Many Christian geologists I know began their undergraduate geological training as young-Earth creationists (YECs). They entered their studies having been equipped by reading YEC classics such as The Genesis Flood and Scientific Creationism, had a whole stack of Institute for Creation Research Acts & Facts “Impact” articles, and were certain that they would set the geological world straight.
None of the Christian geologists I know personally were still YECs when they graduated. For some (such as for myself), there was no serious crisis of faith along the way. For others, there were times of severe trial, as everything they believed about the Bible and the Earth was challenged. I get emails from time to time from geology undergraduates who thank me for helping them during that time of testing of their faith, and for this I am very grateful.
Sadly, many Christians who enter geological studies with a YEC background end up as spiritual shipwrecks and leave the faith altogether. They have been taught that if YEC is not true, then the Bible is not true either, and all of Christianity is false as well. When they start learning about how the Earth really works, they are devastated This is the bitter fruit of years of YEC indoctrination through a barrage of books, DVDs, educational curricula, Sunday school, and youth groups. It doesn’t have to be so.
Steve Smith is a geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey. I had the privilege of meeting Steve a few years ago. We had moved back to the United States after six years of service as missionaries with the Evangelical Free Church, and we were living in Denver while I looked for employment. Steve gave my wife and I a wonderful geological tour of Red Rocks Park. I ended up finding employment in Missouri, so we were not able to get together again.
Steve has done a fantastic job of writing about his experiences as a Christian geologist, from his YEC undergraduate beginnings to his current interactions with young people struggling with science and faith issues. The article is Breaking Away from a False Dilemma, and is posted at Nazarenes Exploring Evolution.
Here are a few clips, but you really should read the whole article:
With a high-school level understanding of science and theology, I was convinced by this “either-or” argument and, to my knowledge, became the first Young Earth Creationist in my local Nazarene church. I knew the enemy and the enemy had a name. It was Evolution.
Although I was fascinated by geology and had found a scientific field that I loved, my faith was in shambles. Based on what I had believed and read in the Young Earth Creationist literature, if the geologic ages were real, if the earth was old, if evolution had happened then the Bible was false, Christianity wasn’t true, and Christ’s death on the cross was meaningless. So what was left? I felt betrayed and seriously considered leaving the church. In retrospect, two factors kept me from leaving: (1) the support of a strong Christian family (and a young lady soon to be my wife) that gave me the freedom to question without condemnation; and (2) the strong witness of my Olivet geology professor, who had not only faced all of the same scientific evidence but was one of the most Christ-like men I had ever met. But before I could move on, I had to recognize that I had been snared by a false dilemma and that the Bible didn’t need to be read as a scientific treatise on how to create a world. That was a time of turmoil and what I needed most was theological support that would allowed me to reconcile what I read in the Bible with what I saw in the rocks.
I have seen students break down into tears as they stood on an outcrop of rock and saw evidence that contradicted what their church had taught them. I have comforted my own daughter when she was told by a Sunday School teacher that she couldn’t be a Christian if she accepted evidence for evolution. I have talked with scientists who were once raised in a church and are now bitter agnostics because the church “lied to them” about science.
Thanks, Steve, for sharing your story.
Grace and Peace
Ligonier Ministries has posted an excellent article which can help us think through how to speak and write about issues that are controversial within the Christian church. Some important values as I write articles for The GeoChristian include that I would communicate with grace and humility, that the body of Christ would be edified, and that non-believers would be pointed to Christ.
The article is Consider Yourself by Burk Parsons. Here are a few excerpts:
Controversy exists because God’s truth exists in a world of lies. Controversy is the plight of sinners in a fallen world, who were originally created by God to know the truth, love the truth, and proclaim the truth. We cannot escape controversy this side of heaven, nor should we seek to. As Christians, God has rescued us out of darkness and has made us able to stand in His marvelous light. He has called us to go into the darkness and shine as a light to the world, reflecting the glorious light of our Lord, Jesus Christ. And when light shines in darkness, controversy is inevitable.
The difficulty comes when we try to discern truth from error in the church of Christ.
“What will it profit a man if he gains his cause and silences his adversary, if at the same time he loses that humble, tender frame of spirit in which the Lord delights, and to which the promise of his presence is made?” — John Newton
Parsons then offers ten questions to help us determine if and how we should engage in controversial issues. Some questions that are most applicable to our debates about Earth science include:
1. Have I prayed?
2. What is my motive?
3. Am I striving to edify others?
6. How will I treat the person with whom I disagree?
9. What is my ultimate goal?
10. Am I focused on God’s glory? (Are we serving God’s kingdom or our own kingdom?)
Doing these things, and doing them well, is more important to me than the age of the Earth, flood geology, environmental responsibility, or a host of other topics that surface from time to time here on The GeoChristian.
Grace and Peace
And the waters prevailed so mightily on the earth that all the high mountains under the whole heaven were covered. — Genesis 7:19 (ESV)
Many Christians point to the universal nature of some verses in the account of Noah’s flood in Genesis 6-9 to prove that the flood must have been global in extent. For instance, Genesis 6:13 states,
And God said to Noah, “I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence through them. Behold, I will destroy them with the earth.
We also read,
The flood continued forty days on the earth. The waters increased and bore up the ark, and it rose high above the earth. The waters prevailed and increased greatly on the earth, and the ark floated on the face of the waters. And the waters prevailed so mightily on the earth that all the high mountains under the whole heaven were covered. The waters prevailed above the mountains, covering them fifteen cubits deep. And all flesh died that moved on the earth, birds, livestock, beasts, all swarming creatures that swarm on the earth, and all mankind. Everything on the dry land in whose nostrils was the breath of life died. He blotted out every living thing that was on the face of the ground, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens. They were blotted out from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those who were with him in the ark. And the waters prevailed on the earth 150 days.
How do old-Earth Christians who hold to a local (rather than global) flood interpret these passages? The answer is by using standard tools of hermeneutics (interpretation), including examining what the text does and does not say, and by comparing Scripture to Scripture. I would like to focus right now on the “let Scripture interpret Scripture” aspect of hermeneutics.
There are a number of passages in the Old Testament (and even in the New Testament) where “all the earth” does not mean “all the earth.” Here are the main ones:
- Genesis 41:57 — Moreover, all the earth came to Egypt to Joseph to buy grain, because the famine was severe over all the earth. – In this case, does “all the earth” mean “all the earth,” or does it mean a widespread area in the Eastern Mediterranean? Most Bible scholars take this as a figure of speech, not as a literal statement. People came from far away, such as from Canaan, but not necessarily from Spain. I was having a conversation with someone about this passage a few months ago, and I asked him if he believed that people from every nation, from the Eskimos to the Zulus, showed up to buy grain from Joseph. He answered that he believed it was a literal “all the earth,” but that mankind had not yet dispersed very far following the Tower of Babel.
- Deuteronomy 2:25 – This day I will begin to put the dread and fear of you on the peoples who are under the whole heaven, who shall hear the report of you and shall tremble and be in anguish because of you.’ — Did the Incas and Chinese hear reports about the Exodus, or again, is “the peoples who are under the whole heaven” to be taken in some sense figuratively?
