Evolution and Fundamentalism

Evolution and Fundamentalism October 23, 2008

Pastor (Park Street Church Boston) Daniel Harrell’s new book, Nature’s Witness: How Evolution Can Inspire Faith (Living Theology), is the book we need. Here is someone who can translate science into theology and theology into science, and do so in engaging, fun, and clear prose.

Here’s an opener: “What if, instead of getting all threatened and frightened by scientific advances, we viewed scientific advancement as new vistas for theological consideration, new mountains to explore?” (10) He concludes: “This may sound like a compromised theology. But it’s not. It is an adjusted theology, that’s nothing new” (132). And: “God is the God of both evolution and the Bible” (134).

Before we get to a basic summary of this book, let me sketch some of what has happened to me in this issue of how to affirm the orthodox faith and, at the same time, be unafraid of the discoveries of science — defeating as they do at times our treasured interpretations of the Bible. When I say this, I say it as one who remains sensitive to those who think evolution is dangerous and who believes holding on to God as Creator is fundamental for the Christian faith. But …

I learned to think and rethink what I believe from a college Bible teacher who was a rock-bottom fundamentalist and, truth be told, a modernist to boot. His constant refrain to me: base your views of what you believe about the Bible on evidence. He taught me a naked evidentialist approach to what to believe; go wherever the evidence led me.

Another Bible teacher. I took a class on the Pentateuch with him. There were four of us in the class. He asked us to read through Bernard Ramm’s A Christian’s View of Science and Faith, or something like that. I don’t remember all that much about the class but I (think I) remember Ramm’s epoch theory of the word “day” in Genesis 1 and it led me to accept an old earth and whatever date science might come up with and to expand the length of the days in Genesis 1.

The operating principle I came away with was this: “Go with the evidence, regardless of the tradition you learned.” This is a form of modernity, and one I embraced: find the evidence, examine the evidence, make up your mind so far as you are able. (At times, as in the deeper reaches of science, one has to rely on experts one trusts.) So, I did. This fundamentalist method, though, undercuts the fundamentalist view of Genesis 1-2.

My contention is this: embracing some theory of evolution is one of the logical outcomes of embracing a “go with the evidence” approach I learned from my fundamentalist Bible teachers.

Now, apply that principle to science and the Bible. Go with the evidence. Let it guide you. So, when I got to Genesis 1-11 the evidence led me to think that the interpretation of those texts, the tradition I had received that evolution is a hopper of hooey was wrong. A good long draft of Enuma Elish and Atra Hasis, two ancient texts about such matters, led me to say, “This is not about history as we would write it.” Scientists prove that either God made the world incredibly old (which makes it look like evolution) or God guided the creation of the earth through evolution. Either way you’ve got evolution. But, the first view makes God something close to a deceiver; the second one makes God a creator-by-evolution.

So, I’m quite happy to find a book about how evolution can help our faith, which is what Daniel Harrell offers us in Nature’s Witness. He introduces us to Aunt Bernice, who says all the right things for an anti-evolutionist, anti-intellectual, commonsensical Christian who thinks book learning makes a head grow too big. He also introduces us to Dave, his friend, who simply doesn’t think this concern with evolution and faith matter one bit. Harrell’s use of these characters makes the book better and more enjoyable. And funny at times. One chp takes the tack of Augustine: it’s a private conversation with God.

One of my favorite lines: “Faith allows for a perspective greater than human perception can muster, but this is never to deny the perspective that human perception can muster” (66). Or this one: “Theology’s beef is not with the things that science discovers but with the way some scientists interpret what science discovers” (83).

“As reliable witnesses of nature, we can only become more reliable witnesses to God” (137).

His new word sums it up: “Believolution.”

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195 responses to “Evolution and Fundamentalism”

  1. Believolution,
    are you serious? Haha, thats awesome.
    I have never been too concerned (maybe I should be?) with the whole Science vs. Bible argument. The first time I ever read Genesis, a few years ago after become a Christian, I had someone to explain it to me as a poem, and background narrative to the rest of the Story. It has rarely caused much strife in my mind since.
    Also, Scot…It is 3:00am my time, and the reason I have been up so late is because I just bought The Blue Parakeet. Just finished chapter 4, debating between chp 5, or…bed. Good thing I don’t work tomorrow.

  2. At the risk of being tossed out of the JesusCreed community on my ear, let me just say that “God is the God of both evolution and the Bible” sounds amazingly like “God is the God of both Snow White and Scot McKnight.” One is real; one isn’t. Whether the error is on the part of the fundamentalists or the evolutionists, Humpty Dumpty (aka Lewis Carroll) said it best: “Sometimes I believe six impossible things before breakfast.”
    You may now, if you wish, take potshots.
    But I do like this one: “Theology’s beef is not with the things that science discovers but with the way some scientists interpret what science discovers.”
    And I do not believe God is a deceiver, although He hides himself and we are told to seek Him.

  3. I do appreciate your site and have found some conversations here to be quite insightful. I’m sorry that my first comment here is a negative one.
    The suggestion that a literal perspective on creation makes God a deciever is just too much to bear. This perspective assumes that what humans have discovered through science is more authoritative than what God has revealed. And yet scientific understanding changes constantly. In holding to a literal 6 days of creation I see no reason to assume from scientific evidence that God is trying to decieve. My trust in God’s Word and the very history of science itself leads me to assume that scientists have simply misinterpreted the evidence.
    “And I do not believe God is a deceiver, although He hides himself and we are told to seek Him.”
    I would add that according to Romans 1 God doesn’t have to hide Himself because man is perfectly happy to deny Him. Why should we assume that scientists who by their very nature “suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Romans 1:18) would ever discover evidence in favor of creation?

  4. David,
    I would like to point out that many scientists are Christians and even more were in the 1800’s and 1900’s. It is the evidence – not speculation and theorizing about the evidence – that causes the great angst and distress. It is the evidence – not a desire to forsake God – that leads many (the vast majority) of Christian scientists to conclusions along the lines Scot has outlined.

  5. I’m about 3/4 of the way through the book (I plan on reviewing it in my own blog), and, so far, I don’t have a high opinion of it. One thing it does not address is the Flood. This is important because he seems to view Genesis past Genesis 1 as history, but doesn’t take into account the flood and its potential geological effects. In fact, he seems to not have the slightest clue what Creationists have to say about anything. It is much more than simply focusing on his own opinion – he seems to simply have no clue of the wider conversation. He seems to imply that all scientists are evolutionists, and misses the fact that, while Creationism is certainly a small minority, Creationists do in fact contribute a lot to science. Transgenic crop technology was pioneered by John Sanford at Cornell, the MRI was pioneered by Damadian, Leonard Brand had geology research that made the front cover of the journal Geology, and Todd Wood is part of the team that sequenced the rice genome. There are many others, but these are not minor accomplishments (one could actually argue that genetics itself comes from Mendel’s creationary viewpoint).
    In fact, that seems to also be the case for his understanding of evolution, which is stuck with a 1980’s Richard Dawkins view, which his fellow evolutionists tend to criticize him for these days (even PZ Myers has said that Macroevolution is not just a lot of Microevolution put together, but fundamentally different processes).
    He also makes a category error of assigning the trustworthiness of experimental science to forensic science. It simply does not have the same degree of reliability. He also fails to note most of the interesting advancements in the philosophy of science, especially how much our concepts of science are socially and theologically shaped (see For and Against Method as well as The Myth of Religious Neutrality).
    The continuing problem, though, is that he views science as somehow having more authority than scripture – he actually makes this explicit around page 46, I think, and says that science’s track record means that we should take science first, and scripture second.
    There are two problems with this. First of all, if one counts the Bible as a historical record (which I do, and he does when it suits him), then the Bible is itself data which must be taken into consideration when theorizing. The more pertinent, though, is that, as a Christian, I believe first in God’s knowledge and secondly in man’s knowledge, not the other way around. Science is temporary and transitional. I agree that “all Truth is God’s Truth”, but I disagree that we should ever take science as being more authoritative than the scriptures. There will always be problems in interpretation, but ultimately, this view of “anything that science disagrees with must be wrong or allegorical” is downright dangerous.
    He also way overreaches about science’s explanatory power. He seems to count any time that a scientist says that they have explained something for them to have actually done so. The examples he gives in his book of science “explaining” something are often laughable. But the bigger problem is that he misses the fact that if science does explain all parts of nature, then choice is completely left out. So, ultimately, if you think that choice is real, you cannot accept a materialist view of the world – it’s that simple. He has further contradictory problems in that he allows for miracles (which a scientists would not like), but excludes them for no real reason in Creation. Why is this? There seems to be no real explanation except that he can’t bring himself to be consistent either way.

  6. RJS,
    Thanks for your reply. Romans 1 certainly allows that evidence from creation can be misinterpreted even by the Christian. Based on my capacity to twist information for my own sinful purposes I have no doubt that the minds of the entire human race when left to their own authority will tend to try to deny God rather than affirm Him.
    I respectfully disagree that it is the evidence that causes the angst. I trust the Bible more than I trust the evidence and therefore I can only conclude that the scientist has misunderstood or misinterpreted the evidence. For me it comes down to whether we are going to start with what God has revealed or with what human beings have observed. Based on what the Bible tells me about the human mind I’d rather start with revelation and proceed from there.
    For what it’s worth, the angst more likely comes when the human heart (even in the Christian) tries to deny God’s handiwork based on the evidence he has observed rather than depending on what God has revealed.

  7. David #7-
    You wrote, “For what it’s worth, the angst more likely comes when the human heart (even in the Christian) tries to deny God’s handiwork based on the evidence he has observed rather than depending on what God has revealed.”
    I think Christian scientists, such as RJS, do ultimately depend “on what God has revealed”. They hold Scripture in high regard, but also know God reveals Himself through His creation as well. Through their work they look to make sure they are interpreting that revelation correctly. It is more of both/and, rather than either/or.

  8. David,
    You’ve assumed the QED here. This is more often not — when we are dealing with Christians — not a debate about trusting God or the Bible more than science. It is a debate about “how to read” the Bible that we’ve got. Many “assume” their interpretation is accurate and when someone comes along with some science it is then argued that such folks don’t believe in the Bible — which is equated with an “interpretation” of the Bible.
    The issue here is does science perhaps teach us what kind of Bible we have and, in particular, the kind of material staring at us in Genesis 1 (or Gen 1-11)?

  9. Scot,
    I actually came to the same conclusion on my own over the years.
    I have multiple degrees in the Sciences and do full time ministry in addition to a secular job.
    I find that the people that God places in my life think a lot about this topic and come to different conclusions.
    Some of them end up like me — they decide that a resilient faith is not really shaken by scientific ideas but adapts to them and expresses itself beautifully regardless what the scientific notions of the day are.
    Others never understand or are convicted by those notions and remain in perpetual doubt of them.
    I think we are going to have to content ourselves that there will always be a division of thought in the Christian world — if not on this topic, on the plethora of other topics that make each tradition different.
    Some of us will be able to view _brother_ is a much more flexible way while the rest will pick a more narrow notion of it.
    PS Love the point on seeing things through the evidence (the very core of the Scientific Method) but hasten to add that given my above thoughts even how we view the evidence depends on how we view the world in general. So, someone less educated and/or insular in their outlook will see evidence differently than you or I would.

  10. I don’t know what to do with this subject. I am more theologian than scientist and the theology that bugs me is where the implications of Genesis work out in atonement and other NT subjects.
    Having said that, I think I see an inconsistency in the approach of many creationist evangelicals (a set that includes me). It has to do with method. Is the earth at the center of the universe? No. Method: how do you know? From reading the Bible? No. From science. Did we evolve? No. How do you know? Method: from reading the Bible.
    The inconsistancy here is the method. For one detail, we almost completely trust science. For the other, we almost completely trust the Bible.
    I could David’s last paragraph above and say that it is only my human heart that is trying to deny God’s handiwork based on the evidence – that is why I believe in a heliocentric universe. The position of the church was in fact hostile to the science behind that question. The church was wrong and on that question and science eventually won the question.
    Does anybody else see this as a possible inconsistancy or am I muttering nonsense?

  11. I failed to edit my penultimate paragraph:
    I could use David’s last paragraph above and say that it is only my human heart that is trying to deny God’s handiwork based on the evidence – that is why I believe in a heliocentric universe. The position of the church was in fact hostile to the science behind that question. The church was wrong and science eventually won the question.

  12. MatthewS,
    That is because they do not see the inconsistency.
    Its there for you and I but for them it is not.
    I was told a story in High School physics (which honestly I have never confirmed but should kick myself for not doing so).
    As you might know, in Physics there was a long standing disagreement on the nature of light. Is it a particle or is it a wave?
    [Modern Physics say its both or as one of my University professors like to put it — its neither its like an electron :)]
    Newton said light was a particle. Huygens said it was a wave. Both had experiments to prove their point of view.
    Ironically, one of the prime experiments for the wave nature of light was called ¨Newton´s rings.¨
    My High School Physics teacher pointed out the obvious inconsistency in that. How could an advocate of Particle nature have a wave-nature experiment named after him?
    This is where a SCIENTIST lets his view of a topic outweigh the evidence at hand.
    And,frankly, having been in the Scientific community for seven years of my University training (and being published 3 times in that seven years) and attending conferences, etc. I have to conclude that a human being letting his prejudices or world-view interpret his data is not just an evangelical problem.
    In short: Why? Because they are fallen humans who can be consumed by hubris like the next human.

  13. I am old earth evangelical because of reading Hugh Ross, “Creation and Time.” But, I have also relied on Hugh Ross to critique evolution as a viable theory. This guy is an absolute genius,and I would be interested to hear him interact with some of the evolutionary oriented evangelicals that have been mentioned here because from what I read in his newsletters he pokes all sorts of holes in evolutionary theory.

  14. In “De Genesi ad litteram libri duodecim”
    (The Literal Meaning of Genesis) St Augustine puts it like this:
    “Often a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other parts of the world, about the motions and orbits of the stars and even their sizes and distances,… and this knowledge he holds with certainty from reason and experience. It is thus offensive and disgraceful for an unbeliever to hear a Christian talk nonsense about such things, claiming that what he is saying is based in Scripture. We should do all that we can to avoid such an embarrassing situation, lest the unbeliever see only ignorance in the Christian and laugh to scorn.”

  15. Perhaps I’m being simplistic. But here’s how I see it. We’re all looking at the same creation (evidence). If we start with the bible and then use the human mind to assess the evidence we will come to one conclusion. If we start with the human mind and the evidence and then go to scripture we will come to a different conclusion. What matters most is where we start. Based on the bible’s estimation of the human mind I’d rather start with the bible.
    By the way, thanks to everyone who has taken the time to respond.

  16. Rick writes: “God reveals Himself through His creation as well. Through their [scientists’] work they look to make sure they are interpreting that revelation correctly. It is more of both/and, rather than either/or.”
    Mu understanding is that for a long time (perhaps to the mid-18th century?) thinking Christians read two “texts” of God manifest in the world. One was nature and the other was the Bible. They used one as a check against the other and were eager for more evidence about nature (ie, science) so that they could better understand what parts of Scripture were metaphor and what literal. They didn’t see nature and the Bible as at odds, but as working hand-in-hand to reveal God in the world.

  17. On geocentrism –
    There really is not the same level of scriptural support for geocentrism. The point of Creationism is not hyper-literalism, but to take the text for how it reads. In fact, Genesis 1 is often not the foundation scripture, although many important aspects of Genesis 1, even if it were non-historical, are still anti-evolutionary. But the big thing that Creationists deal with is the Flood. Were the major continental-wide strata that pervade the lower rock record from deposition over a hugely long time period, or were they laid down by water in a catastrophic event? I think 2 Peter 3:3-6 deals with this quite well.
    However, there are Creationist geocentrists. The interesting thing is that it actually does have decent evidence (note – I am not a geocentrist, though I do find the galactocentric theories of Humphreys and Hartnett quite interesting). George Ellis said that there was not any data against geocentric models of the Universe, but that it is based on philosophical assumptions. Likewise, even in Hawking’s cosmological model, there actually is no center to the Universe – or, you could equally say – all points of the Universe could be equally considered the center. In fact, this “everywhere is the center” was based specifically on the fact that Hawking did not like the philosophical implications of a geocentric universe, not based on historical data (see his book, The Large-Scale Structure of Space-Time).
    One thing I would caution everyone against is confusing the public, media-driven explanations of science for science. They are two very different things. One of the things that was obvious in the book being discussed is that the author had no real idea what the current evolutionary literature looked like.

