The Symphony of Creation, or debates about the manuscript?

I’ve been approached for two weeks in the past three after speaking in my church, with specific questions from people about the age of the earth.  They want to pin me down on whether the earth is 6000 years old, or six billion years old, and the ones doing the pinning are convinced they know the right answer.  I’ve studied young and old earth theories, and the gap theory, and have come to the conclusion that God wasn’t trying to tell us how old the earth is in Genesis one and two.  Because God isn’t telling, I’m not either.

I have “young earth” friends.  I also have friends who believe the earth is billions of years old, and love Christ deeply.    The debate goes on and on, endlessly.  There are the “Answers in Genesis” people, lobbing grenades at the “Answers in Creation” people, who pull the pins and lob them right back.  It’s embarrassing and wrong on at least three counts

1. It utterly bypasses sound principles of Bible study and interpretation.  The student of the Bible always has, as a primary goal, to discover the best answer to this question: “How would these words have been received by the original readers?”  In other words, when studying Romans, I’d do well to try and read it through the lens of a 1st century Christian living in Rome because that’s who the letter was written to.  In the same way, I need to try and read Genesis through the lens of its original audience.  While there’s great debate about who that audience was, one thing is for certain: those first readers weren’t having any debates about the age of the earth.  It simply wasn’t on their radar, and for this reason, I’m unclear that it should be on ours.

2. It turns a non-essential into an essential. With Job, I’ll ask, “where were you when God laid the foundation of the earth?”  You weren’t there taking notes to share with all of us in powerpoint/seminar form?  Neither was I.  When people are told that they can’t be genuine Christians because they don’t believe that the earth is young, they’re being told that they can’t believe in Christ’s death for them, receive Christ, follow Him, and seek His kingdom, unless they’re willing to subscribe to a certain view of science or a certain interpretation of Genesis that goes far, far, beyond the scope of the what the text actually says.  Adding unnecessary burdens to the gospel is tragic, because some will miss out on Christ because they can’t or won’t march to the nuanced drum we’re beating about the age of the earth.  It’s all so reminiscent of Galatians and their insistence on circumcision as a condition of salvation.

3. It becomes a major distraction, sort of like going to the symphony and failing to hear the music because you get in an argument with your spouse about whether the Classicism of Mozart is better than the Romanticism of Brahms.  There you are, whispering your arguments back forth, until someone finally whacks you with their opera glasses and says, “shut up – or at least go out in the lobby.  I’m trying to listen the music”

The music of Genesis is this: God made the heavens and the earth.  God made humanity, endowing us with body, soul, and spirit so that we have the capacity to display God’s character and function as His image bearers.  The setting, prior to sin, was perfect, with a beauty, ecology, intimacy, and grandeur that exceeds the imagination.  We’re broken though because of our sin.  Because of that our world is broken too.  God, though, has made provision for restoring humanity, and the rest of the cosmos, and the final condition will exceed even the spectacular beginning.

All are invited to join with God in the work God is doing, and invitation rooted in the death and resurrection of Christ, and His offer to live with us, and in us, and through us, making us whole in ways we could never be without Him.

This is the symphony of history, but to hear the music requires that we stop obsessing about how long it took to write it.  It’s an interesting conversation, but the moment it diminishes my capacity to hear the symphony, it’s become a barrier.  For many, sadly, that’s the state of it.

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  • Linda

    I would say it is essential to believe that Adam and Eve were historical people and that everybody came from them, would you not agree?

  • Linda

    If you believe that it is essential to believe that Adam and Eve are historical people, and that every human came from them, then likewise it is essential to not believe in evolution, do you not agree?.

  • Linda

    “The setting, prior to sin, was perfect, with a beauty, ecology, intimacy, and grandeur that exceeds the imagination.”

    The problem is the people that believe in the old earth, do not believe in that statement, they have a setting that is not perfect before the fall of man.

  • sp

    Nice, Richard! Totally agree.

    I believe Adam and Eve were historical people, I believe in Creation, I am young/old earth agnostic, and I vote!!


  • Linda

    You said “The student of the Bible always has, as a primary goal, to discover the best answer to this question: “How would these words have been received by the original readers?” ”

    I disagree with this statement, the question should be “What was the author’s original intended meaning?” I am sure the authors did have an original audience in mind, but still the author never intended for the meaning to change with different readers.

    When interpreting Scripture, remember:
    1). All Scripture will agree. It will not contradict itself.
    2). Seek to let the passage speak for itself in its context. Be careful not to draw conclusions that the author did not intend.

    From a straightforward reading of Genesis 1, the impression would seem to be that the entire creative process took place in six twenty-four hour days… this seems to run counter to modern scientific research, which indicates that the planet Earth was created several billion years ago.

    Those who would use Historical science (as propounded by people who by-and-by ignore God’s written revelation) to interprete the Bible, to teach us things about God, have matters back to front. Because we are fallen, fallible creatures, we need God’s written Word, illuminated by the Holy Spirit, to properly understand natural history. Christians should build their thinking on the Bible, not on science.

  • Linda

    May I ask when do you believe that Adam and Eve came into history? Also do you believe that all humans came from Adam and Eve? Also what was the creation like before Adam and Eve came into history?

  • Thanks for writing this. Definitely an issue of the role of the church in the world about which I am very passionate (although probably not as much as I am with environmental stewardship, which is itself from the Genesis story).

    I don’t think I fully appreciated the beauty of the creation story in Genesis (and, for that matter, the poetic version at the beginning of John) until I encountered other creation stories… not just those from other cultures (by reading excellent children’s books like “In the Beginning” ), but also fictional creation stories, such as those created by two deeply faithful men: Lewis’ Aslan singing Narnia into existence in “The Magician’s Nephew”, and Tolkien’s singing Middle-earth into existence in the “Ainulindale” of “The Silmarillion”. (I’m not at all surprised that both authors chose music as the means of creation.)

