Experiencing a Creation Conference

Jason Rosenhouse went to the Creation Mega-Conference at Lynchburg in 2005, and he wrote up some short chapters in response to the event (in his book Among the Creationists). Remember, Rosenhouse is a mathematics professors, an atheist, and curious — to know what makes creationists tick.

For his readers, he sketches both evolution and creationism. Evolution is marked by terms like genome, alleles, frequency of alleles, gene pool, fixation, mutations, natural selection, genetic drift and a family tree.  That is, “complex structures form by a process of gradual accretion” (33). Creationism: as a religion, it is about the inerrancy and perspicuity of the Bible; as a science, “a collection of assertions meant to show both the inadequacy of modern evolutionary theory and the correctness of the account in Genesis” (34).

How  would you define evolutionary theory or creationism to the opposite side? Is evolution equated with naturalism/anti-God? What do you think of his response to the best argument for evolution?

He again sketches stuff from Ken Ham, who spoke at that conference — including the claim “Every single biblical doctrine of theology, directly or indirectly, ultimately has its basis in the Book of Genesis” (35) — and the implication here is staggering. Christian theology is based upon a particular reading of Genesis. That is, more or less, a young earth creationist reading. For Ham, evolution means anti-God.

In the last thirty years some numbers are about the same: about 38% of Americans are theistic evolutionists, about 40% are creationists, while the number of nontheistic evolutionists has gone from about 9 to 16%. Evangelicals are about 23% evolutionists, Mainline 51%, historically Black churches 39%, Catholic 58%, Orthodox 55%, Jewish 77%, Muslim 45%, Buddhist 81%, Hindu 80%, atheists 87%. For the Creationists: Genesis 1 reads like a narrative of history, so it is history; but Creationists are not flat-footed literal Bible readers in general. They don’t think Genesis is a science textbook, but where the Bible speaks of science matters, it is true. You don’t have to accept their view of Genesis to be a Christian. They do think their view of Genesis makes most sense biblically. They believe in a slippery slope: give in and the next thing… compromises lead to theological error and to moral relativism.

He spent some time in the bookstore, at Ken Ham’s urging. I’ll avoid summarizing his experience there. It’s predictable.

Rosenhouse was asked what is the best argument for evolution. After his sketch of the oddities of nature, which a man named Carl Kerby argued showed creationism and not evolution (including cave wetas, moloch lizard, mating of emperor penguins, mimic octopus, human eyes etc)… But Rosenhouse says he offered no arguments, no science, and neither did Kerby bother to explain how evolutionists have mapped such natural evidence.

Back to the question: “Our confidence in evolution is not based on just one line of evidence, but from its ability to account for the data in many diverse lines of inquiry” (53). In my view, this is a good answer: it’s encompassing explanatory power. Fossil record … and how evolution works… and how on the basis of one conclusion (fossil record of 365 to 380 million years back) one can predict and sometimes find confirmation (a fossil confirming the transition from fish to land-dwelling animals). (This is about Neil Shubin, a picture of whose fossil is before the jump.)

“Creationism offers nothing to rival it” (55).

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than fifty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • Matt

    In my experience, Creationists are disingenuous when it comes to the claim of “you don’t have to be a YEC to be a Christian.” True, they will say the above (often at the beginning of a presentation or when asked outright) because I think in their gut they know that such claims are not salvation by grace through faith but salvation but doctrine, but when you listen to their presentations in all their glory, they say things like “those who believe in evolution are losing a spiritual battle” or they are “deceived.” In other words, they may reluctantly concede that theistic evolutionists are Christians, but it is a watered-down, patronizing, self-righteous concession. After hearing such rhetoric, those “new” to the theistic evolutionist camp may start to question if one can be actually Christian if YEC is jettisoned. To be fair, however, I have to ask myself if I have ever thought something similar of the YEC crowd. The answer is a qualified “yes.”

  • Ty w

    The most interesting thing in this article: 87% of atheists are evolutionists. What are the other 13%?

  • http://paroikos.com Rob

    Two things. First, I happen to agree that Genesis is the basis for everything else we believe in. It has to be for the simple reason that if God is the Creator of all that there is, then He has authority over His creation. He alone defines reality, which means He alone defines what sin is. And as you know, sin is the disease to which salvation through Jesus Christ is the cure.
    Second, I would argue with the notion that finding a fossil record of 365 to 380 millions years back would be a good cause to embrace evolution (or old earth for that matter). How does one go about interpreting the evidence? What measure does one use to determine the age of a fossil? What if the means and standard by which the evidence is measured is flawed due to an incomplete understanding of how to rightly interpret it and an unwillingness to take God at His word? What if all the knowledge we have in science is but a fraction of all the knowledge that is out there to be known, that God knows, and our conclusions are merely foolishness based on incomplete knowledge?
    “Who is this that obscures my plans with words without knowledge?…Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?” (Job 38:2,4)

  • http://paroikos.com Rob

    By the way…I’m not anti-science by any means. I think scientists, of all people, should be the people who are most convinced of the existence of God. It really just comes down to what you are willing to believe in…rationalism or God’s word.

  • scotmcknight

    Rob,
    Do you treat any other discipline the way you are treating science and origins in the second observation in your comment? Let’s say your doctor says, on the basis of the same scientific method, that DNA studies and chemistry combine to suggest this treatment… Do you then say, But we know only a fraction of the truth? Or do you say, Give me the medicine?