  18. Scot, thanks for having the guts to post this. I’ve been wrestling with this personally in a detailed way over the past couple of years. Respectfully to those who have posted critiques here so far, I’ve found that the arguments against biological evolution tend to be quite flimsy and the arguments for it quite robust. I hear and value all the discussion of the limits of scientific method and epistemology — that’s a key professional interest of mine — but even so, there remains a real world that we can investigate with some degree of reliability, and what it tells us, in the rocks and in our genes, is that life developed gradually over deep time from a common ancestor.
    BUT — Scot, how do we accept human evolution and remain ORTHODOX in our theology? This question often, seriously, keeps me up at night. Human evolution means unequivocally that there cannot be a single pair who are the biological progenitors of the human race. Based on the genetic data, if there was an “Adam and Eve” at any time in the history of our species, they existed among a population of biologically indistinguishable hominids, with whom their descendants interbred (unless you go back about 4 million years ago to the common ancestors of chimps and humans, which was certainly more of a monkey than a man). At this point, doesn’t the entire “story” unravel? How do we understand the importance of “Adam” to the story, right through to Paul’s theology of the atonement, if “Adam” was one of 10,000 neolithic farmers, or one of member of a hardscrabble band of homo sapiens that trudged out of Africa 100,000 years ago?
    I agree (hope) that there must be a way to do this, but after reading just about everything there is to read on this, I’m still waiting for a theologian who (IMHO) takes the tradition of orthodoxy seriously to show me how. (One possible exception: John Stott’s commentary on Romans, which offers an interesting, but IMHO highly implausible, solution).

  19. I think this subject threatens people because they think evolution = no God. Or evolution = God is not Creator. But these are false assumptions.
    Like MatthewS (#11) and Scot (#9) this is an issue of how we read the Bible. Is Genesis 1 a literal account of creation or a literary account of creation? Or perhaps even something else? Just saying “I don’t believe in evolution because that’s not what the Bible teaches” won’t cut it.

  20. dopderbeck (#20)
    Speaking for myself, not Scot – you are absolutely right. I hope that the series on Original Sin will be a start at opening such discussions on this blog. It is a deep topic though – and this is only a start. It is, by the way, your persistence here that has driven me to begin to dig in deeply.

  21. dopderbeck (#20),
    Your questions are good ones. One solution is the one proposed by progressive creationists. There was a “race” of human beings in existence, but Adam was the first of those human beings to possess the image of God. He was unique from the rest in that sense and that is why the “story” focuses upon him.
    For a fuller treatment of this (I’m sure there are many), see this section in Millard Erickson’s Christian Theology. This is where I was first exposed to the idea.

  22. Jonathan #19,
    In terms of content, the discussion of heliocentrism and the Bible is significantly different than evolution and the Bible.
    But my concern was about method. I am wondering if the typical evangelical creationist uncritically accepts modern science for heliocentrism and at the same time uncritically rejects modern science on the question of evolution. But isn’t that inconsistent?

  23. We are entering another evolution/Bible debate which is fun, but I have a thought on the thesis of the book itself. I’m okay with it, but it doesn’t go all the way. It assumes that science must influence theology. Fine, but what about theology influencing science? Scientists seem to only want it one way.
    I was greatly influenced by Francis Collins’ The Language of God after reading RJS blog of it. He is a staunch evolutionist but has a more balanced approach because he recongizes that science has great limitations and our total understanding of God and the world (including science) must go beyond evidentialist science.
    In sum, I’m fine with the thesis, but theology must influence our science as well.

  24. Scot,
    Once again you stirred the pot—wonderful! In my (limited) experience, Christians have a couple of issues when it comes to this topic.
    The first is, quite frankly, divisiveness. In one circle, saying you are a literal 6-day creationist puts you out on the fringe, while in others you will only be embraced if you hold such a view. One of the most sad side-effects of this debate is alienating people—other human beings worth of the full dignity with which they were, ironically, created—both from fellowship and interaction.
    Second, I think we shy away from really engaging in the discussion because it is difficult. This doesn’t surprise me; we do the very same thing with other difficult issues. The issues are so complex and so important to each of us, we just shut door and say “I have arrived at what I believe and that’s that, and anyone who is not with me is against me, and therefore God.” It is sometimes quite arrogant. I think this contributes to what I wrote above, and further widens divisions among believers, and does double-damage to our credibility with unbelievers.
    Lastly, it is difficult because the Bible itself is not explicit. “Be holy, for I am holy,” is explicit. “God calls into being that which does not exist,” (Romans 4:17) is not so explicit. Is this a characterization of the nature of God, or is it a statement about the creative act of God, or something else, even? The author of Hebrews writes that “by faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible,” (Hebrews 11:3). Does this exegetically (and authoritatively, some add) negate evolution?
    I agree with what many have said: it is not a lack of evidence that is our problem; it is our interpretation of it, the conclusions we consequently draw, and then how we seek to apply those conclusions and refute those who disagree. The problem is not the truth, I think; the problem is we who see it. This is why the larger Christian community (and not just Americans, I might add) is so important in such a discussion, and why blogs like this, Scot, are so valuable. Thank you.

  25. I created this list a while ago… I thought it might be an interesting addition to the conversation…
    Top 10 things you should know
    BEFORE arguing about Intelligent Design
    1. Not all creationists are whacked out crazies, but some of them are. I’m not going to name any names here, but I have met both. To those of you who believe in a designer make sure you check your sources. Intelligent design folks are notorious for getting their information wrong and not just the ones with DVDs and speaking tours. Even some Journals have a reputation for a less then adequate system of peer review. That being said, to those who don’t believe in a designer. Don’t be close-minded. Make sure you are LISTENING to what a person is saying, even if you disagree you can still learn, and be surprised. By pidgin holing anyone who believes in a creator as crazy, not thoughtful, or even “wrong” you are exhibiting the kind of blind assumption that frustrates you about the other side. LISTEN, CLARIFY WHAT YOU HEARD, REFLECT then speak. That goes for ALL SIDES INVOLVED.
    2. There is more then one kind of “intelligent design” and there is more then one kind of “evolutionist,” and sometimes people are both. I can’t tell you how many times I find I am judged before a single world leaves my mouth. People know that I am a Christian so they assume I am all sorts of things I am not. I find half of many of the conversations I have attempts to communicate who I am beyond my labels! Don’t judge before you listen. Just because someone believes in creation doesn’t mean they don’t believe in evolution. Just because someone believes in evolution doesn’t mean they don’t believe in the bible, and even if they don’t it doesn’t mean you can’t learn from them!!
    3. Public school science classes are not here to teach us what is true, but rather what is “empirically” true, to the best of our knowledge. Even if you know for a fact that God created the world there is NOT an empirical proof for a creator. What we teach in schools is the natural sciences. These are rational observations about the world based on what we can experience with our senses. Although the system makes some assumptions that may not be reliable it is the system that is being taught, and it does work most of the time. Just because you find evidence that the story of a God COULD work it doesn’t mean you have proof that there was indeed a creator.
    4. Intelligent design doesn’t always start with religion. There are a number of scientists and other folks who start with evidence and deduce there must be a creator. Not everyone is trying to fit the world into the bible. Some people simply believe the evidence points to a creator and make that jump independent of a religious tradition.
    5. Genesis can be seen in more then one way. Although many Christians, Jews, and Muslims do read their account of creation as a historical piece of work, many see it as poetic; others read it as theological, while still others find it cosmological. There are some who read it as social commentary, and others who see it as simply legendary. Most people read it in more then one of these ways. As a Christian I do not believe that it is heresy to read it any of these ways. I may believe someone is wrong, but I recognize that I might be too and choose to love them as a brother or sister in Christ regardless of their take on this. This is not an essential issue of our faith!
    6. The argument is not just a Christian one. As I mentioned above there are plenty of Jews, Muslims, and people of other faiths who believe in a designer, and within each faith there is a rich variety of opinion on the matter. Heck there are even Atheists who believe in forms of intelligent design!
    7. Both sides have their frauds. On the creationist side the are things like the “Burdick Print,” and on the evolutionist side there are things like “Piltdown Man.” When a hoax is discovered, and there certainly will be more to be sure, don’t make it the issue. Just because someone lies about something doesn’t mean everything they believe is now wrong.
    8. Darwin was not the last word on the matter. On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life or The Origin of the Species as it is commonly known is not a sacred text. Darwin was a man who made mistakes just like everyone else. Evolution has changed dramatically since Darwin’s theory hit the scene in 1859. Don’t think that because you can debunk Darwin that you can debunk evolution. Make sure that you understand what you are talking about before you attack it. The same can be said to all sides involved.
    9. Science doesn’t have all the answers. The evolution taught today will not be the evolution taught in 10 years. The theories we have today are full of problems and paradoxes, and textbooks are usually about a decade behind in the times. There is a good chance that many of the things you believe today about the world we live in have already been revised and edited into something quite different. Don’t make what you believe something static and unchanging unless you like being wrong.
    10. You Tell me. Comment on this with what you think people should know about!

  26. On a different note
    Scot, you stated: A good long draft of Enuma Elish and Atra Hasis, two ancient texts about such matters, led me to say, “This is not about history as we would write it.”
    Is this comment on how we are to read the genre or how to read this specific passage (the early chapters of Genesis)?
    If it is a way to read this specific passage (say, Genesis is a response to the Enuma Elish), how do propose we use extra biblical sources in our understanding of scripture?

  27. BrianMcL (#26),
    Non-Christian scientists do want it only one way (and the theology can be forgotten if desired). But theology is critical for all Christians including scientists – and Biblically based theology at that.
    One key issue here is how much of the conflict arises from a potentially errant view of scripture and how much is really theological. This is where the approach in Scot’s book (Blue Parakeet) is key.
    The problem with the typical evangelical view of scripture is not simply in the conflict with science in Genesis, it arises from the issues Scot brings up in BP, it arises from the OT text itself (see Enns and Sparks), it also arises from the “discrepancies” in the Gospels.
    I think that as evangelicals we have tended to hold an errant view of inerrancy in God’s word.
    Wow – a provocative concept…

  28. This looks like a good book to check out. I recently read another book, which isn’t much in the way of a theological or scientific text which deals with the same issue. It is called “Who Made The Moon?” by Sigmund Brouwer. It was his attempt at answering his daughter’s question which is the same as the title of the book. It is the only book I’ve found written in laymen terms to help Christians come to grips with a view of creation that doesn’t make what I perceive to be the stretches that young earth creationists make to fit their assumptions/interpretations of scripture fit the scientific data (or not). It also makes a plea to those who are young earth creationists to be able to converse regarding origins in a way that builds bridges rather than puts up roadblocks.
    I plan on getting Harrell’s book. As someone who received his university training in the sciences and has had no problem reconciling faith and science, I look forward to seeing how Harrell attempts to merge the two.
    P.S. Brian McL makes a great point, too, that theology should influence science just as much as science should influence theology. I would note, though, that they shouldn’t influence each other in ways that make our science to be theology or visa versa.

  29. Scot–thanks for the heads up on a great looking book. Your post and the ensuing discussion reminds me of my favorite quote from John Polkinghorne in “Faith of a Physicist”:
    “As a scientist I am often struck by theologians persistent fears of getting it wrong. …a willingness to explore ideas which might prove mistaken, or in need of revision, is a necessary price of scientific progress. One would have thought that the intrinsic difficulty in doing theology would encourage a similar intrepidity. At times that has been so, but not always. I am not, of course, denying the existence of many wild flights of contemporary theological fancy, but saying within its more sober core I detect a degree of disinclination to take intellectual risk, particularly where it involves interaction with another discipline.”

  30. Brian –
    While I agree with your notion that we should look at the way that theology influences and can influence science, I would note that this is actually antithetical to the book’s premise, which is that science stands alone and is ideologically neutral.
    The book I referenced above – The Myth of Religious Neutrality – covers a lot of interesting interplays between science and theology. The author’s definition of deity is quite interesting, as well as his discussions. I thought the discussion over the development of quantum mechanics was particularly interesting, with the debate between the various scientists (like Einstein and Heisenberg) being primarily theological.

  31. BrianMcL (26),
    Thanks for putting words to an issue that has long haunted me and, frankly, I don’t know how we’re going to resolve. We live in one reality. Understanding the whole reality and how the various parts and players interrelate is critical to successful navigation. This is the shared conviction of science and theology at their best. At a minimum, we Christians believe there is a unique and extremely powerful being in this universe that has a certain character. He created it, and continues to act and even lead within it toward his ends. How can we ever have an accurate understanding of physical reality if we adopt methods of study that refuse to acknowledge the existence, let alone the action and character and intentions, of this particular person? He’s beyond relevant to the work of understanding our physical world, yet is denied consideration in the study of it.
    Relatedly, what happens to the quality of our decision-making within this universe if we continue to widen the spheres in which this Actor’s existence, character and intentions cannot be considered or deemed relevant? If, as an individual, acting as if this Actor did not exist would be harmful to me and others–and it would be very quickly–won’t this same assumption be harmful if made by larger and more powerful institutions (whether of learning or of government)? I say this as lawyer who is fully aware of the first amendment and how it is playing itself out in our history. I even love the first amendment (the way RJS loves the scientific method, I suppose), but will it make us all stupid by forcing us to leave the most important player in the universe out of more and more of our studies of the world and our corporate decision-making within it? Can we keep assuming this God doesn’t exist as we tackle bigger and bigger questions and issues and not inevitably get really, really wrong answers? It would be a miracle.

  32. Scot, all I can say is that you are a brave man. I have never met a 7-day, young earth creationist yet who would give an inch or even seriously consider another approach. It has become a culture war issue, and apparently, giving any ground is capitulation to the enemy.

  33. This is my first comment here, Love the blog and discussions Scott…
    In the post you mentioned (or quoted) “Now, apply that principle to science and the Bible. Go with the evidence. Let it guide you.”
    Now my only question is simply… Do you follow the same principle when pondering whether or not you believe that Jesus actually and physically rose from the grave?
    I once heard a teacher say… People often have a tough time wrestling with 6 days of Creation, Noah’s flood and Jonah’s fish… What about the claim of a man who was put to death and claims to have rose a few days later… Do we realize what kind of claim that we put our faith in? If you can put your faith and stake your life’s present and future in that, why are the others such a big issue? … I know there’s holes and much debate in that, but it’s worth a thought… If I were to let the evidence, scientific evidence lead me… Would I really believe in the dead man, being resurrected to life 3 days later? Would you suggest that people go with the evidence regardless of their tradition… even when it comes to Jesus? Hope this makes sense… thanks for getting me thinking!

  34. O.K. here goes. A story: Jack and Jill go off to Bible college after high school. Creationism arises. The biblical exegete professor says that the Hebrew word “yom” when preceded by a number (1, 2 or 6) refers to a 24 hour cycle of the earth. Up pops Exodus 20:11 “…for in 6 days the LORD made the heavens and the earth = universe…” Exegetically, the Hebrew language requires 6 cycles of the earth. I know, I know, there was no sun and moon until the 4th “day.” Into this scenario the day-age theory is advanced: God deceptively makes the earth appear really old to fool all those naughty evolutionists. Then, enters Genesis 6 –the *universal* flood that did all that cataclysmic upheaval to the planet as it was geologically known up until that time. Poff! the dinosaurs die because ultraviolent light does them in and causes the human population to “age” quicker. Isn’t this a tidy package? No worry about “imago dei” and atonement. The Bible is as reliable a scientific record as Popular Mechanics. How can this be wrong for Jack and Jill?