    As for myself, part of my Lutheran confirmation was to give a statement of faith. As written (and graded by the pastor teaching the class), it contained an entire section on issues of Creation. However, when I was standing at the podium in front of a broad slice of our congregation at the time, I decided to skip it. What I had to say would have made some people happy, and disappointed others, and I just didn’t think that that was constructive, or for that matter reflected the faith I had been raised in.

    Relevant to your third point, I think the problem is that issues of biblical interpretation, especially regarding Creation, have become tied up with issues of public policy, and with your second point, it becomes an all or nothing proposition. Peoples’ motives/purity/intelligence/etc.. get called into question if they so something like hold a personal faith (let’s say they are young earth) but then advocate a generalized curriculum for public schools (because they believe in state-based religious tolerance), or if they accept a scientific interpretation of the formation of stars, planets, and life but then accept the miracle of Christ’s death, resurrection, and ascension.

    These examples are loosely related things, I suppose, but they are answers to very different questions, among them “How did the world come to be as it is?”, “How should I lead my life?”, and “What should the state do to promote a generally educated populace?”. I don’t think these answers are necessarily “bundled”, in that the answer to one implies the answers to all of the others. My faith background would certainly be a large factor in coming to those answers, but so would my attempts to put myself in the place of someone who is not from my mainline Protestant upbringing. I am well aware that not everyone, not even all Christians or even all American Protestants or even all ELCA Lutherans at my current congregation (mmm… specificity) are going to have the same answers to such questions… and therefore my answers must consider that there isn’t one answer to each that applies equally to all, especially not in our current (mostly) free and (mostly) pluralistic society.

  • Thanks for this post. We forget that Darwin’s legacy is only 250-years-old and that believers have read Genesis for millenia before that.

    I appreciate N.T. Wright’s views on this– Genesis tells us that long before humanity fashioned any temple or synagogue, God fashioned this earth to be a meeting place between humanity and himself. That is the music of Genesis 1 and 2, in my opinion– the earth is a crucible that God designed to pour his love into… everything else is just mechanics.

  • Richard: A-men.

  • fluger

    “Relevant to your third point, I think the problem is that issues of biblical interpretation, especially regarding Creation, have become tied up with issues of public policy, and with your second point, it becomes an all or nothing proposition. Peoples’ motives/purity/intelligence/etc.. get called into question if they so something like hold a personal faith (let’s say they are young earth) but then advocate a generalized curriculum for public schools (because they believe in state-based religious tolerance), or if they accept a scientific interpretation of the formation of stars, planets, and life but then accept the miracle of Christ’s death, resurrection, and ascension.”

    This is so apt. I find it hard to reconcile things like this where my philosophical beliefs mesh with my spiritual beliefs. I don’t think the church should be involved in government at all, but does that mean I condone certain things then? Tough prospect.

    In regards to the OP, I know I’ve been in debate on a similar topic on this blog with Lamont; and the whole thing is frankly tedious. Like you say, the arguments have been tossed back and forth for a while and there really isn’t going to be a universal consensus within the church. I find the whole debate a side-show to the reality of the Gospel and wish we could sideline it with other “great debates” in theology like security of the believer/pre vs post trib/pre-destination/et al.

    Like I stated elsewhere; even though I feel like Theistic Evolution hasn’t proven itself to *me*; I don’t judge those who have taken that outlook. Its really a red herring and unecessarily divisive.

  • Sherry

    Years ago the pastor at First Presbyterian Berkeley, Earl Palmer put it this way when looking at creation;

    “not the how but the meaning and the why.”

  • Earl Palmer is a hero of mine, Sherry. he took me and my wife under his wing @ University Presbyterian Church, became friends with us, counseled and married us. I smile whenever I see his name in print. One of the greatest teachers of the word that I’ve ever encountered.

  • Sherry

    @Ian, yes I learned a great deal from his approach to the scriptures.
    I attended First Presbyterian Berkeley when he was senior pastor.

  • Sherry

    I was just listening to Richard’s sermon from Sunday via internet.
    I appreciated the way he encouraged his listeners to rest in the mystery of the “meaning” and the “why” of creation without getting unnecessarily bogged down by the “how.”

  • Graham

    Richard: This is a tough one. I completely agree that this is more a devisive issue and one that distracts from the testimony of creation then a central tennet of the faith. I am fine with an earth slowly formed over eons or in six 24 hour days. With regards to the creation of the earth, animals, stars,etc. I am perfectly okay with genesis 1 and 2 being more of poetic creation story for early Jews than a science textbook for modern man.
    Where it get’s sticky is with man and how sin entered the world. Is Adam just a poetic “first man?” If so how do we interperet not only Genesis but also the new testament in which we read things like ” just as sin entered through one man, so in Christ all are made alive”? To me this is the stubling block (as it has implications for things like atonement) not nessesarily the age of the earth.

  • Dani

    RICHARD!!! YES!!! Thank you for this posting.
    I almost want to leave the “age of the earth” as a blank spot in the sentences so that we can fill it in with all the other non-essentials that we, as Christians, consume ourselves with in order to argue….missing the point. It is this type of arguing that makes me believe (strongly) that we are continuing to be the “religious elite” who did not recognize Christ when he came. I want to hear the music. I want to recognize Christ. And I want to see every person I love know Christ and work out their own unbelief with him via intimacy because Christ died for us ALL to know him without conditions.

  • Ken

    I posted this on Facebook and after reading the comments here it bears retelling…

    I remember a prof in my freshman yr of college scolding the class for not liking a short story we were assigned. She said, “What do you read for, entertainment?” We sat dumbfounded trying to comprehend the proper English structure of the story being more important that the actual story.

    One issue I had in college that has only amplified over the years is how we tend to “academyize” everything. By that I mean we analyze, study, dissect, etc. all the details of existence to a point where we miss the point of existence. We forget we’re talking about GOD. We forget He is the author and finisher of the whole story. He wrote the rules. In spite of our (at least) thousands of years, we haven’t really gotten any wiser in comparison to Him. We are dust on the scales and we will not have THE answers in this life. But those answers are not the point of this life, so we should be confident that what we know of God’s care for us is enough.