- 1 Kings 18:10 – There is no nation or kingdom where my lord [King Ahab] has not sent to seek you. — Did Ahab send emissaries to Japan and Zimbabwe to look for Elijah? If I were a hyper-literalist, I would have to say that he did.
- 2 Chronicles 9:23 – And all the kings of the earth sought the presence of Solomon to hear his wisdom, which God had put into his mind. — Do I have to affirm that leaders of the Australian Aborigines showed up in Jerusalem to listen to Solomon?
- Jeremiah 27:7 – All the nations shall serve him and his son and his grandson. — God said that “all the nations” shall serve Nebuchadnezzar. Does this mean that there is some gap in our historical knowledge; a period of time when Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylonian Empire stretched from Los Angeles to London to Tokyo, and from Murmansk to the Cape of Good Hope? Or was God using a figure of speech?
- Dan 4:22 — It is you, O king, who have grown and become strong. Your greatness has grown and reaches to heaven, and your dominion to the ends of the earth. — As in Jer 27:7, does the Bible teach that Nebuchadnezzar’s empire covered the entire planet? (see also Daniel 5:19).
- Zephaniah 1:2 – “I will utterly sweep away everything from the face of the earth,” declares the Lord. (also see v. 18) – Is this teaching the destruction of the entire Earth, or a more limited judgement on unfaithful Israel and the surrounding nations?
- Similar “universal” passages can be found in the New Testament — Luke 2:1 (all the world to be registered), John 12:19 (the Pharisees were concerned that the whole world was going to Jesus), Acts 2:5 (Jews were present at Pentecost from every nation under heaven), Colossians 1:23 (the gospel has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven).
In each case a more natural reading of the text is something other than “all the Earth.” Only if we bring a rigid, overly-literalistic hermeneutic to the passages do we end up with things like Ahab’s servants trekking through the Himalayas looking for Elijah.
In many ways, Hebrew functions like other languages. It is not a Vulcan-like tongue where everything is mechanical and logical, lacking in word pictures or hyperbole. In English, if we say “everyone is doing it,” we don’t literally mean “everyone,” unless we are talking about something like breathing. So if I say, “everyone in America likes McDonalds,” most people would not take that to mean “everyone in America likes McDonalds.” The same is true in the foreign language I know best, Romanian. The phrase “toată lumea” literally means “all the world,” which translates into English as “everyone.” If I were to say toată lumea likes going to the beach, I would literally be saying that the whole world likes going to the beach, but I would really mean that many or most people like going to the beach, or most people I know like going to the beach.
I hope that I have demonstrated that “all the Earth” usually does not mean “all the Earth” in the Old Testament. The question then becomes: can we apply this knowledge (letting Scripture interpret Scripture) to the account of Noah’s flood in Genesis 6-9? Are the universal phrases in the passage to be taken in a “literalistic” sense, or is there room for reading these as figures of speech? I believe I can show that much of the universal imagery of Genesis 6-9 is indeed hyperbolic, and that the passage can be read naturally as a very large, but still limited flood that appeared universal from Noah’s perspective in the middle of it all. I will save that discussion for another time.
Grace and Peace.
For most Christian traditions and denominations, the age of the Earth is not a primary issue. It is not even a secondary issue. Nor is it a tertiary issue. In fact it is not even a quaternary issue. For most Christian traditions and denominations, the age of the Earth is a quinary issue! That’s three steps below being a matter of even secondary importance!
This does not mean that what we believe about origins is not important, but it helps to put the endless debate in proper perspective.
C. Michael Patton at Parchment & Pen Blog has a Chart to Help Distinguish Between Essentials and Non-Essentials.
Patton reserves the “Essential for Salvation” circle for those doctrines that one must believe in order to be a Christian by just about any definition. This includes belief in God, Christ’s deity and humanity; our sinfulness, and Christ’s death on the cross and resurrection.
The next circle includes those things that all Christians (Orthodox, Roman Catholic, Protestant) have believed from the beginning of the church, such as the doctrine of the Trinity as expressed in the Nicene Creed, the future return of Christ, the eternal punishment of the wicked, and belief that Christ is the only way to God. One might err on one of these (e.g. believe that all will in the end be saved) and still be a Christian, but not be within the standards of Christian orthodoxy.
The third circle from the center is traditional orthodoxy, which is orthodoxy as defined by one of the broad traditions of the Church: Eastern Orthodoxy, Roman Catholicism, and Protestantism. I fall within Protestant orthodoxy, believing in justification by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. I fall outside of Roman Catholic orthodoxy, as I reject its teachings about Mary.
I am well aware that there will be differences between Christian traditions and denominations about where to place various doctrines. Lutherans will bump baptism up a notch or two compared to most Evangelicals, and Pentecostals might move spiritual gifts more towards the center as compared to where most Episcopalians will.
Where do teachings about evolution and the age of the universe come into this?
Patton places what we believe about origins in the “important but not essential” category. I think I would place evolution and chronology at this level as well.
Most YEC leaders will state that origins are not a primary issue, that is, that one can believe in an old Earth and still be a Christian. I think the highest they could really put YEC is at the denominational orthodoxy level (though they might look at their denominational orthodoxy as the true standard of orthodoxy and throw out the higher levels entirely).
Many YEC followers seem to place YEC at the primary level, as in, “If you are not a YEC, you are probably not really a Christian.” I have actually run into that quite a bit.
What do you think? Where do the age of the universe and biological evolution fit on the diagram?
Grace and Peace
At times it seems like the young-Earth creationists have a virtual monopoly on science curriculum materials for the Christian homeschool market. There are popular homeschool magazines that ban advertisements from curricula—secular or Christian—that teach an old Earth or biological evolution. The same goes for homeschool conventions and curriculum fairs.
At the extreme in the homeschool movement are those who want to build walls around their children to protect them from all evils, such as evolution. We were part of a homeschool parents’ group in St. Louis whose leader had a rather dominating personality. I think one of our last appearances at the monthly meetings was when she stood up and virtually forbade members of the group from taking their kids to the St. Louis Zoo because of its new talking statue of Charles Darwin. That didn’t stop us, of course, from taking our kids to the zoo, even with the animatronic Darwin. My anecdotal experience is that the outcome for families who took the build-a-wall-around-our-children approach to homeschooling was not positive, either academically or spiritually.
We homeschooled our children in their early elementary years and they all have done very well in middle and high school, and in college. One of the primary sources for our material was Sonlight Curriculum, which has been banned from some homeschool conferences and magazines because they carry old-Earth material along with young-earth. John Holzmann of Sonlight has written an excellent article: Young- and Old-Earth Creationists: Can We Even Talk Together? A quick search for “Sonlight curriculum evolution” in your web browser will turn up a multitude of “We don’t use Sonlight because it includes evolution” blog posts and articles.
The Atlantic has recently posted an article entitled Old Earth, Young Minds: Evangelical Homeschoolers Embrace Evolution. Here are a few excerpts from the article:
Take Erinn Cameron Warton, an evangelical Christian who homeschools her children. Warton, a scientist, says she was horrified when she opened a homeschool science textbook and found a picture of Adam and Eve putting a saddle on a dinosaur. “I nearly choked,” says the mother of three. “When researching homeschooling curricula, I found that the majority of Christian homeschool textbooks are written from this ridiculous perspective. Once I saw this, I vowed never to use them.”