  35. #28… Quote: “Even if you know for a fact that God created the world there is NOT an empirical proof for a creator. What we teach in schools is the natural sciences. These are rational observations about the world based on what we can experience with our senses. Although the system makes some assumptions that may not be reliable it is the system that is being taught, and it does work most of the time. Just because you find evidence that the story of a God COULD work it doesn’t mean you have proof that there was indeed a creator.”
    Guillermo Gonzalez was an Associate Professor at Iowa State who was denied tenure because he holds intelligent design ideas and has written a book on the evidence of a Creator. His being denied tenure was an absolute travesty promulgated by an atheistic agenda. Here was a top notch scientist that was rejected tenure simply because he chose to look at evidence from a different perspective.

  36. This argument revolved around effects of modernism on a a panoply of issues.Lest we forget,Protestant fundamentalism,as a reactionary movement against scientism and higher critical studies,etc. is firmly modernist in its own rights. It engages this and other issues on the same grounds as its scientific conversation partners,thereby making the Bible answer the modernist questions it was not meant to address. The issues Genesis is concerned about are the concerns of the ANE and the demythologizing of creation and the Sabbatarian structure of reality(7 day)reflecting YHWH’s status as creator,and not the result of some divine combat myth. The hermeneutics which tries to make Genesis fit a scientific scheme is simply the other side of the coin of those who reject this view.

  37. Sigh. I hate that this issue is such an issue. I love the Augustine quote above BTW. Unfortunately, this issue not only divides Christians, it is one of the worst witnesses possible. In my experience a person who thinks creationism must be a belief for a Christian will not consider the gospel unless they are in really dire straights. The fruit of this issue are just about as bad as can be for the church and evangelism.
    And which account of Genesis is the correct one? Because there are two, you know. I totally agree that we tend to misread scriptures. There are many history books out there and if a history book is the best God has to offer us, color me highly disappointed. Besides, let’s presume for a minute that God did use the big bang and the process of evolution to create the world we know. How exactly should he have explained this to people who knew nothing of DNA or atoms and didn’t have numbers nearly large enough to account for the time which passed? How useful would a more factually accurate explanation be to people who didn’t even understand how sickness was spread? The idea that God could have provided a historical explanation to the ancient Israelites strains credulity.
    I am also seriously concerned about how consistently scientific facts are misrepresented by creationist materials – right down to misquoting mainstream scientist to make it look like there are controversies where there are none. I am a homeschool mom and have looked deeply at the materials offered to Christians and the rampant dishonesty can not be God honoring.
    I also think that there is a serious danger that when we teach our kids that evolution and Christianity are incompatable, we put their faith at serious risk. If they have an interest in science, they will be faced with overwhelming evidence for evolution. Plus, if they spend any time studying, the rank dishonesty of the creationist materials they are familiar with will quickly become apparent. For some this will invalidate the faith they have been taught – at least if evolution and Christianity have been taught as an either/or proposition. It is not uncommon at all and it is utterly heartbreaking.
    Finally, I hate that some people insist that Christianity and evolution must be either/or propositions when there are clearly many devout Christians who also believe in evolution. I am sick of being viewed as suspect as a Christian rather than a full sister in Christ with gifts to offer because of my beliefs about this issue. I am sick of my children’s friends being taught that I do not exist because I am an impossibility. It’s vile, really. You may not believe in evolution, but I challenge you to spend an hour reading through what I have written on my blog or elsewhere and try to argue that my acceptance of evolution has damaged by faith walk in anyway. I will refrain from painting creationists as bad Christians who deny God’s truth (often due to the evil of a human heart) if they could see fit to return the favor. Actually, I’ll refrain from such characterizations regardless because it’s the right thing to do. But it would still be nice to have the favor returned.

  38. Hi Scot,
    I’d like to point out a few minor quibbles about the original post. First, you seem to equate young-earth creationism (YEC) with “the fundamentalist view of Genesis 1-2.” My own experience is that both of my parents, raised in extremely fundamentalistic homes in the 1940s and 50s, were taught some version of an old earth cosmology (gap theory and day-age theory). It appears to me that YEC only became conservative evangelical orthodoxy some time after The Genesis Flood was published in 1961 and gained widespread acceptance. I had no idea anyone seriously held to that view until I was an adult in the 80s–and I had been in very conservative churches all my life.
    Second, you seem to equate an old-earth cosmology with “some theory of evolution.” These two things are not the same. One can derive an old universe from the doppler red shift found in the light that comes from distant stars, but not affirm inter-species evolution. The problem with evolution is that it is a perceived effect without a reasonable cause; in any other discipline, the idea that beneficial mutations combine together to create organisms of incredible complexity would be considered special pleading. The appeal of evolutionary theory is that it stands the teleological argument for God’s existence on its head: here is an explanation of apparent design in creation without resorting to a Designer.
    May I also recommend to the Jesus Creed community the wonderful book, In the Beginning: The Opening Chapters of Genesis by Henri Blocher? Although primarily a discussion of biblical interpretation, Blocher also includes a very helpful and balanced examination of the current creationist debate.

  39. Thank God for books like this. If only we could get our theologians, poets and songwriters to start incorporating this stuff into the larger biblical narrative.

  40. As RJS noted in Original Sin Returns 1, “There is no scientific evidence for one unique couple from whom all others descend in simple pyramid fashion.” I think dopderbeck in post #20 has a good point. What resource or resources are available to help a layperson deal with the theological implications of this statement if one is to accept it.

  41. “base your views of what you believe about the Bible on evidence.”
    What evidence? Modernist, materialistic, naturalistic Science? Do you realize how evidence can be steered to mean many different things, even in my field, Astrophysics, but especially so in the field of Natural History? It is very subjective. There’s a lot of evidence for Non-Evolution (for lack of a better term). Despite what Huxley, and Gould, and Dawkins would have us believe, Evolution is by no means an established fact. Philip Johnson’s “Darwin on Trial” will tell you that.
    Therefore, instead of going to man’s wisdom to figure out what God was trying to say, take what God clearly said and go with that. Pistis before Gnosis.
    (By the way, I’m not settled on whether the Earth is young or old, and I think the gap theory is quite good, but there’s still a lot of miraculous stuff going on in Gen. 1-2.)

  42. “What evidence? Modernist, materialistic, naturalistic Science?”
    John, you are conflating a lot of different ideas in that one phrase. Science, even evolutionary science, need not carry the baggage of philosophical materialism or naturalism. Nor does it necessarily represent “man’s wisdom” in the negative way you put it.
    However, since the scientific method involves human observation in order to analyze the natural processes by which things exist and work, it does by nature not include divine causation or intervention in its outlook.
    Furthermore, the great thing about scientific knowledge is that it is always being challenged and reworked and reinterpreted. So one does not “believe” in evolution in the same way one “believes” in a Creator. These are two different categories of faith and reason.

  43. Thanks for a thoughtful and provocative post. I am reading The Meaning of Jesus: Two Visions by Borg and Wright. Wright begins by attacking the Enlightenment’s dualism that creates a faith/history (or science) dicotomy–pointing out that such an antithesis would have been nonsensical to people in Biblical times. He argues that we should not be locked in either the ‘attic’ (faith) or the ‘dungeon’ (history/science), but instead get out of the split level house. The image floating around my head is that of a person studying things on a cloudy day (or maybe on a cloudy planet), imagining that there is no such thing as a ‘sun’ because it is not visible, while the things being examined are illuminated by the light of the actual, but not visible, sun.
    Science typically uses materialistic/naturalistic assumptions that preclude it from being able to talk or learn anything about God directly. By contrast, faith leads and has led people to assume a rationality to the universe that has motivated a lot of scientific discovery. So, science can’t “disprove” God (it ignores God–the best it can do is offer answers that either i) don’t seem to have “God-shaped holes” in them or ii) to offer no answer or answers that rely on mysterious forces that can be described but not explained–which could be seen as evidence of God if that were in bounds for science), but faith can motivate science.
    Finally, a few observations: 1) An old earth gives more time for evolution to operate, but otherwise by itself tells us nothing about whether or how evolution occurs. 2) Evolution (as in neo-Darwinism) by definition is not about the origin of life. 3) Evolution is frequently made to carry a lot of philosophical baggage by atheists that go beyond any reasonable expectation for it as a theory/explanation. Because of that baggage (and equivalent baggage theists carry), it is hard to have rational conversations about the explanatory power and adeqacy of current evolutionary theory–this is very bad for science and society. The “Expelled” movie, for its flaws, raises disturbing questions of scientists being precluded from following “where the evidence leads.” 4) The most interesting question to me is whether the critique of people like Phillip Johnson that evolution imply no God is correct. I don’t really see it personally.
    Thanks again for this place to wrestle with these questions without fear of brickbats.

  44. dopderbeck’s point in #20 is the start of a chain of logic that makes it hard to write off Gen 1-11 as merely poetic or metaphoric.
    Rom 5:12
    Just as sin entered the world through one man, and death resulted from sin, therefore everyone dies, because everyone has sinned
    This is fundamental to original sin and the need for redemption. To have Adam and Eve as mere representatives (or even the first to be in God’s image) requires some very dexterous re-interpretation of Rom 5:12 and the many similar verses around this. Interpreting the death as merely spiritual death is difficult to align with such verses since the natural reading of these verses (especially in the wider conversation about fallen man) seems to be rather obviously referring to at least physical death – although that could happily be extended to death in every sense.
    The point though – and this is something I have long searched for but never found – is that there does not seem to be a well reasoned explanation for how a theistic evolutionary approach to creation can explain the need for redemption without ignoring verses such as Rom 5:12 – or reinterpreting them beyond their natural meaning.

  45. Re-reading my post, I should make some things more explicit:
    1) Death resulted from sin. That death can be taken to mean as wide a death as you like (physical, spiritual etc), but should not be restricted to exclude physical.
    2) Redemption is God’s response to our slavery to sin and death.
    3) Jesus’s death and resurrection is that response.
    If you remove death as a result of sin, by allowing death to have occurred for millions of years leading up to Adam and Eve, then the rest of those steps don’t make sense without some pretty fancy dance steps.
    You may end up with an fancy tango, but perhaps your dance partner intended a waltz.

  46. Phil–no one is ‘removing’ death as a result of sin.
    Historically, death has been with us all along. The word you’re looking for is ‘discovering’, not ‘removing’ or ‘allowing’.
    Common descent and evolutionary timeframes are supported by the best of the evidence (even Behe admits this).
    Get the science straight, then ask the biblical questions.
    If Creation was ‘all good’, where did the serpent come from?

  47. Phil — I appreciate your points here. However, having recognized the hermeneutical / theological difficulty, I still can’t follow to your conclusion, which requires young earth creationism.
    I think we have to start with the assumption that if the Bible is “true” (whether we think “true” = “inerrant” or something else), then what we are supposed to take as authoritative from the Bible will not be directly at odds with facts that are evident to us in studying the reality God created. It is evident, IMHO, that there were millions of years of animal (including hominid) death in creation before any reasonable time in which a historical “Adam” could have lived. Our hermenuetic approach to passages such as Romans 5 must account for this reality, or else we make scripture into a lie.
    Yes, I know you can try to make the distinction between “historical” science and “theories” and “facts.” There’s some merit to that, but for the most part when it comes to the age of the earth and common descent, I think the evidence is clear and is staring is in the face.
    It’s for these reasons as well as loads of other critical problems that a narrative theology hermeneutic is very attractive. Nevertheless, it remains, admittedly, extremely difficult to square or find compatability between the scientific narrative of human evolution and the Biblical narrative of the once whole, now cracked, eikon.

  48. dopderbeck #51 and #52,
    whether or not it leads to young earth creationism is somewhat of a side issue. I don’t think the argument requires young earth creationism; it does however lend itself to YEC.
    The conclusion you mentioned comes from death being the result of sin. If there was death leading up to the appearance of Adam (we can leave aside the argument about creation being good) then Romans 5:12 is wrong and death was not the result of sin, and everyone dies for reasons other than everyone has sinned. Which means Jesus and Paul were mistaken about the causes and need for redemption. Which really throws everything up for grabs for re-interpretation.
    Which is where the fancy footwork begins with re-visiting our understanding of those scriptures. I don’t mind if the earth is old as long as it does actually square with the over-arching story that we read in Scripture. Your point about inerrancy is valid to a point. But when it requires the entire story of redemption – as passed down through the history of the Church and through scripture – to be reinterpreted, I think we go beyond questions of innerancy.
    Regarding your point about making scripture into a lie – perhaps it is not scripture that is lying at all. I think there have been several posts in this thread that make good points about the inbuilt bias in scientific method. One of the rules of scientific method is that every phenomenon must have a natural cause. That is why science will never accept the resurrection – regardless of it’s Christian practitioners over the decades, scientific method has been shaped into a tool that starts off with the assumption that there is no God – or at best, if there is a God, he does not perform miracles in this world.
    I will re-iterate that I don’t mind if the world turns out to be very old, but I think the point has been well made in other posts that treating scientific theories (I’m not bagging the word ‘theories’ btw) as more authoritative than scripture is a shaky approach to finding truth.
    The difficulty you identified is – I think – the crux of the discussion: If we can’t reconcile the evolutionary narrative and the scriptural narrative to agree on the problem with mankind then what do we do? Personally, I don’t think either science or creationist research can “prove” what happened since so much of their conclusions depend on their assumptions. My belief in YEC is theologically driven, and I am assuming that apparent problems we see with scientific findings on the age of the earth will resolve themselves. I realise this puts me in a marginal position, but I just don’t trust the objectiveness of evolutionary scientists (the very term implies bias) or scientific method when it comes to defining what truth is. Yes there are wacky YECs, but there are at least as many rabid evolutionists too.

  49. Chaplain Mike #47, your last sentence – are you saying faith and reason are seperate, that they don’t both go together?
    I heard Hugh Ross speak once. 95% of what he said was beyond my ability to grasp, but I do remember him explaining how over great periods of time certain things happened with what was there, to get to a planet that could support life. That stuck with me because it’s not evolution, it’s not creastionism but it does allow that changes happened with what was on the planet so that life could be sustained.
    On a side note – there were people who came up during the question/answer time and staunchly proclaimed they would believe what God had written in the Bible. I didn’t see Ross saying the creation story didn’t happen, just a broader view of what happened that creation could happen.
    My hat is in Ross’s camp for now.

  50. P.S. Schaeffer used to say the problem with evolution was it’s philosophical base that time plus chance brought the ordered creation. And that no one can live their life as time plus chance – they will always impose some order into it.

  51. Phil (#49) and others examining how Paul’s understanding of how Sin entered the world (Rom 5) throws a ‘spanner’ in an evolutionary/old earth timescale might be interested to start with George Murphy’s 2006 paper “roads to paradise and perdition,…”.
    I’ve posted links to this paper before here, on other threads on this subject. Rom 5 does appear to be the biggest issue with respect to how Genesis should be interpreted. However, Rom 5 may give more room to move than an initial reading might suggest. Although I must say I’m not 100% convinced that Murphy deals with the issue in it’s entirety, I think his paper is a very good place to start.
    Here, by the way, is the link: http://www.asa3.org/ASA/PSCF/2006/PSCF6-06Murphy.pdf
    I would love to know what others this of this work. . .

  52. Chaplain Mike: I prefer to think of what I wrote as a stew rather than a conflation. ;^} Anyway, your comment — “So one does not “believe” in evolution in the same way one “believes” in a Creator. These are two different categories of faith and reason.”– is right on the mark. The question is, which is more real? I.e., on which do we put our weight? Which one gives light to the other?

