defending a literal reading of Genesis: an elderly pastor’s hill to die on

I recently stumbled upon a lengthy, passionate defense of a literal reading of the biblical creation story. This was posted by G. I. Williamson, a name likely not known outside of very conservative Presbyterian and Reformed circles, but within the Orthodox Presbyterian Church he is a revered and authoritative voice.

I am not posting this to pick holes in his arguments or to ridicule his views. I want to make a few observations on what lies below the surface of Williamson’s plea, because this same general posture is repeated in one way or another in virtually any such defense of biblical literalism, regardless of one’s denominational or ecclesiastical commitments.

  1. Williamson’s goal is to maintain “the” traditional view of  his denomination, rooted in a unquestioned adherence to its “standards”  (the work of the Westminster Assembly in the mid 17th century). This indicates the general tenor of  maintaining boundaries at all costs rather than a willingness to examine them.
  2. He laments that absolute unanimity regarding what the Bible teaches according to these standards is no longer the case. Discerning reasons why uniformity exists is not important, however. The mere presence of differences of opinion is condemnation enough. I see here the maintenance of insider-outsider distinctions as the top priority.
  3. He employs an emotionally manipulative tactic of rooting the cause of variety of views in the need for some to be “respected by intellectuals and scientific people” and “seduced by the cultural consensus which says modern scientific people now know better than our Reformation fathers.” This is a posture of anti-intellectualism. He supplies prooftexts from Job and Ecclesiastes toward that end to give the appearance of scriptural support.
  4. The doctrine of creation is simply declared a “fundamental of the faith.”
  5. He casts his own view as exhibiting courage, i.e., of being “not ashamed” to hold fast the traditional view. This is emotionally manipulative;  it implies others are ashamed of holding to the truth (see 4) rather than considering the possibility they may have reasons for thinking as they do.
  6. A literalist reading of Genesis is the default proper and godly way of reading Genesis, is required by divine inspiration, and is not remotely open to scrutiny or even dialogue. The premises behind this view are not open to question.
  7. He has a flat reading of Scripture, with little apparent genre sensitivity, where a denial of the literal reading of Genesis leads to a denial of any other portion of Scripture (such as Jesus’ miracles).
  8. Science should not be trusted over Scripture because (a) science changes and (b) it is a mark of Christian virtue to be thought a fool in the eyes of the world (as was Paul).
  9. Scripture speaks plainly for it is written to the common people. Hence, Genesis 1 is to understood literally, for this is how common people read things.
  10. Evolution destroys Christianity because the entire Christian faith hangs on a literal reading of Genesis 1-3.
  11. There are many fine, top thinkers who defend as literal reading of Genesis, so it is not really intellectually incredible to do so.
  12. An emotional appeal to “widespread intellectual as well as moral decadence, and the visible church has unfortunately not kept free from this decadence.”

Some may consider this a valiant stand by a faithful servant of God living in his twilight years. To each his own. I, however, am genuinely saddened at the thought of anyone feeling that this is the stand to take as the light of one’s life begins to dim.

Lifting our eyes up from our own navels, we are immediately confronted by many more pressing issues that Jesus was quite concerned with. And how we address these challenges, walking by faith and not by sight, most certainly does not depend on reading Genesis one particular way.

  • aricclark

    There is an understandable discomfort when we are dealing with an elderly person who espouses views we find objectionable. We often tolerate their racism or misogyny under the premise that they are a product of their time, and no longer of any real power or authority to do any harm with their outdated views. Meanwhile, we squirm and share embarrassed looks.

    I commend you on challenging this guy’s perspective (sensitively) – because a) it is patronizing and dehumanizing to the elderly to treat their opinions as irrelevant; and b) I’m not convinced at all that they are past being able to do any harm.

    This man deserves to be respected sufficiently to be confronted about where he is wrong and everyone else deserves to see this bad theology challenged.

    • Simple Man

      A historical Adam has been part of the understanding of scripture since time immemorial. Please explain how this constitutes bad theology… I am not implying that Genesis is a science text-book, but clearly 1) God called the universe into existence out of nothing… 2) Adam was a historical person

      • Billy LeJeune

        Quoting or using a character from a story to make a point does not mean or prove that the character was historical. If I say “Aslan’s death was a powerful statement about the way that good defeats evil” it does not mean that I believe there is really a talking lion in a parallel universe somewhere. A story can be true without being historical.

        • http://jesuswithoutbaggage.wordpress.com/ jesuswithoutbaggage

          Excellent analogy Lejeune!

        • Simple Man

          Christianity is not some mystical fairy land faith, it relates to concrete space-time history which includes Adam’s fall and Christ resurrection.

          • Billy LeJeune

            The creation story contains a tree that gives knowledge, another tree that gives life, and a talking snake. Could God have been more obvious that the story is not to be taken literally?

          • Mary

            It is interesting that we can readilly see the symbolism of other cultures’ myths, but have trouble recognizing it in our own traditions. For instance the story of Cupid I believe was inspired by a Greco-Roman God. We of course know that there is no real Cupid-God shooting arrows at us to make us fall in love, but the symbolism of what it feels like to fall in love is very powerful. In fact if we tried to make it into a literal story then it would lose that dimension of meaning altogether and that would diminish the story, not enhance it.

      • Eric Boersma

        “A historical Adam has been part of the understanding of scripture since time immemorial”

        You realize that a YEC viewpoint of history means there’s no such thing as “time immemorial”, right? Human writing started showing up about 7,000 years ago. YEC literature suggests that the entire universe was created 6,000 years ago. “Time immemorial” means “so long ago, we no longer have any written history that can tell us about it”. You’re using words that have no meaning in the context you’ve chosen.

        All of which is moot considering the fact that the Hebrew creation myth didn’t originate until about 900-800 BCE, which is well inside the window of “time memorial”, and even then, a historical Adam is not considered a central tenet of either Hebrew or Christian understanding until only a few hundred years ago (and even then, only for very conservative Christian sects).

        • Simple Man

          Fair enough, as an expression perhaps it was not completely apt; the point is that a historical Adam was part of oral tradition before Moses compiled the book of Genesis (which was well prior to 900 BCE). In any case it is a central tenet of the Christian faith affirmed by Jesus implicitly and the Apostle Paul explicitly so it goes back more than a few hundred years…

          • Eric Boersma

            There’s zero evidence that Moses compiled the book of Genesis and significant evidence to contradict that fact, considering the book of Genesis was actually written by at least three different people between 1200 and 600 BCE and most of which was likely written during the Babylonian exile: the first evidence we have of the Genesis 1 text comes from that time period, and it’s a known fact that the Babylonians allowed captured peoples to continue to worship separately if they could provide all the pieces of a religion that the Babylonians thought were necessary, including a creation myth. This is why the Genesis creation myth cribs so many elements from other creation myths, most especially the Babylonian ones, which are much older.

            Genesis 1 was probably written by at least 2 different people. These were probably not the same people who wrote Genesis 2, which is why there are a number of creation myths lumped together into that text. What you read, today, in English, was an attempt by English translators to smooth over the different writing styles and writing genres that existed in those disparate documents in the Pentateuch so that they would be better legible for English readers.

            This is all the kind of stuff that you’d learn in even the most entry-level of college courses on Biblical history, if you cared one whit about understanding your faith instead of “standing strong” and “looking like a fool”.

          • Simple Man

            Yes I learned all these theories in my university electives, but remain unconvinced, thanks….

          • Eric Boersma

            Can you point me to the peer-reviewed research you’ve published which discredits those theories? Do you have upcoming work which will be published soon?

            Or do you simple reject scholarly research because you’re anti-intellectual, and thus we can safely dismiss your know-nothingism as the ridiculous poppycock it is?

          • Simple Man

            Peer reviewed research has been known to be wrong before.

          • Eric Boersma

            You’re right. Peer reviewed research is sometimes wrong. However, authoritative statements by someone who won’t even sign their name to their internet posts are always wrong.

            You seem to believe that merely by drawing breath, your opinion on any and every topic is relevant and worthy for discussion, and that you may dismiss centuries of rigorous academic research with a wave of your hand because it’s inconvenient to your personal set of beliefs.

            Understand: when you do that, you make yourself a laughing stock. You’ve stood up here as some kind of misguided attempt to defend a faith that you claim, when that faith is built on shifting sand and children’s stories. It’s a juvenile kind of faith, filled with notions of the kinds of Bible stories we tell our kids and without any maturation. You are the picture of the anti-intellectual fundamentalist, and the longer you continue to post, the more you prove that point.