  • Patrick

    I like the general idea of what you are saying, but I think that although this topic may run the risk of becoming a distraction, it is still important for communities of faith to interact with communities of science in a constructive manner. Specifically, I think this means considering the theological implications of evolution. I know several people who were originally young earth creationists that came to agree with evolution not because of their study of science, but because of their study of faith.

    To say that we shouldn’t divide our community around this issue is certainly correct. However, to say that the extent of biological evolution’s relevance to the church is that it is an “interesting conversation,” seems to lead toward a community in which hard topics are shunted to the side, regardless of how fruitful such a conversation might become.

    Just because something is a non-essential for salvation doesn’t mean that a faith community can’t be made stronger by dealing with it in a healthy, loving manner. And I think Bethany is a place that is uniquely able to deal with contentious issues in this way.

  • Ken

    The idea of “Theistic Evolution” is too strange for me. Evolution by its very definition is life evolving by chance mutations over time. Makes me wonder if we will one day consider “Theistic Atheism”. There is one way in which I believe the so called evidence for evolution may illustrate God’s creative hand and that would be that He painted the Universe into being as a process, step-by-step, as a painter creates a masterpiece. I know the young Earthers go crazy with the idea of billions of years, but I really have no problem with that from a Biblical stand point. There actually seems more of our “created in God’s image” in mankind when we compare our creativeness to His in this aspect. Instant artwork doesn’t usually impress us, but great works that take days, months, even years or decades are considered some of the most awesome displays of humanity. Why is it as Believers so many fill forced to squeeze God into six literal twenty-four hour days to create the Universe? THAT I don’t get.

  • Lisa

    I can’t help but that think that the only reason issues become divisive is because of the attitude that we bring to the discussion. Does our faith in Christ hang in the balance when we discuss the formation of the earth? I don’t think so. If it does then there are other problems to address. As Richard preached a few weeks back, it’s the centrality of Christ that we all must agree on, everything else is a “non-essential”. But many of these non-essentials are worthy of discussion, especially when they impact fellow followers or even the people who will never pass through our church doors.

    I wonder what that conversation at Bethany would look like. I have learned that it’s best not had online, too anonymous, too instant, too easy to lob rhetorical bombs. Does Bethany really have a place for these challenging interactions? Is it summer class? Is it small group? I haven’t found it but I’d be more than willing to help make it happen. I am of the mind based on personal experience that if we don’t wrestle, as a united community, with our differences, then we are missing out on a tremendous opportunity to grow both collectively and as individuals.

  • fluger

    Yes, this has been my hang up on this as well. What you posted is word for word my opinion.

  • fluger

    That’d be something I’d be very interested in. Perhaps a series where we have a guided discussion over lots of the hot-button topics in Christianity.

    Its always good to understand the other side of the debate, especially when done in a format of openness and encouragement.

  • raincitypastor

    I’ll chime in and point out that we’ve done in this in the past, and will continue to do it in the future at Bethany. This doesn’t invalidate the value of blog discussion though, in my opinion. They allow a larger community to dialogue than those who attend our church. There are a few who’d never darken the door of BCC who feel free to post here, and for the most part, I like that. Some of them are farther left, some farther right. As discussion unfolds on a blog, I’m convinced it might just reach some people who would never attend an event physically. It’s sort of like podcasting, only in a groupish way 🙂

  • Patrick

    Jürgen Moltmann has written about evolution, open theism and atonement in such a way that they are compatible, if you are interested in checking him out.

  • I’m going to just re-post my comment that I left you on Facebook about this. I think it’s interesting to step away from both science and religion and look towards cultures who’ve valued oral tradition like those of the Native Americans. Hey, I majored in Cultural Anthropology. =) Would love your feedback on this…

    Richard, I don’t know the context behind this as Lindsey and didn’t make it to Bethany today. I will say that I found myself at a Native American Pow Wow once and I heard a profound statement by a speaker of theirs…

    “Dont let the scientists fool you with the earth being millions of years old” this woman said. “For we know through the oral tradition of our elders that it’s only 6,000 years old.”

    That stuck with me ever since. Here was a non Judeo Christian culture claiming the earth’s age to be 6,000 years old.

  • Geoff

    Can you explain to me why it’s essential to believe that Adam and Eve were historical people?

    And, @ Richard, it’s a mistake to say that creation prior to the fall was “perfect.” Sinless, yes, but not perfect. They are not the same, and a “very good” creation prior to the fall does not necessitate perfection. The incarnation of Christ seems to make that point. Just a clarification worth making.

  • Lisa

    Yes, we’ve done this, particularly during the summer series. However the conversations always seem to stop at the end of a couple of hours. I’m wondering how we can create an ongoing conversation. Richard, we’ve discussed how often it’s best to not have discussions about charged topics online, it comes with it’s risks and challenges as well as it’s advantages. Further, I’m talking about our community at Bethany. How are we to learn from each other and grow as a community and be able to take on our differences respectfully? I’m not saying I have the answer, which is why I posed it here. I’m wondering if there are face-to-face options that I haven’t considered and how we can do it on an ongoing basis.

  • Linda

    Do you believe in Jesus Christ.?

    Do you believe in death?

    Where does death come from? The Bible says

    ‘For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive’ (1 Corinthians 15:22).

    If you believe that three things in this verse were real: Christ, life, and death, but not a real Adam then you are being illogical. This verse from the New Testament teaches that Adam was a real historical person, and by implication that he was the one who was responsible for our dying.

    In the New Testament, all the events that were recorded in the early chapters of Genesis—the creation, Adam/Eve, the Fall, Noah, the Flood and so on—were accepted as literal and historical. There was nothing in the New Testament about their being mythical, allegorical, legendary or even evolutionary.

    The Lord Jesus Christ accepted Genesis as being literal and historical by his reference to the creation of Adam and Eve and the events surrounding their sinning (Mark 10:1–12) and also by his reference to Noah and the Flood (Matthew 24:37–39). The Apostle Paul compares and contrasts the Lord Jesus Christ with Adam. It was obvious to see that a belief in a literal Adam is absolutely crucial to the plan of salvation. If Adam did not fall from his original perfect state, then there is no sin, and hence Christ died for nothing.