    What I’m getting at is that if you treat scientific studies like this you push yourself in a corner of not knowing much, if anything.

  • scotmcknight

    The issue, Rob, is do you believe what we have come to know, even if it is not 100% absolute?

  • http://paroikos.com Rob

    And how often has medicine been wrong or totally inadequate? Again, not saying I’m anti-medicine. Sometimes it does a lot of good. But I would dare say that this is a different issue in its application. With medicine we’re not talking about the origins of life and whether or not there is a God to whom we are accountable. All I’m saying is maybe it is healthy for us humans to be a little less sure of things and a little more in awe of the God who holds all wisdom and knowledge. We should seek knowledge, but iif “evidence” appears to contradict what Gid says, we should be willing to err on the side of God and acknowledge that we don’t have all the knowledge.

  • scotmcknight

    Less sure, Rob, is one thing; ignoring all the facts/conclusions is another. Fossil dating is not the result of one simplistic study but a confluence of studies leading to a grander hypothesis. The book by Ed Larson on this is worth the read.

  • http://paroikos.com Rob

    Two people witness an automobile accident from two different vantage points. Both have different conclusions about what happened based on what they saw, yet both saw the same accident. Their conclusions are based on their limited perspective and limited knowledge of the state of each driver. If they could have seen all the evidence from all angles and have known all the circumstances, I would hazard a guess that their conclusions would probably be different.

  • http://paroikos.com Rob

    And if we’re dealing with something as eternally important as knowing God, how can we settle for “less sure”? And if certain evidence contradicts other evidence or at least leave a lot of questions unanswered, how can we draw a conclusion? Scot, I think the larger issue here, as always, is what people think reality is. If someone thinks reality is flux and relative, then there is plenty of room to interpret “evidence” without including God, or at least without taking His word seriously. But if reality is defined by God alone, and we believe that one day we will all meet Him face to face and be held accountable (THAT will be everyone’s reality then!) then we must always interpret the evidence of science in that light. To do otherwise would be to deny some basic and necessary elements of gaith in God.

  • scotmcknight

    Rob, Two people witness an encounter with Jesus after his death…. I would hazard a guess that their conclusions would probably be different.

    You want to play that game really?

  • scotmcknight

    Rob, interpreting evidence in light of our faith in God is one thing; denying the fossil record, because we believe in God, is something else. Isn’t there a “critical realist” option?

  • http://paroikos.com Rob

    Only if we define reality correctly, yes. And as to the two people who witness the resurrection, yes, I’d love to play that game. Because that is precisely why we have the Bible. You might have many different perspectives of Jesus’ resurrection, but two thigs become true. First, it only proves that Jesus truly did rise from the dead. Second, having several accounts from several people makes for a fuller picture of what really happened. In the case of the fossil records, though, the “other” witness that we are neglecting happens to be God’s. Put the two together (the fossil record and God’s account) and I would say you would a) have a much fuller account and b) have to be more careful which conclusions we draw. Too often, though, we treat one (the fossil records alone) as more “credible” than God’s account.

  • CGC

    Hi Rob,
    Is it really wise to pit the fossil record against God’s account (of creation)? Wouldn’t it be more correct to say the fossil record possibly contradicts your interpretation of the Genesis account? And yes, some people may think they have to change their understanding of the creation account because of let’s say the fossil record but doesn’t truth no matter where it is found have to some way be reconciled? It can’t be just the other way that we privilege a certain reading of Scripture and it doesn’t matter that all the evidence in the world goes against it. I would also suggest there are many people who read the Genesis account in such a way that science does not threaten one’s interpretation but may fill in some of the blanks on how God may have possibly done some things or is still doing some things. In other words, there is no contradiction because they understand the Creation account in a very different way from the beginning. So coming back to your caveat, we should not as you say “treat the fossil records alone as a more credible account than God’s account.” But let’s not do the opposite either, take a certain reading of the Genesis account and nothing else or any other truths in God’s world can never overthrow our intepretations. Doesn’t the issue you bring up cut both ways?

  • Andrew

    When I want to explain evolution’s explanatory power, I offer two things:

    1. (extending your last comment, Scot) Convergence of multiple streams of evidence: fossils (paleontology), rock strata (geology), plate tectonics (biogeography), comparative physiology, and, what’s drawing it all together in this century, DNA and genome sequencing (molecular biology).

    2. Australian mammals. If (macro)evolution isn’t true, provide an elegant explanation of the fact that all native mammals of Australia (except bats) are pouched marsupials, while on other continents essentially the only surviving marsupials are opossums, and all other mammals are placental. Microevolution can’t explain Australian marsupials, unless you think that kangaroos, marsupial mice (antechinus), Tasmanian tigers, and koalas are all pretty much the same thing.

  • Marshall

    I agree with Rob that scientists should be among those most convinced of God’s majesty. I also think that believers should be among those most fascinated by seeing God’s actual hand at work. Instead, fools that we are, we make an excuse to argue with each other. There is only one God who is God, and we know him through scripture and through nature.

  • Andrew

    To Tyw (#2): Childhood creationist inculcation can be so strong that people leave the faith, deny God’s existence, and still think evolution is bogus. I actually know someone like that.

  • Herman Cummings

    If pastors, priests. rabbis, and “so called” Christians would stop their false (old Earth) and foolish (young Earth) teachings, and start promoting the truth of Genesis (Observations of Moses), then there would hardly be any room for the ridiculous teaching of evolution.

