Disproving Creationism Part 4: Christian Thought on decline

Oh what time a week brings. At the end of last week, I was working on my articles on why I am not OEC, in the vein of my discussions on what it would take me to convince me of Old Earth Creationism rather than Young Earth Creationism – despite claims that this makes me “anti-Science” a troglydite, comparisons to flat earthers or to those who are illiteriate.

At the end of last week I covered a marathon session on the recent supreme court decision, and then started the process of adapting to a swing change – the joys of working a secular job while doing apologetics at the same time.

To come back to my point on why I am not OEC, to convince me that the I should abandon that position, one would need to prove or demonstrate three things.

  1. Evolution must be demonstrated scientifically rather than philosophically.
  2. They must develop a viable interpretation of Genesis 1 and 2 within the confines of grammatical/historical interpretation.
  3. They must present a viable answer to the questions raised for Biblical Theology and Systematic theology.

We are on the third issue, and frankly this is the most important. One might demonstrate evolution scientifically, but this would not make a comment on the past, it makes a comment on an ongoing process. Similarly developing a viable of Genesis 1 and 2 would not prove that it is the correct interpretation, it only provides a viable means of tying the discussions together. The third point is most crucial.

What I mean by the answers to the questions raised for Biblical Theology and systematic theology are the impacts this has on the larger issues of Christian thought.

The New Testament takes Genesis 1 through 3 very seriously, for example, it is now well known that Jesus dealt with the question of marriage by appealing to Genesis 1 and 2, the created order. Paul does the same thing in 1 Timothy 2, when he discusses why women should not be in the pastorate.

The biggest issue is the discussion of evil, and the curse. Paul discusses the curse[1] as the source of natural disasters.[2] If someone argues that God used evolution to bring men up from the dust of the ground, then we have a serious problem because death and disaster would predate the fall and creation of mankind. In so doing, we can no longer discuss evil in terms of man’s actions – God originally created nature red in tooth and claw.

There are other issues besides this illustrative one, but this to me is the central problem, Old Earth Creationists must alter Christian thought in too many ways, it puts Christian thought on decline.

[1] Genesis 3:17

[2] Romans 8:20-23.

Disproving Creationism: Hurdle 2 The interpretation of Genesis

Last time I noted three problems that one must jump to logically combine evolutionary thought with Christian thought. Thus, the question is one of trying to be consistently Christian and combining this with evolutionary thought. They were:

  1. Evolution must be demonstrated scientifically rather than philosophically.
  2. They must develop a viable interpretation of Genesis 1 and 2 within the confines of grammatical/historical interpretation.
  3. They must present a viable answer to the questions raised for Biblical Theology and Systematic theology.

Today I am looking at Hurdle number 2.

  1. They must develop a viable interpretation of Genesis 1 and 2 within the confines of grammatical/historical interpretation.

The major problem with discussions of Genesis one by old earth Creationists is that their application of the rules of interpretation are different when it comes to Genesis 1 and 2 from other parts of the book of Genesis (I sometimes use Genesis 24 as an example). Many people will argue, for example, that Genesis 1:11 is not meant to be taken literally, but will assume that discussions involving Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are. Yet, we cannot take this text in terms of allegory because we have no contextual clues within Genesis 1 to indicate it is allegory,[1] and there is no “shift” in the type of literature. One might argue that this is true of the entire book of Genesis, but this misses two major points. First, Genesis is taken as historical in the rest of the Torah (the first five books of the Old Testament), and so one is forced very quickly by this logic to assume the entire Old Testament historical books are allegorical. Yet, this does not fit the discussion of Jesus, Himself about these books. Second, the Torah is written in the format of a Hittite Suzereignty treaty, and the first part of this type of literature is a discussion of the history of the parties. Allegorizing the text, then is out.