  • Linda

    I suppose if you do not believe that Adam and Eve were historical people then that means you believe in evolution, is this correct?

    The evolutionary process is one of death and struggle, cruelty, brutality and ruthlessness. It is a ghastly fighting for survival, elimination of the weak, and of the deformed. This is what evolution is all about—death and struggle bringing man into existence: death over millions of years. It is an onward, upward ‘progression’ leading to man. Yet, what does the Bible say in Romans 5:12? ‘Man’s actions led to sin, which led to death.’

    In other words, evolutionists would say death and struggle led to man’s existence. The Bible says man’s rebellious actions led to death. These statements cannot both be true. One denies the other-they are diametrically opposed. That is why the people who claim to hold both positions at the same time (e.g. theistic evolutionists) are destroying the basis of the gospel. If life formed in an onward ‘progression,’ how was man to fall upward? What is sin? Sin then becomes an inherited animal characteristic, and is not due to the fall of man through disobedience. The many Christians who accept the belief of evolution and add God to it, destroy the very foundation of the Gospel message they are professing to believe.

  • Linda

    Pastor Richard, could you please answer my specific questions about do you believe that Adam and Eve were historical figures?, or do you believe in evolution?

  • Juliet

    Linda, I don’t really want to engage you in this particular discussion, but the teacher in me needs to point out that you often cut and paste things from other websites. After years of reading student papers I can tell when people shift from their own writing style to someone else’s. Google bears me out. I’m sure you’re doing it out of pure motives, but I think it would help people dialogue with you if you would place words that are not your own in quotes and cite your sources. Of course this is not an academic or professional context, so there’s no compulsion to do so, but I think it’s always the right thing to do.

  • raincitypastor

    I’d encourage you to listen to my podcast Linda, from the past Sunday, and if you still have the question, let me know.

  • Geoff

    Hmm… well, I believe by faith that Christ is God, and it’s not difficult for me to believe in death… or taxes… since we can’t escape either of them. 🙂

    But I don’t see anything illogical here, except the rigid adherence to a literal Adam. There’s no necessary reason to assume that just because those verses use the name “Adam”, there must have been an actual, historical person called Adam. Of course the NT writers didn’t think any of those stories were evolutionary, that would have been a completely foreign concept to people who still believed that thunder was really God walking around in heaven, which was just above the clouds.

    I mean, there’s lot of things in the Bible that we’re pretty sure are not literally, historically true, but we still think they have meaning and value. I see no reason to think it can’t be the same for “Adam.” I’m pretty sure that whatever Jesus thought, he was also aware that our knowledge of reality as humans is quite limited. Literal Adam or evolution, God could do it either way. Evolution seems to be a viable option. It doesn’t worry me too much one way or the other. A literal Adam isn’t “crucial” to salvation — God could make his plans work in any number of different scenarios. It’s not like God needs a literal six-day creation to be God.

    I don’t know that evolution is necessarily more “ghastly” or “brutal” than the idea that the sin of one man is responsible for all the evil in the world. Besides, if you believe in a literal Genesis account, then the world could not have been perfect anyway, since the devil was already wandering about, and God let him hang out in the garden to tempt people in the form of a snake. Doesn’t sound perfect to me.

    There are various explanations for the “fall” that work within an evolutionary framework. Sin is not the same as imperfection. Sin is a spiritual category, and though it has physical consequences, it is a mistake, I think, to treat it as though it encompasses all physical categories as well.

  • Roy

    So, has the creation debate officially overtaken the homosexual debate in regard to # of comments!??!? 🙂

  • fluger

    Err, can’t reply to you guys, so replying to myself.

    Well, chalk me up as interested. I enjoy apologetics/theological debate to a point, and there are plenty of perspectives that I don’t understand and would like to hear clarified.

  • Although most of this discussion is a distraction to Christianity, there is a very important point for bringing up the creation versus debate. If you believe that the word of God is inerrant, then you have to test it for accuracy. True, the initial authors probably never anticipated discussions about evolution vs creation. But when contradictions appear between the scriptures and scientific inquiry, you need to find out why this it so (human error? misintepretation of scriptures?). You cannot just throw out science (or scriptures for that matter!)

  • Linda

    I listened to your podcast and you say that God formed Adam from the dust, so that would lead me to think you believe he is indeed historical, and that also would mean you do not believe in evolution. Believing in Adam as a historical man would also mean you accept the geneologies which would make this event of God forming Adam approximately 6,000 years ago.

  • Linda

    I wanted to say even though it may seem like I am making a big deal about not believing in evolution or an earth billions of years old, I personally think that God can save a person that does believe these things or is maybe not sure or decided about these issues.

    But I am also certain once a person is indeed truly saved, the Bible will truly become that persons authority and not man’s word, and since a true believer is indwelt by the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit who is the spirit of truth will show that person that Genesis is indeed true and that God did create everything in six days and that it was only about 6,000 years ago.

    This leads me to believe people that believe in evolution still have a “dead engine” in them and need God to have mercy on them and give them spiritual life, to give them spiritual birth or they will remain dead in their sins and continue to believe man’s word (evolution) instead of God’s word (creationism).

  • Roy


  • Cameron

    I don’t know you from Adam :), but I will say that reading your responses here make me believe that you have completely missed the point of the original post. Look at what this debate has turned into. You are calling into question others faith because of a disagreement over a non-essential point. I know you’d say this is essential, but really it isn’t.

    As for my opinions on the matter, count me in the “not sure” boat. I’m also in the “it doesn’t matter” boat! As is the point of the original post, I want to make sure I don’t miss the symphony. So, with the utmost respect to you and your position, I will say, “shut up – or at least go out in the lobby. I’m trying to listen the music”.

  • fluger

    Way to tie in the sermon. You get a gold star! :LOL:

  • fluger

    Linda, like in my debate with Lamont; do you believe that the earth is stationary as well?