    Collectively, Bible believers are so “blind”, that their approach to Genesis is a joke. Instead of seeking the truth, they continue to support the current lies and foolishness of Creationism. Genesis does not have any “Creation accounts”. When you keep telling a person that their car is running out of gas, and they refuse to go to the gas station, you begin to wonder how “dumb” they are.

    Herman Cummings
    ephraim7@aol.com

  • Patrick O

    “Two people witness an automobile accident from two different vantage points. Both have different conclusions about what happened based on what they saw, yet both saw the same accident. Their conclusions are based on their limited perspective and limited knowledge of the state of each driver.”

    Then a third person comes along and says there was no accident. The cars were already damaged and placed there in the intersection, with the witnesses acting on behalf of one of the drivers who just wants the insurance money.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Rob, not sure if this will help, but I lifted these two paragraphs from you blog and pretty much substituted the bible or biblicists for science or scientist. It is actually accurate now.

    My beef here isn’t with the bible. The bible was given to us to point us to God, to discover what He has made and how He made it [the how it is made does not work very well with my substitution Rob]. My beef is two-fold. First, how easy some people who call themselves Christians write off the Science, as if it is just a bunch of old tales. But second, my beef is in the fact that these professing “Christians” think that they actually know how to interpret the ancient biblical texts that have been discovered, and that there is no more knowledge to acquire.

    Biblicists interpret evidence by the means that they understand, and compare that evidence with other evidence that they understand. Their whole rationale is based on what they understand. Do they suppose to have all knowledge in interpreting ancient texts? For instance, when biblicists evaluate a text fragment and determine if it is authentic, by what standard do they determine it? Who set that standard? Or is the standard simply determined by what is rational and readily understood?

    I really don’t think you are looking at this fairly Rob. You seem to be believing that somehow scientists are interpreting more than biblicists. That is not a good assumption.

  • CGC

    Hi Rob, DRT, and all,
    Okay, after reading DRT comment, I went over to Rob’s blog. First off, anyone who has the time and dedication to write on a regular basis, I say kudos to you.

    Secondly, as I read your train of thought, can I say if the train was reversed and was heading your direction, I am not so sure you would say that accurately describes your position. I sometimes think we forget the golden rule in these discussions of doing unto others what we would like others do unto us. I doubt very much you would want your whole argument used against you in the manner you do it (but I could be wrong?)

    Your whole line of reasoning went from theistic evolutionists (by the way, I and many people don’t even use this term—how about RJS terminology for one possibillty, ‘evolutionary creation’?) has science trumping the Bible (and then you give a quote from one person who says something like that) and then you go to science leads to rationalism and so now anyone who holds to the science of evolution is a rationalist and from there it goes to the slippery slope argument of possibly people losing their Christian faith in the end.

    Here is my suggestion Rob . . . Read the early church fathers and the first commentaries written on the book of Genesis? Did these early Christians teach theological truth, scienific truth, or read the book of Genesis in a literalistic fashion or a more figurative way? Did they draw hard lines in the sand about history and theology or was it much more fluid and flexible? These were the first Christians after the disciples of Jesus who many died a martyrs death. Does your understanding of Scripture match their understanding?

  • http://www.churchgungahlin.com Josh

    Unfortunately Scott, though generally a fan, I think you continue to look over the obvious limitation in scientific interpretation of historically centred data. There are a raft of assumptions (even if logical – which does not equal truth – there are always a number of logical assumptions) that must be applied to the data.

    Uniformitarian assumptions about rates of development in every field – there are no true ‘facts’ here only logical (but limited) assumptions.

    Materialism as the foundation of scientific enquiry – (this is the foundation of modern scientific enquiry). When applied to the interpretation of historical data (ie. something we cannot observe in a contemporary regard or repeat) we will inevitably come up with the wrong answer EVEN if we can create a logical construct.

    Eg. Jesus walks on water (matt 14) If a Scientist were told to explain this BUT (here is the qualifier) it MUST be explained WITHOUT ANY Supernatural intervention they might be able to come up with a number of LOGICALLY consistent claims.

    Their claim holds more water than Scott McKnights claim that there was a significant supernatural intervention because lets be honest how many people have seen this happen? Logical deduction? Jesus might have walked on water but probably didn’t or there was a materialistic reason. Christians then in response, ‘reinterpret’ the passage (in light of modern scientific enquiry). Did Jesus really walk on water or is it really a statement about God’s power of creation? Does it need to be true history or can it be true myth?’

    There is no truth in the claim that Creationism is the only line of thought beheld to previous assumptions, or axioms that make sense of something but could be wrong. Every time we interpret we ALL read through a complex set of internal bias, cultural bias and broken humanity (which would rather NOT believe in God) and would rather look good in the eyes of man rather than God. (scripture calls this fear of man rather than fear of God)

  • CGC

    Hi Josh,
    Well, Scot goes by one ‘t’ and not two (something you might want to keep in mind for the future). Scot makes an argument for evolution and this seems to be an overall critique of science in general??? Somehow this ends with Scot being more concerned about looking good in the eyes of man rather than God? If you are generally a fan of Scot as you say, I am not so sure Scot needs more general fans?