The assertion that anyone who believes in evolution “disregards” the Bible offends many evangelicals who want their children to be well-versed in modern science. Jen Baird Seurkamp, an evangelical who homeschools her children, avoids textbooks that discredit evolution. “Our science curriculum is one currently used in public schools,” she says. “We want our children to be educated, not sheltered from things we are afraid of them learning.”
Meanwhile, professors at evangelical colleges that attract homeschoolers often have to deal with objections from Young Earth proponents. “We do have to address some one-sided perspectives in biological science that some of our freshman biology majors come pre-loaded with,” says Jeffrey Duerr, a biology professor at George Fox University, a Christian university in Oregon. “But we do this by first addressing why science and Christian faith are compatible and then by teaching biology to them.”
I think that at present finding an appropriate homeschool curriculum for middle school or high school Earth Science would be a real challenge. The choice seems to be between selecting a secular textbook that is not very homeschool-friendly, and one of several YEC textbooks that are homeschool-friendly but contain numerous scientific inaccuracies and questionable biblical interpretations.
My experience from teaching in Christian schools is that it is far easier to undo any shortcomings in secular textbooks (the shortcomings were not all that many) than it was to undo the bad science and questionable biblical interpretations I saw in Christian textbooks. But I was able to do this based on a solid education in geology and secondary education and years of thinking about Bible-science issues. Most homeschool parents don’t have that background.
What is the solution? What are some good curriculum options for Christians who want to give their middle school or high school students a semester or year of Earth Science?
Grace and Peace
HT: Martin Lack
And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.” — Genesis 2:16-17 (NIV 1984)
According to Genesis, God created Adam and Eve and placed them in a garden. He commanded that they tend the Earth, and that they be fruitful and multiply. They walked in fellowship with God as they worked; it was a paradise, but not an idle paradise. He provided the tree of life that they might live forever, but forbade them from eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, “for when you eat of it you will surely die.”
In Genesis 3, as we know, Adam and Eve thought they knew better than God and they ate fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
Was this a good thing or a bad thing? The correct answer, of course, is that this was a bad thing. That doesn’t stop some from twisting the story; consider the following from paleontologist L. Beverly Halstead:
Here [in Genesis] we have man being given an instruction by the supreme Authority, and he was expected to accept this quite uncritically—he was not expected to question it, he was certainly not expected to defy it, he was expected to obey it. Let us consider what this means. Here is a situation where you are placed in an environment where you have everything, all you must not do is think.
Samuel Butler in the last century wrote “The Kingdom of Heaven is the being like a good dog.”
A good dog does what he is told, gets a pat on the head, and that is all. This is a prospect that no real human being should ever stand for. But we are very fortunate in this story—we have the hero of this entire episode, the serpent, and he gave very good advice (Gen 3:5-7)
For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.
And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.
And the eyes of them both were opened.
That, to my mind, is the most inspiring passage in this entire volume.
That was the original sin, the defiance of the Lord God was original sin, and this sin is the one which every scientist worthy of the name is dedicated to uphold.
(quote from Halstead, L. Beverly, “Evolution—The Fossils Say Yes!”, in Montagu, Ashley (ed.), 1984, Science and Creationism, pp. 241-242. )
Halstead simply distorted the passage for his own purposes. God did not forbid them from eating fruit from a “tree of knowledge,” as if knowledge were bad, but from “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.”
“Knowledge” can mean knowing about something, such as knowing about European history or invertebrate paleontology. I think that is what Halstead had in mind; that somehow God wanted Adam and Eve to live in some sort of ignorant bliss. The passage, however, implies that God wanted Adam and Eve to have a kind of scientific knowledge about their world; how could they have dominion over the garden as God’s representatives on Earth if they were clueless about caring for the Earth?
There is another kind of knowledge that is experiential rather than just the intellectual knowledge inherent in science. We see this in Genesis 4:1 — “Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain.” Adam did not just know about Eve as an intellectual exercise, but had a deep, intimate, emotional knowledge of her expressed in sexual intercourse.
This is the kind of knowledge that Adam and Eve would gain through eating fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. They did not just gain an intellectual understanding about the world, or a textbook knowledge about ethics, but they knew good and evil, and this was a horrible thing to gain intimate knowledge of.
Think of what they “gained” through their submission to Satan, or as Halstead put it, the “hero of this entire episode, the serpent.” Here is what we have as the fruit of disobedience:
- A broken relationship with God.
- Broken relationships with one another.
- A broken relationship with the creation.
- Frustration in work.
- Pain in childbirth.
- Physical death.
- Decaying bodies.
All because of one piece of fruit. Was it worth it?
Grace and Peace
From today’s Astronomy Picture of the Day, the most bizarre, alien-appearing animal on Earth, the tardigrade:
Go to APOD to see it much bigger (I have only shown it as a thumbnail for copyright purposes).
I’ve thought tardigrades were pretty amazing since I first learned about them in Invertebrate Zoology a long, long time ago. Here’s APOD’s description:
Explanation: Is this an alien? Probably not, but of all the animals on Earth, the tardigrade might be the best candidate. That’s because tardigrades are known to be able to go for decades without food or water, to survive temperatures from near absolute zero to well above the boiling point of water, to survive pressures from near zero to well above that on ocean floors, and to survive direct exposure to dangerous radiations. The far-ranging survivability of these extremophiles was tested in 2011 outside an orbiting space shuttle. Tardigrades are so durable partly because they can repair their own DNA and reduce their body water content to a few percent. Some of these miniature water-bears almost became extraterrestrials recently when they were launched toward to the Martian moon Phobos on board the Russian mission Fobos-Grunt, but stayed terrestrial when a rocket failed and the capsule remained in Earth orbit. Tardigrades are more common than humans across most of the Earth. Pictured above in a color-enhanced electron micrograph, a millimeter-long tardigrade crawls on moss.
I didn’t know that tardigrades even have their own phylum.
Grace and Peace
Dr. Duane Gish was one of the most prominent young-Earth creationists back in the 1970s and 1980s, especially popular among YECs for his tenacity in debates. According to the Institute for Creation Research (where Dr. Gish was vice president under Henry Morris) and Answers in Genesis, he died yesterday, March 5, 2013.
Gish was also an author, being the writer of Evolution: The Fossils Say No! and other popular-level books.
I heard Duane Gish in one of his famous debates at Washington State University back in 1987, where he debated WSU anthropology professor Dr. Grover Krantz (who was best known as an advocate of the existence of Sasquatch). Gish’s debate style was a quick-talking overload of facts, taking the time he had to pile on evidence against evolution and an old Earth from a wide diversity of fields—biochemistry (Gish’s PhD field), paleontology, geology, meteorology, astronomy, chemistry, physics, anthropology, archeology, and more. Most debaters were not equipped to answer such an array of “evidence,” and thus Gish could always find something his opponent had no answer for. Some of his arguments were sound; many were not (he was big on the moon dust and 2nd law of thermodynamics arguments—at least back when he was prominent—which have since been abandoned by mainstream creationists).