    The Bible makes NUMEROUS references to the earth not moving.

    How do you resolve this dichotomy?

    Do you reject all the work of astronomers and astronauts and such and maintain that the earth is fixed and shall not be moved? Or do you accept that it is mearly descriptive and metaphorical and move along?

    I only ask, because, as I’m sure you, and most of us are aware, the Church’s old stance on this was so dogmatic and inflexible that they killed people who questioned this stuff. Now, that whole debate looks silly and obvious; but at the time, not only was the church backed by logic and scientific consensus (Tycho Brahe developed quite the theory to explain retrograde motion and still have a geocentric model), but also the Bible. All those factors were shown to be false (potentially for you, as you might still cling to geo-centrism).

    So, I ask you, are you going to sit there and potentially make the same mistakes again?

    I also admit that there is more at stake here in the debate about human origins (with original sin and such) than in the geo-centic debate of several centuries ago; but your mantra of inerrancy in addition to an unwillingness to view the text as metaphorical leaves you no out here. You are, unequivocly stating that your reading of scripture is more correct and better than others; that you can see the meaning more clearly than us, and your faith is better/stronger/truer. There is a word to describe such a mentality and it is not listed under the fruits of the spirit.

    Perhaps a willingness to accept that God is bigger than your understanding of Him; and perhaps it is possible that other Christians might have a different but equally grounded interpretation (not to get too Brown vs Board here…) of the text would suit you better than staccato bursts of diatribe?

  • Linda

    flugar -To a person on the Earth, it appears to them that the Earth is not moving, is this not true? Of course this is true, so with that in mind that is how they describe things, the way it appears to them. Just like you say the sun rises in the morning and then goes down in the evening, it appears that the Sun is going around the Earth., yet we know the Sun is not actually rising or going down, yet we still use that terminology in everyday life.

    Where did I say the people that believed in evolution or old age earth should be killed as heretics?

    What I said was somebody that still believed in evolution or old age earth after they were saved and read Genesis was probably still lost out of concern for their eternal destination. A simple straight forward reading of Genesis 1 and 2 would never lead one to believe in evolution or the Earth being billion of years old, all that thinking comes from the word of man and not the world of God.

    What really is at issue is do you believe they word of God or the word of man, it is not a knowledge or not enough knowledge problem or lack of intelligence problem – it is not a head problem but a heart problem.

    The problem with “dead engines” is that do not know they are dead.

  • Linda

    Pastor Richard, you say:

    “The setting, prior to sin, was perfect, with a beauty, ecology, intimacy, and grandeur that exceeds the imagination. We’re broken though because of our sin. Because of that our world is broken too.”

    Yet all of the old age earth and evolution beliefs actually contradict this, since they have a broken world before the fall of man, so how can a person believe in both at the same time?

  • fluger

    Linda; do you see what you are doing? You are taking a verse and not looking at it at face value in one instance, and at face value in another. Why are you taking a simple straightforward interpretation of Genesis 1 and not all the places that it speaks of the earth not moving. Do you know that there are plenty of Christians that still believe in Geo-Centrism and think everyone else who doesn’t are all equipped with “dead engines” because we have not believed in the word of God as strongly as them. I suggest you take up that dogma as well since it is the logical extension of your argument; because at this point you are taking some parts at face value and others not; which you claim to not want to be doing. Here’s a quick primer on how to defend geocentrism from a Biblical perspective.

    OR, couldn’t you just as reasonably state that from man’s perspective at that time that the concept of billions of years would be too much to comprehend? Also, if we are making this all from man’s perspective, how would man know what happened prior to man existing? The Bible is not a science manual; it is the Word of God and it speaks to us of Him and His great love and sacrifice for us.

    When you were learning to drive a car, did you look at the Bible for answers? When you paint your house, do you look at the Bible for color patterns? Sorry, but the Bible, while weightier than all other texts; does NOT have the answers to everything, and doesn’t need to; it is wholly functional in what it does; giving us a glimpse at our Lord and Savior so that we might know Him better.

    I’m not saying you’re saying theistic evolutionists should be killed; but you are claiming a superior faith to your fellow believers simply based on a take on one chapter of scripture. In case my earlier allusion was too confusing; that is PRIDE. Its something I have struggled with for years and years, so I know it when I see it (the anecdote a few weeks back in regards to the gentleman that founded unitarianism struck home to me…).

    The truth of the matter is that I, and none of us, can know the truth of this matter with certainty and therefore we should be open to changing our perspectives on this; because, if not, we leave ourselves open to either pride or disillusionment. I’m not talking about relativism and and unknowable truth; Jesus is the Truth the Light and the Way; but anything that steps outside of the purview of the Apostles Creed is really just a window-dressing argument. We’re GOING to have disagreements outside of those areas, but to claim that others who disagree are “dead engines” is, frankly, hypocritical and offensive; and truly not in the Spirit.

    It would also do well to really listen to what is being said by Richard here. Is he giving a defense of theistic evolution? No! He has, wisely, I believe, remained neutral in the debate; so why harangue him about this. But his point is exactly the same as mine; tearing at the Body in order to win some debate is fruitless and anti-Christian. If you wish to sway others, do so with a spirit of humility and not one of obstinance and belligerence. Take a different tack perhaps; your questions are valid (at least I think they are because I agree with a lot of them), but your tone is haughty and doesn’t help anyone.

    However you slice it, Creation is a mystery (even if you just say He did it in one day; what would that look like!? The thought boggles my mind at the power and majesty of God); and that’s fine, I don’t need to know everything; I have faith. Be still and know He is God; He is the Creator, he gave us Creation, let us enjoy it and each other in faith.

  • Linda

    flugar – the Bible uses many literary devises – such as literal, poetry, figures of speech, allegory, etc just like any other book. There is nothing in Genesis to suggest that it is allegory, I am sure you would even have to agree with that, whereas Revelation does have some allegory in it (yet some is literal too). A lot of this is just using your common sense and understanding that there are different literary devices used.