  • JHM

    Having grown up as a YEC, I am sympathetic to their intent and wouldn’t want to put down their passion for the Bible. However, there are some things that just strike me as odd in some of the arguments against the “multi-threaded” evidence for evolution that Rosenhouse, Scot, and RJS have pointed out:

    * most YECs I know believe post-modernism to be extremely harmful and unbiblical, and yet will say things similar to Josh and Rob, along the lines of “it all depends on your assumptions”. The problem is there are quite a few scientists I know (myself included) who do *not* being from an atheistic standpoint, and yet the vast majority agree that the evidence in favor of evolution is overwhelming. It simply does not follow that if you start with a Christian worldview or high view of the authority of the Bible that you will necessarily reject evolution.

    * most YECs will tell you that God is the same, yesterday, today, and forever (especially the more Calvinistic leaning ones) and yet they reject uniformitarianism. I would think that if indeed God created all that is and He sustains the Universe, uniformitarianism would be a given.

    * most YECs will reject that many lines of scientific experimentation, observation, and theory can be sufficient evidence for evolution but will with certainty say there is only a single valid interpretation of Genesis.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Josh,

    Please hear me out here. I feel the most compelling arguments for an old earth and evolution are, as Scot alluded to earlier, the incredible breadth of the information across many many disciplines that are derived independently but all still point to the same conclusion. There are some pieces of evidence that most directly speak to the veracity of the claims, but if you become familiar with just how integral it is to a coherent picture of our world you would realize that there is no other way (aside from god intentionally making it look that way, for who knows what reason).

    One avenue to understanding the evidence is to read about it very broadly. For example, I do not need to be convinced, but I as soon as Scot mentioned Neil Shubin (I did not recognize the significance of the picture) I looked him up, then looked up the subject matter of what he found, researched the completeness of the skeleton, and then formed an opinion of how well it fit as a transition specimen. Then I marveled at the shear luck (and observation skills) that Neil Shubin has and consider us blessed to have yet another piece (of which there are many many) in the puzzle.

    Now, if he had found a cat in that layer or something that we would not have expected, his name would be a household staple at this point. He would be much more famous than he is right now because that would have upset over a century of evidence across many disciplines. But he did not. He found something quite like what the theories would have predicted.

    If you don’t take the time to read about the subject broadly, from various perspectives, then it is indeed difficult to appreciate. Remember, there are currently about 500,000 scientists in the US, and they are all very smart educated people and this has been going on for a very long time. This is not a matter of looking at some data, like a single graph, or even 1,000 graphs, and making a judgment. It is much more comprehensive than that.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Rob and Josh,

    What do you think when you visit a site like this:

    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/evolution/evolution-your-life.html

    and listen to all the amazing things these folks are saying? Are you thinking that all of these people are somehow deluded and under the spell of the devil? What are you thinking?

  • http://www.steveparsons.net Steve P

    OK Scott. Help me out here.
    As a young pastor, I have always taught Genesis as a literal account of creation (or at least a poetic story of what actually happened).

    And this leads me to a profound and substantial foundation.. I teach that man is made by God and (most importantly) in His image. That man is different than the animals and has a unique relationship with God.

    Doesn’t Theistic evolution wipe all that away? After all if God is God, why would he use evolution as a method of creation? Why not simply create him/her. And if we evolved, then our uniqueness is called into question. There’s nothing special about us, is there? I’m all for looking at what the scientific world is saying and not just using the “bible says so” argument (although that’s not to be dismissed). But even well respected (and vocal) scientists, who claim to only deal with observable data, actually espouse unobservable hypothesis. Richard Dawkins talking about multiverse for example. That’s just a belief system and completely unprovable.

  • Bev Mitchell

    Rob (and Josh)

    People on this blog who are trying to help you are being very patient, kind and respectful. I hope you will take what I have to say in the same way. But, I feel compelled to be a bit more blunt, ’cause sometimes that’s what is needed. 

    This is the third time I have started to write a response while reading your comments. It’s practically impossible to know where best to begin. As for the solid conclusions of evolutionary biology, based on independent evidence from all perspectives available, my only advice to both of you is to hit the books, take some courses or, at least, visit a good natural history or paleontology  museum with a determination to listen more than you speak. 

    Then, Rob, you said,

    “And if we’re dealing with something as eternally important as knowing God, how can we settle for “less sure”? And if certain evidence contradicts other evidence or at least leave a lot of questions unanswered, how can we draw a conclusion?”

    Rob, where does your surety come from? As Christians, our certainty should never come from within ourselves. If our surety comes from outside ourselves, does it come from some human guru? Does it come from our, or someone else’s interpretation of some text? Does it come from some group to which we belong? Does it come from some well worked, but still human, theological system? And, for that matter, what is it that we are, or can be certain about?

    When our certainty comes from some human source, Christian or otherwise, our first need is to defend it. This is the best clue that the source is human and not divine. The second clue comes from the nature and spirit of the defense that is mounted. The worst case of this “defense of my confidence” looks for all the world like some combination of a turtle, a porcupine and a skunk. I will leave it to everyone’s  imagination to put this all together and think what this little fellow’s day must look like.

    Don’t get me wrong, Rob and  Josh. Certainty does exist and can be ours, but it can never be human derived, even in part. The real work of the Holy Spirit, ministering the real work of Christ to our hearts and minds about a real relationship from God to humans and from humane to God is the source of the only certainty that I know of. And it is renewable, and must be renewed daily. And, there is an added bonus. Since the source of this surety is from God himself, we need no defense – we can take off and throw away the turtle-porcupine-skunk suit and walk out in the bright sunshine to be salt and light in a very needy world.

  • Meri

    From a completely different angle, and as a former YEC, I would just like to throw out another possibility here for Josh, et al.