  • livingmartyrs

    People who claim to monopolise courage (#5) and combine it with a willingness to be a fool (#8) probably haven’t thought that through. :-)

    Having said that, it’s easy to apply all the same (il)logic to the counter arguments, e.g. that I have courage because I’m willing to change, and it takes no courage to not change.

    • Mary

      Much of Christian theology is fear-based, not faith-based. The fear of being wrong and ending up in hell is not a courageous stance. That is really what this man is arguing for.

      • livingmartyrs

        Thanks Mary. May we all be known for our open, welcoming presence in the world that comes when we grow in faith, but that is withheld when we shrink in fear.

  • Dan

    What would be the best way to respond to #8? While I intuitively feel it doesn’t hold water here, it is not quite as easy to explain why. Would anybody care to weigh in?

    • ajl

      I think #8 sets up a false dichotomy to begin with. It isn’t science vs. faith, but rather that science helps me understand what the Bible is prepared to tell me.

      An extreme example is the idea of handling poisonous snakes. My experience tells me that I will most likely die if I start playing with venomous snakes. Now, does that mean that my experience is elevated above the Bible? No. My experience helps me to understand the Bible, and understand that it most likely is not encouraging me to handle rattlers. So, it gives me an opportunity to interpret those passages a little differently.

      • Mary

        Actually the snake-handling is an add-on and does not exist in older manuscripts. This is further proof that the bible is not inerrant.

    • Paul Bruggink

      Regarding “it is a mark of Christian virtue to be thought a fool in the eyes of the world,” you could mention Augustine’s often-quoted observation to the contrary of around A.D. 408:

      “Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he holds to as being certain from reason and experience.

      “Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men. If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods and on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason?”

      From Augustine, The Literal Interpretation of Genesis (De Genesi ad Litteram), Book 1, Chapter 19; from Ancient Christian Writers: The Works of the Fathers in Translation, No. 41, (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press), 1982.

  • Simple Man

    Perhaps the pastor’s arguments constituted special pleading, however denying a historical Adam is denying the apostolic faith once for all handed down to the saints, end of story.

    • Simple Man

      Romans 5:12, 1 Corinthians 15:21. Would you down-vote the Apostle Paul’s understanding of scripture? Somehow we know better than the Apostles now, we are so enlightened…

      • Simple Man

        Perhaps we will soon discover that Paul was also mistaken about grace through faith, substitutionary atonement, sanctification, and other such non-essential matters of the faith… these were just the ideas of the time.

        • NateW

          Paul wasn’t mistaken, but he was speaking of things things that human words will always fall short of being able to say. That’s why the word of God was incarnated among men. The word of god Isaac LIVED truth, a Way, not a collection of intellectually known facts. Paul is not making a statement about the historicity of Adam, but most certainly is appealing to the TRUTH of Adam. I would not argue that Adam is not historical (for who can know for certain?) but neither would I argue that he isn’t. I simply cannot know this in such a way as to make it the foundation of my faith. I would however DIE before I could be made to say that Adam is not True.

          • Simple Man

            Truth is what actually happened – we can know that truth in the sense God wants us to because he tells it to us in his word. If God wanted us to understand Genesis as anything other than quick creation with a historic first man why does Genesis read as it does? Was God really waiting for some enlightened academics to re-write plain history for us 3500 years after the fact?

          • Rick

            “why does Genesis read as it does?”
            That is the question biblical scholars ask and research. Part of that means trying to understand the genre.

          • Simple Man

            Perhaps they should learn from Jesus and the Apostle Paul instead of chasing imaginary rabbit trails.

  • http://jesuswithoutbaggage.wordpress.com/ jesuswithoutbaggage

    William’s article is quite sad, but it is the very stuff I used to feed on in my heady days as a fundamentalist. I understand the appeal of standing firm for the ‘truth’.
    However, I feel that I have now found the truth. Accepting evolution and re-evaluating much of my theology that was based on Adam was painful, but my foundation of belief is more solid than ever.

    • Simple Man

      With Adam what did Jesus die for exactly? To be honest no one has answered this question for me yet.

      • Peter Wolfe

        Jesus died for my sin as well as the sin of Adam. I do not need Adam to be historical to know that my sin comes from within me.

      • http://jesuswithoutbaggage.wordpress.com/ jesuswithoutbaggage

        Simple Man,
        I have not come to a complete solution to why Jesus died, but one thing I would say is that he had to die in order to be resurrected, and I believe the resurrection is the primary point of importance in what Jesus does for us.
        His death was very public and people certainly were aware of it because of the events leading up to it, so there was little likelihood that people would respond to reports of the resurrection with ‘Who is Jesus?’ or ‘What? I didn’t even know he was dead.’
        In addition, Jesus willingness to go to his death in a highly publicized political-religious scenario indicates that his purpose was NOT to be a political or religious leader, in the sense of taking sides with the factions of that day.

  • rvs

    I’ve seen way too much of this “not ashamed” rhetorical nonsense. Thank you for pointing out its manipulative nature. A lot of passive-aggressive cruelty has been perpetuated by these types of techniques. Your diagram from a few posts ago remains quit helpful to me, the one focusing on worshiping the center, Christ, rather than erecting boundary wall.

    • Simple Man

      Take away the author’s presupposition regarding the evolution narrative and see whether he writes the same books. I am a Simple Man but I believe the term for this is called ‘eisegesis’.

      • Simple Man

        I know a man who was ‘caught up into paradise and heard inexpressible things that no one is permitted to tell’. This man saw the resurrected Lord in the flesh on the road to Damascus. This man also believed that Adam was a historic figure. Quite frankly I will go with someone who spoke with Christ over your ‘academics’ any time.

        • Eric Boersma

          You know Paul of Tarsus? Please, can you tell me: what color is his hair? His eyes? What is his speaking voice like? Is he a good singer? Does he like rice? What colors does he like to decorate his home with?

          • Simple Man

            Those facts are unimportant, what he said about a historical Adam is important though considering he is the primary compiler of the tenets of the apostolic faith.

          • Eric Boersma

            Those facts are important. You said you knew him. That’s wholly and entirely different from having a series of writings that may or may not have been written by Paul (there are any number of writings that exist which claim to be written by Paul and were not; it’s likely that some of them made it into canon).

            You have declared certainty on a topic for which there is not certainty, and in doing so discredit yourself and your argument.

          • Simple Man

            There it is again, you have no faith in the Bible, so what are you basing your faith (if you have any at all)… did Jesus really rise from the dead, or were the Apostles mistaken about that too?

          • Eric Boersma

            I have plenty of faith in the Bible. You mistake the fact that I’m able to understand the Bible holistically without needing to believe that every single thing that I read in it actually happened, as I interpret it, in English.

            Indeed, the more I learn about the details of the writings that were originally coalesced into what we now know as the canon today, the stronger my faith in the Bible grows. It grows because I can understand the details of the situation, and piece together the lives of those who were initially touched by Jesus. If I find out that something that was written in the Bible was incorrect, that’s ok, since I don’t have an article of faith that says that the Bible is perfectly true all the time.

            This is the problem with the Evangelical Hermeneutic. You’ve begun to worship the Bible. You’ve conflated the qualities of God with the Bible, and then you’ve placed the Bible as the highest authority in your world, when that was never the purpose it was intended for. I hate to break this to you, but the Bible is internally contradictory. It cannot be universally true. If your faith is based on the idea that the Bible is always true in every word it says, in English, your faith is already dead and you should give yourself up now, because it’s not going to get better.

          • Simple Man

            My faith is in God. I know who God is through the HISTORICAL record he has given me in the Bible.

          • Eric Boersma

            Except many parts of the Bible are not historical. Huge parts of the Bible are not historical. All of the Psalms. Most of Genesis. Song of Solomon. Proverbs. Big chunks of Daniel. All of Jesus’s parables. Basically the whole book of Revelation.

            This is the problem with believing that the Bible is literally true as you read it in English — through thousands of years of translations, what is intended to be historical and what is intended to be figurative has been lost. You’ve already said that you’re less concerned with historical accuracy in your Biblical beliefs than your belief that it’s a literal, historical account of the entire world from then until now, while in the same breath you decry the clouded judgement that arises from Man’s “fallen nature”. You seem to be unable to see the plank in your own eye that is your personal clouded judgement and the terrible, indefensible conclusions it leads you to continue to try to defend.

          • Susan_G1

            I want to add a question: what is the “thorn in his side”?

      • Paul Bruggink

        Eisegesis works both ways. Young Earth Creationists nedd to keep the following in mind:

        Genesis One does not specify an age for the Earth or an age for the Universe.