Similarly, approaches such as the day-age hypothesis (which assumes the days of Genesis are not literal twenty-four hour days) fails the hermeneutical test, because it requires one to violate the rule of context. Genesis 1:3-5 clearly identifies the day and night with the cycle of light and darkness. It is difficult to conceive of anything other than a literal twenty-four hour day given this statement within the context.

Other attempts have been made, but usually they also fall afoul of the details. The gap theory is based on an error in the understanding of the Hebrew underlying the text. Similarly, I recently listened Hugh Ross speaking on his conversation on the basis of his work from Genesis 1. I am profoundly grateful the man came to Christ, do not get me wrong. butRoss’s work with the text has some serious issues. In that disucssion he makes a number of claims about the meaning of Genesis 1 – but grammatically, his assertions don’t work.[2] While I am not an expert on Hebrew Grammar, it doesn’t take one long to realize he is out of his depth in the interpretation of Genesis 1. Similarly there are contextual issues with Ross’s analysis.[3]

So far, those who try to correlate evolution to Christianity fail in their exegesis of Genesis 1. Next time we will look at their failure with the rest of Scripture.

            [1] There are allegories and symbols of course in Scripture, however, they usually occur either in the context of a vision or in the context of an indirect discourse, such as a parable. Often they are clearly labeled as such, and often the meaning is provided within the context itself, or the meaning was obvious to those at the historical time of the writing.

            [2] For example, he discusses the importance of the existence of multiple heavens, and that the Hebrew term is in the plural. The problem is that the plural number in Hebrew does not always mean that there is more than one of something. In the case of the heavens, this is known as the “plural of expanse” and may indicate a very large surface.

[3] Ross argues, for example, that day two is the beginning of the water cycle. Yet, Genesis 2:5-6 indicates that the water cycle did not function the same way before the flood as it did after the flood.

Disproving Creationism Hurdle 1 – Scientific falsification rather than philosophical assertions.

Last time, I started by noting what it would take for me to adopt an “old earth Creationist” viewpoint, or to Christianize evolution as some Christian theists attempt to do. I noted last time, in a very brief thumbnail sketch, how I move from acceptance of Christianity itself to accepting theologically the inspiration and authority of Scripture.

Clearly, some who accept the historic resurrection of Christ do not agree with my conclusions, including some men I respect greatly in other endeavors. As Christians, we all have those areas where our theology is not fully surrendered to Scripture, just as we have not received complete sanctification. I harbor no ill-will then against those who disagree with me, but I would submit, one cannot accept Christianity and evolution without compromising these very views.

To put it another way, to be Christian and deny “Young Earth Creationism,” means one leaves intellectual holes in ones foundations and worldview. Unless and until these holes are filled, I cannot consider evolution and Christianity to be compatible. There are three major areas where OEC believers must repair the holes in their arguments before I will entertain their position.

I originally was going to do this in one column, but I hit 1000 words when I completed my discussion on hurdle number two, so I will deal with these hurdles individually. The three hurdles are:

  1. Evolution must be demonstrated scientifically rather than philosophically.
  2. They must develop a viable interpretation of Genesis 1 and 2 within the confines of grammatical/historical interpretation.
  3. They must present a viable answer to the questions raised for Biblical Theology and Systematic theology.

Hurdle 1: Young Earth Creationism must be demonstrated to be false rather than philosophically.

Many people assume Christians either dismiss science in our discussions of evolution, or assume the arguments are on the basis of scientific arguments. While the former may be true in some corners, it isn’t true in many. Similarly, both sides of the debate will martial scientifically demonstrated facts in support of their case, such as the rate project by the ICR. Yet, while this is an element of the debate between young earth Creationists and evolutionists, it is by no means the totality of that discussion.

A far more important discussion lies at the level of the philosophy and premises within evolution.[1] Evolutionists assume natural law has always functioned as it does now; Creationists do not. Genesis 3’s discussion of the curse and its extrapolation elsewhere in the Bible would provide as a Christian premise that natural law has, in fact, been changed on at least one occasion.[2] Similarly, Christians do not assume that the word “kinds” in the Bible correlates to the modern ideas of species. Finally, personally, as a theologian I view time and change, in general, as a degenerative force under the curse, to accept evolution, I would need instead to view these as progressive forces.