    I have discovered, as most biblically-minded Christians have, that some of the perplexing assertions of scripture become much more clear and meaningful when the text is placed in historical context. Assuming that Moses did indeed author Genesis (either in written form or oral tradition), and given the dating of his lifespan and his particular calling, it appears to me that the YEC reading of the Genesis creation accounts are a result of a misfocus of these scriptures. Having led the Israelites out of 400 years worth of Egyptian influence and centuries without a Jehovah-following Israelite leader / teacher / prophet, surely Moses’ primary concern was not to date the age of the earth for the Israelites. How would this have been a relevant concern for them, especially given what we know about their religious immaturity and fickleness?

    It seems much more likely that Moses was concerning himself with the Israelites’ faith development, and as such was contrasting belief in Jehovah with the Egyptian religious myths they had been listening to for 400 years. As many literary historians have noted, there are striking similarities between the ancient Genesis stories and the Enuma Elish and Gilgamesh stories — even more striking are their dissimilarities.

    It’s worth considering that Moses did not set out to give a particularly accurate or robust description of the details of God’s Creation activity, but rather to correct the Israelites’ lack of conviction about the nature of the One True God. The stark contrast between Genesis and other ancient myths they would have been familiar with would have highlighted to them that there was just One God, not many (can you imagine the collective gasp of the ancients?), that man and his God-given role was to be considered extremely valuable and of great responsibility, and that the purpose of our lives is less about ease and comfort and more about caring and character. He was teaching a paradigm shift. The facts of science were probably not even of primary concern to Moses at this point, thus his narrative is written in poetry and prose rather than documentary fashion.

    When we insist on making these Creation accounts into a scientific treatise of earth age, I think we miss their intended point and purpose.

  • CGC

    Hi Everyone,
    Well, I suspect this thread is coming to an end . . . We all have a tendency “to see as we are” and to think that others will somehow see differently through a few exchanges is probably wishful thinking. I wish we all could agree to be more accepting, patient, and compassionate to those who are different than we are. Unless someone thinks all the Christian faith is a worldview and belief system and God will judge us on right beliefs and not on our relationship to Jesus Christ, I think we all take our own views too seriously (especially myself).

    How science and creation fit together is more our “modern problem” since we think too much of either our interpretations of Scripture or our interpretations of science. Some of these issues are complex and we wonder why some people just don’t get it? Sometimes I wish we would spend more time on discipleship and how spiritual truth should shape our lives than science and politics but science and politics seem to be what many people are passionate about today.

    Although I believe we need to have some understanding and come to terms with some of these issues, are these really the ultimate issues of life? Sometimes we like to talk about science and Christianity are complemenatary like they are talking about the same phenomena (Really?). And we might wish that others were more open-ended and less dogmatic and then our own dogmatism starts coming out and we wish we could hold it back but we can’t. Some of this discussion I enjoyed and some of it I have not but I pray that God would give each of you peace where-ever one ends up in their understanding of these issues.

    For those who can not reconcile their faith with science, then these issues become very important and I hope people do the hard work of looking far and wide, near and backwards into the wealth of history and lessons learned from others to see how we might better wrestle and handle these kind of issues. If we don’t do it for ourselves, maybe for our children or for our grand-children’s sake?

    Shalom!

  • CGC

    Hi Meri,
    Good point . . . I was never a YEC person but I remember sitting down and listening to Ken Ham teaching it to a group of us Christian leaders in the church. Some of my friends were in awe and loved the anti-evolution rhetoric as well as the high belief in the Word of God that the book of Genesis could be reconciled with modern science. But for me, the cognitive dissonance was too great. A young earth? The theory of evolution leads to all of our modern sins? Animals did not kill or eat other animals? Our flesh-tearing teeth was only used for eating vegetables? I could go on but I just could not swallow it (forgive the pun). Certainly there had to be a better approach to faith and science than what the YEC folks were suggesting?

    Now I have for most of my life either been diametrically opposed to macro-evolution or to where my view was somewhat skeptical realizing the explanatory power of it was quite convincing. Whether the theory of evolution was true or not did not matter ultimately to me because I understood the book of Genesis being what is was, a critique of pagan cosmology and idolatry. It was a book of beginnings of God with the covenant-making people of Israel.
    I never read it in a totally literalistic fashion (actually, the early church fathers said doing so would damage people’s faith) nor did I read it as some kind of useful myths as if it had no historical value. And to be very blunt, to read the book of Genesis with no literary imagination it to turn the book into a relic of the dead past.

    So paradign shifts can happen because the discussions on this list forced me to go back and look at the latest science and biology, and see what is the best science of the day. For those who reject evolution, not only put themselves at odds with the best science of our day, but typically if an alternative proposal is even given, that is when the real problems start happening.

    I’m sure there are intelligent and well-read people on this list that are still skeptical like I once was or simiply reject evolution without really putting anything in its place (and it’s unfair as some suggest to say that I take the creation narrative against the evolutionary approach). The creation narrative does not say HOW God did it. If someone has a better proposal, go for it. But I think it’s the best proposal we have to date according to all we know about the world of nature that is studied by science. At the end of the day, I hold onto Jesus like a lifeboat. I do not hold onto anything else so tightly, much less science as if that is going to some how save us in the end (like in so many movies today, it’s not God but some generous scientists that will save the world in the end). Now that narrative may work for some atheists but it does not work for Christians. I am also grateful for all the Christian scientists on this list who do their scientific enquiry all for the glory of God!