        Genesis One does not say that the creative times (yom) are 24 hours in duration.

        Genesis One does not say that the creative times (yom) followed immediately one after another.

        Genesis One does not specify the total interval of time required for their completion.

        Genesis One does not say that the commands of God were fulfilled immediately, like a bolt of lightening.

        Genesis One does not indicate the specific means and steps by which the creative actions were brought to completion.

        Genesis One does say that God created Adam (mankind).

        Genesis One does not say that the creation of Eve was accomplished quickly.

        Genesis One does say that there was a beginning to the Universe and planet Earth.

        Genesis One does say that God created the heavens and the Earth.

        Genesis One does say that planet Earth was not always as it is now; changes have occurred.

        Genesis One does say that God acted to bring the present condition of the Earth into being.

        Genesis One does say that God acted and issued commands for changes in the physical environment.

        Genesis One does say that God commanded the land to bring forth plants.

        Genesis One does say that God commanded and created air-breathing animals of the land.

        (from Rodney Whitefield’s “Reading Genesis One: Comparing Biblical Hebrew with English Translations” (San Jose: R.
        Whitefield Publisher, 2003), p. 137):

        • rvs

          Thanks for this. –Useful and enjoyable.

        • Simple Man

          The 7th day God rested and enacted the weekly pattern later stipulated in the law. Why then would ‘yom’ in this instance refer to anything other than days? Let scripture interpret scripture within the bounds of the canon please, not by virtue of your modern scientific narratives.

  • Yuri

    There is obviously a lot to pick apart here, but I wonder where the assumptions underlying #9 come from. First of all, it is not obvious that “common people” in the ancient world are given to a literalistic hermeneutic. Leaving that aside, it is also certainly not clear that the OT texts were written for common people. In fact, most scholars assume just the opposite. These texts were written by elites and for elites, or even by scribes for scribes. Certainly the high degree of intertextuality, the phenomenon of inner-biblical exegesis, suggests an audience that is deeply familiar with the texts in written form.

  • Paul Bruggink

    13. Williamson incorrectly assumes that questioning a literal reading of Genesis 1-3 didn’t begin until the rise of the theory of evolution, when in fact it began much earlier than that because of the discoveries of geologists as early as the 1790s.

    • Josh Steele

      Not to mention the allegorical interpretations of Genesis. Makes me wonder if people have ever read Augustine!

      • Eric Boersma

        Getting most Young Earth Creationists to actually read the Bible is a tall enough order, thanks. Augustine is right out.

      • Mary

        Ah, interesting…now I will have to look up Augustine. The problem with creationists is that they are Protestant, which means Catholic writings are irrelevant to them.

  • Peter

    Morris and Whitcomb have a lot to answer for.

  • SpyPlus

    This is classic reformed thinking. You must appeal to a ‘standard’ by which everything is then discerned, however this appeal is ultimately subjective, as you using your individual subjective mind to make this choice. So instead of following the evidence you become trapped into a world view that cannot change.

    • Simple Man

      Yours is classic humanistic thinking. Man’s intellect is not tainted by his fallen condition, objectivity is just a breath away and we are able to rightly judge the evidence without worry of moral interjection. Sorry that is not what scripture teaches. Man’s intellect is tainted by sin, the only objective knowledge exists in the mind of God himself. We must take him at his word and strive to use that word as lens for any evidence by the grace of his spirit. If God wanted us to understand the world as being created over eons of time then why did he use ‘days’ to describe this to us? If sin did not enter the world through one man named Adam then why does the Apostle Paul teach this directly? If Adam was not the first man and eve the first woman then why does our Lord Jesus Christ affirm this in Matthew 19? Which other lens will you use to interpret scripture? You have had a go with science (so-called) why not the Marxist narrative next?

      • Susan_G1

        So, can you tell me, then, if it’s my duty to stone my neighbor because he felled, cut and split a tree last Sunday? I mean, he worked the entire day.

        • Simple Man

          Of course not, don’t be silly.

          • Susan_G1

            It’s not silly at all. You say, Man’s intellect is tainted by sin, the only objective knowledge exists in the mind of God himself. We must take him at his word and strive to use that word as lens for any evidence by the grace of his spirit.
            Then you pick things to which you would like to apply scripture as the ultimate source of knowledge. How, then, do you defend picking and choosing what you want to hold under the authority of scripture?

          • Simple Man

            The sabbath laws were under the Mosaic covenant, Moses sprinkled the blood on the people of Israel and they agreed to abide by God’s covenant terms. We are now under a new covenant enacted by Jesus death and resurrection in which there are no sabbath regulations. Scripture interprets scripture, our Lord said that ‘the sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath’. Jesus is our sabbath rest; this is all scriptural, I am not picking and choosing in the least. Study your Bible you may learn a lot, even about the beginnings of the universe in Genesis 1 & 2.

          • Susan_G1

            “The closed mind knows no doubt.” Personally I believe all of the law was done away with in Christ. I also believe that the OT is not a science or history book. Where are the four corners of the earth? Is it flat? Does the sun revolve around the earth? When God made the sun and the moon stop, did He really make them hold still, while the spiralling arms of the Milky Way Galaxy and the rest of out solar system continued their travels through space? Or did He actually stop the Earth from rotating? Or did He stop the entire universe for a day? Why is He not more clear on this? Are there pillars holding up the canopy of the heavens? Does “after it’s own kind” rule out mutations? If mutations in color are ok, are other mutations OK? Is a mustard seed the smallest seed? Could Jesus have made a mistake? No, he used the mustard seed as an illustration of something. As is Genesis 1,2 an illustration of something which God told ancient peoples: a story of our relationship to Him (heart story, not head story/science). Do you think He should have started by explaining the Big Bang, the laws of gravity, conservation of matter, and thermodynamics, atoms, molecules and DNA? I have studied my Bible, and I am still looking for answers to things. God made His creation to be consistent and observable, able to be studied. You’ve studied scripture; have you studied His creation trrough science?

          • Simple Man

            “I used to have an open mind, but my brains kept falling out” The point of having an open mind is so that you can close it on something concrete. I will take God’s truth over your hypotheses based on speculation… God controls every law of our universe at every second, stopping planets in their way is nothing to the God who called everything into existence simply by his word.

          • Susan_G1

            you answered none of the other questions. Why do you believe the earth rotates around the sun if that is opposite of the teaching of the Bible? Or any of the other problems in the Bible with science?

          • Simple Man

            Just because the Bible uses figurative language in some places, for example the sun ‘rising and setting’ does not mean it is figurative in every place.

          • Susan_G1

            On what basis do you decide what is figurative and what is literal? I would imagine that you see this sunrise issue as figurative because you have learned, and your experience fits with what you have learned, that the earth revolves around the sun (an observation supported – and proven – through science.) If you understood the science that makes the story of Adam and Eve figurative, would it destroy your faith?

          • Simple Man

            You could not do so with ‘science’. Science involves empirical observation, since there was no one there I will go with the recorded history not speculation.

          • Susan_G1

            There is present day evidence for evolution, or we could not possibly study it! It is not speculative.

          • Simple Man

            You need to define evolution. Large scale zoo, goo to you evolution is not empirically verifiable.

          • Susan_G1

            SM, this was *not* recorded while it happened. You can’t use that as your justification to believe what you believe.

          • Simple Man

            It was likely passed down by oral tradition.

          • Mary

            “since there was no one there I will go with the recorded history not speculation.”

            LOL if there was no one there then it can’t be “recorded history” as you define it.

            However we have plenty of recorded history in geology, the fossil record, genetics, physics and astronomy.

          • Simple Man

            oral tradition passed to Moses, the science you describe all requires interpretation, I will stick with God’s word as my basis of interpretation.

          • Norma Cenva

            Where are the four corners of the earth? Is it flat?

            My training is in Mathematics. If one construes four corners as four points (so long as no three of them are co-linear) in Euclidean-Cartesian space, we can indeed derive a sphere from them. Even though we know that the Earth is not a perfect sphere nor even a perfect oblate spheroid, the illustration still holds in a general sense.
            And that’s my point. In my opinion, the Bible is general enough to accommodate a range of conjectures regarding origins and the mechanics of origins.

          • Mary

            “My training is in Mathematics. If one construes four corners as four points (so long as no three of them are co-linear) in Euclidean-Cartesian space, we can indeed derive a sphere from them”

            Maybe so, but the writers of the bible were not mathematicians.

            “In my opinion, the Bible is general enough to accommodate a range of conjectures regarding origins and the mechanics of origins.”