    There is nothing in Genesis itself to suggest in evolution or old age Earth, all these thing come from outside the Bible. If God wrote Genesis in a away that leads one to believe in a young Earth in just a normal way, and yet the Earth was really billions of years old that would make God out to be deceptive and a liar. But God is not deceptive or a liar, so by saying God did not really mean what He said in Genesis dishonors Him.

    Richard basically said God created the heavens and earth, and made Adam from the dust, all of this was good, then Adam fell into sin, the world was broken, Jesus is the way to be made right with God. This is all good, but essentially he is saying that the world was still good until Adam fell, yet all of these beliefs such as evolution, gap-theory, thesitic evolution do not have a good world before the fall of man. So basically you have contradictory beliefs, they are not compatible at all. And if you believe in such things then you have God responsible for death and disease, and not man, so it takes the blame off of man and places it on God. This is wrong because it dishonors the character of God, God is good, He is not bad.

    I am not trying to win a debate, but I am just wondering how people can believe in the God of the Bible and believe in evolution, and old earth at the same time. I think most people do not actually put much thought into this issue.

    But really, have you thought about the fact that a spiritually dead person does not even know they are spiritually dead? That is what makes people so easy to be deceived by others and even themselves.

  • Juliet

    Okay, I don’t know if Linda even noticed my earlier comment, but it’s not particularly important anyway. I want to say how much I appreciate this post and everyone’s comments. I am always late to the party, but I feel like diving in finally and describing what the whole creation/evolution debate/debacle means to me.

    I grew up in Seattle and always loved exploring beaches and tidepools and examining all the tiny sea creatures that appeared at low tide, barnacles and anemones and starfish and crabs and everything. In eighth grade science I enjoyed looking at paramecia under microscopes and discovering all these tiny worlds that are interlaced with our human-scale world but invisible to us. In high school, two things happened: 1. I had extraordinarily awful science teachers and 2. I became Christian. I took the minimum number of science classes necessary to graduate and get into college, partly because our teachers had such a bad reputation, partly because I didn’t want to take biology and confront the problem of evolution, which, raised by non-religious, college-educated parents, I had believed in until I was told not to. And in college I majored in English and classics, and ended up studying religion, but a little part of me always wonders what it would be like to be a marine biologist. I still love tidepools.

    In the years since I’ve come to several conclusions, not least based on my reading of Aquinas and others I’ve encountered in studying the history of Christian thought: 1. God created human reason, and it is good. 2. God reveals Himself in creation (Romans 1), so studying it should lead to discovery of truth, as studying the Word leads to discovery of truth. 3. the God who acts in history and created human beings who lived in history surely meant the Word to be revealed for all time, but since humans change over the course of history, their understanding of the world will change, which will change their understanding of scripture. All that we have learned about the earth and the stars and life itself in the thousands of years since God revealed Genesis to the Hebrew people points to an old earth, an older universe, and the ancient origins of life. That is to say, God’s creation tells us this, and why would God lie to us?

    Linda, you want to know how people simultaneously believe in evolution and the Bible; well, I want to know why people believe that God reveals Himself in creation but at the same time deceives us in what creation says. I have a hard time believing science is right when it says that washing our hands helps prevent the spread of bacterial disease, that flipping a light switch causes an electric current to course into our home and illuminate a light bulb by means of a burning filament, that the car I trust to move as fast as I want in the direction I want crosses safely over a bridge I trust not to collapse under it (and I assume those who believe in a literal Genesis 1 and 2 take such things for granted hundreds of times each day), yet astronomers and geologists and biologists who make their own discoveries by means of observing the same created universe are wrong when they say that the stars and the earth and life itself are far more than a few thousand years old. Where did science go wrong, then? How did it go wrong? What motive have scientists for perpetuating lies? I may not have looked hard enough, but I have not seen an answer I found intellectually satisfying, and if the truth is true it should be true to my head as well as my heart. God is big enough to get all of me.

    On this topic, as with many others, I am satisfied to leave room for mystery. Even if we are meant to read Genesis literally with all we have learned since it was written, I don’t believe the great work of creation can ever be captured in words human beings can comprehend. The Bible is an accommodation to the frailty of human understanding; it is the word of God but it cannot contain God. Now we see through a glass dimly. When we all see through the same faint mirror, we can’t help but see what we think to be different things, and all see imperfectly.

  • Ken

    Juliet (and others),

    What is most amazing about this debate, as it is with most such debates, is the drawing of lines at opposite extremes. i.e. Six literal 24 hr. days for creation by God’s miracles circumventing the current observable natural order or 13 billion years and evolution to slowly develop everything. Why do we do this to ourselves? Even after thousands of years of recorded history we don’t seem to be able to learn anything from it. We always seem to separate into two extremes of all God or all man. Either we have found definitive answers in God’s word (God said it, I believe, that settles it) or man’s wisdom (scientists have found THE answer) and we fall into one trap or the other. Yes God gave us reason & discernment and yes He gave us His Word of Truth. But both sides seem bent on go overboard pushing their own interpretations and agendas to the exclusion of reason or truth. Perhaps the vast majority simply lie silent in the middle somewhere while the vocal few voice the extremes. More likely that middle crowd sits ever more confused trying to make sense of the “experts” at either extreme throwing bombs at each other that curiously never reach their targets but instead fall among those poor middle dwelling souls. Thus we have ever mounting “civilian” casualties in the battle between these factions instead of winning souls to a loving God that watches over all this and sadly shakes His head at our craziness. Oh that we could give up our entrenched idealist positions long enough to embrace that common ground of which Richard spoke even briefly to put a smile on God’s face for just a moment.

  • fluger

    Linda, why couldn’t it be an allegory? Why couldn’t it be metaphorical? Why did God say that the earth stands still? Is God lying?

    I’m hung up on the same quandaries as you in regards to how original sin meshes with a world created through evolution, and is the one major problem I have with the theory. However, I also have real issues with a post-tribulation understanding of the rapture and 5 point Calvinism. Does that mean that those who disagree with me are spiritually dead and also inferior in faith?