  • Bev Mitchell

    CRC #31

    “At the end of the day, I hold onto Jesus like a lifeboat.”

    Indeed, this  is the necessary foundation from which we can explore at will. This foundation even undergirds our explorations of Scripture, for without him we can do nothing.

    Not wanting to miss a chance for a couple of quotes ;) these make the same point with respect to Scripture.

    “…..our knowledge of (the Scriptures) and formulation of doctrine (from Scripture) is not simply epistemically but distinctively redemptive and personal as well.”

    (Scripture) …… cannot be cut off from this redemptive and personal self-communication of God and human response without becoming an abstraction.” 

    “Apart from dynamic and cognitive union and communion with God through Christ and in the Spirit, the cross-level movement of thought (demanded by Scripture) would have no validity or objective content or reference.”

    Ref: Elmer E. Colyer “How to Read T.F. Torrance” IVP 2001 (pp. 292 & 293) I have taken the liberty to substitute Scripture for Trinity (or our understanding thereof) in these quotes because I do think the admonition applies well to both.

  • Bev Mitchell

    You are just going to have to change your handle – I see no other solution!

  • AHH

    Steve P. @27,

    No, theistic evolution does not “wipe all of that away”. As the many orthodox Christians who hold the position (including noted evangelicals like Scot and Tim Keller) testify. We are still made by God — just a question of how God did the “making” and God still gets the credit for creating via evolution if we recognize God’s sovereignty over “natural” processes.

    In terms of human uniqueness and the Image of God, the OT scholars tell us that the “image” is primarily our function, our role as God’s representatives, a role that God has given humans. We have the unique image because God has chosen to give us that role — and that works no matter how God brought our physical bodies into being.
    On a natural level one could say “there is nothing special about us” — but that is not the whole story; we are “special” because God has chosen us. Maybe similar to God’s choosing Israel, not because of any intrinsic specialness but just because God chose to do so.

    You ask why would he use evolution as a method of creation?
    Well, why not? Who are we to tell God how he has to create? Who is the clay to question the potter? All but the Ken Ham fundamentalist fringe recognizes that God brought about the stars, for example, through billions of years of “natural” processes, and finds that theologically OK because we recognize that natural processes are tools of God and that God who transcends time is not diminished by taking so long (from our perspective) rather than 6 days. The same logic that works for stars works for starfish, and humans.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Steve P., you brought up a couple of good points that stretched me a bit this morning. And the stretch has been well worth it because, I believe, the end result is a pretty good argument.

    I guess I have the question, “why is man special?”. It seems implicit in the more literal readings of Genesis and other verses that we tend to think that we are special because we are special, in and because of ourselves. But what if we are special in the way that god is special. Isn’t that sort of pelagian? To be thinking that we are somehow special because we are special in and of ourselves.

    So let’s think, how is god special. Well he is certainly special because he can create and kill all of us. I have seen this type of approach in some theologies, like Calvinism, but that is not how I see it at all.

    If you love your children, do you pre-plan their every move? Do you control their life so that they live it exactly the way you want it to be lived? Or do you provide for them, provide a base level of protection and then let them live their own lives?

    I feel that we are in god’s image because of exactly what he says in Genesis. He says that we are here to watch over and protect his creation. We are not special because we can kill and subdue creation, lot’s of things including asteroids, volcanoes, floods etc can do that. There is nothing special about destroying life. But creating and supporting and nuturing life that is not our own species, and being explicit about creating and supporting and nurturing life that is frail and handicapped and hurting in our own species seems to be the image of god.

    Jesus to says that we will know his disciples by our love, not by our superiority. It is not our might and specialness of ourselves that makes us special, it is our ability to make others special and that is indeed like god.

    Are we better than the animals. Absolutely yes. We can care for all the animals and nature in ways that they cannot, and that makes us in the image of god.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    One more thought. People get so hung up on the “great commission”, but what about what Jesus says in John?

    21:15 Then when they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these do?” 29 He replied, “Yes, Lord, you know I love you.” Jesus told him, “Feed my lambs.” 21:16 Jesus said a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He replied, “Yes, Lord, you know I love you.” Jesus told him, “Shepherd my sheep.” 21:17 Jesus said a third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was distressed that Jesus asked him a third time, “Do you love me?” and said, “Lord, you know everything. You know that I love you.” Jesus replied, “Feed my sheep.

    If we love god, we will do as he says. And please do not tell me his sheep are the elect.

    ….and even in Matthew, in the great commission, the instruction really is ” teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” The point is not just getting baptized!

    We are taught to take care of creation, including our fellow man. If we want to be like Jesus, we should do that.

    Peter G, our uniqueness is unquestionable. But let me tell you this. The new creation will be a terrible place if it does not have my friends the animals.

  • Bev Mitchell

    Steve #27
    Feeling a bit presumptuous today, I’ll offer my working view of foundations to a pastor. CGC did a good job above in a very concise statement. I tend to use more words and sometimes get into trouble for it. Nevertheless, here goes.

    You ask, “There’s nothing special about us, is there?” In a big sense there is nothing special about us. It is Christ who is special, because he is God and human – this is very special indeed, and very creative. The OT does point us to Christ and we understand Christ’s journey to the Cross much better if we take the story of Israel seriously. But, seeing it the other way around is what is truly fundamental, foundational. Christ reveals everything necessary for our salvation and life in him through the Spirit. This includes our understanding of the OT, as the Apostle Paul shows us so clearly in many of his, seemingly, freewheeling interpretations. 