On the afternoon before the Gish-Krantz debate, Dr. Gish was invited to speak to the WSU Geology Department graduate seminar. I remember being apprehensive, as I was concerned that he would say things that would further harden hearts against Christianity. I was actually pleasantly surprised; he stayed on safer (and stronger for him) subjects such as the origin of life and the gaps in the fossil record at higher taxonomic levels. He did not talk about flood geology or the age of the Earth, and when asked about these things in the Q&A time, he simply stated that he had his own beliefs on these, but many Christians differed on the matter. In discussions after the debate, I remember one of the geology PhD candidates saying that if that were all that creationists were after, he would not have been opposed to teaching it in public schools. If only Dr. Gish had been more consistent in voicing this view, and if more YEC leaders would humbly do the same.
I may have also heard Dr. Gish speak at Montana State University in the early 1980s, but am not sure.
Despite whatever errors Gish taught and whatever sins he committed (just like me), Duane Gish has now heard the Savior say, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Come and share your master’s happiness.”
I pray for his family and colleagues in their time of grief (which will not be like the grief of the world).
Grace and Peace
Last night, I posted here on The GeoChristian an attempt at satire that some took offence at. I suppose satire will always offend someone, as when Jonathan Swift suggested in his 1729 short story A Modest Proposal that the Irish “problem” could be solved by, well, you can read it for yourself. I guess I am not Jonathan Swift.
I have removed the post, which was entitled, “Ken Ham doesn’t really believe the Bible.”
In my post, I suggested that because Ken Ham is a Baptist, and I am not, he does not really believe the Bible. Of course, all of my doctrines are correct and true to the Bible. If Ken believes differently than I do—and he does—this is clear evidence (so I wrote), that he is a compromiser and is undermining the authority of Scripture. After all, if he doesn’t read certain verses the way I do, he does not really believe what the Bible says.
Of course I regard this as complete nonsense, as anyone who regularly reads The GeoChristian should know. I have been around quite a variety of Christian groups, and know that people I disagree with have good reasons for what they believe, and that my doctrines are not the standard for the church. My fellowship boundaries are pretty broad, with the widest fence being the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds. Ken Ham is my brother in Christ, and he and I have much more in common than whatever it is that divides us. We share a love for the Word of God, a desire to see the church built up and taught, and a desire to proclaim Jesus Christ to the nations.
We differ on a secondary matter of Scripture: the age of the Earth. I call this a secondary matter; he calls it a primary one. I call it a matter of interpretation; he calls it a matter of authority.
I apologize to anyone who may have been offended, especially to Ken Ham and to Baptists. My desire is to work towards unity, not to tear down in any way.
Here are some excerpts from the comments from the original post:
K & T — Also, as a complete stranger (but brother!) I’d suggest you be careful not to get caught up in too much of a vendetta against guys like Ken… the spiteful tone of this post is almost as cringe-worthy as most YEC articles I’ve read!
Walter — Your post was rather intolerant of another brother and to state that Baptists are not Christians is crazy. I suggest you reread your post carefully and then remove it. If you do not, it brings your Christianity into question.
I am born again professional geologist and attend an Assembly of God church. I am a fairly recent reader of your blog. When I first read this post this morning, my first reaction was to simply unsubscribe because as a Christian it offended me.
Dustin Smith — After reading through the comments I understand the article much better. I completely agree with the thesis of the article, and I really enjoy reading your posts, so please take it as constructive criticism when I say that this article felt very much like the average YEC article; heavy on statements, jerky logic, and light on grace & peace.
I’ll briefly reply to the above comments:
K & T — I have no desire to be part of any vendetta against Ken Ham. Yes, the post was rather cringe-worthy. As satire, it was intended to be that way. It was an imitation of much of what you and I have read on YEC sites.
Walter — I didn’t mean to imply (even in satire) that Baptists are not Christians. To say that someone does not really believe the Bible is not the same as saying one isn’t a Christian (unless one thinks that people become Christians by believing the Bible). Of course, this is exactly what happens when YEC leaders state that old-Earthers don’t believe the Bible; their followers take an extra step and conclude that old-Earthers are not Christians. One can believe the Bible and not be a Christian, and one can be a Christian and not believe in biblical inerrancy (I do hold to biblical inerrancy).
Dustin Smith — I agree, the post was jerky and dogmatic, and light on grace and peace. Perhaps that was part of the satire.
- Is satire or parody directed against fellow Christians ever appropriate? Is there a way that I could have driven home my point using satire that would not have been taken wrongly?
- Is there any difference between Ken Ham calling old-Earthers “compromisers who don’t really believe the Bible” because they don’t interpret Genesis the same way he does, and someone calling Ken Ham a “compromiser who doesn’t really believe the Bible” because Ken doesn’t hold to the same position on __________ that they do?
- Is the interpretation of Genesis 1 so important that it trumps other doctrines that Christians differ on such as baptism, church government, end times, gifts of the Spirit, or women in ministry?
Grace and Peace
Every five years or so, the top young-Earth creationist scientists gather in Pittsburgh for the International Conference on Creationism. From what I understand, this is quite different from your typical Answers in Genesis or Institute for Creation Research seminars that are presented for the general public at local churches. Instead, this will be the YEC researchers talking to each other at a technical level.
The topics for this summer’s meeting have been posted, and here are a few that caught my eye, mostly those relating to geology:
- Genesis, Biblical Authority & the Age of the Earth — Ken Ham
- The South Fork and Heart Mountain faults: Examples of Late Flood, Gravity-driven “Overthrust” — Timothy Clarey
- A Reconstruction of the Physical Geography of the Early Earth — Stan Udd
- Geomorphologym [sic] The Flood/Post-flood Boundary and the Potential [sic] — John Whitmore
- Numerical Simulations of Ice Age Precipitation and Hypercyclones Using the NCAR WRF Model with a Warm Ocean — Larry Vardiman
- The Mars Desert Hypothesis and The Mars–RATE Connection — Ron Samec
- Bolides, Global Contraction, Isostasy and the Flood — Hamilton Duncan
- Might Rotational Instability of the Earth During the Genesis Flood Explain the Megasequences of the Phanerozoic Sediment Record? — John Baumgardner
- A New Model of the Earth’s Pre- Flood Canopy — Ed Boudreaux
- Numerical Simulation of Lithospheric Breakup in the Biblical Timescale — Jesse Sherburn
- A non-uniformitarian model of ice bodies impacting Mars, leaving craters, flowing water and water ice. — Trevor Holt
- Double-Beta-Decay as a Possible Indicator of Change in the Strong Force — Eugene Chaffin
- Initial Conditions for a Post-Flood Rapid Ice Age — Steven Gollmer
- Higher Order Magnetic Multipole Expansion Terms Show A Sinusoidal Variation In The Earth’s Magnetic Field — Robert Hill
- Superfaults and Pseudotachylytes:Evidence of Catastrophic Earth Movements — Timothy Clarey
- Ancient Egypt, the Ice Age, and Biblical Chronology — Anne Habermehl
- Baraminological Analysis of Jurassic and Cretaceous Avialae — Paul Garner
- Planetary magnetic dynamo theories: A century of failure — Russ Humphreys
- Soft Tissues in Solid Rocks — Brian Thomas
- The Temporal Geographical and Geological Ubiquity of Excess Argon with a Young Earth Analysis — Richard Overman
- Simulating Flood Deposition of Mudrocks — Steven Austin
- A Model explaining craters, comets, asteroids, meteorites, icy satellites, planet rings, water and ice by the short term passage of ice bodies through the solar system around 2300 years before Jesus Christ — Trevor Holt
- Modeling the Large-Scale Tectonics of the Early Stages of the Flood Cataclysm — John Baumgardner
- How Does an Underwater Debris Flow End?: Flow Transformation Evidences Observed Within the Lower Redwall Limestone of Arizona and Nevada — Darry Stansbury
- The Impacts Vertical Tectonics Model of the Flood — Michael Oard
- The Crucifixion Earthquake of 33 AD: Evidence in the Dead Sea Sediment –Dr. Steve Austin
Here are a few of my thoughts:
- I don’t know who all of these speakers are, but those I am familiar with are very smart people. The caricature of young-Earth creationists as a bunch of low-I.Q. Neanderthals doesn’t fit this group of people.