            Not really, we have actual maps from that period that show exactly what their understanding of the universe was. I will repost something I wrote up above:

            The cosmology of the universe according to the bible is that the earth is a flat circle surrounded by ocean on all sides and supported by four pillars. The stars, moon, and the sun are suspended in a solid dome above. Over that is the “ocean in the sky” or the firmament. Above that is a literal physical heaven. Later on the Christians took on the Greek concept of Hades, a literal physical hell beneath the earth, although that is not present in the Hebrew theology and certainly not in the creation story. I imagine the concept of hell that the Greeks came up with was based on the observation of volcanos.

            As you know the idea of the flat earth persisted until only a few hundred years ago. Why? Because of biblical literalism. In the history of science there has NEVER been a case where the bible came up with something that scientists did not know. On the contrary it has ALWAYS been the case that science has come up with stuff that the writers and interpretors of the bible did not know.

          • Mary

            And you neatly try to sidestep the moral issues in the Bible. Have you actually thought about this or are you just regurgitating what you have been taught? Murder is wrong period. The God of the OT cannot be reconciled with what Jesus taught. The Gnostic Christians actually had a better solution to the problem, as they considered the God of the OT to be an inferior God and not the same God that Jesus taught about.

            “our Lord said that ‘the sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath’”
            It is interesting that you use this verse for your argument since it directly contradicts the OT. That is NOT a case of the rules being changed because the wording indicates that this has ALWAYS been the case. The sabbath was made for man RIGHT FROM THE BEGINNING, according to Jesus.
            EVERYBODY picks and chooses because the Bible does not say the same thing from start to finish. Trying to make a coherent theology out of it is WHY we have thousands of different denominations of Christianity, each arguing that they OWN God.

          • Simple Man

            Jesus himself said scripture cannot be broken.

          • Mary

            That does not even remotely address what I said. I can only assume that you do not have a good answer.

          • Mary

            And you neatly try to sidestep the moral issues in the Bible. Have you actually thought about this or are you just regurgitating what you have been taught? Murder is wrong period. The God of the OT cannot be reconciled with what Jesus taught. The Gnostic Christians actually had a better solution to the problem, as they considered the God of the OT to be an inferior God and not the same God that Jesus taught about.

            “our Lord said that ‘the sabbath was made
            for man, not man for the sabbath’”

            It is interesting that you use this verse for your argument since it directly contradicts the OT. That is NOT a case of the rules being changed because the wording indicates that this has ALWAYS been the case. The sabbath was made for man RIGHT FROM THE BEGINNING, according to Jesus.

            EVERYBODY picks and chooses because the Bible does not say the same thing from start to finish. Trying to make a coherent theology out of it is WHY we have thousands of different denominations of Christianity, each arguing that they OWN God.It is even impossible to reconcile all the texts of the NT together, which is why people argue endlessly about it.

          • Simple Man

            Gnosticism was denounced as heresy throughout the NT. It has no part in the Apostolic faith or the tradition of the church since Christ founded it.

      • NateW

        I think though, that you place too much weight on the necessity of correct intellectual knowledge. What if God isn’t trying to get us to know the right things with our minds, but understand things rightly with our hearts? The deepest level of Truth in the world isn’t about knowing right facts, but about doing rightly with whatever facts we know. It’s the difference between wisdom and knowledge. I think that too often we tend to assume that it is right knowledge—what we know—that brings salvation, when what truly saves is the simple faith that we are known by God-with all our sin-and yet also loved by him by all his Grace.

        The love that is manifested in Jesus Christ (and reflected n the lives of all who have true relationship with Him and who walk by His Spirit) is the central hermeneutical principle for properly understanding the bible. All to often though we get this backwards, insisting that a correct interpretation of the bible is the only way to correctly understand Christ. Knowing Christ is hard and requires us to give up our own knowledge, but knowing the bible is easy and allows us to puff up our own knowledge.

        1 Corinthians 8:1-3 (ESVST)
        Chapter 8
        Food Offered to Idols
        1 Now concerning food offered to idols:we know that “ all of us possess knowledge.” This “ knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. 2 If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. 3 But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.

        • Mary

          “But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.”
          AMEN

      • SpyPlus

        Thanks for the reply Simple Man. There are over 40k different Christian denominations in the world all using the Bible as their ‘standard’. So the authoritativeness of scripture is ultimately based on interpretive opinion. Many reformed authors like the one Pete highlighted above take great strides to boil everything down to the Greek or Hebrew then then reconstruct what the “true” meaning of the passages is in light of 21st century culture and traditions. What the reformed thinkers have done is to take the Bible and sanitize it from what it really says, so it fits into their systematic theology. And this is a shame. Just look at the two creation accounts in Genesis 1 and 2 they are diverse and we should embrace this fact rather than try to fit it into our traditional reformed mindset.

        • rvs

          Nicely put.

        • Simple Man

          There is a systematic theology which is the basis of the apostolic faith ‘once for all entrusted to the saints’, this includes a literal Adam. I agree that we need to do justice to the text prior to engaging in the creation of theological ‘systems’. But, there are some systems which can be traced back to the Apostles and prior and we have no business pretending in our arrogance that we know better.

      • chris w

        why the jump to Marxism all of a sudden?

        • Simple Man

          It is another historical narrative of the same vein as ‘evolution’.

        • Eric Boersma

          You have to understand that sects which promote a literalist reading of the bible are, by their nature, anti-intellectual. That’s the point of the literalist reading.

          Literalist sects had major power surges at two distinct points in American history: as part of the anti-abolitionist movement, and as part of the anti-desegregation movement. Marxism was considered a credible world threat during the 1940′s and 1950′s, and so, in literalist sects, it is still considered a credible world threat because the entire purpose of the literalist movement is to avoid having to reevaluate world views based on changing circumstances. Hence the immediate jump to the Red Scare boogeymen that were prominent during those time periods.

          • Simple Man

            I only raised it as a historical narrative comparable to evolution. In my opinion your view of the history of literal interpretation is extremely skewed… but it is probably beyond the scope of this board to get into. I am not anti-intellectual in the least but a historical Adam tells me my intellect is tainted by sin and only by trusting in God and his word to transform my mind can this be overcome… Academics seem to think they can be objective or something, however only God is objective.

          • Eric Boersma

            My history of the literalist interpretation is not skewed at all; literalism and an inerrant Bible were not a part of any Christian creed until the 1900′s, and the original arguments for literalism arose out of the anti-abolition movement during the 1840′s and 1850′s.

            For more information, I would suggest The Civil War as a Theological Crisis.

          • Simple Man

            The Westminster confession is quite clear about infallible truth and divine authority…

          • Eric Boersma

            The 17th century definition of the “infallibility of scripture” is not the same as the 20th/21st century definition which is currently bandied about, which is that the Bible is perfectly true in every word it says, in English.

            The Westminster Confession also says the Pope is the Anti-Christ, so I’m not sure that you necessarily want to be looking to it for Christian inspiration.

      • Eric Boersma

        “If God wanted us to understand the world as being created over eons of time then why did he use ‘days’ to describe this to us?”

        He didn’t. Man’s intellect chose to transcribe poetry that was intended to convey the passage of time and change it to non-poetic statements which said “day”. The same human intellect you decry as being tainted by the “fallen condition”.

        Or rather, certain human intellects decided to use a “literal” reading of the Bible as a way to defend slavery in the American South, and so they chose to read “day” as a literal day and not in the context of the original hebrew, which just says “a long time”.

        • Simple Man

          Exodus 20. The day idea was not a construct of the American south, it is in fact contained in scripture itself!

          • Eric Boersma

            You’re really conflating “remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy” with “In the 7th period of time, God rested”?

            You’re aware that there are Hebrew traditions which also keep the 7th year as a holy year, right? That the whole concept of “God resting” as the means for the Sabbath isn’t related strictly to days, but is instead a theme that’s repeated for several periods of time throughout the Bible, right?

          • Simple Man

            The text is so clear, the original recipients must have understood days.

          • Eric Boersma

            Are you a trained anthropologist, or is this another in your long line of statements that you believe to be true despite the fact that you have no training in the field and there is in fact significant evidence that would contradict your claims, so much so that you would have been laughed out of any conversation on the topic even two centuries ago?

          • Mary

            Actually slavery was not a construct of the South, and IT IS contained in SCRIPTURE ITSELF in God’s words to Moses:

            However, you may purchase male or female slaves from among the foreigners who
            live among you. You may also purchase the children of such resident foreigners,
            including those who have been born in your land. You may treat them as your
            property, passing them on to your children as a permanent inheritance. You may
            treat your slaves like this, but the people of Israel, your relatives, must
            never be treated this way. (Leviticus 25:44-46 NLT)

            So you can argue for a literal reading of Genesis but not a literal reading of other verses? Interesting…

          • Simple Man

            This was as stipulation of the Mosaic covenant, so what. The passage implicitly decries slavery as the Israelites are not allowed to practice it amongst themselves. You will notice it says ‘you may’ not ‘you should’.