At the least, one would need to observe the development of a new family or order, by the natural development of new information in the genetic code and any other related areas. By “natural,” I mean without such techniques as genetic engineering. Someone might present something else, perhaps, but it would require actual falsification within my own set of Christian premises, or falsification of my premises elsewhere.

This is more difficult than it might seem. For example, since I do not accept the premise of naturalism, I do not assume that a particular study can prove how old a rock is. As a Christian the most that can be said is, “the rock is no older than,” since we cannot presume to know particularly what state said rock was originally created in. Similarly, a tree might be found with 8000 tree rings, but the original trees in the garden of Eden were created fully grown, and presumably had rings, despite not having more than a few days of actual age. Also, the flood seems to have changed the water cycle and likely the atmosphere as well, and we don’t necessarily know what all those changes would entail. Therefore, identifying a particular rock or tree as older than my age of the earth does not, presumably answer this question; it sets a terminal date for the earth not an actual time of creation.

Besides this, the dates seem to be in conflict; there are problems, for example with the distance between the earth and the moon, which are problematic for an old earth creationist viewpoint.[3] Similar discussions of time dilation with star light, etc make these discussions highly complex and I will leave these discussions to the experts. This frankly makes more sense to a YEC perspective than to a secularist one.

            [1] To a certain degree, this may reflect discussions on the philosophy of science between writers such as Kuhn, and the later writer, Karl Popper. Kuhn argued that science provide a positive basis for knowing things, Popper on the other hand, argued instead that science is limited to falsifying theories. Popper I believe is more correct than Kuhn on the basis of the logic underlying the scientific method, otherwise science itself would be guilty of the logical fallacy known as “confirming the consequent.”

[2]Similarly discussions in Genesis 1-7 would indicate that the water cycle changed at the time of the flood. While some kind of water cycle would obviously need to be in existence for plant life to thrive, the text is clear that rain itself did not exist before the flood. What impact this might have on the fossil record is something that I will leave to those more versed in these subjects.

[3] The moons orbit is slowly moving away from the earth, and is too close to have been orbiting the earth for billions of years.

Disproving Creationism: Part 1 Why I am a Young Earther

During a discussion in the Christian Apologetics Alliance on Old Earth Creationism (OEC) it was stated that Young Earth Creationism (YEC) was the cause of young people leaving the church. I don’t think the case has been made, first because the survey in Ken Ham’s book Already Gone indicates the opposite, and second because the outspoken atheists are more likely to discuss the problem of evil as their motivation. One of the real tragedies of compromise on this issue, in my opinion, is the way that this weakens our answers to the problem of evil.

Next time, I will present a similar statement on the three hurdles I find for accepting both Christianity and evolution to be true. But first, its important to understand why I am a Young Earther.

Creation Apologetics rooted in Theology

During the Ken Ham/Bill Nye debate, both persons were asked what it would take to change their minds on their positions, Ken Ham stated his mind would not be changed, and I consider this to be a reasonable position – Alvin Plantinga demonstrated effectively that one does not need a “reason” to believe. Bill Nye argued that facts would change his mind, though considering the number of facts he left on the table unanswered, I’m not sure this response was answered. My answer is, as always, “Find the body.”

Yes, I admit one does not immediately arrive at Creationism from the resurrection, but this is a reasonable extrapolation of the facts, because this influences my view of revelation.