    Do you know how the Bible came into being? How we chose which documents would be our guides? It was done over a long time and with lots of debate and with lots of prayer; but it eventually came down to majority opinion on texts. I firmly believe that they got it right through the Spirit and we have the texts we should have; but its instructive to note that there was debate and discord over which documents were considered enlightened and which weren’t. We almost didn’t have Jude or James for instance. With that in mind, I think its entirely reasonable to accept majority opinion on the interpretation of scripture. Much like most of us would look at someone who believes in Geo-Centrism and sadly shake our heads, especially if they are telling me that I need to ALSO believe in Geo Centrism or I’m a heretic and damned.

    And finally, both in this blog article and in the service, the entire point of Richard’s message was that we shouldn’t bicker about stuff that doesn’t matter and focus on the Lord’s creation itself. That was the message, not a defense of evolution (in fact, we aren’t aware of what his real opinion is, what if you are merely telling him stuff he already agrees with?).

    Please, please, please stop being insulting and divisive by calling your fellow believers spiritually dead simply because they don’t agree with you entirely.

  • Linda

    Juliet –

    “there are two types of science – operational science, which involve doing experiements in the present, making inference from the results, and doing more experiments to test those ideas. The inference is closely related to the experiments and there is little room for speculation – this kind of science has given the world many valuable advances in knowledge that have benefited mankind. – such as men on the moon, cheap food, modern medicine, electricity, computers, and so on.

    However, there is another type of science that deals with the past, which is called historical or origins science. When it comes to working out what happened in the past, science is limited because we cannot do experiments directly on past events, and history cannot be repeated. In origins science, observations made in the present are used to make inferences about the past. the experiments that can be done in the present that relate to the past are often quite limited, so the inference require a great deal of guesswork. The further in the past being studied, the longer the chain of inferences involved, the more guesswork, and the more room there is for non-scientific factors to influence the conclusions – factors such as religious belief (or unbelief) of the scientist. So, what may be presented as “science” regarding the past may be little more than the scientists own personal world view. The conflict between “science” and “religion” occur in this historical science, not in operational science. Unfortunately, the respect earned by the successes of operational science confounds many into thinking that the conjectural claims arising from origins science carry the same authority.”

    – excerpt from The Answers Book, pg 22

    Have you forgotten that due to original sin, everybody is born with a bad heart ( they are spiritually dead)? The heart is deceptive, trusting in Christ alone and in the Bible is not a head problem but a heart problem. You must be born again or you will never see your real need for Christ or properly understand the Bible.

    God does indeed reveal himself in creation, but this knowledge will not save you, it will only condemn you. Only God’s Word and Holy Spirit can make salvation known and effectual.

  • Juliet

    “Have you forgotten that due to original sin, everybody is born with a bad heart ( they are spiritually dead)? The heart is deceptive, trusting in Christ alone and in the Bible is not a head problem but a heart problem. You must be born again or you will never see your real need for Christ or properly understand the Bible.”

    I am aware of that. Can you engage in disagreements with fellow believers without making assumptions about their spiritual condition? God knows if I’m born again. You don’t.

    And do I not find it helpful when you speak about “head problems” and “heart problems.” Let me say this again: God is big enough to get all of me. If I have a head problem – and I certainly have intellectual questions, which I think amounts to the same thing – you can either write off my questions as a “heart problem,” or you can trust that God is capable of satisfying the mind he created, either by helping me to find an answer or to accept that some things will remain a mystery in this life. I am, as I said, content to accept mystery, while you seem to think this indicates a problem with my spiritual condition.

    “God does indeed reveal himself in creation, but this knowledge will not save you, it will only condemn you. ”

    I’m not saying it will save me. I don’t think we don’t need the Bible. I’m simply saying that God’s revelation in creation shouldn’t deceive us, because His revelation is always true. And it is good. If there is one point that Genesis 1 should drive home, if only because it’s repeated so often, it’s that creation is good, because God says so. Is the only purpose of God’s revelation in creation which He so often called good – and which to all my senses clearly *is* good, even when fallen – to condemn me? I don’t believe it.

    “When it comes to working out what happened in the past, science is limited because we cannot do experiments directly on past events, and history cannot be repeated.”

    I will leave a full answer to this passage to someone with more scientific knowledge to refute, but I suspect neither you nor the author (whom you have not named, so I can’t know if he or she is credible) knows much about the process of scientific discovery. I’ve heard this argument before and it’s always struck me as a copout. So we can’t learn *anything* about the earth’s past and life’s origins because we can’t experiment on past events? Because the process is imperfect, then there is nothing to be gained from it? Do you have a better explanation for the apparent age of the earth, stars, and life itself based on everything scientists have observed besides, “It’s not true because it conflicts with the straightforward meaning of the Bible” (and fluger has already pointed out your inconsistency here)? Can you talk about light years and igneous rocks and plate tectonics and carbon dating with some knowledge (even if you don’t believe in them or the conclusions based on them), which might go some way toward answering my questions, or are you forced to copy and paste from other websites because you (like I was) are afraid to learn about them and decide for yourself whether the arguments based on these ideas and procedures are persuasive?

    I mean, for example. We traveled to the moon, so we know it’s far. We know the sun is even farther, 93 million miles away, and that light travels at a certain speed, so it takes eight minutes for the sun’s light to reach us. We know the sun is just one star, whose light illuminates the earth and makes life possible because it is so close to us, and there are millions of stars, some of which are millions of light years away. So the light we see from those stars – did God create the universe with the light traveling in midstream six thousand light years away so it’s just reaching us now, but those stars don’t really exist or aren’t millions of years old? If God created created light that appears to be traveling from stars but didn’t actually originate from them, isn’t that deceptive? Where does this all break down if you’re right and astronomers are wrong? This is just one example from one field of science. As far as I can tell, the only explanation the biblical literalist can offer is that all of historical science is a hoax perpetuated by people whose “personal worldview” makes them – I would say they’re doing imperfect science, which is what your passage from whoever says they’re doing, but this goes farther than that: they’re all completely making stuff up. I find it a little farfetched, much less plausible than the conclusion others have advocated, that Genesis was pitched to people at a particular point in history with a particular understanding of the universe, and while the important spiritual truths in it will never change, the way we understand the universe it describes has changed. I’m not sure where all this leads, but I am pretty sure dogmatic literalism is not always the right answer, or at least not a necessary condition for spiritual growth!