  53. phil_style #57,
    interesting article. I will read it in more depth when I have the time, but a quick speed-read through confirms your doubt about Murphy dealing with the issue in it’s entirety.
    I think excerpts such as this:
    “In Rom. 5:12–21, Paul’s purpose is to state the importance of Christ for the human problems of sin and death, not to give information about the early history
    of humanity”
    illustrates what I was referring to earlier about my discomfort the way in which we are re-interpreting the natural reading of such passages. I actually disagree with his statement about Rom 5 because perhaps Paul’s purpose is indeed to state the importance of Christ for the human problems of sin, but it does not follow that there is no information about the early history of humanity. Quite the opposite in fact – the information about the early history of humanity is assumed by Paul to be correct, and is the foundation on which he highlights the importance of Christ.
    I will read the article further later, and perhaps the work by Barth that he references, but if this is the kind of treatment he gives Rom 5 then I don’t know if I will find much to persuade me.

  54. The Ramm book you mentioned from Bible School days is “Christian View of Science and Scripture”. It was very useful to me as a young biologist, emerging from fundamentalism. The point I remember from it was that biblical writers spoke phenomenal (not theoretical) language, of things as they saw them. The language spoken was of shepherds and fishermen, not astronomers and biochemists of two millenia in the future. It seems to me the Bible is not a scientific textbook and does not report scientific experiments. The question of “how we read the Bible” was certainly anticipated by Ramm.

  55. John (#58): “I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth”—with a rational faith, accepting the truths of specific revelation given in Scripture. The Bible also tells me that enough evidence is apparent in creation to recognize the existence and greatness of God. This is the bottom-line for me, my confession of faith. I believe it in the sense that I build my life on this and the other articles of the Creed. I am first and foremost a Theist, a Christ-follower, a Bible-believer, an Evangelical.
    I “believe” in scientific discoveries in a much more provisional sense. God has given to humans the ability to apply the scientific method with rationality to observe and analyze the natural processes of the universe (general revelation). Where scientific findings have been confirmed, I accept or believe them as the best knowledge we have at the current time—but always subject to further discoveries.
    Most scientists think right now that some form of evolution is the most accurate “theory” (or model) to describe how life developed. I am no expert in this area, but if, for example, a fine Christian and brilliant scientist like Francis Collins says that it is the right model, I have no reason to doubt him.
    Given these two “beliefs,” one foundational and one provisional, I then go back and ask, “How does my fundamental belief in the Creator and the Bible’s truthfulness relate to our current understanding of science?” Believers have faced this task all through the ages, and it seems to me that we have always found ways to accommodate new scientific information within our faith commitments without eviscerating the Bible of its meaning and power.
    The great historical example is that of Galileo and Copernicus. New scientific evidence threatened the church’s entire perspective on God, the universe, and our place in it. To many it was a battle of beliefs—the Bible? or Science? In the end, God’s truth, both specific and general revelation, survived that mess. It will survive this one too.

  56. Most evolutionists recognize a version of “original sin” which goes like this: we behave the way we do (often badly) because we have inherited the selfishness or survival instinct of our lower ancestors and while we have the necessary tools (reason, law, community) to combat our reptilian brain, most of the time our reptilian brain calls the shots and even reason is held captive. We just can’t seem to do pure, unadulterated good. Even when we try to do good, it is usually for a selfish ulterior motive, either conscious or unconscious. This is really not so different from what Christians are saying. The difference is atheists or secular evolutionists offer no solution to the problem of sin, except to say, rather lamely, that we need to know ourselves better, use our reason more (which is why religion which is stridently anti-reason is an anathema to them), try harder and hope for the best. Really, it can be quite depressing to be an atheist (and I know because I was one until recently) because you just know that it’s not likely that human nature is going to change any time soon and we seem set on a course of destruction. So what we should be offering to the secular world is not an argument that it is necessary to believe in a literal interpretation of Scripture, but that science and the Bible are in agreement on a greater truth – that man has a problem with sin. It is a problem with our nature and it a problem we all share. And that we have a solution for that. Not only that but we have an answer to the problem of suffering and purpose in life. None of these answers relies on viewing the Bible as a history text but it does rely on the Bible’s vision of God continuing work in creation, His divine plan and His power to redeem and transform.

  57. Phil (#53) — the problem is that your hermeneutic and your epistemology don’t themselves come directly from scripture, so you are also referring to an authority outside scripture.
    I don’t agree that Romans 5 has to mean physical death. If that’s what it has to mean, you’re making scripture lie, because there is simply no reasonable doubt about the age of the earth and the long history of life before the appearance of man.
    But if we disagree, that’s ok.

  58. #63 — What hermeneutic does not ultimately come from outside scripture?
    Ultimately, unless you believe that God plants the meaning of the text directly in your head personally (which many Christians do indeed believe!) then we are subject to understanding texts based on archaeology and its various branches, textual criticism, etc.

  59. dopderbeck (#63),
    that’s a pretty strong statement – and fairly polemic. I guess we will have to disagree; I think there is reasonable doubt about the age of the earth, otherwise I would be struggling more with “my hermeneutic” than I am. Perhaps it’s simply a reflection of the kind of material we read. As #64 points out – all hermeneutics come from outside scripture.
    In my opinion, how we explain the problem of sin is the dividing issue when it comes to evolutionary theism vs young earth creationism.
    Your starting point seems to be “the old age of the earth is undeniable fact and there is no other possible reason for what we see” and you are interpreting scripture from that point (and saying that any other view makes a liar out of scripture).
    I know the arguments for making the scriptures appear to not talk about physical death and they make me uncomfortable. I think (from an earlier comment) that you feel the same way (hard to reconcile the two narratives), but feel you have no choice but to adopt the position you do. I apologize in advance for sounding patronizing, but perhaps some more research about old earth skepticism would give you more room to move?

  60. I wonder about what Paul is really doing in Romans 5. Pauls states in v18 that “the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life”. Now strictly reading Gen, it was actually Eve that committed the FIRST sin. So Pual is already doing more with Gen, than Gen itself does.
    Also, let’s assume that Sin had originally come into the world through 2 (or 3 ,or whatever number)of persons. Then by Paul’s logic, would we require more than one person to restore righteoussness? Or would the One be sufficient still?
    It seems to me that Paul is trying to demonstrate some kind of symmetry here. Paul’s little discussion through v12 and v14 has always been something I cannot fully come to grips with. If death is the result of sin (v12), but Sin until the LAW, there was no sin (v13), why does death reign from Adam to Moses (v13)? Paul never really explains this clearly, he simply restates (about 5 times) this point about one saviour justifying all, since one sinner condemned all. I really think this 1 / 1 ‘symmetry’ is Paul’s point. And what I think he is doing is reacting to some folks who have probably asked him “how can one man make up for the sins of the whole earth?” type question.
    Now while Paul does mention Adam, he certainly does seem to be adding to the Gen account becasue he failes (for whatever reason) to note that it was not actually ADAM that first sinned (but EVE).

  61. Phil (#65)
    There is no room for reasonable doubt on an ancient earth. There is no room for reasonable doubt on ancient non-human life. There is no room for reasonable doubt on the death of animal life before the advent of man.
    We have two choices – (1) An actually ancient earth with ancient biological death. (2) A God who planted the evidence into the earth to make it appear so and gave us the Bible so that we would know the truth.
    The second option is unacceptable.
    Now this doesn’t say anything about evolution per se – which is another wrinkle in the mix.

  62. phil_style (#66),
    I don’t think vs 13 is really problematic. The various (albeit traditional) commentaries tend to agree that that Adam had the law as given directly by God. That consisted, at the very least, of the command regarding the trees. So the point is that sin did indeed enter in because the law was broken, resulting in death which reigned from then on until the Mosaic law was given. This fits in very naturally with the rest of Rom 12.
    The point about Paul mentioning Adam instead of Eve is valid, but not a deal breaker. Paul explicitly states that Adam was a type for Christ so it is reasonable that Paul would focus on him.
    I think it is pretty obvious that Paul’s point is precisely as you say – showing the 1 / 1 symmetry (perhaps not because someone asked him, but simply because it fits into his overall discussion of justification by faith). However that does not mean that Paul’s use of Adam is not based on the belief that he was merely a type. Indeed – his argument seems to me to depend on his belief that Adam was in fact a real person. This is born out elsewhere in Paul’s writings: for example, if Paul really didn’t regard Adam as being a real person (or Eve for that matter) in regard to the first sin then his reasons for women to remain silent in 1Tim 2:11-14 do not make sense (the point here being his logic, not the contextual relevance of that statement).
    As you say, Paul’s use of Adam and Eve is to make a point other than Adam and Eve being actual persons. However his arguments seem to presuppose that they were indeed actual people.

  63. RJS, while I don’t subscribe to the second options, I think it COULD be made plausible.
    Here’s my thinking. Assuming the world was created young but made to look old. Was the purpose of making it look old, simply to make it look old? I would say not. We know that soil comes from biodegraded material. We also need to asume that in ‘the garden’ the trees gew in soil. This soil was ready-to-go so to speak, as though it had been bought from the garden shop, already part decomposed organic matter, part mineral materials. If you were to take a handful of this material and put it in the lab, you would get readings showing some of it to be ‘dead’ (and thus a few months or years old), and probably some to be ‘dying’. This doesn’t necessarily mean it was previuosly alive, it was “born dying”, so to speak. If you cut down one of the trewss, would it have rings? Probably yes. Did those rings get formed by real climactice events .. . no. Is this ‘deceptive’ . . . ummmm. .
    Additionally, are there reasons why a geological record of life and death stretching back millions of years would be ‘planted’ in the system? Well, maybe these signs act as a warning. A warning reagrding the fragility of the system. A warning regarding the interconnectedness of life. A warnign that even large, robust creatures can domniate nature one day, and die out the next. A warning to steward the planet as God commands.
    I’m not saying I buy this, I’m just suggesting that argument (theological and scientific ones) could be proposed in support. With tat said, I’m not preapred to write it off totally as ‘unacceptable’, but I would say it is rather fanciful.

  64. RJS – of course there is room.
    Let’s say that the earth really really truly does “appear” to be millions of years old. Does that *really* make God a liar? Really? Are there no adequate answers to that problem at all?
    Philosophically all we need is a *possible* explanation. To take a simple example: We measure the speed of light, and we measure the distance of far of stars and conclude that since the light must have taken millions of years to arrive then the earth must be millions of years old. But logically that does not hold true unless you start with the premise that absolutely all observable phenomenon must be explainable (and must always have been explainable) with only natural causes.
    As soon as you allow supernatural causes (for example – God) other possibilities open up; If, as Genesis describes, God made the stars ” to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years”, then it is not unreasonable that he made them immediately visible; that he created the light in transit so that they were actually useful for the purpose he created them. This is not deceptive at all unless you start with only naturalistic restrictions.
    I don’t want to get too hung up on the actual example I gave because I only wanted to make the point that there is indeed room in this debate for accepting both a YEC *and* the world/universe “appearing” old, without the need to caste one side as making God a liar.
    If you are unwilling to accept any explanation for what we observe that involves the supernatural then you are right – we have no room. But then we have no Gospel.

  65. #70 — I spent a long Christmas break in University writing my own essay on exactly this topic (about 2 decades ago).
    While I no longer feel the necessity of defending the earth-created-old argument, I must admit that arguing that God made it old doesn´t bother me either.
    I just think of God as an artist (creator). I suppose can call a artist an deceiver for painting a subject that never existed. Or, a fiction writer a liar for the same purpose.
    Artistic license 😀

  66. RJS –
    Certainly there is room for doubt. The question is whether the layers were laid down over long aeons or over the year-long flood. When you look at the continental-scale deposition of the paleozoic and mesozoic compared to the local-scale deposition that occurs in today, it seems quite obvious that something different, and more massive was occurring then than now. A good, short, readable summary of the Creation position by Baumgardner (whose model’s of the Earth’s mantle processes are used by NASA) is here (the geology starts under the heading “But What About the Geological/Fossil Record?”).
    There are two global geological markers – the Great Unconformity and the K/T boundary. Many Creationists think that the first is the onset of the flood, and the second is the end of the flood.
    A friend of mine put together a free video series (I would start with video 2 – 1 is pretty boring). I don’t agree with all of it, but it is at least a good introduction to Creationist thinking for those who may be unfamiliar.

  67. Please read again #15 where Greg provides a St. Augustine quote and # 41 where Rebeccat deals with the same issues in contemporary terms. An outcome is at stake- the future existence of Christianity. As a poet and writer, I am continually amazed and saddened at literalist interpretations. So was Jesus if you will recall.
    As a student of science and philosophy of science, I am continually amazed and saddened by the willful distortions of science and evolutionary evidence by many who advance ideas of man’s failed and sinful nature and then turn right around and are certain of their own unfailed and holy interpretations.
    Let me tell you what got me thinking about some of these questions as a boy who was interested in science. Why are over half the the species parasites? How could the million plus named species (there are actually many more so far uncategorized) including the 12,000 species of ants and 2800 species of termites fit on the ark and what did they all eat. Well, we know what the termites ate!
    I think a lot of Christians prefer their interpretation of Christianity to seeing Christianity continue as a relevant faith.

  68. #73 Doug Allen
    “I think a lot of Christians prefer their interpretation of Christianity to seeing Christianity continue as a relevant faith.”
    But that said, Jesus found quite a few Pharisees primed to think a better way. Have to think of these groups as gateways and not walls.

  69. RJS, re your comment (#67) to Phil (#65):
    There is no room for reasonable doubt on ancient earth. There is no room for reasonable doubt on ancient non-human life. There is no room for reasonable doubt on the death of animal life before the advent of man.
    We have two choices – (1) An actually ancient earth with ancient biological death. (2) A God who planted evidence into the earth to make it appear so and gave us the Bible so that we would know the truth.
    The second option is unacceptable.

    I hope you’re not going to say yet again that the reason you find the second option unacceptable is (a) we can see the evidence with our own eyes and (b) it makes God a deceiver. God is not a deceiver. You have said that you agree with that statement. But by that statement you seem to mean that what you call the visual evidence is correct and it is the writers of the Bible who were either ignorant, or willful deceivers, or both. This view does nothing to further the idea of the communion of the saints.
    And unacceptable to whom, by the way? Your implication is that only your views and people who share them have anything valuable to say. I don’t like to be told, in so many words, that I am stupid beyond belief (to use a particularly ironic phrase).
    I hope you don’t think comment #67 comes across as anything other than extremely arrogant. Please note, I didn’t say *you* are extremely arrogant, I’m saying (kindly, I hope) that the way you state your view has a chilling effect (as the liberals are so fond of saying when they want to shut down their political opponents) on those of us who would really like to accept the plain teaching of the book they believe is the written Word of God.
    When you say “there is no room for reasonable doubt” I can only read that as “case closed.” So why would there be any reason for any further attempt at conversation? Your view, which you think is absolute fact, implies that all other views are laughable and the conclusions of complete idiots. How would a “reasonable” person come to any other conclusion about what you wrote in #67? I know you are not an idiot, but you seem to think I am one.
    The question, it seems to me, is “Are you going to believe your own eyes or are you going to believe the Bible?” You have chosen, in this area at least, to believe your own eyes. I try to choose, as much as I can, the Bible over my own eyes. If this makes me beneath contempt in the eyes of the enlightened, so be it.
    I’m trying to say this as civilly as I can in the hope that Scot will not delete this comment. I don’t think I will be commenting on this particular subject again as it leads us nowhere.