  1. The Resurrection As I have noted elsewhere, I believe that the evidence for the historic resurrection of Christ is compelling. A brief thumbnail can be found on my article on disproving Christianity.
  1. Christ’s claims to Deity If Christ is resurrected from the dead, it seems to demonstrate his claim to be the God of the Old Testament, and His message.
  1. Christ’s imprint on the Bible – In Luke 24:44, and elsewhere, Jesus validated the authority of the Old Testament Scriptures, as well as the teachings of the apostles (John 14:26 – the implication being that the twelve would be inspired teachers). According to Paul, he was accepted by the leading apostles (Galatians 2:1-10). From this I accept the authority and inspiration of the Bible. And if the Scriptures are inspired and authoritative for areas of practice that would include what it says of itself, “the Scripture cannot be broken.”[1]
  1.  Christian Premises and Compromise – As I’ve noted in the past Evolution appears to be rooted in premises of a false religion, the religion of naturalism. One of the implications of the first commandment is that we do not attempt to combine Christainty with any other religion, including atheistic ones.

This rather dry discourse will be important as next time I will discuss what it would take to convince me that one can accept Christianity and evolution.

[1] This is an extreme thumbnail sketch of my approach to Bibliology, that I will eventually unpack further. There are, for us part-timers, only so many hours in the day.

Tragedy of Compromise in Psychology part 2: Coffee filters

Many times, Christians note Augustine of Hippo’s assertion that we should “plunder the Egyptians,” or in other words, we should borrow the scholarship of the world around us. Yet, as inspiring as Augustine’s ideas are on this subject, he is also a negative example of what can happen when we borrow unbelieving scholarship uncritically. Augustine borrowed very heavily from the philosophical ideas of Plato, and this had a negative affect both on his theology and on his method of interpreting the Scriptures.

As noted in our work on the Tragedy of Compromise, my view is that we need to stay aware of, and reject, ideas that require assumptions that do not accord with the Christian faith. I base this on something I call the “Unified Fields Theory of Apologetics”, which is a statement of systematic theology that I discussed in a brief form, in an article on our more technical site. (Systematic theology is an orderly, rational account of the Christian faith and beliefs along with the attempt to answer the religious questions I’ve noted elsewhere). That article can be found here: http://apologiafides.wordpress.com/2014/06/27/squaring-the-circle/.

I am not suggesting that we ignore actual scientific data or that we ignore studies by those outside of the faith. Paul himself quoted from pagan poets and borrowed language from the stoics. One of the first intellectual challenges for the young Christian faith was to communicate its ideas to those outside of the faith.

Psychology does have some actual benefits. There are scientific elements within psychology that may be beneficial. For example, studies of the effects of sleep deprivation on human beings and certain statistical studies, (e.g. a certain percentage of the population will react to a given stimuli in a given way) are both valuable. Counselors may use counseling techniques in a manner similar to the way a preacher learns and uses the art of effective or persuasive speaking and writing.

I am suggesting that we need to filter psychology because much of what passes for psychology is religion, in disguise.

Jerry Bergman – Hitler and the Nazi Darwinian Worldview

Jerry Bergman Hitler and the Nazi Darwinian Worldview. Joshua Press, 2012.

Bergman’s Book Hitler and the Nazi Darwinian Worldview is an entry on the lay level discussion to a long running debate about the influences on Nazi Germany. His book is ultimately a series of miniature biographies focusing on several leaders of the 3rd Reich, and the influence of Darwinism on their thoughts. Before going into the usual format for a review, (strengths, weaknesses, and conclusion) I want to note ahead of time that this work is more useful for Christians on the defense than offense. Richard Dawkins, and other members of the Atheist lunatic fringe (http://apologiafides.wordpress.com/2014/01/14/moral-argument-from-atrocities-5/), consistently argue that the Nazi’s were Christians. Because modern Darwinists no longer make the same racist assertions as they did in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, this is no longer a useful primary argument (my primary argument being found in our recent series on the tragedy of Compromise).

Positives Bergman is one of the few writers to accurately portray the reaction of nominally Christian organizations to the Reich – most writers either focus on those who collaborated with the Reich or those who opposed Hitler. Specifically, when one reads the secular discussions on the Reich, one would assume the collaborators were theological evangelicals, in reality, most of the leaders of the Christian denominations in Germany were influenced primarily by enlightenment era and existentialist philosophers and tried to reinterpret the Bible to fit these philosophers’ viewpoints – this is a type of theology I warned against in our recent series on the tragedy of compromise, a group I consistently refer to as the religious Left. Bergman’s work is heavily footnoted and researched, but is highly readable.