- Young-Earth creationism has become considerably more sophisticated over the past couple of decades.
- Despite this sophistication, the YEC flood geology model still suffers from many weaknesses that make it untenable. The basic problem is that there are too many events occurring in too little time. I cannot conceive of squeezing the Quaternary Period into a few centuries after the flood (as many YECs advocate), much less trying to compress the entire Phanerozoic (Cambrian to present) into a year.
- Even more serious than the geological problems of young-Earth creationism is the fact that none of this is Biblically necessary. The Bible does not teach that Earth is only 6000 years old, that Noah’s flood is responsible for most of Earth’s geology, or that there was no animal death before Adam’s sin. If the Bible doesn’t require any of this, and if it doesn’t work scientifically, then we shouldn’t be teaching it in the church or to our youth.
- Having said that, I would actually like to go to one of these conferences some time.
Grace and Peace
I’m enjoying a good thundersnow (or some call it a snunderstorm); the first blizzard thunderstorm I have experienced in Montana (I have seen it happen in Utah, Colorado, and I think Missouri). The temperature dropped from 59°F to 32° in less than thirty minutes, and it started to snow and blow really hard. I love Montana.
The Billings Gazette has some good pictures of the storm as it approached Billings.
What’s going on in the wider world of the world wide web?
JUST MAYBE PERHAPS THERE COULD POSSIBLY BE SOMETHING WRONG WITH YOUNG-EARTH CREATIONISM — Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis is concerned that much of the criticism of his young-Earth ministry comes from Christians. Count me in — there are plenty of good reasons why Bible-believing Christians criticize Answers in Genesis. YEC organizations like AiG teach secondary doctrines as primary, take a my-way-or-the-highway approach to these secondary issues, insist on a hyper-literal reading of the inspired Word of God, publish massive amounts of really bad science, and set our young people up for a fall. YEC isn’t Biblically necessary, nor is it scientifically feasible.
“Ham has made it clear that AiG’s main thrust is not “young Earth” but simply biblical authority.”
No, it is not about biblical authority. I, like many old-Earth Christians, do believe the Bible. I just don’t believe much of what comes out of the YEC community. And there is a big difference.
JUST MAYBE PERHAPS THERE COULD POSSIBLY BE SOMETHING WRONG WITH THE TEA PARTY WING OF THE G.O.P. – On top of the radical anti-environmentalism and xenophobia that pervades the Tea Party, there are plenty of Tea Partiers like the chairwoman of the Yellowstone County Republican Party, who posted what most of us would view as a racist anti-Obama picture on her Facebook page. From the Billings Gazette: Local GOP leader criticized for Facebook post. A screenshot can be seen at Daily Kos and MT Cowgirl (left wing equivalents of the right wing Tea Party).
THE BIBLE AS REALITY TV — A new Bible miniseries is coming to the History Channel. One of their consultants appears to be TV prosperity preacher Joel Osteen:
Osteen said much of his work was confirming if the extrabiblical material stayed true to the Bible.
Ummmmm, I’d prefer if he go back to some of his books to double-check how well they stayed true to the Bible. The message of Christianity is not salvation from unhappiness by doing our best.
DOMINION IS THE OPPOSITE OF DOMINATION — The Ecologist has an article about the growth of the “Creation Care” movement, especially among younger Evangelicals.
“As Christians we’re called to care for creation, because God created it, and saw it was good, and loved it,” [Wheaton biology student Erik Swanson] explains. “Also I think we have a responsibility to care for all of God’s people, and I don’t think you can say you love people if you’re destroying the environment they depend on.”
WALKING AWAY FROM CHRISTIANITY — From Marc5Solas – Top 10 Reasons Our Kids Leave Church.
The statistics are jaw-droppingly horrific: 70% of youth stop attending church when they graduate from High School. Nearly a decade later, about half return to church.
Let’s just be honest, most of our churches are sending youth into the world embarrassingly ignorant of our faith. How could we not? We’ve jettisoned catechesis, sold them on “deeds not creeds” and encouraged them to start the quest to find “God’s plan for their life”.
The solution, however, is not to give them more young-Earth creationism, as Answers in Genesis is pushing in their Already Gone book. YEC is part of the problem, not part of the solution. I would put it in the “They got smart” category of the top 10 reasons. When they see that it just doesn’t work, our young people throw away their Christianity along with their Dr. Dino DVDs.
EKALAKASAURUS — The Carter County Museum (in the GeoChristian ancestral home of Ekalaka, Montana) has an excellent fossil collection, and is getting some help from Montana State University (The GeoChristian alma mater). From the Billings Gazette: A FOSSIL MECCA – MSU students revitalizing Carter County Museum.
I haven’t been to Ekalaka for a few decades; it might be time for a road trip. I hope they still have the two-headed calf.
A WORLD OF PERSECUTION OF CHRISTIANS — In Egypt: Islam or death? Egypt’s Christians targeted by new terror group. In Saudi Arabia: Saudi religious police arrest Ethiopian workers for practicing Christianity. In the Middle East as a whole: Religious Change in the Middle East.
In my previous “Around the Web” post, I linked to a story in Christianity Today about the persecution of house churches in China. CT has two followup stories: China Isn’t Trying to Wipe Out Christianity and Persecution in China Is Very Real.
And to be fair: Atheists around world suffer persecution, discrimination (though the report could not point to a single person who had been executed in the world in the past year for being an atheist).
A GOOD PLACE — The Today Show lists my home town, Billings, Montana, as the third best place in the United States to raise a family. If only we had a Chick-fil-A.
Well, that took two hours. The thundersnow has ended and it has all turned to slush, which will turn to ice. I blame it on global warming.
Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. — Hebrews 11:1 (NIV 1984)
A couple weeks ago, I was on a flight that landed in dense fog in Salt Lake City. I had a window seat, and the first thing I could see on the ground as the plane approached the airport was the asphalt a few seconds before the wheels touched the runway. The visibility along the surface was sufficient to keep the runway open—commercial pilots cannot land completely by instruments; they must be able to see a certain distance ahead on the runway—but the clouds were considerably more dense a short distance above the ground as the plane approached the airport.
The pilot was flying by faith. He or she had confidence in the various instruments that guided the plane through the dense clouds. This is the most common way we use the word “faith” in our day to day conversations. When we say we have faith in something or someone, we almost always mean something like “trust” or “confidence,” and almost never mean “blind faith,” which would be faith with absolutely no evidence to back it up.
Faith is only as good as the object in which one puts their faith. Commercial passenger airplanes are extraordinarily reliable. If they had a success rate of 99% almost no one would fly on them (and having flown a few hundred times I would likely have died in a plane crash quite a while ago). According to planecrashinfo.com, your chances of dying in a plane crash on a flight of the thirty safest airlines is about 1 in 29 million! To board an airplane is an act of faith, but it certainly is not an act of blind faith.
Christian faith is this “confidence” sort of faith. Theologian and apologist Francis Schaeffer put it this way in his book He is There and He is not Silent (Appendix B):
One must analyze the word faith and see that it can mean two completely opposite things.
Suppose we are climbing in the Alps and are very high on the bare rock, and suddenly the fog shuts down. The guide turns to us and says that the ice is forming and that there is no hope; before morning we will freeze to death here on the shoulder of the mountain. Simply to keep warm the guide keeps us moving in the dense fog further out on the shoulder until none of us have any idea where we are. After an hour or so, someone says to the guide, “Suppose I dropped and hit a ledge ten feet down in the fog. What would happen then?” The guide would say that you might make it until the morning and thus live. So, with absolutely no knowledge or any reason to support his action, one of the group hangs and drops into the fog. This would be one kind of faith, a leap of faith.
Suppose, however, after we have worked out on the shoulder in the midst of the fog and the growing ice on the rock, we had stopped and we heard a voice which said, “You cannot see me, but I know exactly where you are from your voices. I am on another ridge. I have lived in these mountains, man and boy, for over sixty years and I know every foot of them. I assure you that ten feet below you there is a ledge. If you hang and drop, you can make it through the night and I will get you in the morning.”
I would not hang and drop at once, but would ask questions to try to ascertain if the man knew what he was talking about and if he was not my enemy… I would ask him what to me would be the adequate and sufficient questions, and when I became convinced by his answers, then I would hang and drop.
This is faith, but obviously it has no relationship to the other use of the word. As a matter of fact, if one of these is called faith, the other should not be designated by the same word. The historic Christian faith is not a leap of faith in the post-Kierkegaardian sense because He is not silent, and I am invited to ask the adequate and sufficient questions, not only in regard to details, but also in regard to the existence of the universe and its complexity and in regard to the existence of man.
Christian faith is an informed step into the fog. It is not based on a rational or logical line of thought, but it is rational. It is firmly grounded in the creation and history; it can give better answers for why there is a universe and why it is the way it is, and what the meaning of history is, and why we humans are the way we are, than the alternatives such as atheism or pantheism, or even other non-Christian theistic religions such as Islam.
One must be careful to note that Christian faith is not something we stir up within ourselves. I cannot claim that I came to God because, genius that I am, I figured it all out. Michael Patton describes Biblical faith as “Warranted faith brought about by the Holy Spirit.”
The faith that God calls on us to have is neither blind nor irrational. And while we believe our faith is the most rational choice that we can make given the evidence, rational alone is not enough. The Bible says that without outside intervention, we are antagonistic to spiritual truths. If we rely on naked intellect or personal effort alone, even as Christians, we will never truly be able to rest in God. The most important component to our faith has yet to be revealed. What is this element? It is the power of the Holy Spirit. The third member of the Trinity must ignite our faith. Yes, he uses rationale , inquiry, evidences, personal effort, and our minds to do so. But these things alone can only get us so far. In order to have true faith, the power of the Holy Spirit must move within us, releasing us from the bondage of our will.
Also note that it was not the strength of my faith that enabled the airplane I was on to get me from Billings, Montana, to Salt Lake City. I could have had a very weak faith in airplanes, and it still would have done the job. It was the reliability of the airplane and its crew and maintenance personnel that enabled me to make it to Utah alive. Likewise, my faith in God and his Word is not perfect. But mustard seed sized faith in God is sufficient to help me through the fog of life, and to cling to the Creator of the universe who is willing and able to bring me safely to the final landing.
Grace and Peace
CHELYABINSK METEOR WAS REALLY AN AMERICAN WEAPONS TEST – At least according to one Russian politician, as reported at Russia Today: US tested new weapon, no meteor in Chelyabinsk – Russian LibDem leader.
Astronomy Picture of the Day has a good video of the meteor.
LEAVING THE HATE CHURCH — Two granddaughters of Fred Phelps—pastor of the heretical “God Hates Fags” Westboro Baptist Church—have left the “church.” Here are a few thoughts from an article in Christianity Today (The Westboro Baptist in All of Us):
Most of us wouldn’t go to the same lengths as those at Westboro, but collectively, we have our own prejudices, rigid rules, regulations, and zealotries. These drive us to marginalize, cast aspersions upon and exclude others within our own churches, Christian organizations and institutions who so much as dare to differ, even slightly, from our own political or theological stances.
“Zealotry is conscious zeal to be radically committed, so radically committed that one goes beyond the Bible to defend things that are not in the Bible…. Zealots…convince themselves that, even though the Bible does not say something, what they are saying is really what the Bible wanted after all.” — Scot McKnight
“The underlying assumption is that my thoughts are God’s thoughts; my cause is God’s cause. This divine alliance makes me exempt from obedience in order that I might bring about God’s purposes.” — Tim Gombis
The CT article is directed at Christians, but there is a little bit of Westboro in everybody.
INTOLERANT TOLERANCE – Many “progressives” preach tolerance as the highest virtue, and then act a little Westboro-ish towards anyone who disagrees with them. Ligonier Ministries has a review of two recent books on tolerance: The Intolerance of Tolerance and A Queer Thing Happened to America.
GREEN ELEPHANTS FOR PRESIDENT — The top leadership of environmental organizations such as The Sierra Club, World Wildlife Fund, Friends of the Earth, and Greenpeace were given the opportunity to pick a list of greenest presidents. The top two vote-getters were Republicans: Teddy Roosevelt and Richard Nixon. See America’s Greenest Presidents. (HT: ConservAmerica)
Why Teddy Roosevelt? He clearly loved nature and did much to set aside land for preservation and stewardship.
Why Richard Nixon? The Environmental Protection Agency, Endangered Species Act, Clean Water Act…
What does the current crop of Republican leaders want to do about all of this?
AT MIZZOU, EVERY DAY COULD BECOME A NO-TEST DAY – No exams on Wiccan, Pagan holidays at University of Missouri? I would feel discriminated against because Good Friday is not a school holiday.
PERSECUTION OF CHRISTIANITY CONTINUES — How China Plans to Wipe Out House Churches and Four Missionaries Arrested in Benghazi May Face Libya Death Penalty (post-Arab Spring “democracy” at work).