  70. Jonathan, I am quite familiar with creationist materials and I have a serious challenge for you. Take the material and find the list of source references they use to construct their arguments. Now go and find the actual articles, books and talks quoted. Many of them will be from creationist scientists not submitting their work for peer review (if they’ve done any actual work – most just look at the work of others and try to find potential arguments). These sources need to be taken with a grain of salt just as a matter of intellectual honesty. Then take the work of mainstream scientists referenced and hunt down their original words in context. (Google books is great for this.) Check to see how many of the quotes are not quoted accurately; that is are there words missing or added? Then read the quote in the context it was written. Does the way the quote was used in the creationist materials accurately convey the intent of the speaker or has it been manipulated to say something the original speaker did not intend? If you’re not sure, try to find other articles or books which quote this work and see what others understood the author’s intent to be. See if the ideas or work of the scientist is represented accurately or if it’s been spun in order to make it fit. Just take one creationist book you have some faith in and do this because it does take time. I promise you that if you do this with a shred of honesty in your heart, you will be appalled. At least 90% of the materials used to make creationist arguments (and yes, I have done this) are either based on non-peer reviewed sources (and peer reviewed means it must include peers who are not creationist scientists) or use inaccurate or out-of context quotes to make it appear that there is a serious argument to be made. I would be surprised if 10% of the sources used in most creationist materials is either reliable or accurate.
    Now, think of this: the rest of the world knows this about creation science. And really, the only reason creation science materials aren’t called out by the average person more is that science education is very poor in our country and most people don’t have the basic knowledge and skills needed to evaluate claims made. But anyone who has seriously looked at the evidence put forth by mainstream science and then looked at the evidence put forth by creation science will quickly see the difference and spot the blatant dishonesty behind most of what passes for creation science. And even those who don’t know enough about science to make their own judgments are well aware of the reputation for distortion and dishonesty of those who claim to be creation scientists. You may not see it that way, but the rest of the world absolutely does.
    What kind of witness is that? Why are we putting this huge stumbling block between the world and its Savior? Anyone who has spent time trying to evangelize to people from non-religious backgrounds knows that the idea that faithful Christians must reject mainstream science is on everyone’s top 2 or 3 reasons why they aren’t interested. And while I can assure them with my life and witness that creationism is in no way needed for Christianity, I also know how hard it often is for me to feel comfortable in many Christian circles over this issue. So I know that even if they do believe me, I’m setting them up for struggles and difficulties in feeling really at home in the family of Christ. This issue is crap. It is evil from start to finish. I honestly am completely OK with people believing as a matter of faith that Genesis is in some way literally true. But this whole thing of pushing the issue as part of a faithful Christian life is from the very pits of hell. It destroys unity between faithful Christians, it destroys and tarnishes our witness, makes our evangelism so much harder than it needs to be. There is not one good fruit which has come from this fight. NOT ONE! If we judge something by the fruit it produces, then I can say free and clear that this argument is Satan at work to destroy the church. Again, I’m not saying that the belief or the people who believe it are evil, just the elevation of this issue to a mainstay of Christian belief is.

  71. The biggest problem with the “appearance of age” argument is that it destroys any notion of warranted belief in anything. How do I know God didn’t just this moment make it “appear” that the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus actually happened 2000 years ago? How do I know that all of my memories and experiences refer to “real” events? The “appearance of age” is Descartes’ demon. Sure, God is able in his power to release Descarts’ demon — but then we can’t know with any certainty whether anything we think we know about ourselves, the world, and God are real and true. In an effort to preserve a notion of truth, you destroy any notion of Truth. The only way to get past Descartes’ demon is belief in a loving, truthful God who does not “interfere” with our perceptions of causation in such as way as to deny us access to truth about reality.

  72. Bob (#75) said: I try to choose, as much as I can, the Bible over my own eyes.
    I respond: but Bob, you use your own eyes to read the Bible, and your own mind to try to understand it. And what you read in the Bible with your eyes is the testimony of the apostles who saw the resurrected Jesus with their own eyes. So you are not believing the Bible “over” your own eyes. You’re believing your own eyes, which are open only to one understanding of the Bible, and are closed to understanding the world around you. And you’re doing this without anything in the Bible expressly telling you to do so, and with some parts of the Bible (e.g. Psalm 19) arguably telling you not to.

  73. Bob, I think what RJS is saying is that scientifically speaking, there is no doubt or debate over the issue. If you believe that science cannot comment on this issue because God worked miracles along the way, that’s an argument to have (and one that RJS rejects). But scientifically speaking, there is no doubt about the age of the earth.

  74. Bob,
    You’re missing people’s points here and resorting to dismissals or finding ad absurdum arguments.
    dopderbeck is pushing you with a good point: you use your senses to observe the Bible; why do you disallow those senses — or deny their validity and accuracy — when it comes to the issues of this post?
    Do you entertain the possiblity that your “sense” interpretation of the Bible might be wrong and that science might be showing you that your sense-shaped interpretation could be wrong? This is the point being made: we use our senses both to read the Bible and to read the world.
    No one, my friend, thinks scientists have achieved absolute mastery of truth, but they’re not about to give up what squares with rugged testing and investigations of reality just because someone says “science has been wrong, therefore it can’t be trust/could be completely wrong again”.

  75. Bob,
    Again, we have to know what you are saying:
    “ad absurdum” does not mean “stupid.”
    It means reducing something to absurdities as a form of rhetoric, as when sensationalists tell us — from both sides — that if we elect the next person … yada yada yada.

  76. Well, Bob, it’s a good thing the bible isn’t a science book then, huh? And don’t we all believe/think/say stupid things on a pretty regular basis. It’s one of the reasons I can’t bring myself to keep a journal – being face so frequently with written evidence of my past stupidity is embarrassing and makes me nervous about what stupidities I may be holding onto today. Not to say that you are as stupid as I frequently am, but just that sometimes when people tell us that we’re saying dumb things, it is true. It’s just part of our human condition. Better to evaluate whether the statements are accurate and work from there than just being upset that the suggestion may have been made. Taking umbrage doesn’t square real well with Christian humility I would think.

  77. Bob and Others:
    Something that has really challenged/helped me in this discussion is to remember the purpose of the Bible. If I want to learn how to wire my house for electricity, I am not going to go the Bible! Obviously, they didn’t have electricity. In the same way, I am not necessarily going to go to the Bible for the scientific explanation of how the universe is ordered; the Bible is not explicit. The Israelites encamped at Mount Sinai (where they received this) didn’t have an understand of atoms, electro-magnetic radiation, and carbon dating. So in one sense, I think it is very hard to read the Bible that way, or to expect an explanation of creation from the Bible in scientific terms.
    What, then, is the purpose? I believe, along with Paul, that it is to give an account for the problems of sin and evil in the world. Here is where my understanding of science and my belief in God come together: if science posits an explanation of the universe which eliminates original sin, then I would say it does not fit with God’s revealed word.
    This summarizes what others have said above, that more is at stake here than simply understanding how matter and life has changed throughout history. In the view of many—rightly or wrongly—evolutionary theory as purported (or at least some flavors of it) eliminates God as Creator, which means he has a claim over our lives, and original sin, which means we did nothing wrong and need no redemption. This is also the case if one reads Genesis 1-3 (or 1-11) as myth or fiction, that it did not really happen (regardless of when).
    The other side of the argument says that evolution, or at least some nuanced theories of it, do not negate God as Creator nor original sin.
    Personally, I have a hard time stepping into the mindset of the Ancient Near East and trying to understand the implications of Genesis 1-3 from their perspective. I think it is important to remember that this text had as much meaning for the wandering Israelites as it does for us, and any understanding of the biblical text must be (at least in some way) meaningful to people through all stages of history.
    To those who say the “mature state” theory of creation is deceptive and completely meaningless to us, I might respond that we are not the only ones to whom this text was given. Again, to an Israelite in ancient history it may have been perfectly plausible: if God created Adam in adulthood (as it would seem from a plain reading of the text), then why not earth as well? Nothing is inherently deceptive about that.
    From our modern perspective, we have developed a system of understanding the world through science. But we would be arrogant to say that our understanding of the world through science today or through the Bible today is indisputable. Historically speaking, knowledge and science increases as we learn more; hundreds of years ago science said the earth was flat. Today, we know that is not true. The same happens with biblical understanding. I think it is important for all people, no matter what position, to consent that all we have is our best understanding of what is laid before us. And if history is any indicator, that will change radically in coming years.

  78. Bob,
    It is likely pointless to continue this — but you know full well that neither Scot nor I consider the Bible a bunch of hooey – scientifically, historically, or spiritually. I do consider some interpretations of the Bible to be flawed at the core – Marcus Borg’s interpretation of Jesus for example, and the Young Earth interpretation of Genesis, and some interpretations of Revelation, and Catholic interpretations of Matthew 16:17-19.
    Its all about discernment.

  79. Rebeccat –
    First of all, by painting with such a broad brush, you are essentially engaging in the same behavior you are accusing others of. I am familiar with the problem you reference, however, it is neither as severe nor as widespread as you indicate, and almost non-existent within the Creationist technical literature (when I publish with Creationist people, I have to have my work checked by PhD scientists). People like Talk.Origins often times claim “misquoting” when they simply misunderstand the argument, or just want to escape valid conclusions drawn from the evidence (not to mention the number of times Talk.Origins has misconstrued Creation arguments as well – including the literature they quote – Talk.Origins are often guilty of literature bluffing).
    I tend to just read the primary literature anyway. I’ve learned more about Creation from the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences and similar sources than from Creationist sources.

  80. dopderbeck (#77),
    to quote:
    “The biggest problem with the “appearance of age” argument is that it destroys any notion of warranted belief in anything.”
    Your conclusion (we can’t know anything) does not follow from the premise (that things have the appearance of age). It assumes that God did these things to deceive us rather than for some other purpose. Just because you interpret the appearance of age as a deception, it does not follow that it is in actuality a deception. That would be presumption.
    The only reason we know anything about God (other than there is one – which nature makes obvious) is because He has revealed Himself to us through scripture and throughout history. We take it in good faith that we can actually learn about Him from scripture (doctrine of perspicuity).
    The point about trusting our senses is a red hearing. We use our eyes to read the scriptures, but we use our minds to understand them. Our mind is not one of our senses and we must apply critical thinking to our understanding of scripture just as we must do so for science. And the assumptions we bring to both domains will largely drive our interpretation of them – this cuts both ways.
    Jonathan’s posts seem to be largely ignored but he makes a valuable contribution to this debate. There really is enough rigorous scientific work done by creationist scientists to cast doubt on old-age earth interpretations.
    God will not be proved or disproved with science (it is the wrong tool) but I will re-iterate an earlier point, that modern scientific method begins with the assumption that everything that can be observed must have natural causes. With that assumption, modern science could *never* conclude that the earth was young – even if it really is. This is an important point. If the earth really is young, and if there really are reasonable interpretations of the facts to support that (albeit supernatural intervention as described in Genesis), then modern science would still have *zero* ability to discover that. The supernatural is excluded from the outset.
    It is not deceptive to make the rock strata and fossil record appear old – that is merely one interpretation of the evidence based on naturalistic assumptions. Another interpretation is that those things are the way they are because of the flood. That is not deceptive because *God has told us that is what happened*.
    I know many evolutionists find it frustrating to discuss the possibility of literal interpretations of Genesis, but to automatically exclude that possibility, without seriously attempting to understand what we see in that light, seems irresponsible.

  81. I’ve just been doing some further reading (from the evolutionist point of view) and it has reminded me of my central reason for taking a YEC stance – which is based on understanding the narrative of fallen man and interventionist redemption.
    I cannot accept that Romans was written by Paul without the assumption that Adam and Eve were real. Death prior to sin continues to be the sticking point and probably the greatest reason why I cannot accept the old earth theories.
    I have been interested for a long time now to find a way to understand Romans (and the greater narrative) in an evolutionary light. I have yet to have anyone explain this in a way that didn’t seem to make scripture to be worse than inerrant – downright deceptive.
    If YEC seems to make God a liar because of evolutionary interpretation of what we see in the world, then evolutionary interpretation seems to make God a liar when we look at the natural reading of scripture. One side has got it wrong.
    I will hold on to my understanding of sin and redemption because it is dear to me. The spirit of God has convicted me of my sin and need of God’s redemption. The burden of my sin has been lifted. These things are real to me. If accepting old age earth requires that sin is not what Romans seems to say it is, then the entire redemption narrative is in doubt. The orthodox Christian understanding of the sinful nature of man does not logically follow from scripture if those passages that teach us about that nature need to be severely re-interpreted.
    I know that there are many (the majority perhaps?) Christians today that manage to reconcile evolution and Christianity, and I wish that one of them would provide me with an understanding of passages such as Romans, that seemed reasonable rather than a stretch. I really do wish that, because I don’t like that this issue is divisive. For now, I will assume that there is a way to reconcile the two, but that is for the sake of unity, not for the my own belief.

  82. Phil,
    The data do not support a young earth.
    There is no doubt.
    The only read this carefully – the only – reason anybody tries to make the data fit a young earth is because of a preconception that scripture requires it.
    This is why I sound arrogant (sorry Bob) and ignore the comments that try to suggest otherwise.
    Now evolution is a slightly different case – I do know some who seriously contend that evolution is an incomplete explanation and favor some form of progressive creationism or intelligent design. And I admitted and allowed for this in the other post.

  83. Phil (#90) — I think the conclusion follows exactly. The appearance argument makes God into Descartes’ demon. He makes things that didn’t happen look like they happened. On what basis could you then believe that the New Testament is really a witness to the Jesus event in history? You can’t — God may have just made it appear that way a minute ago. How do you know you are reading a synchronous thread of messages on this blog right now? You can’t, God might just have made it appear that way a second ago. And so on. If God does not allow time and history to proceed in such a way that humans can derive at least some basically reliable information through them, then we can’t really claim to “know” anything.

  84. dopderbeck (#93) the basis to believe anything – whether the New Testament really being a witness to the Jesus event in history or whether the data tells us the earth is old – is simply that we have no choice but to trust that what we experience as humans is real. There are exceptions of course, such as delirium, but we recognize these specifically as exceptions. But to take a Zen-like view that all is an illusion (or potentially one) leaves us with nothing useful to say about anything. And neither you nor I take that point of view.
    We differ because I don’t agree that an old earth makes God Descarte’s demon – I simply think humans have got it wrong. I don’t believe it naturally follows from the data regardless of the dogmatic way in which it is presented – “There is no doubt”. I beg to differ. There *is* doubt and repeating the dogma over again does not make the doubt go away. RJS disregards that point of view, so of course there is no doubt *for him*. But there is doubt.
    So this is where we differ in our beliefs – I believe that the natural reading of scripture teaches supernatural intervention in earths creation, human creation, and human affairs. And I believe those events are able to explain what we see. And I know that we disagree here.
    However, I am happy to put aside the argument about the age of the earth – until it touches on human evolution. At that point it becomes important because it changes how the historical Church has traditionally understood sin and death – since death would have preceded sin contrary Rom 5.
    So again we come to the crux of the issue: did sin really precede death or do we need to re-interpret scripture because modern science (that bastion of unbiased truth) tells us death came first? You know where I sit.

  85. Maybe God sped up time during Creation, like fast-forwarding on a VCR, so that what appears to have taken billions of years actually only took 6 days. He wasn’t trying to deceive us. Maybe He was impatient waiting for the results of his plan. Eternity can be such a bore. No wait. That would be billions and billions of days a split second long. However, maybe observing from a parallel universe it appeared to be six days long. Didn’t Einstein posit that time could slow down and speed up? Maybe Genesis was written by an observer from a parallel universe. Maybe God is from a parallel universe. After all, where did God come from in the first place? I think there is a potential Sci-Fi novel here.

  86. For those interested in reading a thoughtful, well-balanced view of Genesis and its relationship to these issues by a respected Biblical scholar, I recommend Bruce Waltke’s A Theology of the Old Testament.
    I’m amazed by how much of a hot-button issue this is right now. Scot, did you expect this kind of response?

  87. #96 Chaplain Mike
    Actually, having come from this community in my youth it does not surprise me at all that this is happening now. In fact, I suspect is not the crest of the wave just yet.
    The crest might come in my lifetime or at the latest my childrenś lifetime.
    The crest will be this group of Christians being increasingly marginalized, then ridiculed. They already feel the world (and other Christians) are out to destroy the Faith.
    Sadly, some of them will go the path of the more extreme Muslims and promote violence and segregation.
    Not pretty but its seems the pattern of man.