    I’ve read statements along the lines that without a particular view of Genesis, we cannot accept, or even find Christ. From the get go this seems an odd stance, for it strongly suggests that we are responsible for finding Christ through some particular view of the OT. Yet many of these same folk, I’m sure, would say it is all of God – that Christ finds us – a viewpoint that a very large number of us hold to be absolutely true. Taking a cue from this, we can probably rest assured that Christ can find us, should we be open to such an event, even despite some flawed understanding of Genesis. There really is no need for serious doctrinal implications to flow from our differing views of Genesis – if the foundation is viewed the other way ’round.

    Sorry if this sounds preachy, it is just my working model.

  • CGC

    Hi Steve,
    One of the most beautiful and special things to us humans is a baby? Now is that baby less special because it grew from a fertilized egg very tiny into a growth process that is ever growing, even outside of the womb? Don’t other mammals that come from a fertilized egg go through a similar process as humans? Why would this call special or uniqueness of people into question? And like DRT, are not animals special as well? Of course, this begs the question on what does it mean to be made in the image of God? (the imago-dei). We get that understanding from what Scripture says, not our human understanding of comparing ourselves to other animals or mammals.

    Hi Bev,
    Just write CC (skip my middle initial—the “G” stands for Gilbert :-). Think CC rider if that helps? :-)

  • Joey Elliott

    I wish Rob and Josh and Steve would come back into the fold of this conversation, especially Rob, as the process of commenting here could stretch and deepen their faith, as it has for me, and it would give them a chance to defend the piling on from others after just a few comments made. Also, they could help articulate the uniqueness of special revelation without downplaying the place of general revelation in our understanding of God. I’m sure that sentence could be misunderstood, but instead of clarifying it, I’ll get to what I really wanted to say:

    I wanted to give a special shout out to CGC, who the more I read, the more I appreciate.

    DRT, I wish I had more time to formulate and articulate my thoughts on your recent focus on the uniqueness of man in relation to animals. Just can’t quite point my finger on it, but I feel uneasy with your comments on this subject. I feel like you are taking Scripture passages out of context but not sure where to start in breaking that down. Oh well.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Joey Elliot,

    I can understand your discomfort since that is not the way most teach it. But if you read the making of mankind in context you can see that we are indeed there to lead the creation.

    Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, after our likeness, so they may rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move on the earth.”

    1:27 God created humankind in his own image,
    in the image of God he created them,
    male and female he created them.
    1:28 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply! Fill the earth and subdue it! Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and every creature that moves on the ground.”

    Certainly if Jesus is our Lord, our ruler, he is not there to eat us! And Moses, did he make the people serve him or him serve them?

    2:15 The Lord God took the man and placed 45 him in the orchard in 46 Eden to care for it and to maintain it.

    Combine these with the previous quotes from John and Matthew and I think there is a pretty good case to be made for our role being to take care of creation. And we certainly are the only ones that can do that.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    …..let me soften that. One of our roles.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Joey, and everyone, so you know this is easy for me. I am 50 and was raised Roman Catholic and went to Catholic school. I was never taught there is a conflict with evolution and the bible. Science is one of the most noble professions! I was only taught that the bible taught us about our relationship with god, not history, well, at least not Genesis. It is only in the past 10 years that I realized a lot do not read it that way, I was shocked.

  • CGC

    Hi Joey #39,
    I just got back from ministering to some people in jail and I am amazed at how God takes the messiness of people and starts bringing order out of chaos (where have I heard that
    before? :-)

    Anyway Joey, your post made my day here . . . We are all on a journey and there is still more light that God has for all of us.

  • Joey Elliott

    DRT,

    I obviously believe in the creation mandate, to be fruitful and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it, cultivate the earth in good stewardship, etc.

    Not sure what that has to do this conversation though. Pretty sure the passage in John is more an extension of the great commission and making disciples rather than an extension of the cultural mandate and taking care of creation.

    CGC, may God multiply your ministry!

  • CGC

    Hi Everyone,
    Last thoughts on an important topic. When the Bible says we are made in the image of God, what does that mean? What people are usually taught or what our mind comes up with is that humans can conceptualize the future and animals can not. We can hope or have hope. Humans can reason, understand, and discern whereas animals can not. We have an intricate mind. Humans can love and give themselves freely to others. There is choice and the freedom to love. The animal world can not do this. I know some may want to anthropomorphize animal behavior but that says more about how we see animals than what is actually happening.

    It’s not that all the answers are wrong or bad but where in the Bible does it say that the imago dei (likeness and image of God) are any of these things? I suspect if you asked an atheist to come up with answers to the difference between humans and animals, they could come up with a similar list could they not? I was thinking of the modern theology thread and the point Scot made of someone mentioning we often think with secular minds. Fleshly minds or not spiritually at all. Is this not the problem with much of our contemporary theologizing and one of the reasons that Christians can be all over the map theologically?

    A closer inspection of Scripture links the image to God with man’s ability to care for creation (and this is where these others issues, may come into play). But if we would lay down our scientific readings of Scrpture. If we can get past the literal to the spiritual, what might that reading look like?

    One suggestion is go to the early church fathers and see how they read the Scriptures providentially and Christologically. Many of them would say that being made in the image of God in being made in the image of Christ (and you will never, ever get that from a straight literal reading of the Bible but it’s our Protestant fore-fathers and people like Luther who told us to read like this, not what the church has taught and done throughout the ages).

