prominent Evangelical theologians and Biblical scholars in the past two hundred years who have accepted an ancient Earth. They have done so because they view acceptance of an old Earth as compatible with the Bible. One can certainly make a strong case for Biblical ambiguity on the age of the Earth from the Scriptures alone, without any reference to scientific discoveries.

But you don’t need to take my word for it. The Gospel Coalition Blog recently posted an article by Michael J. Kruger on the Top 10 Books on the Bible’s Authority. The writers at The Gospel Coalition are all theologically conservative, holding to a high view of Biblical authority. As I looked through the list of books and authors, I wondered how many of these ardent defenders of Scripture were old-Earthers. Here are Kruger’s top ten books, with what I could find on the internet about the authors’ viewpoints regarding the age of the Earth:

10. Scripture and Truth, edited by D.A. Carson and John Woodbridge

D.A. Carson, professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, accepts an old Earth as compatible with Scripture. Here are a couple quotes from his book The God Who is There:

“There is more ambiguity in the interpretation of these chapters than some Christians recognize.”

“I hold that the Genesis account is a mixed genre that feels like history and really does give us some historical particulars. At the same time, however, it is full of demonstrable symbolism. Sorting out what is symbolic and what is not is very difficult.”

I could not find anything about John Woodbridge’s position on the age of the Earth.

9. Reformed Dogmatics: Prolegomena, by Herman Bavinck

Bavinck was an influential Dutch Reformed theologian in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. I am having difficulty finding a definitive statement from Bavinck on the age of the Earth. He certainly was not a strict literalist in regards to the six days of creation, and his teachings laid a foundation for both the framework and analogical days interpretations, which both allow for an old Earth. To Bavinck, the Bible did not firmly dictate the age of the Earth, though it could be a stretch to place him in the old-Earth category. But it would also be a stretch to place him firmly in with the YECs.

8. Thy Word is Truth, by E.J. Young

Edward J. Young was professor of Old Testament at Westminster Theological Seminary, and was an advocate of the day-age interpretation of Genesis 1.

7. The Infallible Word: A Symposium by the Members of the Faculty of Westminster Theological Seminary, edited by Ned Stonehouse and Paul Woolley

This book was first published in 1946. I could not find information on how Stonehouse and Woolley interpreted Genesis in terms of the age of the Earth, but the list of contributing authors to this volume appears to include both young-Earthers and old-Earthers.

6. Fundamentalism and the Word of God,  by J.I. Packer

Packer is a professor of theology at Regent College in British Columbia, and one of the most influential Evangelicals in North America. He clearly accepts an old age for the Earth, and appears to see no Biblical problem with acceptance of biological evolution. He wrote a strong endorsement of Denis Alexander’s book Creation or Evolution: Do We Have to Choose?

5. Disputations on Holy Scripture, by William Whitaker

Whitaker lived in the 1500s, so I must assume he was a YEC.

4. The Divine Original: Authority, Self-Evidencing Light, and Power of the Scriptures, by John Owen

Owen was a Puritan theologian in the 1600s, and so also almost certainly was a YEC.

3. The Structure of Biblical Authority, by Meredith Kline

Kline is one of the preeminent proponents of the framework interpretation of Genesis 1, so is clearly an old-Earther.

2. The Doctrine of the Word of God, by John Frame

It was difficult to find much about Frame’s views on the age of the Earth on the internet. One book review (for another book: The Doctrine of God) stated that Frame believes that the six days of creation were not literal, so it seems that Frame is open to an old Earth. [Update — Frame holds more closely to the seven 24-hour day view, but considers other interpretations to be within the realm of orthodoxy. See comment #1]

1. The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible, by B.B. Warfield

Warfield, one of the writers for The Fundamentals collections of essays that launched American fundamentalism a century ago, accepted an old Earth and biological evolution as God’s means of creation. In regards to the age of the Earth. Warfield wrote:

In a word, the Scriptural data leave us wholly without guidance in estimating the time which elapsed between the creation of the world and the deluge and between the deluge and the call of Abraham. So far as the Scripture assertions are concerned, we may suppose any length of time to have intervened between these events which may otherwise appear reasonable. The question of the antiquity of man is accordingly a purely scientific one, in which the theologian as such has no concern.

Summary

Of the authors and editors represented in The Gospel Coalition’s list of ten best books on the authority of Scripture, a majority are either advocates for or open to an old age for the universe.

Old Earth Young Earth I don’t know
D.A. Carson  William Whitaker  John Woodbridge
E.J. Young  John Owen  Herman Bavinck
J.I. Packer  John Frame (see update note below)  Ned Stonehouse
Meredith Kline  Paul Wooley
B.B. Warfield

[Update — I have moved Frame from the old earth column (where I had him listed with a question mark) to the young earth column. Frame doesn’t consider  the age of the earth to be a test of orthodoxy. See comment #1]

Note that the only two clearly young-Earth advocates in the list wrote in the 16th and 17th centuries. It is not that I am dismissing their writings as primitive, but pointing out that they gave no more critical thought to the Biblical teaching about the age of the Earth than they did to the Copernican controversy (Owen defended geocentrism—the idea that the Earth was the center of the universe).