          • Mary

            How does it decry slavery? The Hebrews could not enslave each other but they could enslave foreigners. How can that be considered “moral” by any stretch of the imagination? And of course it said “you may” Does that make it somehow not immoral? No one in the American South was REQUIRED to own slaves either.

            “So what?” Is a damn cold answer. People like you will justify ANY evil as long as they say it is “God’s will” This is what brainwashing does to a person, somehow immorality is called morality. The bible is the best example of situational ethics that I know of.

            Is it worth giving up your innate morality to justify the atrocities in the bible? Jesus said to treat others as you would like to be treated. In other words, the basis of morality is empathy, not rules made by man, And the bible was written by fallible men. If it were otherwise then the bible would not condone and in many cases demand murder, genocide, regular slavery and sex slavery, rape, and human sacrifice.

            I have no doubt that you will respond with a glib answer, just parroting what you have been taught, with no independant thought whatsoever. You have no proof that the bible is God’s Word and I have provided evidence that it is not.

          • Simple Man

            Slavery is obviously wrong because we are each made in the image of God. It was allowed for a short time in the OT during a period in which slavery was widespread, God never said it was good but he did allow it. Likely because had Israel truly followed the covenant it would have been a blessing for a foreigner to be a slave in Israel in comparison to living anywhere else.

        • Mary

          “Or rather, certain human intellects decided to use a “literal” reading of the Bible as a way to defend slavery in the American South”

          Please see my response below to Simple Man about this topic.

  • Susan_G1

    There is a difference in being a fool for Scripture and a fool for Christ.

    I’m glad you didn’t mock this theologian. His story is sad.

  • http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com/ Lothar Lorraine

    Hello.

    I feel sad for this Williamson fellow whose existence I just discovered.

    And I feel perhaps ever sadder for all the Christians he’s going to lead astray.

    But I wonder: according to Calvinists God predetermined most of mankind to end up to hell even if He lies to them by saying that the Gospel is a free offer for everyone.

    So would it be really far-fetched for a Calvinist to believe that God created the universe with a deceptive appearance of age?

    This would make Williamson’s discourse a bit more respectable: secular scientists are right about their findings on the age of the universe but this is a divine sham…

    Lovely greetings from continental Europe.

    Lothars Sohn – Lothar’s son

    http://lotharlorraine.wordpress.com

  • labreuer

    It is my somewhat-naive perception that Christians have historically had very bad understandings of the place of suffering in the Christian’s life, as well as which reasons are good reasons to be thought a ‘fool’. Would anyone care to confirm/deny?

  • NateW

    Yes, it is sad to see this, but the big question, I think, is this: would it not be just as sad to for me to choose the opposite hill to die on? Or, perhaps even better, to die fighting against him on his hill?

    The truth is that none of us can help but be, intellectually, a product of our own time and circumstances. I believe wholeheartedly that it is entirely possible to be very very wrong theologically but to nevertheless be greeted as a good and faithful servant—and equally possible to be very very right theologically and to hear the dreaded words, “depart from me, I never knew you.”

    I pray not that people like this pastor come to know more truly, but that we all might resolve to know only that we are truly known—and loved.

    • Susan_G1

      Nate, I think I know what you mean. When I read this, I wondered, what good is it to die on a theological hill? What good does any theology do me, if I do not “do”? Pete once posted, is it better to know right or to do right? People can “know right” in Hebrew, Greek and Aramaic, but what good will it do when Jesus separates the sheep from the goats? I do not want to be a goat, but I’m not sure which way it’s going to go. I can only rest in Christ’s love and mercy.

      • Rick

        “what good is it to die on a theological hill?”
        Isn’t that what the apostles did?

        • Susan_G1

          Disregarding the fact that we have certainty regarding only two of the apostles’ deaths, I believe they died for continuing to proclaim the resurrected Christ. Not one died for preaching the inerrency of scripture, the scientific accuracy of Genesis, the historicity of Adam, or even that men should be the head of the woman.

          • Rick

            So there may be theological hills you would die on, such as “Jesus is Lord”, but not all theological issues (such as the secondary issues the writer talks about).

            I don’t think we want to elevate every theological issue to a primary one, yet I also don’t want to demote every theological issue to secondary status.

            As Prof. Keith Drury wrote, some beliefs are written in pencil, some in pen, and some in blood.

            http://www.drurywriting.com/keith/faith.meltdown.story.htm

          • Eric Boersma

            “I don’t think we want to elevate every theological issue to a primary one”

            Sure. I agree. The problem is, that a literalist reading of the Bible does just that. When you approach scripture as being literally true in English right now as you read it, then every theological issue must be a primary one, because your hermeneutic has aggressively muted any potential demotion.

            I don’t believe in a historical Adam, but I honestly don’t care that much. If I show up in heaven, and I find out the Earth is 6,000 years old, it’s probably not going to have a big impact on my after life.

            Evangelical theology on the other hand, has drawn the line in the sand that says “If there’s no Adam, Jesus never died for your sins. If the sun didn’t stop in the sky over the Israelites, Jesus never died for your sins. If Samson didn’t kill a thousand Philistines, Jesus never died for your sins. If the Apostle Paul wasn’t perfectly right about women being subservient to men, Jesus never died for your sins. And if Jesus never died for your sins, you’re going to burn in Hell for all eternity.”

            That’s the problem; the Evangelical rhetoric today says that everything is written in Blood, and if any single one of their theological points is wrong, they’re all wrong and you’re going to burn in Hell. That’s a serious problem.

          • Rick

            I think you are painting Evangelical rhetoric with a very broad brush there. There are portions of what you describe, but Evangelicalism is more diverse than you are making it out to be, Many hold to primary v. secondary issues.

          • Eric Boersma

            Fair enough. I read lots of Evangelical authors (Rachel Held Evans, Fred Clark) who don’t cling to a literalist hermeneutic, but they’re hardly mainstream.

            I will capitulate though, and note that I should have stipulated conservative evangelicals or literalist evangelicals instead of using the catch-all label.

          • Rick

            C. Michael Patton, Tim Keller, Dan Kimball etc… are examples of the numerous mainstream, conservative evangelicals that differentiate between secondary and primary issues.

  • thecommonlanguage.com

    I study science, and I believe God made creation in six days. The two go together very well. In fact they go together much better than the theory of evolution goes with the idea of a planned creation. Where are the fossils of the ‘missing links’; the speculated mixed-species connectors of the random evolutionary flow that existed between the times when creatures came to be recognizable species? The ‘missing links’ don’t exist because there are none.
    Perhaps my blog would help. They’re supposed to be read in order, 1-8, but if time is a problem, then just 5-8 may help.
    http://thecommonlanguage.com/wordpress2/
    Blessings,
    Susan Moore

    • Dorfl

      “Where are the fossils of the ‘missing links’; the speculated mixed-species connectors of the random evolutionary flow that existed between the times when creatures came to be recognizable species?”

      What exactly is your source for evolutionary biology? Because this seems to combine several misconceptions about how evolution works.

      • thecommonlanguage.com

        What is your speculation of how the theory of evolution works?
        Susan

        • Dorfl

          First of all, evolution is a continuous process. Biologists divide things into discrete species because its a very useful tool, but it isn’t actually the case that at one point we had species A, at a later time we had a different species B and in between we had creatures that were sort of in between species. At each moment a biologist observing the life forms in question would have described them as forming a species of their own, and their ancestors many generations back as being transitional to that species.

          As for evolution being random, that depends very much on how you choose to define the word ‘random’. Most would say that evolution works through random mutation, acted upon by non-random natural selection.

          As for where the missing links – biologists usually use the term ‘transitional fossil’ instead of ‘missing link’, but for some reason ‘missing link’ has become very common in popular science writing – archaeologists have found lots and keep finding more. As usual, wikipedia is a good place to start reading:

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transitional_fossil#Missing_links

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_transitional_fossils

          • thecommonlanguage.com

            Hi Dorfl, I appreciate your playing with me. I am enjoying our discussion!

            I’m still confused. As a nurse I know that, besides others, Cystic Fibrosis, sickle cell anemia, downs syndrome, and some kinds of cancers, obesity, Alzheimers, diabetes, high blood pressure, birth defects, miscarriages and stillbirths are due to genetic mutations. I’ve been looking and have found no evidence of a mutation causing an organism to become new, better or more ‘survivable’.