  88. I am amazed that the people arguing for a young earth perspective fail to see that it is only a hermeneutical assumption on their part that makes them read the Bible the way they do. Think this through. The question is not just: does a reasoned belief in evolution, or an old earth, end up making the Bible seem deceptive. But more importantly: does a reasoned belief in evolution and an old earth suggest my basic hermeneutical assuptions are flawed. People, don’t put the blame on God (saying that would make him deceptive), when it is clearly your assumptions that create the conflict.
    And, on the bright side, isn’t it a lot easier to realize it is you who are wrong, rather than accusing God of deliberately, and deceitfully, playing with your/our emotions?

  89. hey, mariam! I’ll read your SciFi book…. 8)
    I have frequently wondered about how time/space fits into this scenario. Is God bound to work in our chronological time or does the kairos kind of time describe it better? I must admit that I do find it hard to swallow when humans say they are certain that something must be the way they have perceived it. I have a fair amount of respect for scholars in all fields, but I have to reserve the term “certain” for God and for those whose faith is grounded in Jesus. I realize that is inconvenient for the scholars, but that’s just another inconvenient truth out there, eh?
    Phil, by the way…RJS is a woman — but she’s pretty used to folks assuming she’s a man. 8)

  90. #98 Peggy
    Wow! That was a home run of a comment.
    I have long considered that God exists outside of time. Really, due to the Physics of the universe — he has to. Physics tells us that time is part of the Creation.
    If Orthodox theology is right, God is not subject to the creation. If he is bound by time, then he is part of the Creation.
    How could I possibly understand that? I cannot. But then again I can try — though any way I visualize it wont be 100% the ¨Truth.¨ It will just be some approximation of the Truth.
    If I could totally understand God, he would not be God anymore.
    I also believe that this impacts on the doctrines of predestination — which is another thread of discussion!

  91. Is this going to be my second 100th comment in one day?!? 8)
    Time and perception are very interesting … and when we try to tie either of ours to God, I think we run into trouble … IMO
    So much to learn, so little time 😉 and so few brain cells cooperating.
    Shalom, all …

  92. rjs –
    What you are not considering is that, just as many of us take the New Testament as evidence for the resurrection, others of us likewise take genesis as evidence for what happened in earth’s early history. Your comments on how ludicrous this is are the same kind of comments my seminary classmates make on the idea of the resurrection in light of the Jesus seminar. The common thread in both cases is a willingness to consider the possibility that the biblical record might have validity and then looking at the totality of evidence (including scripture!) to make an informed opinion. In both cases the world thinks we are nuts, and that is fine for me.

  93. #101 Jonathan
    Unfortunately, if we probed you far enough, inevitably we would find _something_ that you are not willing to take literally which someone else would feel has to be.
    _Because_ I have viewed this topic as a gray area, I am still open to changing my mind to a more traditional one. But so far the questions are so many that insisting it be a literal 6 day creation just does not seem easy to defend — and really at the end of the day it seems more a huge sucking sink of time and energy trying to defend.
    I still actively review scientific publications on Origins. I still find myself at times thinking ¨Wow. That was something I was told was absolute but now they doubt it.¨ Which makes me put this stuff most likely permanently out of my reach to prove.
    Again, we are dealing with History — you cant prove anything absolutely. 6 day creation, resurrection, healing the 5,000, etc. all of it is ultimately there if you find a compelling reason you WANT to believe it.
    I know that if anybody bothers to comment on what I just wrote (hehe I am not important enough in the scheme of things to think I am worth commenting on at all), I am 100% sure that this is gonna make people disagree at the least, disapprove on the mean, and be indignant at the worst.
    Our co-poster Bob (sorry, no numbers here and I have not read everything he has posted so I cant say for sure where he is coming from) takes a more negative view of all of this. He says its garbage. I tend to think that its still valuable even if its unproveable.
    In fact, the agnostic or the atheist has a hard time filling the gaps or proving he can provide a better way to deal with the world.
    So, with these things, I believe in God, the Bible, Jesus, and the wisdom that comes from above.

  94. EvoChristian (#102)
    I actually agree with you – I find it unlikely that either side is going to prove anything either way – but the fact that there is doubt encourages me.
    My support of YEC is based primarily on the sin – fall – redemption narrative and I find passages such as Rom 5 much easier to understand with a more literal interpretation of Genesis. Perhaps I am simply not sophisticated enough in my theology….

  95. #102 Phil
    hehe I can appreciate where you are coming from better now. Sorry if I missed something along the way — quite a long thread and I do not always get to read every entry.
    I must admit that I have to think quite a bit more about where you are coming from before I could form a conviction.
    I have entertained the thought of them being purely God inspired myths to explain humanity to itself. That one will definitely not win me many advocates here I suspect.
    In that case, it would still be true just not a historical fact.
    But, if you think about it, if we moved from non-sentience to sentience, part of that process had to involve the evil / good distinction. _Somebody_ along the way started the chain reaction that is NOW.
    The narrative of the fall really does not strike me as, well, actually having happened — the serpent for instance just does not work for me. But, the evil of man and our inner desires causing us to do stupid and destructive things — that works.

  96. Jonathan Bartlett (#101),
    I am a scientist with a library full of theology, biblical studies, and church history books at home and a library full of books with almost as many equations as words at work. I’ve read Crossan and Borg, Hurtado and Wright, and many, many others.
    Resurrection and Creation are two completely different issues. Tying them together is, by some but perhaps not you, an unfortunate scare tactic.
    Resurrection was a one-off unusual event whose reality is supported by the subsequent evidence in the writing of the witnesses, the writings of the early church father, and in the explosive growth of the church. Science – by analogy with observation – would say that resurrection does not happen, it is not normal, it is incredibly improbable. Of course Christians also agree with science here. The life, death, and resurrection of Jesus was the turning point of human history. Resurrection is supported by the evidence.
    Creation was a one-off event, and it was certainly real (we are here after all). The method of creation assumed on the basis of certain interpretations of scripture is not supported and is, in fact, contradicted (and this is beyond doubt) by the evidence. Thus tying the faith to this interpretation is disastrous.

  97. And Augustine said it best some 1600 years ago (and he believed in instantaneous creation not old earth – but was a man of his times).

    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 the 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 on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason?

    When will we get it through our heads that this debate is heaping unnecessary ridicule on the church and preventing oh so many from even beginning to listen to the Gospel?
    When will we get it through our heads that it is contributing mightily to conflict and loss of faith among so many of our youth?
    God help us.

  98. #106 Jonathan
    Cool observation about the difference between the two.
    But, both are still historical events. That is another talk for another time. But, I agree — the events around Jesus´ life changed humanity for the better.
    (I know others will disagree but not to sound to cheeky — ´bring it on´)
    If I understand what you say, its a lot familiar to the way I have come to look at Creation.
    ( I apologize in advance if I sound elitist in the following paragraphs — not my intention at all ).
    When a cosmologist describes the Big Bang, a non-literate person in the modern age can rarely get beyond the _big_ and _bang_ portion. The rest is just too technically dense to be understood by Joe Public.
    How could humans possibly understand how God made everything? Transport yourself to the era that Genesis came from … what language could you use?
    Obviously, Genesis is _not_ a scientific text. Its a literary one.
    I don´t think anybody got into the details of the text here like the pattern of the days (1 & 4; 2 & 5; 3 & 6). Not sure its the right term but they parallel one another.
    Its poetry folks!!

  99. I agree with RJS, suggesting the resurrection and creation accounts must be accepted “as is” or not at all, is to miss the distinct difference between the two. Please recognize that genre must play a major role in our discussion here. And there are clear genre differences between the resurrection accounts and the creation account. Its only if you read the Bible with a one-size fits all approach that you end up with these kinds of concerns.

  100. “When will we get it through our heads that it is contributing mightily to conflict and loss of faith among so many of our youth?”
    I wish it were that simple. Unfortunately our youth have their own hearts to blame for their conflict and loss of faith. They know that God exists because He has made Himself evident to them through His creation and His scriptures and yet they deny Him. To blame a fundamentalist understanding of creation really seems to miss the point of salvation entirely.
    Better points about creation will not, in the end, change how a heart receives the gospel. A soul can only bow a knee to Christ when he has seen his sin and his need for a Savior. “…but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews a stumbling block and to gentiles foolishness.”

  101. David,
    I respectfully disagree with you. When the youth of today see adults, who call themselves Christians, pulling the wool over their eyes on what seems to everyone else to be largely self-evident truths about how the world came to be, it has a diminishing effect on the witness of said adults. The youth of today are not going to take Christians (and therefore, Jesus) seriously, until they sense that we’re willing to look reality square in the eye. And, to be honest, who can blame them?

  102. Phil #94 said: whether the New Testament really being a witness to the Jesus event in history or whether the data tells us the earth is old – is simply that we have no choice but to trust that what we experience as humans is real.
    I respond: Yes, exactly! And this is exactly why the “appearance of age” argument ultimately defeats our ability to “know” anything. If God has made the world we live in “appear” on a massive scale to be something that it is not, then we cant’ trust that anything we experience as humans is real.
    So now we are back to the real question: what does the evidence that we can observe tell us? How do we relate, as a matter of hermeneutics, our understanding of scripture to this other evidence? The first question, I submit, is not hard to answer (BTW, why would you need an “appearance” of age if the evidence for a young earth were there?). The second question, I wholly agree, is tricky. Perhaps the best thing would be if all the various “sides” in this could agree that we’re dealing with something sensitive and difficult for serious Christians and that there is no one right answer about how to reconcile it all given our current understanding.

  103. I agree with RJS that this debate is heaping unnecessary ridicule on the church and preventing many from beginning to listen to the gospel. In a blog a few days ago, Scot said that Jefferson and Emerson’s prediction did not pan out. That is not completely true. Europe, Canada, Australia are testimony to the, at least, partial correctness of their prediction. I think the young earth believers/creationists will eventually create such ridicule of Christianity that Jefferson and Emerson will be proved correct.
    If what Jesus considered important is relevant to Christianity, then Christianity is a failure. Much of history’s most cruel,despicable and ignorant behavior has been done in its name. And it continues. I came here as a follower of Jesus and the Jesus creed, but I am very disappointed- not in Scot and the many who post here- but in the minority who post here who, unfortunately, represent the majority of Christians, at least where I live now, South Carolina. This controversy, like so many others throughout the centuries- heliocentrism, slavery, the role of women, the burning of witches, the justification for killing and war, just to name a few- demonstrates the opposite of what I consider to be Jesus’ message: to trust God and his gifts (in contrast to requiring a laundry list of beliefs), to love God, and to love all our fellow man. The more I read this blog which represents the best hope for Jesus creed centered Christianity, the more saddened I become. I think Christian beliefs (in contrast to trust) and Christian orthodoxy is doomed by the willful ignorance and sophism, narrow literalisms, and selfish ascendency of the importance of doctrine above the importance of the Jesus creed.

  104. “This controversy, like so many others throughout the centuries- heliocentrism, slavery, the role of women, the burning of witches, the justification for killing and war, just to name a few- demonstrates the opposite of what I consider to be Jesus’ message: to trust God and his gifts (in contrast to requiring a laundry list of beliefs), to love God, and to love all our fellow man.”
    I’m sorry to be defensive here but am I the only one who is a little offended that a young earth creation view is being equated with slavery and witch burning?

  105. Doperbeck keeps coming back to the real issue over and over but most of us are still busy arguing about whether Genesis could be literally true. The real issue for YEC’ers and fundamentalists is not whether Genesis might not be historically accurate. The real issue is IF we accept that Genesis is a God-inspired myth (good term Evo) and not history, and IF the world is billions of years old, physical death existed alongside life from the beginning of time and there was no single pair of human ancestors, then what does that do to our theology that has derived from the assumptions of a literal reading of Genesis. Can we rescue that theology somehow? Should it be rescued or is it wrong? Why is that theology important to us? It is not evolution, per se, that is the issue but the fact that it brings in all of these other issues central to our faith.

  106. Following were the evidence leads is good advice for scientists as well as Christians. Orthodoxies build up in science as well as religion that take more than a convincing presentation of evidence to overcome. That’s why science often progresses in revolutionary ways (a la Thomas Kuhn) rather than evolutionary ones. Some evidence puts widely held interpretive frameworks into question and those who hold them respond as if to a threat rather than embrace the challenge of new understanding.
    To me, nowhere is this more evident than the scientific establishment’s response to Michael Behe’s books (Darwin’s Black Box and The Edge of Evolution). Behe is punching big holes in the evolutionist interpretive framework with evidence from his field of molecular biology. I’m no expert, but Behe’s evidence and argument seems to have strong merit and most of his critics respond to him in ways more characteristic of religious reactionaries than those whose theories rest on evidence and who are not afraid to follow wherever it leads. Following where the evidence leads often brings ridicule from former colleagues and admirers who don’t wish to follow. (Look at the response to Anthony Flew’s change of mind and his book There Is a God for another example.)
    In an environment like this can be very tempting to want to make peace and avoid controversy. Finding common ground may be the way to a better understanding of the truth, but not necessarily so because truth is not necessarily what makes you more comfortable and accepted around your disbelieving friends and associates. It may be, but is not necessarily what helps relieve you of the burden of having to explain yourself to those who take a dismissive attitude toward unpopular and widely ridiculed views.
    I don’t know if Harnell’s book falls into this category (I rather doubt that it does) since I haven’t read it. But I think Francis Collins’ does this in The Language of God when he rather casually dismisses Behe’s evidence as a “God of the gaps” argument for Intelligent Design. If you’ve actually read Behe’s books you might get the impression that Collins is being a bit unfair to Behe and that Behe is actually using science to show irreparably huge gaps in the Darwinist interpretation of life’s origin and development Although Collins says many good things in his book, I get the impression that his overriding concern is to make both Darwinism and religion safe for, and from, one another. This may be a laudable goal in some respects, but I wonder if it isn’t a disservice to the integrity of science and religion both.

  107. Paul,
    Behe isn’t punching holes – he is making people think and respond. He is also weathering a fair amount of ridicule.
    Behe is suggesting that there are some things that evolution alone cannot explain. He doesn’t dispute the overall evolutionary framework or the common descent of mankind.
    Behe does not hold a young earth position.
    Collins is not dismissive to make peace. He is cautious and skeptical because there are very real flaws with Behe’s approach. (My personal opinion from reading Behe’s work and listening to him speak – not from taking the word of Collins on the issue.)

  108. David #114
    Maybe you wouldn’t commit violence because of your creationist or new Earth beliefs, but what happens when those beliefs are promoted as Christian and the teaching of geology and biology by my associate high school teachers are seen as anti-Christian? I know teachers in Colorado Springs and have read of teachers elsewhere whose cars were damaged, who received threatening anonymous phone calls, whose school age children were were beaten up by other children because they taught standard textbook geology and biology. In Colorado, Focus on the Family was promoting creationism and trying to take over the school board. My point is that when you replace what is important, the Jesus creed, with doctrines based on controversial interpretations of the Bible and promote those interpretation “real Christianity”, violence often is the result. I stand by my examples.

  109. One of the problems of this matter becoming such a culture war issue is that it makes it awfully hard for pastors to simply teach the Bible. First of all, I am simply interested in the meaning of the text and I try to explain it in terms of the author’s intent as directed to his original audience. But the constant din of the arguments that deal with Genesis’ relation to science make it very difficult for people to hear or be interested in the actual story and significance of the Biblical teaching.

  110. I agree with Mariam’s point. She wrote:
    “The real issue is IF we accept that Genesis is a God-inspired myth (good term Evo) and not history, and IF the world is billions of years old, physical death existed alongside life from the beginning of time and there was no single pair of human ancestors, then what does that do to our theology that has derived from the assumptions of a literal reading of Genesis. Can we rescue that theology somehow? Should it be rescued or is it wrong? Why is that theology important to us? It is not evolution, per se, that is the issue but the fact that it brings in all of these other issues central to our faith.”
    So, here’s a thought, how about another thread on this issue specfically? What do you think, Scot? At this point this particular conversation seems to have gone as far as it can. But for those who have resolved that the earth is old, and that evolution best explains our development, it’d be interesting to discuss what that means for some of our NT theology.
    For instance, what do we say about Paul’s theology if his assumptions about biology were flawed? Are these issues connected? Separate? Can we accept some form of symbolic theology – knowing that the real-world specifics were skewed by a worldview that lacked the knowledge we now possess?