    So any time I read others who have the stamp of God in their words and resemble Christ in his likeness, I am in the presence of the Scriptures being lived out before me. For all who do that, I am humbled and give my deepest thanks!

  • Josh

    I find it curious that someone has seen to be impatient with me (as parcel with Rob apparently) when i have posted once.

    I note (though not having read all posts thoroughly) that my key assertion being that ALL people including scientists contain significant bias was not really addressed.

    DOES ANYONE HERE HONESTLY THINK THAT SCIENTIFIC ENQUIRY DRIVEN BY FALSE PRESUMPTIONS OF MATERIALISM AND NATURALISM CAN COME TO TRUTH? (when by definition it cancels it out).

    I also note @Bev Mitchell – your ridiculous presumption that my rejection of Evolution both as an explanation of contemporary data in regards to historical and biological development and theologically as an interpretation allowed within genesis is because of ignorance (ie. go study a course).

    Seriously, that is what you take from my questioning of bias in ALL people? My questioning of the false presumptions of naturalism that philosophically underline present scientific inquiry?

    There is an old saying in regards to assumptions, when you assume you make an… but clearly you arrogantly and ignorantly presume I disbelieve because I lack education or inquiry (both false presumptions) Don’t worry that is what Dawkin’s thinks of you as well.

    The delusion that some how embracing evolution makes one more accepted in the academic world when you accept other miraculous occurrences (such as the walking on water) only confirms in the minds of those around that you are still in some form of denial. Yes, I do openly say that Christian Academia has become bound to ‘fear of man’, I work in such an environment and I will call it as I see it. Just believing that an axe head could float on water, seriously only ‘idiots’ would believe something which is against observational data.

    I would still appreciate the response to a scientific observation of Jesus walking on water.

    Scot (great that the main point of one post is only to show I had an extra t) was recounting the experiences of an atheistic scientist who essentially recoils in horror at the fact that YEC bring a prescribed lense into their interpretations of data. (a more literal reading of Genesis and yes even in the church fathers the most common leaning to the text, noting it’s moral teaching btw is not treating the text as true myth as some would say church fathers did).

    If you think you come as an entirely unbiased interpreter of data (whether natural world or biblical) than you are in denial. We are by very biblical definition broken in every regard, our bias is internally founded. Each one of us (yes including myself). This article paints a picture of the YEC’s being the only ones as such which is patently false.

    BTW – despite one poster presuming that I can’t both be a fan of Scot’s work and a critic. Are you serious? and you claim that I lack critical thinking?

  • John Inglis

    Part of what makes us special in relation to animals is that our spirit rises to God, while that of the animals does not. We are the only ones that have moral culpability, and the only ones that can engage relationally and love in the manner that God does (though not perfectly, nor in the manner of an infinite, ultimate being, but at least in a like or analogous manner).
    John

  • Bev Mitchell

    Josh, (46)
    From the way you chose to express yourself I still can’t really be sure where you are coming from, so still am at a loss to know where to begin. If you have made a thorough study of evolutionary biology, as taught by evolutionary biologists, it does not show very clearly in your writing. Nevertheless, if you claim to have done so, I will be glad to reduce your course and reading assignment. ;)

    Maybe we can make more progress by sticking to a single topic. How do you respond to the title of the Denis Lamoureux book “I Love Jesus & and I Accept Evolution” ? I have said here and elsewhere that a person does not have to accept the findings of evolutionary biology to be a faithful Christian. Nor does accepting these findings keep one from being a faithful Christian. Can we agree on these two statements?

    The reason for highlighting these questions is that it often seems that some (many?) Christians fear that those of us who accept the basic conclusions of evolutionary biology are insisting that all Christians do likewise. In fact, what we ask is only that they graciously let others freely investigate and accept ways to bring together truth from Scripture and truth from science, even when this means reexamining and possibly making changes to some of their interpretations of Scripture. So, it’s not what YEC people believe that bothers us, it’s that YEC people often gracelessly refuse to let others explore beyond where they themselves are willing to go. In this sense, it’s entirely one-sided and, as such, it is harmful to many. As they say down south “se necessita una poca de gracia.” 

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Bev Mitchell,

    I disagree with you on one point. While I do not care what an individual YEC person believes, they can believe whatever they want, they also tend to teach others what they think without giving the others an adequate side of the story to investigate for themselves. The YECs seem to point to their religious pseudo-science instead of mainstream science to provide commentary on evolution, and I just think that is plain wrong and destructive.

    If someone is going to try and teach people s/he needs to do it in a way that tries to eliminate the bias, not enhance it.

  • http://LostCodex.com DRT

    Josh says

    DOES ANYONE HERE HONESTLY THINK THAT SCIENTIFIC ENQUIRY DRIVEN BY FALSE PRESUMPTIONS OF MATERIALISM AND NATURALISM CAN COME TO TRUTH? (when by definition it cancels it out).

    Josh,

    It does little good to try and argue that you are in the superior position in regards to truth. We are all in the same position. I just wrote some of this up as a result of many of these conversations.

    http://lostcodex.com/2012/06/are-chickens-real/

    OK, so we all of our presuppositions and we are going to get nowhere by seeing who has the biggest presuppositions. So address the issues.

  • Bev Mitchell

    DRT 49
    I take your point. It is implied in “graciously let others freely investigate” but you are correct, this probably not strong enough, certainly not for the in-house YEC teachings.


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