            I heard someone say, “You can throw a monkey wrench at a car and you are more likely to damage it than fix it,” in a similar way, to believe that a genetic mutation would improve or create new an organism God first breathed into being one must understand that that belief is based on faith, not fact. Evolution is a theory, not a fact. It is speculation of the sort that caused people to believe that the earth was flat and that draining large amounts of blood from a person would somehow heal them.
            Here’s the Wikipedia site that talks about mutations: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mutation
            When tempted, Jesus stood on the Word of God (Matt. 4:1-11), and on the Day of Judgment, so will I.
            Susan

          • Dorfl

            I’m enjoying it too.

            You actually listed one case of a mutation making an organism more survivable. The same gene that causes sickle cell anaemia in people carrying two copies also gives some resistance to malaria in people carrying a single copy. That’s why the gene is more common in areas where malaria is prevalent, in those areas it is adaptive for most people, even if it’s also harmful to those unlucky enough to carry two copies.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sickle_cell_disease

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sickle_cell_trait

            As for evolution being a theory: Yes. The problem is that the word ‘theory’ does not mean the same thing when used in a scientific context as it does in everyday speech. In this context, ‘theory’ pretty much always refers to things that are very much established facts. Hence phrases like “The theory of gravity”, “Germ theory” or “Quantum field theory”.

            ps.
            The Wikipedia page you linked to actually discusses observed cases of beneficial mutations.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mutation#Beneficial_mutations

          • Susan_G1

            one of several perfect examples. Others: a lactase genetic mutation allowing us to derive nutrition from the milk of other species; Apolipoprotein AI-Milano, which reduces bad cholesterol; lipoprotein receptor-related protein 5 mutation, which results in nearly unbreakable bones; other hemoglobinopathies, which also reduce malaria (e.g. HbC, alpha-thalassemia, etc.); the Duffy antigen mutation in red blood cell membranes which diminishes the ability of the malaria parasite to enter RBCs (seen only in sub-Saharan Africa); a genetic alteration that decreases infectivity of smallpox… The more we understand about own genome, the more of these we will find, you may count on that.

          • Dorfl

            …lipoprotein receptor-related protein 5 mutation, which results in nearly unbreakable bones…

            Seriously? That’s kind of awesome.

          • Susan_G1

            yeah, a kid walked out of a terrible car crash without a broken bone; they investigated all his relatives as far back as they could go, and there had never been a broken bone in the family. On examination, their bone mass was double normal, with no downside.

          • Susan Moore

            Good morning, Dorfl, I hope you are still there! Ok, there have been a few beneficial mutations within species: Sometimes when the monkey wrench hits the car, the car starts, thanks be to God!
            But I woke up this morning understanding the real issue.
            Christians believe that God’s works authenticate His
            words. All through the Bible, beginning
            in Genesis 1:1, God spoke, and things happened as He said they would. This consistency on His part allows us to
            have faith in His Word, which is faithful and true, as time plays out the fulfilled promises of God. The issue with
            evolution is this: if one believes that His creation is formed through His randomly mutated works, then one must also believe that His words mutate randomly as well.
            If that is true, then there is no absolute truth. Instead
            there is truth that is relative only to the mutated situation, and defined by the one effected by the mutation. If
            that is the case, then for these believers who look to creation to define their god, any behavior may end up being acceptable as the whole of the Bible is nullified
            by their choice.
            Susan

          • Dorfl

            Good – it’s actually about midday here, but I’m assuming it’s morning where you live – morning.

            I don’t think I can help you with this.

            If you object to the theory of evolution on scientific grounds, I can probably respond to your objections. I’m not a biologist, but I’ve got some kind of basic grasp of the field.

            If you object to the theory of evolution on theological grounds, there isn’t much I can say about that. I don’t have much knowledge of or interest in theology. I also think that if theology contradicts what science observes to be the case about the world, then theology will have to change. That is, the only productive way for a theist to deal with any established scientific theory is to say “This is apparently what the world is like. How do I reconcile my belief in God with that?”. Not “My belief in God requires the world to be like this, therefore all observations indicating it’s not must be incorrect”.

          • Andrew Dowling

            “That is, the only productive way for a theist to deal with any
            established scientific theory is to say “This is apparently what the
            world is like. How do I reconcile my belief in God with that?”. Not “My
            belief in God requires the world to be like this, therefore all
            observations indicating it’s not must be incorrect”.”

            Amen! If you were told your favorite drink you’ve been drinking your whole life was cranberry juice, but then you find out you’d been tricked and it was orange juice you’d been consuming, you can’t wish away the fact that you were drinking orange juice and just pretend its cranberry :)

          • Eric Boersma

            Fred Clark wrote a wonderful blog post about this a couple years back that seems appropriate.

            http://www.patheos.com/blogs/slacktivist/2010/09/19/jackie-at-the-crossroads/

          • Paul Bruggink

            Susan Moore,

            It might be helpful to stop focusing so much on “random.” Mutations are only one part of biological evolution. Natural selection is another important part, whereby only certain mutations are selected. This step is not random. Mutations merely give natural selection something to work with.

            As a Christian who has reluctantly accepted biological evolution as another part of science that has to be dealt with, I certainly do not “look to creation to define [my] god.”
            I look to God, who gave us two revelations of Himself, one in the Bible and one in nature. God’s two revelations must be consistent. Therefore, if there are any problems, they must lie in our interpretation of the Bible, our interpretation of the facts of fature, or both.

          • thecommonlanguage.com

            Hi Paul, thanks for playing, too!
            There are three ways Christians believe that God reveals Himself. General (or natural) revelation which is the revelation made known through nature, specific revelation which is the revelation through Jesus Christ, our God and Lord, and direct revelation, which is the revelation given directly to a person or people through the Spirit.
            What evidence do you have that natural selection existed in the Garden of Eden prior to the fall, and is not, instead, a product of the fallen world?
            Susan

          • Zeke

            The entire human family tree, painstakingly categorized and fully consistent with the sciences of genetics, paleontology, biology, and geology. The evidence is there if you choose to look.

          • Paul Bruggink

            Susan Moore,
            If one considers that God’s purpose in inspiring Genesis 1-11 is to present a theological rather than an historical or scientific message, then it is no longer necessary to consider “What evidence do you have that natural selection existed in the Garden of Eden prior to the fall, and is not, instead, a product of the fallen world?” Denis Lamoureux does a very good job of making this case in his “Evolutionary Creation: A Christian Approach to Evolution.” This, of course, raises other theological issues, most of which are addressed in Peter Enns’s “The Evolution of Adam: What the Bible Does and Doesn’t Say About Human Origins.”

            This whole approach takes some getting used to, but it does make a lot of problems go away and does not negate the Gospel message. Everything in the Apostles and Nicean Creeds can still be believed. Notice that there is nothing in either creed about how or when God created the world and everything in it.

          • Evelyn

            Three revelations: nature, bible and Jesus! And ongoing by the Holy Spirit :)

          • Mary

            “Evolution is a theory, not a fact. It is speculation of the sort that caused people to believe that the earth was flat.”

            It is ironic that you argue for a literal reading of the Bible and yet miss the fact that the bible in fact says the earth is flat.

            The cosmology of the universe according to the bible is that the earth is a flat circle surrounded by ocean on all sides and supported by four pillars. The stars, moon, and the sun are suspended in a solid dome above. Over that is the “ocean in the sky” or the firmament. Above that is a literal physical heaven. Later on the Christians took on the Greek concept of Hades, a literal physical hell beneath the earth, although that is not present in the Hebrew theology and certainly not in the creation story. I imagine the concept of hell that the Greeks came up with was based on the observation of volcanos.

            If you doubt this is what the bible describes we actually have maps from that period of time depicting this cosmology.

            As you know the idea of the flat earth persisted until only a few hundred years ago. Why? Because of biblical literalism. In the history of science there has NEVER been a case where the bible came up with something that scientists did not know. On the contrary it has ALWAYS been the case that science has come up with stuff that the writers and interpretors of the bible did not know.

            As an aside, the Flat Earth Society still exists, and is based in my home town of Lancaster Ca *facepalm* It is based on the bible and in fact some pretty famous creationists are members. To add another element of incongruity, we are also the home of the Space Shuttles, which were built here and NASA at Edwards Air Force Base. The shuttle landed here many times and well, scared the jackrabbits to death, but the environmentalists never complained. lol

        • Lee Meadows

          Susan, you appear to again have serious scientific misconceptions because you use a word like “speculation”. Inform yourself. Feel free to review the evidence for evolution posted on my blog.