The only way YEC leaders can cling to their my-way-or-the-highway view of Biblical authority is to label all of these Bible-believing old-Earth scholars as “compromisers.”  I think, however, if The Gospel Coalition’s list of “top ten books on Biblical authority” contains a number of books by scholars who believe an old Earth is compatible with Scripture, then it is clear that belief in a young Earth is a secondary issue in regards to acceptance of the truthfulness and authority of the Bible.

This is important for two reasons:

  1. The YEC insistence that old-Earth scholars are compromisers who undermine Biblical authority is divisive. The followers of organizations such as Answers in Genesis are influenced to view old-Earthers as somehow secondary Christians at best, and perhaps not real Christians at all.
  2. The YEC insistence that the only valid way to interpret Genesis is that Earth is only 6,000 years old drives people away from Christianity. Either non-Christians don’t consider Christianity as a reasonable option, or Christians who figure out that YEC doesn’t work scientifically leave the faith. It would be far better for YECs to say, “We believe the Bible teaches a young Earth, but there are other Christians who also believe the Bible who believe it doesn’t require a young Earth.” We should let secondary issues remain as secondary issues.

Grace and Peace
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Notes:

I prefer to say that we can make a biblical case for ambiguity about the age of the Earth rather than a biblical case for an old Earth. As an old-Earth Christian, I don’t have to demonstrate that the Bible requires an old Earth—that would be an impossible task because the Bible does not require an old Earth—but only that it does not require any particular age for the Earth.

The Ken Ham quote is from A Walking Witness and a Whale Story, on his Around the World With Ken Ham blog, August 7, 2013.

The quotes from D.A. Carson’s book The God Who is There are from the Internet Monk blog: D.A. Carson on Genesis 1-2 and Science.

According to the Presbyterian Church of America’s Report of the Creation Study Committee, “Kuyper and Bavinck in the Netherlands did not hold to the Calendar Day view, but are difficult to categorize in our terms.”   I got additional information about Bavinck from Herman Bavinck on Creation on Exiled Preacher blog.

That Young held to the day-age interpretation is also documented in the PCA Report of the Creation Study Committee.

The statement that Frame views the days of Genesis 1 non-literally is from a book review of The Doctrine of God.

I briefly wrote about Warfield a couple years ago: Fundamentalism and creationism. The Warfield quote is from Reasons to Believe’s page Notable Christians Open to an Old-universe, Old-earth Perspective.

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P.S. Michael Kruger had included some “honorable mentions” when he submitted his article to The Gospel Coalition, but they were cut. Here is his extended list of books:

Author Book Old/Young Earth
Herman Ridderbos  Redemptive History and the New Testament Scriptures Old Earth — Framework interpretation (see Mortenson and Ury, eds., Coming to Grips With Genesis, p. 212)
Cornelius van Til  The Doctrine of Scripture Open to old Earth (?) — http://www.reformed.org/creation/ states that van Til “felt that the age of the earth was debatable.”
J.W. Montgomery, ed.  God’s Inerrant Word Open to old Earth (?) — I assumed Montgomery was a YEC, but he seems to be open to an old Earth. He wrote an endorsement for Dembski’s End of Christianity, and his 1970s book The Quest for Noah’s Ark (which I read in about 1976) advocated a local flood. Several of the contributing authors to God’s Inerrant Word are old-Earthers.
Carl F.H. Henry  God, Revelation, and Authority Old Earth — “The Bible does not require belief in six literal 24-hour creation days on the basis of Genesis 1-2.” (page 6226, from https://www.ministrymagazine.org/archive/2004/09/is-the-genesis-creation-account-literal.html)
R.L. Harris  Inspiration and Canonicity of the Bible Old Earth — Listed as an old-Earther in Mortenson and Ury, Coming to Grips With Genesis, p. 332.
J.W. Wenham Christ and the Bible Old Earth (?) — On page 13 of Christ and the Bible, Wenham states that “The references to the ordinance of monogamy ‘from the beginning of creation’, for instance, do not seem to necessitate a literal interpretation of chapters 1 and 2 of Genesis for their validity.”
N. Geisler, ed. Inerrancy  Old Earth
Greg Beale The Erosion of Inerrancy in Evangelicalism  Old Earth — See summaries of what Beale has to say about Genesis at Greg Beale On Biblical Cosmology, Part 1 and Part 2.
Paul Wells Taking the Bible at Its Word  I don’t know.

See Kruger’s extended list at Top Ten Books on the Authority of Scripture (and Honorable Mentions).

The “honorable mentions” list adds six names to the “old Earth” list, two names to the “open to old Earth (?)” list, one name to the “I don’t know” list, and zero names to the “young Earth” list.

I would have been very happy with 50% of Kruger’s authors being old-Earthers. But as far as I could determine, not a single one of his favorite authors on the topic of Biblical authority after the 17th century is a firm advocate of the “literal” young-Earth interpretation!

YECs will argue that Kruger might have left out some important YEC contributions, such as Coming to Grips with Genesis (subtitled “Biblical authority and the age of the Earth”), edited by Mortenson and Ury. But even if he had added some YEC works, it is crystal clear that there are a number of prominent Evangelical scholars who hold firmly to the authority of the Bible, and yet accept that the Bible does not require a 6,000-year old planet.

October 3, 2013 Posted by | Age of the Earth, Creation in the Bible, Old-Earth creationism, Origins, Young-Earth creationism | , , | 6 Comments