  111. Darren,
    Believe it or not – this is the purpose of the Original Sin Returns thread – and discussions that I hope will follow. Lets look at the theology.

  112. Chaplain Mike,
    I’ve always said that being a pastor is one of the most difficult jobs in the world. The “author’s intent as directed to the original audience” is where the expertise of Scot and others has to come in, but in the case of Genesis and many other books, what meaning does “author’s original intent” have. Chroniclers have written down the oral tradition. The stories were, no doubt, used for generations to help people understand the human condition and the mystery of life. Can’t a pastor tell his flock that there are many ways of understanding biblical literature including its significance, and there are competing interpretations. I guess not in some churches, but isn’t that the truth of the situation that there is no monolithic interpretation. In my case, I would emphasize not the answers (because science, biblical scholarship, and sectarian ideology have invalidated many of the answers or made then into wedge issues), but the questions. Questions about God, life, and behavior are continually raised in the books of the old testament. To my mind, they lead to an answer: Jesus’ great commandment to love God and love others. I think the common ground lies with the answer Jesus said was important, and not in the cacophony of answers to all those lessor questions that can’t be answered satisfactorily and continually tear at the fabric of the church and human relations. Such questions don’t need to be answered ex catheda or definitively, if one accepts our human limitations. Trust in the answer Jesus gave us-
    or is my understanding naive or itself part of the polemic I find so destructive?

  113. #114 Doug Allen
    While I agree that Christians being bullies hurts the witness of Christianity as a whole, I have to hasten that that is not a Christian monopoly!
    When I review the writings of popular modern atheists like Dawkins, I see a similar hostility bordering on violence as you describe.
    (Granted, I also have friends who are buddhist, agnostic, and even atheist who put Christians to shame for their ability to be kind, peaceful people.)
    What ministers, pastors, etc. need to first emphasize is that _mankind_ deals with disagreements that way. Christians _ought_ to deal differently.
    That is the real evidence folks and not Genesis 1 – 3. It is not if the Fall actually happened precisely the way its told.
    Even if a myth, we would be hard pressed regardless of our world view to prove that man is not fallen. Something is definitely wrong.

  114. #122 Doug Allen
    Absolutely beautiful comment!
    As I ´pastor´ or ´lead´ the people in my life, I really have come to same conclusion.
    When I teach, I try in my own fallible way to give as broad a perspective of different views of passages and issues.
    Because Christianity is plagued with having human disciples, we will always be at war with the very human desire to force people into our own thinking. Ironically, this _always_ backfires on us. We end up getting situations that we really did not want.
    Take for instance early, persecuted Christians.
    They just wanted to worship and practice in peace. But, ironically, when they were allowed to do so, it was by State authority.
    What happened next? Well, mass conversions.
    What did that do?
    Alter forever the practices of the day: syncretism.
    Where did this lead??
    More Persecutions.

  115. Doug, it is not so much that I don’t know how to preach and teach Genesis. My point is that the noise of all this controversy about science has so distracted people that it is all they can think about when someone brings up Genesis. And if a pastor or teacher doesn’t spend most of the time dealing with this aspect of the matter, people don’t think you’re faithfully dealing with the text.

  116. EvoChristian and Chaplain Mike,
    Evo. Thank you for your kind comments, and I agree very much with what you wrote #123 and #124. And Chaplain Mike- I don’t for a minute doubt your teaching and preaching ability. I agree that a lot of the controversy is noise. In fact, some creationist groups want biology teachers to “teach the controversy” when there really is no controversy worth mentioning in science. For a pastor, there definitely is controversy and lots of noise and little agreement, so I empathize with your struggle. I’m more the religious liberal than most here, so my perspective is probably not considered all that helpful. Where I find common ground here is in the Jesus creed, and I apologize to any I have offended. I’m surely as argumentative and opinionated as any here. My goal to be gentle sometimes eludes me.

  117. Re 117–RJS and Behe
    RJS–from your perspective, do you agree that an irreducibly complex mechanism either can’t be created by natural selelction + mutation or can only be created if a non-irreducibly complex pathway exists? (or existed?)
    My question really is–do you think Behe’s main point is wrong or are you just not persuaded by the examples he has come up with to date and aren’t sure there are such examples?
    Also, how much of the ridicule he is weathering is due to the “merits” of his position versus “faith-based” reactions by people committed to a materialistic world-view that he is challenging?

  118. Phil_Style (#57):
    I’ve also been intrigued by Murphy’s article on original sin for quite some time – and have also tried to dig / drum up responses to it; I don’t think it has received the attention it deserves. So, I decided to do something about it. I invited Murphy himself and 3 guests (including Terry Gray, Denis Lamoureux, David Congdon) to discuss the paper on my blog – check out the intro to the series at: http://evanevodialogue.blogspot.com/2008/10/evolution-and-original-sin-series.html

  119. Steve (#127),
    Beyond a shadow of a doubt some of the ridicule toward Behe is because of the general science-faith battle in our culture. His proposal is rather far-fetched but he is catching much more flack than his proposal warrants. I am sure that some or all of this is because any attempt to introduce faith into the picture at all gets one lumped with the extreme positions. In the minds of many of my colleagues ID = YEC in disguise. Scientists are humans with all the flaws and egos of the rest of humanity. It is not easy to take a stand in our current climate.
    On Behe’s proposal of irreducible complexity:
    First I am not persuaded by his examples. I think that feasible pathways are being proposed for several of them and it is likely that such will be proposed for many (even all) of his examples.
    Second – even if he is right and there are systems which cannot be explained by the current model of evolution, I am wary of the suggestion that the logical conclusion is intelligent design. Complex systems research is big these days – the idea that sometimes the whole is larger than the sum of the parts and reductionism is not always right in the fashion we currently invoke it. That is, there may be explanations for the apparent irreducibly complex systems that are natural, but require revision of some of our current assumptions of process.

  120. I agree (hope) that there must be a way to do this, but after reading just about everything there is to read on this, I’m still waiting for a theologian who (IMHO) takes the tradition of orthodoxy seriously to show me how.
    May I recommend Denis O. Lamoureux’s Evolutionary Creation? Astounding tome.

  121. Steve (#128),
    outstanding! I, for one will be following this closely and look forward to reading the contributions from the guest-posts and following discussion.

  122. Mike (#130) — I have that book, have read some of Denis’ stuff, and know Denis personally. I think his approach helps, somewhat, but I’m just not comfortable dismissing any historicity to an individual “Adam” or to a “fall” event of some sort. So though I respect Denis’ work, it doesn’t get there for me.

  123. It is interesting to me that the only things we feel the need to “deconstruct” are things that are socially unpopular. No one seems to be having a hard time interpreting 1 Cor 13.
    I hope we all remember that we stand before God, not man and He does not really like us trying to impress man rather than Him.

  124. #133
    Just because a belief is socially unpopular does not mean it is right or wrong. On the other hand, we are asked not to be a stumbling block to the faith of another, because God wills that all should be redeemed. Christians who believe in evolution and and old-age earth, see believe in a 6 day creation and young earth as simply mistaken. And they see the insistence on refusing to acknowledge evidence to the contrary as a stumbling block for people entering the faith. The reason most people continue to believe in certain things, in spite of evidence or arguments to the contrary, is because that is what is popular in their social group. If you identify with a particular religious group you will want to impress that particular group – it doesn’t really have anything to do with impressing God.

  125. I’m not trying to impress a particular social group, and I’m certainly not trying to impress God. The feeling I get is that creationists tend to see evolutionists and wrong and possibly deceived by Satan. Evolutionists tend to see creationists as not only wrong but stupidly simple, and God as the deceiver.

  126. “Evolutionists tend to see creationists as not only wrong but stupidly simple, and God as the deceiver.”
    This seems a very peculiar thing to say. While some Evolutionists may not believe in God, or may not see the Bible as an inspired work of God, I don’t think they tend to see God as deceiver. You’d have to have a rather strange belief-set to come up with that kind of conclusion.

  127. RJS, I think it has been discussed to death for decades and very few people on either side have ever changed their opinions, and it will continue to be discussed to death until Jesus comes (sorry, Scot, not a preterist) and nothing you or I say will affect more than an infinitesimal number of people one way or the other.
    Bottom line: So what *is* the point of continuing to discuss the question? Billy Graham once said, “No one has ever been debated into the kingdom of God.” A search for truth is one thing. An opinion used as a bludgeon is something else entirely, and both sides are guilty as charged.
    I think the JesusCreed community ought to find other, more edifying topics to spend its time discussing. Do I think anyone will heed my advice? No.

  128. Darren (#138), what I was trying to say in #136, and not saying very well apparently, is that evolutionists tend to think that in order for creationists to believe in a “young earth with old earth appearance” requires them to believe in the words of Genesis in the Bible, which are at odds with the physical evidence the evolutionist stakes his belief on, and therefore God would have to be a deceiver to do what the creationists believe. The creationist believes the Bible, which he believes also is God’s Word. The creationist concludes that the evolutionist doesn’t believe God’s Word. I’m still not saying this very well, but such comments appear throughout the recent threads on Evolution and Original Sin.

  129. #138 Bob
    Strangely enough I agree somewhat.
    I grew up steeped in debates. In some ways, they were a motivator in my current thinking. I was both repulsed and excited by them.
    I am not sure how many people changed their minds due to them. Mr. Graham is probably right about the vast majority of Christians. But, then again, I can’t put a number on it.
    I do know that having been born into a family belonging to a sect which had creationist thinking that my mind began to change because of a debate on this topic I attended when I was 13 years old.
    So, perhaps, a debate can sway, influence, or motivate _some people_ to change their minds.
    If we looked at this from a business perspective, the investment made to get the niche people like myself is not going to reap a whole lot of converts.
    But, is that the way we ought to look at it?

  130. Bob,
    Actually, I think plenty of people have changed their view on this issue when confronted with the evidence. In fact, I’m sure you’d find a handful on this site alone.

  131. I think it has been discussed to death for decades and very few people on either side have ever changed their opinions
    I beg to differ, Bob. I’m seeing many people defect from special creationism to theistic evolution/evolutionary creationism. In fact, more pro-evolution books from Catholic and Evangelical scientists have been published in the last 5 years than have been published since Darwin made his theories public. This trend toward integrating the findings of modern science and a more intellectually satisfying hermeneutic is on the rise and, with additional research in the areas of molecular bio-chemistry, evolutionary embryology, genetics, and paleontology, I predict the death of special creationism as a major cultural ghetto within 50 years. (Thank God for Al Gore and the creation of the Internet.)
    nothing you or I say will affect more than an infinitesimal number of people one way or the other.
    Hmmmmm … people are interested in this discussion, Bob. My blog alone has had thousands of hits from over 75 countries in the last 10 months. If people weren’t interested in an examination of the issues, my blog’s major feature would be a .wav file of crickets singing on a hot, summer night.
    So what *is* the point of continuing to discuss the question? Billy Graham once said, “No one has ever been debated into the kingdom of God.” A search for truth is one thing. An opinion used as a bludgeon is something else entirely, and both sides are guilty as charged.
    Debating into the Kingdom of God, no. The removal of a major obstacle to faith and the elimination of intellectual schizophrenia, yes.
    Do I think anyone will heed my advice? No.
    And on this, we agree. 😉

  132. Bob,
    The problem here is that I disagree with you – I know many who have changed their minds on this issue.
    I know many, many, more for whom ultimately the assertion that either God created the earth in 6 24 hour days or all of Christianity is out the window meant a complete loss of faith. Or who may have been comfortable with accepting an old earth, but find the evidence for a human race ca. 100,000 years old with the genetic evidence for common descent a deal breaker.
    Was this the only issue at play? No of course not.
    Was it a major player? Absolutely.
    So why do I keep on?
    Because I actually think that my colleagues are a “people group” in need of the gospel, and it is absolutely impossible to get most people to even listen to the discussion when the “creationism” issue is on the table.
    Because I care that we reach the students that I see and work with every day, those who are struggling with the reality of the evidence.
    This won’t happen if we do not face the issue head on.

  133. I agree with you RJS, although I think the students struggling will be students who grew up in the evangelical faith. This is not an issue for most Catholic, Orthodox or mainline Protestant churches in North America (well, in Canada, anyway – I’m always surprised a how very different Christianity looks in the US). The problem I have is guilt by association. Because the subset of Christians who are YEC’ers (and usuallly anti-feminist and anti-gay to boot) are so loud, people think that all Christians think like that and don’t want to have anything to do with it – or you, if you say you are Christian. Once when my son was ridiculing Christians, I said, “I’m Christian, you know.” He laughed and said, “No, you’re not – you’re Anglican!” (I realize there are conservatives here who would agree with him, I can sense you chortling and smirking – just shush! 🙂 HE meant it in a good way – to him Christian was synonymous with unreasonable, gullible, willfully ignorant, homophobic, sexist, etc. And I want to say to him and to all those who have this perception of Christians – you know there is a real message – real good news – that makes sense and offers hope for us individually and the world and it is not necessary to believe in any of those secondary things to believe in that message. I also want to say that even though I don’t agree with the beliefs of a lot of Christians, they have their reasons for believing what they do and, in spite of my disagreements with them, we do agree on the central message. But I can never get that far because images of book-burnings and parents picketing Biology classes dance before their eyes.

  134. #146
    This is why I believe before Christians start making a show in their efforts to convince people I believe they need to first show people the changed life.
    Really, going back to the original writings of Jesus and the Apostles, I just do not see much language talking about Christians subjugating non-Christians. Or, for that matter, Christians getting in the positions of power to legislate Christian teaching.
    We are not a political philosophy or a form of governance. In fact, the Faith of our fathers showed its best side when they were on their knees being kicked than they had our foot on the throats of their persecutors.
    Anyway … I could go on with that, but I think maybe, possibly, some of us need to put our heads together here and marshal where in the world we are in regard to this thread.
    Perhaps it would be useful if each of us summarized what we think we understand each other to be saying?
    Just a thought.

  135. Evo,
    I think we are talking past each other a lot of the time. I’ve made no secret of being a liberal (on this blog – in my own faith community I am probably considered relatively conservative). I assume for example, as I alluded to tongue-in-cheek above, that conservatives here may doubt my “salvation” or even that I am a Christian. Let’s face it, when Mother Teresa is described as “unregenerate” there’s not a lot of hope for me:) Most of the time that doesn’t really bother me – it’s not like I’m going to be burned at the stake for my beliefs or anything. But it does make me defensive when some people question whether someone can be a Christian if they don’t believe in a whole bunch of beliefs that are one interpretation of Scripture. Because my faith is as important a part of my identity to me as it is to them. Or if they assume that to ask questions or to disagree with a particular theology is to “destroy the faith”. Similarly I think the thing that really gets conservatives hot under the collar is when others accuse them of being willfully ignorant or imply that they must have a lower intelligence. So a start would be to avoid making those characterizations. We should assume that all who come here (unless they specifically claim otherwise) are Christians, who are trying to learn from one another.
    I also agree that a changed life is the best form of evangelism. God forgive me for not being a better evangelist!

  136. #148 Mariam
    You are coming across quite clearly to me. 😉
    I understand what you mean about Christian exclusivity. I internally cry every time I hear a Christian justify nasty behavior by quoting Jesus saying ¨no one come through the father except through me.¨
    Not really sure anymore if I am conservative or liberal. Those terms are so subjective that they are practically useless 😀
    But, let me bring us back to a focal point.
    Can each of us _try_ to summarize what is being said by the others in this thread of discussion?

  137. We’ve been all over the map in this thread, but I’ve been reading Harrell’s book this weekend and would like to second Scot’s recommendation (not that he needs a second).
    This is a very readable, non-threatening, lay-level, discussion of the issue. You could hand it to your Aunt Bernice (if you have one). Or your high school student, or most anyone else.
    Oh no – his style is contagious (not in a biological fashion). I can’t avoid the parenthetical comments.