    • Eric Boersma

      “I study science”

      No you don’t. You make that abundantly clear in your following post. Not to mention the statement “I study science” is so broad as to be meaningless.

      You could say that my 3 year old who’s learning how to add “studies mathematics”, but I wouldn’t trust her opinion on how to find a derivative in much the same way that I wouldn’t trust your opinion on anything related to evolution.

      • Simple Man

        There are countless Ph.Ds who have not succumbed to the ‘evolution’ brain wash. Define science, I am not scientific expert, but I have an undergraduate science degree and I can tell ‘science’ from speculation.

        • Eric Boersma

          “There are countless Ph.Ds who have not succumbed to the ‘evolution’ brain wash.”

          Having a Ph.D doesn’t make you qualified to comment on any and all science. Would you trust the word of a Doctor of say, 17th Century English literature to diagnose your sore throat? Would you trust the interpretation of Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales to someone with a Doctorate in Geology?

          Simply having credentials doesn’t make you qualified to comment on anything and everything. Quite frankly, simply having correct credentials for the field you’re commenting on doesn’t make you qualified; only peer-reviewed scientific research actually means that your statements can be taken seriously.

          And in that world, there is not a single ounce of peer-reviewed scientific literature that suggests that the Earth is 6,000 years old, and there are literally entire libraries filled with literature that it’s not.

          • Simple Man

            And how much literature does it take to convince you that Jesus rose from the dead then?

            There are many credible scientists with PhDs who remain un-convinced by your ‘libraries’ of data… it doesn’t help when the scientific establishment won’t publish anything that might threaten its narrative. If they are wrong about one thing, then how many more, they maintain power by tight control of ideas…

            The fact is people are unwilling to admit that we ‘know’ far less than we think. Theories and hypotheses are not knowledge, they are ideas. Science should be concerned with generating laws which can be used to further our use of the world’s resources, not using power to maintain narratives that cement their positions as priests of our time.

          • Eric Boersma

            In light of the fact that there’s not significant scientific evidence that suggests that Jesus didn’t rise from the dead, and the fact that I don’t see Jesus’s resurrection as a matter of faith (it’s neither measurable nor testable, so science isn’t concerned with it), the situation is rather different.

          • Simple Man

            “not scientific evidence that Jesus didn’t rise from the dead”…. Not sure if you are familiar with ‘induction’ it is typically used in science to move from a specific case to an general ‘law’. How many other men have been raised from the dead? Jesus resurrection does against the largest body of evidence science could ever have; the ultimate statistic, 10/10 people die. Christ’s resurrection goes against scientific ‘law’ not just a theory, something much more well established than evolution.

          • Eric Boersma

            You’re…arguing against your own point now?

            We have writings that suggest that people walked and talked with Jesus after his death. We have evidence that Jesus lived and died and then was no longer dead in the existence of an entire religion that sprung up essentially overnight centered around the worship of this person and preaching his resurrection, and yet not one person provided the only piece of evidence necessary — the body of Jesus.

            I take Christ’s resurrection as an article of faith. That’s necessary to be a Christian, in my book. Believing that the bible is perfectly true in English is not. Neither is a 6,000 year old Earth. Neither is a belief that Moses compiled the book of Genesis. Neither is believing that gay people are an abomination in front of God.

            If someone were to show me that Christ never existed, I would reevaluate my beliefs in light of that evidence. I fear that you’ll find that I’m far too flexible for your fundamentalist world, though. Far too willing to consider and adapt to ideas that are dangerous to your entire world view. I expect no less from someone who’s so obstinately anti-intellectual as you are, though.

          • Simple Man

            I never started off here arguing for 6000 years, nor have I said that anywhere. I was however arguing for a literal Adam, and that the creation days should be understood to be ‘days’ because what else would they be. If you discredit the Bible you are no longer following the faith ‘once for all entrusted’. You have a religion of your own invention, great, have a nice trip. Christianity is rooted in space-time history as described in the Bible.

          • Zeke

            Then if days are “days”, the chronology of the bible suggests the earth is thousands, not billions, of years old. You can’t have it both ways…..

          • Simple Man

            Yes but how many thousands is not clear at all. Millions perhaps, but not through large scale evolution which does NOT square with scripture at all.

          • Zeke

            No, if the days of creation are literal days, the Bible traces the time from Adam to Jesus – a few thousand years, not millions, and certainly not billions.
            So you can believe the writers of scripture, who held beliefs about the natural world that would embarrass a modern 10 year old, or you can accept that the collective body of natural scientists unanimously place the age of the earth at about 4.5 billion years.
            Your choice.

          • Simple Man
          • Mary

            Like so many creationist sites, this one claims that scientists have said stuff that they NEVER SAID. The cratering of the moon is NOT considered to be at the same rate as now. Scientists say that when the solar system was formed there was much debris, meterorites and comets. So the craters were formed mostly in the early years of the moon’s existence. The scientists do not date the moon based on the craters, but on the rocks that were collected from the moon missions.

            Either these people do not understand science or they are deliberately lying. Which pisses me off big time. Dishonesty is not what the bible teaches.

          • Simple Man

            If you want dishonesty try evolutionary ‘science’. Ever heard of pilt-down man? All evidence requires interpretation, the paradigm of evolution is assumed and the evidence then fitted to the paradigm… I have never seen a shred of true observable evidence for grand scale evolution goo to you evolution. I’m done this conversation.

          • Mary

            Notice that pilt-down man is widely acknowledged to be a hoax by evolutionary scientists. This is because science weeds out the fakers through the scientific method and peer-review. So the fact that this is known as a hoax means that the scientists are actually doing a good job. Hoaxes are in fact very rare indeed.
            If you haven’t seen the evidence, it is only because your eyes are closed.

          • Mary

            Zeke is right in that the bible says 6,000 years, not millions. This is one of the problems with creationists is that they trip themselves up constantly. I cannot figure out how you can say that since this is Bible 101.

            While you may be skeptical about the 4.5 million year old earth, I think it is worthwhile to explain how they came up with that number. Simply put, it is impossible to date the earth to such an old age because of volcanism, erosion, and other natural processess. They can only go back so far in the geological record, although they can go back several billion years. Stromatilites, which are the first fossil proof of single celled organisms, go back about 3 billion years ago.

            The way they have dated the earth to 4.5 billion years is through examining moon rocks. Since the moon has no volcanism or erosion then it is the ideal way of dating the earth as well. They have also dated meteorites that have fallen to earth as well.

          • Simple Man

            The genealogies of the OT do not appear to be meant to be exhaustive, so we don’t really know how old the earth is.

          • Mary

            That is a conveniant out. You take the bible literally when you want to but don’t when you don’t want to.

          • Simple Man

            I have argued for a literal Adam. That was my purpose when I started this conversation. A literal Adam and the fact that evolution is not compatible with scripture.

          • Susan_G1

            I’m sure it’s been pointed out to you that “days” is an english translation of a Hebrew word that has several meanings with regards to time, from a day to a year to longer. Here is a sample article on the word, day: http://www.accuracyingenesis.com/day.html and here is a whole slew of them: http://www.oldearth.org/yom_hebrew.htm

            But I concur with Zeke; you can’t have your cake and eat it, too. If ‘day’ can used figuratively to show an earth with age, it can also be used figuratively (or a meaning consistent with the hebrew word yom/yowm) to describe the process of creation, including the ‘day’ (or age) when He created man.

          • Simple Man

            The point is how the original hearers would have understood it. Which would be in context with Exodus 20, they would have understood days.

          • Mary

            Sure…the original hearers were hearing it in HEBREW, That was Susan’s point.

            I am not saying that I necessarilly agree with that interpretation as I would have to do more research on that. I have not read the links she gave yet. I am just pointing out the fallacy of your statement. If you believe otherwise then you need to give a reason for your point of view, rather than make a blanket statement.

            Personally I do not believe in the creation story at all..but I am interested in the debate from an intellectual point of view.

          • Simple Man

            I don’t have any more time to waste on this, the debate is too convoluted to have on a message board.

          • Klasie Kraalogies

            Simple Man – drop the snark. People are trying to be serious here, and engage with your points. You are doing your cause a great disservice with the snarkiness.

          • Simple Man

            If Christianity is not rooted in space time history then your faith is just another trip. Sorry if that offends you.

          • Dorfl

            Theories and hypotheses are not knowledge, they are ideas. Science should be concerned with generating laws [...]

            I should probably stay out of this but: This too is misuse of scientific terminology. There is no hierarchy of certainty were ‘laws’ are considered better established than ‘theories’, even if everyday use of those words would suggest there should be.