Negatives – Because of Bergman’s focus, the book is a bit repetitious in the later chapters – one can almost anticipate where the chapter will go.

His focus on Darwinism, while valid, would be better in a more technical work. There is no discussion of Wagner, theosophy, and German Neo-paganism. Besides the questions about the extent to which the Nazis were involved with the occult, there was also little discussion of the influence of Hegel, Nietsche, or any of the other enlightenment thinkers connected to the Reich; while these thinkers were Darwinists they were far more, and far worse.

Conclusion: While I discussed the negatives more than the positives, I liked this book, and recommend it. Take the negatives as a discussion of things to keep in mind, while reading the book, rather than a reason not to read the book. With the proviso of its usefulness above, this is a highly useful book.

Tragedy of Compromise: Summary and Conclusion

My argument concerning the tragedy of compromise can be condensed this way:
1. Christianity embraces a point for which historical corroboration is possible; that point is the Resurrection of Christ. Using a number of approaches, it becomes clear that the Christian responses to the question, “Did Christ rise from the dead?” are superior to the theories ascribed to explain away the Resurrection.
2. Because these answers are unequivocal, I accept Christianity, and in so doing I accept Christian presuppositions concerning the nature of reality.
3. Once we begin studying religion as a category of questions rather than the modern tendency to arbitrarily define some thought systems as religious, and some as non-religious, Naturalism becomes a separate religion, apart from Christianity.
4. Because Naturalism is a different religion, it has different philosophical presuppositions than does Christianity. Naturalists, however, tend to be sloppy in defining the border of their philosophical beliefs and other areas of study: most notably, the sciences.
5. The key presupposition of Naturalism is a practical (and at most points, a theoretical) denial that miracles are possible. As the Resurrection of Christ is a miracle, this is a presupposition that is not possible for the Christian to accept, and therefore to argue from.
6. Evolution is ultimately a doctrine of Naturalism because it requires the key naturalistic presupposition, in the method by which it extrapolates a theory of biological origins from the data; without those presuppositions, the system cannot be demonstrated. To accept evolution one must first accept the tenet that the earth came about without miraculous intervention. To call evolutionary theory “science” we would need to observe, by natural means, the development of a new family (not a new species) by means of new, meaningful information being created or added to the genome, in a way that would create a sufficient advantage that would meet the criteria of natural selection. Otherwise, we are using scientific data being in a philosophical argument (which is precisely what creation science does).

My main conclusion in discussing the tragedy of compromise is that Christian opposition is not merely an apologetic necessity, but given the discussion of the first commandment, it is also an ethical imperative.

The next question is one of: “how do we oppose it?”

My answer would be along the same lines I have previously raised. Instead of arguing that Creation science is as scientific as evolution, we restate the argument – I believe more accurately – that evolution is as religious as creationism.

In doing so, our intent is to open minds by moving to the core differences between Creation Science and Evolution. In essence, we discuss evolution and creation in terms of comparing the two worldviews; the assumptions and presuppositions, and why these assumptions are religious in nature. Therefore, our goal should be to relegate evolution from the biology classroom to discussions on philosophy, and without advocacy of the theory, on the grounds of the first amendment – what is good for the goose is ultimately good for the gander.

Our goal, of course, is not a level playing ground – our goal is to adequately move from evolution to the Resurrection of Christ. If evolution is premised in atheism, then it makes no sense to ask atheists to question their evolutionary theory – they must first question their atheism (and theists should be asked about the logical inconsistency of holding to evolutionary theory and disagreeing with the core premise). In doing so, we want to win hearts and minds to Christ by discussing reasons for accepting Christianity instead.