Around the Web 10/23/2014 — Old Earth textbook, No Ham for dinner, inverted smileys

I’ll break out of my semi-monastic lifestyle for a few moments to pass on some good GeoChristian kinds of links…

Old-Earth Classical Christian Middle School Earth Science TextbookNovare Science and Math, a relatively new Christian curriculum publisher, has announced that they will publish an old-Earth middle school Earth science textbook in time for the 2015-2016 school year. Does anyone want to guess who is writing that much-needed textbook?

Ken Ham Rejects Entering Into “Gracious Dialog” With Old-Earthers — Ken Ham, president of Answers in Genesis and the world’s foremost promoter of young-Earth creationism, has turned down a dinner invitation from the president of BioLogos, the world’s foremost promoter of evolutionary creation (i.e., theistic evolution).

Part 1 — The invitationKen Ham, We Need a Better Conversation (Perhaps Over Dinner?) — BioLogos president Deborah Haarsma, concerned about the level of acrimony among Christians over the topics of evolution and the age of the Earth, invited Ken Ham to have dinner with herself and Reasons to Believe head Hugh Ross:

“All three organizations are also concerned about the departure of young people from the church over origins issues. Each tends to think that the positions of the others are contributing to the problem! But studies have shown that it is the acrimony over this issue that drives young people away. We respect the commitment that Reasons to Believe has demonstrated to gracious dialogue with those of other positions. We completely agree with Hugh Ross that “If we Christians can resolve this issue in a peaceful way it’s going to attract non-Christians to enter into dialogue with us. But if we continue to fight…it turns them off.” Perhaps Ken Ham could join Hugh Ross and me for a friendly conversation over dinner? My treat.”

Part 2 — The rejectionShould I Have Dinner With BioLogos? — Ken Ham compared himself to Ezekiel, warning the people of God against compromise, and Nehemiah, who refused to be distracted by the enemies of God’s people, though he added that he doesn’t consider Hugh Ross to be a personal enemy, only an enemy biblical authority.

“We at AiG are busy “rebuilding a wall.” We are equipping God’s people to defend the Christian faith, and I believe we are doing a great work for God. We are busy being “watchmen”—warning people of those who undermine the authority of the Word of God.”

Ken Ham later wrote that Answers in Genesis “will not, however, send out such a kumbaya message,” by fellowshipping with compromisers.

Part 3 — Hugh Ross respondsAmbassadors for Reconciliation — Hugh Ross is a gracious man, but is obviously disturbed by the discord sewn by those who villainize old-Earth Christians.

“One way we can help people receive our message of reconciliation with God is by modeling reconciliation among ourselves. John 13:35 says, “All men will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.” And yet, although creation beliefs hold a core position in our Christian faith (Hebrews 11:6), no other subject exposes a greater lack of love among believers. Some creationists treat fellow believers with ugly, disparaging disdain.”

“Enough is enough. There are mission fields still to be reached. How can we ask nonbelievers to dialogue with us if we cannot graciously dialogue with one another, if we treat one another as enemies? Unless we make some progress in reconciling our differences, how can we expect to help reconcile a skeptical world to Christ? We are commissioned by God to be His ambassadors. It’s time for us to start behaving as ambassadors.”

It seems strange that someone like Ken Ham can interact graciously with Christians who disagree with him on issues such as eschatology, predestination, baptism, or spiritual gifts without condemning those who disagree with him as “compromisers,” and yet when it comes to a secondary issue such as the age of the Earth (which is an issue of interpretation, not biblical authority), he cannot even have dinner with those who differ from him.

I must add that my limited personal interaction with Ken Ham has been cordial: Do Old Earthers and Young Earthers Agree On Anything?

A Hundred Inverted Smiley Faces — I had moderate success viewing today’s partial solar eclipse with a shoebox pinhole camera and by projecting the eclipse onto the patio with my binoculars. But when I walked back into the house, I was welcomed by hundreds of solar eclipse images on the floor, steps, and walls. Gaps in our horizontal blinds acted as pinhole cameras and projected a multitude of eclipse images:

DSCN7287

Day-age time chart

One of the most prominent old-Earth creation organizations is Reasons to Believe, headed by astronomer Hugh Ross. Ross is an advocate of what is known as the day-age interpretation of Genesis 1-2. In the day-age theory, the days of Genesis 1 are not literal 24-hour days, but represent vastly longer periods of time. Ross advocates (and I wholeheartedly agree) that there is no conflict between belief in the trustworthiness of Scriptures and acceptance of an old age for the Earth.

One criticism of the day-age theory is that, according to some, the events of Earth history don’t match the days as recorded in Genesis. For example, vegetation appears on day three, but the sun isn’t created until day four. How could plants survive for millions of years without sunshine? Ross addresses issues like this, and presents the day-age viewpoint as one that closely matches the 4.5 billion year history of Earth.

A key to this understanding of the relationship between Genesis 1 and science is the idea of point of view. The frame of reference of Genesis 1 is the surface of the Earth, not observing the Earth from somewhere out in space. This is based on Genesis 1:2, which says, “And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters” (ESV)”  We should read the text, according to Ross’s version of the day-age interpretation, from this perspective. The rest of the chapter then unfolds in a logical way. The sun was created sometime in the period covered by verse 1: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (ESV). Days one through three describe the early differentiation of Earth, with the sun obscured by a translucent atmosphere in the beginning. Light was able to get through the atmosphere, but the sun itself was not visible. The appearance of primitive “vegetation,” i.e. the beginnings of photosynthesis, occurred in this time period. On day four, the sun, moon, and stars appear. They aren’t necessarily created then, but from the vantage point of the Earth’s surface, it seems as though they are. Days five and six describe the appearance of advanced forms of life: creatures of the sea, air, and land.

Reasons to Believe has a nice chart that portrays this sequence:

rtb-dayage1

rtb-dayage21

To many, this illustrates an amazing correlation between Earth history and Scripture, unparalleled in the sacred texts of other religions.

The day-age interpretation is just one of several models that attempts to show that there is no inherent conflict between science and Scriptures. The overall outline presented on this time chart is not affected by whether on not Ross’s understanding of events such as the Cambrian explosion are correct (Ross views the Cambrian explosion as a new creation event).

Some other ways of understanding the opening chapters of Genesis, such the analogical day and framework hypotheses, aren’t as concerned with correlating the days of Genesis 1 with the history of the universe.

I am not committed to any one interpretation of Genesis 1. My main objective here is to point out that there are Biblically-valid alternatives to young-Earth creationism.

Old-Earth creationists, such as advocates of these various positions, accept all of the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith: The Bible is God’s true revelation of himself, God is the creator of the universe and life, a real Adam, a real fall into sin, real consequences of that sin, and in the atoning sacrifice of Christ on the cross as the only answer to our sin problem. They may differ on the details, but acceptance of an old age for the universe is compatible with the Scriptures, and doesn’t lead to error in any core doctrines of the faith.

To any non-Christians reading this, note that there is no necessary conflict between science and the Bible. If you reject Christianity, it has to be for some reason other than Genesis 1.

Grace and Peace