            For example, the theory of classical electrodynamics is basically “Maxwell’s laws, plus anything you can derive from them”. If you accept those laws you automatically accept the theory. They are necessarily equally certain.

            Another example is Newton’s laws. They are known to only give an approximate description of the universe we live in. The theory of relativity explains how and why they break down once relative speeds become large enough. Knowing this, we don’t stop referring to Newton’s laws as ‘laws’ or somehow upgrade the theory of relativity to be more than a ‘theory’. There is no need to, because that’s not how those words are defined.

        • Klasie Kraalogies

          I often see this claim. But nobody seems to be able to produce the “countless PhD’s” they speak about, beyond the same tired list of AIG, ICR and sometimes RTB staff members.

          • Simple Man

            A simple google search could find you plenty, you mustn’t be trying very hard – try here for starts if you want -http://creation.com/scientists-alive-today-who-accept-the-biblical-account-of-creation

          • Susan_G1

            SM, can you really tell science from speculation? If I found you a scholarly article supporting the theory of evolution, could you really tell me where those scientists went wrong? I think, if you’re honest with yourself, you will admit that “in your opinion”… etc. The science is at odds with the belief.

            It is not difficult to compartmentalize ‘belief’ from ‘knowledge’. Many of us have done that, and are seeking to break down that barrier; it is a cognitive and emotional one, not a rational one.

            Many of the people on that list choose to believe scripture as written. Many also are not practicing scientists. For example, they list “Dr Ben Carson, Professor and chief of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins University. He has 51 honorary doctorates, including from Yale and Columbia Universities” as though this gives him more credibility as a scientist. The man is a pediatric neurosurgeon. He’s a damn good pediatric neurosurgeon, too, one of the finest. But his field is Medicine, Surgery, Neuro-. He isn’t studying the human genome or other sciences that really support evolution. He can choose to believe in scripture as it is written without ever running into the problem of evolution. It’s not hard to do. It doesn’t disprove people like Francis Collins (with a repertoire every bit as impressive as Ben Carson’s, and if my opinion counts, more so, because Collins spent his life searching, researching, breaking ground in Science, and rose to head the NIH.), who have both deep faith and an understanding of evolution.

          • Klasie Kraalogies

            You are hilarious. 200+ is countless? That is about the science faculties of 2 smaller universities. Not to mention that the list includes distantly related fields like linguistics. As well as some well known charlatans and folk that have been shown to not have grasp on what they are claiming (Werner Gitt, for instance, who pulled Shannon’s work on Information completely out of context).

            Let me put like this: I’m a geologist, a professionally registered one. This means that I’m bound by a code of conduct and professional standards, similar to an engineer. I am obliged to tell the truth, not to make claims discounted by the facts, etc etc….. By these standards, I cannot support “Creationist geology”, in any sense. It would be a lie. Should I do so, I’ll be breaking the standards I am oblige to adhere to.

          • Simple Man

            I am not saying creationists are even necessarily correct on geology, this is merely a list of people who disagree with large-scale evolution.

          • Eric Boersma

            It’s not surprising that he’d argue that 200+ is “countless”. 2900 years ago is called “time immemorial” earlier in the thread by the same person.

          • Klasie Kraalogies

            Furthermore, let’s look at geology: A great number of companies, from small caps to major multinationals spend billions on exploration and evaluation of mineral deposits. In Canada ALONE, in 2012, $3.9 billion was spent. None of that takes “creationist geology” as departure point. When it comes to billions of dollars, companies will have little patience with the grand deceptions you envisage is being perpetrated. Nobody is going to throw large amounts of money into a hopeless pit, foregoing even larger returns. Well, some maybe, but a whole, world-wide industry??

  • Lee Meadows

    Thank you, Peter. I see these rhetorical bombs thrown around in the PCA, and your analysis has helped me better understand why they grieve me so.

  • Paul Bruggink

    G. I. Williamson, Simple Man, and Susan Moore (thecommonlanguage.com) could benefit from some exposure to any of the following Christian authors who all give very good reasons for supporting alternative INTERPRETATIONS of Genesis 1-3:

    Seven Days That Divide the World: The Beginning According to Genesis and Science by John C. Lennox

    Paradigms on Pilgrimage: Creationism, Paleontology and Biblical Interpretation by Stephen J. Godfrey & Christopher R. Smith

    The Prism and the Rainbow: A Christian Explains Why Evolution Is Not a Threat by Joel W. Martin

    The Bible, Rocks and Time: Geological Evidence for the Age of the Earth by Davis A. Young

    Exploring Faith and Reason: The Reconciliation of Christianity and Biological Evolution by Bruce Glass

    Genesis1-4: A Linguistic, Literary and Theological Commentary by C. John Collins

    The Evolution of Adam: What the Bible Says and Doesn’t Say About Human Origins by Peter Enns

    The Language of Science and Faith: Straight Answers to Genuine Questions by Karl Giberson

    Beyond the Firmament: Understanding Science and the Theology of Creation by Gordon J. Glover

    Holman QuickSource Guide to Understanding Creation (Holman Quicksource Guides) by Mark Whorton

    In the Beginning… We Misunderstood: Interpreting Genesis 1 in Its Original Context by Johnny V. Miller & John M. Soden

    When Faith and Science Collide: A Biblical Approach to Evaluating Evolution, Creationism, Intelligent Design, and the Age of the Earthby G. R. Davidson

    Origins: A Reformed Look at Creation, Design, and Evolutionby Deborah B. Haarsma & Loren D. Haarsma

    I Love Jesus & I Accept Evolution by Denis O. Lamoureux

    Nature’s Witness: How Evolution Can Inspire Faith by Daniel M. Harrell

    Perspectives on an Evolving Creation, edited by Keith B. Miller

    A Biblical Case for an Old Earth by David Snoke

    Evolution and Belief: Confessions of a Religious Paleontologis tby Robert J. Asher

    God’s Pattern for Creation: A Covenantal Reading of Genesis 1 by W. Robert Godfrey

    Evolution from Creation to New Creation: Conflict, Conversation, and Convergence by Ted Peters & Martinez Hewlett

  • Evelyn

    “Lifting our eyes up from our own navels, we are immediately confronted by many more pressing issues that Jesus was quite concerned with.”
    Amen.
    I find it tragic that so many of these comments reflect the fact that this point was completely missed by the readers.

    • Paul Bruggink

      True, but when pastors and others like G. I. Williamson, Ken Ham, Ray Comfort, John MacArthur, Albert Mohler and others set up the false dilemma of having to choose between what they think are the words of the Bible (actually a particular interpretation) and rejecting the facts of nature OR believing the facts of nature and rejecting the words of the Bible, it creates barriers to serious consideration of the more pressing issues (paraphrasing Hugh Ross in “Creation and Time,” p. 42).

    • James

      Well, the topic is once again a literal Genesis. I too wish we could move on from the milk of the word to strong meat, but am confronted time and again with the deficiencies (serious ones, I fear) of the “flat read.”

  • Jean

    When we employ a “flat” reading of scripture or use a slippery slope argument for a literal reading, we risk missing the inspired message that the author was actually trying to convey. This, I believe is a most serious concern.

  • Steve

    Saying all Scripture was written for the common man kinda runs afoul of 2 Peter 3:16

  • dangjin

    “I, however, am genuinely saddened at the thought of anyone feeling that this is the stand to take as the light of one’s life begins to dim.”

    So because you have been deceived you want everyone else to be deceived so you can feel good about your pursuit of false teachings and being disobedient to God.

  • Paul Bruggink

    I just read something from my favorite author (sorry, Peter Enns) that is relevant to several of the points that Enns makes in his blog:

    “Those who attempt to read Genesis 1 and 2 as if these chapters were divinely
    dictated scientific texts, kindly provided by God to save us the trouble of
    attempting to read the book of nature for ourselves, are committing just such
    an act of literary violence [confusing one genre with another, since the Bible is not a book, but a library]. They also put themselves in peril of missing the true theological point of the text, with its eightfold reiteration of the message that nothing exists except through the creative will and effectual utterance of God (‘And God said “Let there be . . .”’).”
    John Polkinghorne, “Science and the Trinity: The Christian Encounter with Reality” (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2004), p 44.

  • Christian Soldier

    Do not parley with Satan. Young Earth Creationists and Bible literalists are all demons from the pit of hell sent by Lucifer to destroy the church Christ has built. Satan’s plan is to trick Christians into trying to defend faith through science. Don’t be fooled and DO NOT TALK WITH THEM!

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