IF I ONLY HAD A (CHIMP) BRAIN – If my wife sends me to the store with a list of more than three things, I must have them written down. If I were a chimpanzee however, I could do much better. Chimps have better short-term memory than humans.
THE “NOT SCIENCE FRIDAY” SHOW — From Christianity Today: Creationist Pastor Loses to NPR over ‘Science Friday’ Radio Show. Apparently the name of the radio program—Real Science Friday—was too close to NPR’s Science Friday program. It is now Real Science Radio.
THE LAW OF SUPERPOSITION IS WRONG? — At least according to the above mentioned radio program (the law of superposition states that newer sedimentary layers are deposited on older sedimentary layers).
Here’s a quote from Real Science Radio’s Liquefaction Made Most of the Paper Thin Fossils:
The “Law of Superposition” Is Wrong: As a general description of the world’s sedimentary layers, this alleged natural “law” wrongly claims that, “Sedimentary layers are deposited in a time sequence, with the oldest on the bottom and the youngest on the top.” In reality, a tremendous amount of sorting of minerals and fossils occurred underground when the continents’ mile-deep sediments were first deposited.
I guess they are trying to extrapolate from small-scale sediment liquifaction events (e.g. during earthquakes) to explaining large-scale features of the geological column. It appears that much of this is based on Walt Brown’s hydroplate theory, which is not promoted by “mainstream” YECs such as those at Answers in Genesis and the Institute for Creation Research.
TUNNELING TETRAPODS — Naturalis Historia has a note about Triassic Fossilized Animal Burrows in Argentina. In the YEC scenario, these were either formed by very busy terrestrial critters who somehow survived the Cambrian to Permian part of the flood only to dig sophisticated burrows during some brief respite before the Jurassic to Tertiary part of the flood, or they only look like animal burrows, complete with horizontal burrows, vertical burrows, and nesting chambers; accompanied by well-developed paleosols (ancient soil layers).
HOW MUCH DID IT SNOW IN THE WINTER OF 22,375 B.C.? – A 30,000-year ice core from Antarctica. The YEC response will once again be, “they only look like annual ice layers,” even though the older layers look just like the layers formed in historic times.
HT: Geology.com News
THIS STATEMENT IS FALSE — Stand to Reason has a post about self-refuting statements, such as:
- “There is no objective truth.” (Is that statement objectively true?)
- “It’s arrogant to assume you know the truth with certainty.” (Are you certain that is a true statement?)
- “Science is the only way to determine truth.” (What experiment did you run to determine that statement?)
- “Tolerance requires us to accept all views equally” (Except, of course, any view that doesn’t accept all views as equal.)
WHAT MANY DO WITH THEIR COLLEGE DEGREE — CNN Money reports that 1 in 4 retail workers, 1 in 6 bartenders, and 1 in 4 amusement park attendants have a college degree, and that “about 37% of employed U.S. college graduates are working in jobs that require no more than a high school diploma.”
THINGS YOU MIGHT NOT KNOW ABOUT JACK — Clive Staples Lewis, that is. Go to 30 Things You Might Not Know About CS Lewis and you will probably learn something you didn’t know about Jack. I think I knew about 12 out of the 30 things; here are some that I did not know:
- 3. He never learned to drive.
- 7. He failed his Oxford entrance exam, twice.
- 22. Mere Christianity never mentions the Resurrection.
- 23. He read every single book from the 16th century.
Grace and peace
The waters saw you, O God,
the waters saw you and writhed;
the very depths were convulsed.
The clouds poured down water,
the skies resounded with thunder;
your arrows flashed back and forth.
Your thunder was heard in the whirlwind,
your lightning lit up the world;
the earth trembled and quaked.
–Psalm 77:16-18 (NIV 1984)
I flew over the Wasatch Mountains of Utah this morning, and the sight was spectacular. The sun was just about to rise, and the mountains had a considerable amount of fresh snow on their pristine slopes. The ruggedness of the mountains was heightened by the smooth, undulating texture of the fog-filled valleys. The crest of the range was knife-sharp, with steep snow drifts looming over chutes that had been carved through the forested slopes by numerous avalanches in a multitude of previous winters.
As I praised God for the beauty of his creation—I love mountains and I love snow—I realized that the countryside passing quickly beneath me was a dangerous place. At any time, an avalanche could be triggered—perhaps by wind, by settling of snow caused by temperatures changes, or by a cross-country skier traversing the slopes beneath the cornices.
It is not a contradiction to say that creation can be a dangerous place, and to say that it is good. In the Scriptures, God is not just glorified by gentle creations, such as puppies and daffodils. Certainly these things are good, but they are not used in imagery describing the majesty and power of the Almighty. Instead, as in Psalm 77, God’s glory is displayed in things that are frightening, such as thunder, lightning, wind, and earthquakes. I would add to the Biblical list marvels such as volcanoes, hurricanes, black holes, and supernovas.
Some assume that God’s original creation, being described as “very good,” did not contain thunderstorms, earthquakes, or gamma ray bursts. I see absolutely no Biblical reason for believing this, and plenty of Biblical passages which use the dangerous parts of creation to point us to the even more awesome powers of the Creator. God is like how Aslan is described in C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe:
“Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”
Grace and Peace
UNIVERSITY THOUGHT POLICE AT WORK AGAIN – University of Michigan Kicks Christian Club off Campus because they require leaders to be Christians. This should be a no-brainer. Of course a Christian group on campus should have Christian leaders; this would be discriminatory only if the same rule were not applied to other groups. A Muslim group should be allowed to require Muslim leaders, a Buddhist group should be allowed to require Buddhist leaders, an atheist group should be allowed to require an atheist leader, and so forth.
PBS HATCHET JOB RETRACTED — pbs.org had posted an anti-creationist hatchet job with several inaccuracies entitled 10 Interesting Lessons from Creationist-Inspired Textbooks. Certainly some of the “10 interesting lessons” were straight out of the fringe (homeschool publishers Bob Jones and Abeka) of young-Earth creationism, but others were simply false accusations, such as the stating that the ID book Pandas and People teaches “biblical genetics” based on the story of Jacob mating Laban’s sheep and goats in Genesis 30.
The PBS article now reads:
Independent Lens [part of PBS] seeks to assure that its content offerings encourage a lively civic dialogue, and that they do not present only one point of view. In this spirit, this post has been removed…
There are enough really bad teachings in the YEC world without adding embellishments.
HT: Controversial Biblical scholar Peter Enns, who missed the Pandas and People error, but gives an idea of what is out there in the YEC homeschool world.
KILLER KITTIES — One of my cats (the cute one) fits the description of “killer.” That Cuddly Kitty Is Deadlier Than You Think.
Domestic cats in the United States [...] kill a median of 2.4 billion birds and 12.3 billion mammals a year, most of them native mammals like shrews, chipmunks and voles rather than introduced pests like the Norway rat.
TEN YEARS AGO — CNN coverage of the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster.
Grace and Peace
The age of the Earth is and should be a secondary doctrinal issue within Christianity. It is not up there with central Biblical teachings such as the Trinity, the deity of Christ, or justification by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone. Nor is it up there with doctrines such as baptism, the Lord’s supper, election, and the work of the Holy Spirit, all of which Christians have differences on.