    Finally, to echo fluger again, I think you’ve completely missed Pastor Richard’s point in writing this post, and I hope you realize the potential your words have to cause harm as well as to lead to truth. I believe you are a sister in Christ and I believe that Jesus’ prayer “that they may be one” was in earnest; I hope you believe likewise, but since you seem to focus on the things that divide us and not the things that unite us (I am guilty of this myself, as well), it’s hard to tell.

  • Juliet

    Sorry, the previous (very long! yikes) post was meant to be in reply to Linda’s reply to me, if that wasn’t clear.

  • fluger

    Thank you for spelling my name correctly! 😉

    You bring another series of good questions to the table. Young earth viewpoints have a lot of other mounting scientific evidence going against them other than just evolution.

  • Diana

    Looking only at the Biblical text, how do we understand the existence of the community of humans into which Cain fled (and married?) after being cursed by God? On the one hand, we have:

    • Gen 3:20 Adam named his wife Eve, because she would become the mother of all the living.

    On the other hand, up until Adam was 130 years old, the only children directly from Adam and Eve appear to be Cain and Abel:

    • Gen 4:1-2 Adam lay with his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain. She said, “With the help of the LORD I have brought forth a man.” Later she gave birth to his brother Abel.
    • Gen 4:25 Adam lay with his wife again, and she gave birth to a son and named him Seth, saying, “God has granted me another child in place of Abel, since Cain killed him.”
    • Gen 5:3-4 When Adam had lived 130 years, he had a son in his own likeness, in his own image; and he named him Seth. After Seth was born, Adam lived 800 years and had other sons and daughters.

    So, who is Cain’s wife? And who does he think will kill him? During the following conversation with God, the only humans in existence would be Cain and his parents.

    • Gen 4:13-17 Cain said to the LORD, “My punishment is more than I can bear. Today you are driving me from the land, and I will be hidden from your presence; I will be a restless wanderer on the earth, and whoever finds me will kill me.” But the LORD said to him, “Not so; if anyone kills Cain, he will suffer vengeance seven times over.” Then the LORD put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him. So Cain went out from the LORD’s presence and lived in the land of Nod, east of Eden. Cain lay with his wife, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Enoch. Cain was then building a city, and he named it after his son Enoch.

    I’ve heard the theory that Adam and Eve had many other unmentioned children who had proliferated before Cain killed Abel, but that seems a stretch. Eve’s statements imply that Cain was the first child, and that Seth was the next child after losing Abel.

    Any insights would be much appreciated.


  • Diana

    Perhaps it’s not unreasonable to think that God gave a special origin to his chosen nation of Israel. That Adam and Eve were created directly by God’s spirit (not unlike divine conception of Jesus) and placed in a special garden, within a world already populated with humans who came about via evolution? And since we have fossil record of death occurring before Adam and Eve, perhaps the fallenness of the world was forward looking, just as salvation for those before Jesus was forward looking?

    I know this is a strange argument, but it’s the closest I can come to reconciling Genesis with scientific observation.


  • Roy

    If Adam and Eve were originally and literally the first people God created then Cain’s wife is also his sister. Or at least a niece. I’m guessing when the folks at Focus on the Family etc talk about biblical marriage they leave this part out.

  • Linda

    Juliet – I am not a scientist either, but you can find real good answers to your questions like the light from stars question you had at the “Answers in Genesis” website, the answers are from qualified scientists. Spend some time at this website, it is very good.


    Everybody has the same evidence, but your worldview will shape your conclusions of the past.

  • Diana

    Thanks, Roy. I can imagine unmentioned sisters, but they would need the participation of one of the first 3 existing males to produce more males who would then pose a danger to Cain. It seems that the first “grandson” is Cain’s after he is banished, so I’m unsure who Cain is afraid will kill him.

  • Patrick

    Actually if you read AiG, you’ll find that they don’t answer the starlight question. Instead they redirect by (falsely) claiming that there are similar problems with the Big Bang Theory.

  • fluger

    Just as a quick note; God says that he will greatly increase Eve’s pain in childbirth. Wouldn’t that imply she had given birth before?

  • fluger

    “Everybody has the same evidence, but your worldview will shape your conclusions…”

    The same can be said of much of the Bible and specifically Genesis 1.

    The Pharisees were quite convinced they were following the Law to the letter and weren’t open to the revelation of Jesus as Christ.

    Obviously I’m not comparing Christ to new scientific understandings; but inflexibility in non-essentials is a pretty sure bet that you’ll end up embarrassed.

    You continue to make the assumption that your reading of the scripture is superior based on your own perspective.

  • Margaret

    Wow- so many comments on this subject! I’m not sure anyone will read this one because of the date on the post. I was listening to a sermon some years ago from Pastor Steve Winnery at Calvary Tri-Cities (his series on origins is so good and the archives are available). He said something so simple and yet so profound. He asked the question: “How old was Adam when God created him?” It is agreed that he was a man, not an infant but he was still only “one day old” on the day of his creation. He went on then to say that it is a fair conclusion that the Earth could have been created as an aged planet when all was completed. It is actually from an evolutionary schema that one would assume that the Earth was “young” in the beginning.

  • Renee

    Pstr Richard,

    I have not listened to your sermon yet, but I caught this particular comment:
    “I appreciated the way he encouraged his listeners to rest in the mystery of the “meaning” and the “why” of creation without getting unnecessarily bogged down by the “how.””

    Yes, I agree we should not get bogged down in the “how”. But as a member of the scientific community myself, I’m bummed that the (protestant) Christian community has such a hard time enjoying THIS symphony:

    Certainly, science is flawed and there is a lot of BS published. BUT: All Truth is God’s Truth!