Some young-Earth creationists will say that the reason the age of the Earth is a primary issue is because if one does not interpret Genesis the way they do, one denies the authority of the Scriptures on which all other doctrines are based. This allegation is demonstrably false. Like many other old-Earth Christians, I believe the Bible from the very first verse, and my old-Earth beliefs do not compromise a single core doctrine of the faith.
One example of a young-Earth creationist who looks at the age of the Earth as a primary doctrinal issue is Henry Morris III, CEO of the Institute for Creation Research, and son of ICR founder Henry Morris. According to the ICR article Geologist Claims Creationists Abandoned Faith (an article which brings up another topic I really need to write about), Morris was asked, “Do you believe that you can be a committed biblicist and come up with an old age view as [old-Earth Christian Glen Morton] has done?” Henry Morris’s reply was,
“It’s kind of like asking: Can you be a Christian and an adulterer.”
I’m wondering if Dr. Morris replies in a similar way to Christians who disagree with him on other doctrinal matters:
Christian: Can I be a Christian and differ with you on baptism?
Morris: “It’s kind of like asking: ‘Can you be a Christian and an adulterer?’”
Christian: Can I be a Christian and differ with you on the timing of events in the end times?
Morris: “It’s kind of like asking: ‘Can you be a Christian and an adulterer?’”
Christian: Can I be a Christian and differ with you on the Holy Spirit?
Morris: “It’s kind of like asking: ‘Can you be a Christian and an adulterer?’”
Grace and Peace
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. — Genesis 1:1 (ESV)
“The cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be.” — Carl Sagan, from Cosmos.
Which of these two quotes is a scientific statement, and which is a religious statement?
The initial reaction most people—including Christians— have had when I have asked this question is that the quote from Genesis is a religious statement, and the quote from Sagan is a scientific statement. In reality, both statements are religious or philosophical in nature, but only the Genesis quote is fully compatible with the universe as we know it.
I won’t dispute that the quote from the Bible is a religious statement. If religion is about God and his relationship to the universe and humanity, then Genesis 1:1 is clearly a religious statement.
Carl Sagan’s famous Cosmos statement is also a philosophical—and I would say religious—statement. Sagan had not observed that “the cosmos is all that is or ever was or ever will be,” nor had he nor any other scientist done an experiment which proved that God doesn’t exist or isn’t necessary. In other words, Sagan had not used anything like “the scientific method” to arrive at his conclusion, and his Cosmos quote is a philosophical statement, not a scientific one.
Atheists such as Sagan would say that science has explained everything from nuclear fusion to sexual reproduction without any need for inserting God into the process and so their faith that there is no God is justified (faith is the right word, even if they would scramble to say it in a different way). But in doing this they are confusing categories. It is one thing to say that stellar evolution or meiosis can be explained without inserting a “God did it” step. Christians do not insert a “God did it” step into these processes either. However, it is an entirely different matter to explain why there is a cosmos at all. This question is outside of science, and is one that theists have a better explanation for than do atheists.
Many dismiss the Christian belief that God created the entire cosmos—matter, energy, space, time, and laws—as coming from a primitive myth. By “cosmos” I mean “everything that is or ever was or ever will be,” which would include the multiverse (if there is such a thing) beyond our observed universe, but but would not include God. Only one of the following statements, however, is actually compatible with the cosmos as we know it:
“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”
“In the beginning, nothing created everything.”
In the universe we live in, things do not pop into existence completely out of nothing. I am not talking about random quantum fluctuations creating subatomic particles here and there, because these particles are not truly popping up out of nothing. By nothing, I mean nothing — no space, time, matter, energy, nor laws. Because of this, it is incompatible with what we know about the cosmos—that is, it is incompatible with science—to believe that the cosmos came from absolutely nothing, or that it somehow created itself.
On the other hand, it is compatible with the universe as we know it (i.e. science) to advocate that it was caused to exist by something completely outside of it. There is absolutely no scientific reason, therefore, for a scientist to not accept that “in the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”
Grace and Peace
GENESIS 1:1 IN KLINGON — Creationism.com has Genesis 1:1 in Klingon.
I guess that might come in handy if a Klingon shows up at the next Answers in Genesis conference.
For those of us who don’t know the Klingon alphabet, there is an English transliteration.
I actually don’t look at this as a useless exercise. If I were a Trekie who was into learning Klingon, I would want to be able to communicate the gospel in a way that my fellow Trekies could relate to.
YEC EXPEDITION FAILS TO FIND LIVING DINOSAURS IN CONGO — From Creationtoday.org (formerly drdino.com): In Search of Mokele-mbembes.
WAYS IN WHICH MILLIONS OF US COULD DIE – Planetary disasters: It could happen one night. Mega-tsunamis, super-volcanoes, gamma-ray blasts, fungal attacks, asteroid impacts, solar flares…
The Sun occasionally launches outsize solar flares, which fry electricity grids by generating intense currents in wires. The most recent solar megastorm, in 1859, sparked fires in telegraph offices; today, a similarly sized storm would knock out satellites and shut down power grids for months or longer. That could cause trillions of dollars in economic damage. A solar flare some 20 times larger than that may have hit Earth in 774…
BIBLE TOWNS — The ten most Bible-minded cities in America. And the least Bible minded cities.
A WILD RIDE — This doesn’t have much to do with Christianity, science, the Bible, etc., but this documentary on Al Jazeera was fascinating: Risking it all: Pakistani truckers’ perilous journey.
Grace and Peace
Here is my belated Martin Luther King Jr. Day post, a quote from How Martin Luther King Jr. Overcame “Christian” White Supremacy by Southern Baptist Russell D. Moore.
On the question of civil rights in the American Christian context, there is little question that, with few exceptions, the “progressives” were right, often heroically right, and the “conservatives” were wrong, often satanically wrong. In the narrative of the dismantling of Jim Crow, conservatives were often the villains and progressives were most often on the side of the angels, indeed on the side of Jesus.
But regardless of personal faith, the civil rights heroes indicted conservative hypocrites, prophetically, with the conservatives’ own convictional claims. And, as Jesus promised, “My sheep hear my voice and they follow me.”
The arguments for racial reconciliation were persuasive, ultimately, to orthodox Christians because they appealed to a higher authority than the cultural captivity of white supremacy. These arguments appealed to the authority of Scripture and the historic Christian tradition.
This authority couldn’t easily be muted by a claim to a “different interpretation” because racial equality was built on premises conservatives already heartily endorsed: the universal love of God, the unity of the race in Adam, the Great Commission and the church as the household of God.
With this the case, the legitimacy of segregation crumbled just as the legitimacy of slavery had in the century before, and for precisely the same reasons. Segregation, like slavery, was shown to be what all human consciences already knew it to be: not just a political injustice or a social inequity (although certainly that) but also a sin against God and neighbor and a repudiation of the gospel. Regenerate hearts ultimately melted before such arguments because in them they heard the voice of their Christ, a voice they’d heard in the Scriptures themselves.
Grace and Peace