  138. RJS –
    There is more here than just Genesis 1. For a little background, I spent 27/30 years of my life as an Old-Earth Creationist. The reason I switched was not because I woke up one morning and figured out that Genesis 1 was only 7 days long, but because I finally realized the physical implications of the rest of Genesis 2-11. For example, the flood (which might be one of the most well-attested events in history), if real, would completely reshape the geological record. In addition, the geological record as we have it has many marks of a giant water catastrophe. Again, I’ll point to the fact of the great number of continental-wide pre-Cenozoic deposits, versus the highly localized deposits which are occurring today. Interestingly, the author of Nature’s Witness seems to take Genesis 2ff as more-or-less history, but fails to tackle the obvious implications.
    Doug –
    First of all, for all the people talking “scare-tactics”, I think that saying that “violence is often the result” would qualify. Also, I find it odd that Focus on the Family would instigate a Creationist take-over of the school board, since they support standard geology and cosmology (I do not know their opinion of biology). Dobson even has a form letter he sends people on the Big Bang.
    RJS –
    Social popularity is absolutely fair. People are social creatures. There is not a large distance from evidentially wrong to socially unpopular, or from evidentailly supported to socially popular. Scientists don’t like to think of their interpretations of the data as being influenced by social constructions, but in fact they are. Scientists can be just as guilty of group-think as any other group. It’s just that modern society tends to take everything from science as gospel (including the author of Nature’s Witness – he more or less says so), and fails to examine it with the same critical eye we might take with other groups making grand claims.
    Mike –
    There are also people defecting the other way, too. John Sanford is a biologist at Cornell University who invented the “gene gun” which was the first tool to make genetic manipulation of crops possible. He switched from being an evolutionist to a Young Earth Creationist. He has a book out on the biological parts of his new perspective.

  139. RJS said: Because I actually think that my colleagues are a “people group” in need of the gospel, and it is absolutely impossible to get most people to even listen to the discussion when the “creationism” issue is on the table.
    I respond: Amen.

  140. The whole flood argument falls apart if one concludes, as I do, that God flooded the “land,” not the earth. If you read carefully, you will see that Gen 1-11 does not have a global focus until ch.10-11, when the nations spread out over the earth (10.32, 11.9). In my view, many fail to read the text through Moses’ and his audience’s eyes. If we did, we might see that most of Gen 1-11 is about the early history of “the land”–the Promised Land, the ancient near east–not the whole earth. We betray our modern hermeneutical perspectives and our reading in of thousands of years of scientific findings when we read and interpret Genesis 1-11 in scientific terms.

  141. Mike –
    The problem with local-flood thinking is this:
    Let’s say that he was only describing local conditions (I don’t think that’s how the text reads, but just for argument’s sake lets assume it does). What is he describing? All of the high hills and mountains were covered. Even low hills would require about 100 feet of water. And then, it lasted for (depending on how you read the text) between 300 and 380 days. Even after that, neither the raven nor the dove could not find a place to land. I don’t know about these in particular, but many birds can fly 100 miles in a single day.
    So, even if Noah is only describing local conditions, he is describing a worldwide flood. Water tends to even out, so if you have a land flooded for 300 days to a depth of a hundred feet, and birds can’t even find the dry land even after it is mostly drained – I have trouble seeing how this could be describing anything other than a worldwide flood.
    In addition, there would be little reason to keep the animals for a non-worldwide flood. Animals migrate pretty quickly, so they wouldn’t be needed for repopulation. Finally, God’s promise was to not flood the whole earth again. In the presence of current tsunamis, it is difficult to think that God was keeping His promise if He simply promised not to cause local floods.
    It also matches up geologically with the K/T boundary. After this boundary there is usually a “fossil-free” area. In flood terms, this is the end of the flood, after which animals slowly repopulate the earth.

  142. I agree with Mike. Why assume a global flood – in terms of how we picture the globe in the 21st century – when the original hearers would have had no concept of such a thing? People keep assuming that God makes these pronouncements – via people who would have had no such worldview – that somehow are more discernable to us today than they were to those in the Ancient Near East. This doesn’t make sense from a contextual point of view. This anachronistic tendency needs to get called out more often.
    Regional flood? Sure. Not just because that’s more geologically likely. But because it makes much more sense contextually.

  143. Jonathan, your answer shows just how hard it is for us in this era to take a phenomenological, pre-scientific approach to reading this text. But I maintain that this is exactly what we must do. Gen 1-11 was never, ever meant to provide a scientific (in our modern Western sense of the word) perspective about anything. To read it that way is thoroughly anachronistic and unfair to the meaning of the text. It obscures the author’s point and leads its readers to begin chasing rabbit trails that have nothing to do with God’s Word.
    I have a friend who is a diehard YEC promoter, but in order for him to maintain his view, he is forced to hold a dictation view of inspiration that says God told Moses what to write verbatim. That’s the only way he can wiggle out of seeing any human perspective in the text. I can’t buy it.
    God spoke through the people of that day, using their view of the world to communicate his truth. It’s from the standpoint of an earthly observer, it’s pre-scientfic, it was designed to introduce the Torah to Israel as they prepared to enter the Promised Land. And what Israel needed to know was the early history of this Land, its relation to the other nations of the earth, and God’s plan for it. If you trace the concept of “the land” through Genesis 1-11 you will see that this is the focus, and that the nations of the earth are not scattered from this area of the world until Gen 10-11. It is in that context that I believe in a regional flood, not because it makes scientific sense.

  144. RJS, Chaplain Mike, Darren,
    I’m not quite sure how you can say the flood makes more sense being local because of the cultural context – when Genesis itself starts off with a cosmic focus. I think if Genesis starts out with a description of the whole universe being created, it’s not that big a deal to consider their understanding of “the land” to be wider than just their local bit of turf.
    Also – you keep saying YEC approach this with a scientific focus which is inappropriate because this occurred and was recorded before scientific method. But cause and effect have always been. If the flood was really global would we not expect to see certain evidence of it? How would we tell if it really was global?
    Dismissing the possibility that scientific examination might support a global flood, because it was “pre-science” is unfair. If you applied the same standard to evolution then you could not interpret the geological record with science either – because it was “pre-science”.

  145. Phil, I won’t repeat all that I have found in my own study here. If you want to get my perspective on Genesis 1, go to my Genesis Studies site: http://genesismike.blogspot.com. There you will see that I think even your comment about the “cosmic perspective” of this text betrays many modern presuppositions not compatible with the view of Gen. 1. I also recommend commentaries by John Sailhamer, John Walton and Bruce Waltke.
    To answer your question, I don’t deny that we might be able to see evidence of historical events recorded before the scientific age, but it is my understanding that the geological record really does NOT support a global flood. The view of “flood geology” also has a questionable history with regard to its intellectual and spiritual origins. But I’m no expert here, so others will have to chime in.
    My focus is and always has been on the meaning and significance of the text, beginning with its author’s intention for his original audience. These other matters are OUR issues, not concerns of God’s Word.

  146. I’m not quite sure how you can say the flood makes more sense being local because of the cultural context – when Genesis itself starts off with a cosmic focus.
    This is true. And not true. At the same time.
    What a small ANE culture can see and experience, that is its universe. Take a look at ANE maps; they are relatively local and bounded. That was their universe; that was their cosmos. ANE cultures had no idea other galaxies existed (and neither did we until the mid-20th century) and they believed that one could, if the mode of transportation were available, fly up and touch the stars. The idea that people could build the Tower of Babel to reach the heavens was not figurative to ANE cultures, although we, as scientifically-informed, 21st-century human beings, read it as figurative.
    You see, we’ve allowed science to inform the manner in which we interpret the Bible, but in doing so, we can easily lose the original meaning of the text. It’s a double-edged sword; to avoid being injured yourself in wielding it, you have to separate theological truth from the incidental vessels in which it’s found, those being ancient, pre-scientific concepts, as well as ancient, historical explanations that serve to explain why things are the way they are (e.g., man’s sinful nature, his omnivorous nature, multiple languages, etc.)

  147. The lighter side:
    ANE = “Ancient Near East” so its residents, I’m guessing, were probably inane. 🙂
    Here’s a quotation from Flannery O’Connor:
    “The monks of old slept in their coffins.”
    “They wasn’t as advanced as we are.”
    🙂 and double 🙂 🙂

  148. Chaplain Mike (#159),

    To answer your question, I don’t deny that we might be able to see evidence of historical events recorded before the scientific age, but it is my understanding that the geological record really does NOT support a global flood.

    OK, but Johnathan presented the case that it is actually one of the best attested events in history – and the responses were all about how we can’t use science to interpret scripture.

  149. One of the people better steeped in the geological record will have to speak up, but like Chaplain Mike, my understanding is also that such an event (a global flood) is not attested to – at least in the eyes of mainstream science. And like Mike, I also agree that the “science” often used to support such claims is so far outside the mainstream, and so begging for real evidence, that its almost embarressing. I’m not trying to sound superior there- though I know it can come across that way. But we have to be honest when science is involved, as opposed to wishful thinking based on scant pieces of loose details.

  150. Large floods are attested in the ancient world, especially in the Ancient Near East. That doesn’t mean there is evidence for a global deluge. Imagine how the hurricanes in the U.S. or the tsunamis or monsoon flooding we’ve seen in Asia in recent years would have looked to an ancient society in the vicinity of those events!

  151. And to follow up the point about context: something stated about “the world” can be evidenced in scripture, without it meaning the globe as we understand it today, AND without being a lie/deception, or what-have-you. We have to understand that, as Mike pointed out, “the world” in an ANE understanding would have meant their regional neighborhood. There’s an example of something being true, within context. Its only when we anachronistically apply common percpetions/understandings that we run into complications/conflicts, etc.

  152. Darren (#164),
    there is, of course, the obvious contradiction here, in that we are unavoidably using common perceptions and understandings in order to first try and understand the context of the historical time. I suspect you see that as being different, but the interpretation of anything we seek to understand will be filtered through modern thinking and it is impossible to eliminate.
    We must also allow for the fact that Christian faith holds that the scriptures are indeed inspired (infallible is a whole other issue) and we must therefor allow that God himself must can speak directly to later generations through them. We see again and again in passages of prophecy from Daniel or Isaiah etc, or in the “types” represented by Abraham and Isaac (for example – there are many more) that God is able to speak directly to later generations with words that only later generations would understand. These passages are obviously in the language of the person of the time (as is Genesis), but the meaning is not understood until later generations. So even if the writer of Genesis has a local world context (it would seem there was only one land mass anyway) God can still speak to later generations about a more cosmic context. And it does fit nicely.
    I want to allow, as you say, for the possibility that Gen 1-11 is figurative, but so far the arguments for that view seem to all exclude the possibility of divine intervention. The “talking serpent” is often raised as an example of how silly YECers are (not so much in this thread) because the concept of a talking serpent seems like such a child’s tale.
    Well, we should also regard Balaam’s talking donkey as a child’s tale. And that whole story of Daniel in the lion’s den. That Jonah guy too. And that man who walked on the water. Didn’t he also make mud cakes to heal a blind man? Obviously a child’s tale. Of course that was all pre-science also.
    Now I am not advocating that we ignore the physical evidence. But science starts from the assumption that supernatural explanations are completely excluded as possible causes of the physical evidence. And it seems that theistic evolutionists often hold those same assumptions except when it comes to issues such as the resurrection.
    For example, if there was a global flood – what would it look like now – what would we expect to find? I don’t think you can so easily dismiss the geologists and scientists that say the evidence does fit.

  153. “We must also allow for the fact that Christian faith holds that the scriptures are indeed inspired (infallible is a whole other issue) and we must therefore allow that God himself must can speak directly to later generations through them.”
    This is treacherous hermeneutical ground. Look, I’m all for discussing the relationship of Genesis to science. But that falls in the realm of apologetics and is secondary to understanding the text itself. When it comes to Biblical interpretation, we must start at the ground floor. Genesis 1-11 introduces the Torah, and deals with the concerns of the author and the audience who received it. My position is simply that we need to get that first before moving on to the application of these truths with regard to modern concerns.

  154. This is treacherous hermeneutical ground.

    A hermeneutic approach is one tool of many. While not to be ignored, there are many established ways to read scripture and draw meaning from it.

  155. Holy Chicago! This conversation just goes on and on! I’m up to date now with the posts now. Champlain Mike, I intend to read your blog. As to the flood and ark, didn’t my earlier post that, “at least we know what the termites ate” resolve the controversy? Just kidding. Jonathan #151 What I described in Colorado Springs happened over 10 years ago and may not have been official Focus on the Family policy. I don’t know. Focus on the Family staff members appeared on a local PBS show and defended a fairly young earth though more than 6000 years old. They also defended creationism. I remember the TV interview well because I was amazed that educated people would believe that. In any case, Focus on the Family and other conservative religious groups in Colorado Springs (there are many) OR at least their members were very much involved (unsuccessfully) in trying to take over the local school board (and earlier in passing Amendment 2 which was later shot down by the United States Supreme Court). Tom Minnery, as I recall, was the Focus spokesperson who spoke often to various Colorado Springs groups promoting Focus on the Family’s conservative social agenda. I attended several meetings. What makes you state that Focus on the Family supports standard geology and cosmology? If they’ve changed. I’m glad. The Focus agendas created a backlash including a highly regarded alternative newspaper, The Independent, bumper stickers, much community support for the GBLT community, and newspaper articles about geology/biology teachers and their children trying to deal with the threats of violence.

  156. #166
    Isnt it really a feedback loop?
    I mean we deal with textual meaning but that inevitably is influenced by linguistics, archaeology, science, etc.
    A good textual meaning is based on our understanding of linguistics. As linquistic understanding expands, it feeds back into textual meaning.
    Same for Science and Scripture.

  157. This thread is petering out – but I will add these observations anyway. As it is so late in the game – I won’t even try to keep it short.
    None of us can possibly know everything about everything. I am not talking about omniscience here – but simply mastery of the body of human wisdom – the acquired knowledge of the human race. We all rely on experts and authorities for some major part of our knowledge and understanding. One of the factors that both drives and hinders me as an academic is a desire to know everything I can about everything I care about. I say hinders because time spent on such topics as theology and ancient history is time not spent on my specific research interests in physics and chemistry.
    So on the topic of this thread.
    The vast majority of Christians who truly understand the evidence for the age of the earth take an ancient earth as a given. Those very few who don’t accept an old earth base their decision ultimately on the Bible – more accurately on a specific interpretation of the Bible and the Christian story – not on the scientific evidence. They then work to find evidence supporting their view or rationalize the evidence as consistent with their view.
    The vast majority of Christians who truly understand the paleontological or genetic evidence take the general schema of evolution as a given. This is not to say that we understand everything – there are legitimate questions that can be raised. I actually consider Behe in this camp – he accepts the general schema and asks legitimate questions. As I said above (#129) – I don’t think that he will be proven right in the long run. But he does not deny the evidence. Again – those very few CHristian biologists, geneticists and such who don’t accept the general evolutionary schema base their position on an interpretation of the Bible not the scientific evidence.
    Christian Scholars who really dig into Biblical Studies have a very hard time assenting to the positions of the conservative systematic theologians on many issues related to scripture and particularly for this post Genesis 1-11. Here I look at people like Pete Enns and Kenton Sparks recently – but there are more examples and not simply relating to the Old Testament. Marsden’s book on Fuller Theological Seminary demonstrates this. Scot probably places himself in this position – although I should let him speak for himself.
    The irony is that the geologists will insist on old earth but feel free to doubt evolution; the biologists will insist on evolution but feel free to doubt the archaeologists; the biblical scholars will insist that we look honestly at the development of the OT from the sources and the incorporation of ANE myth to tell a theological truth, but feel free to doubt the genetic evidence for common descent.
    So why do I take the positions I do here? A significant part of the reason is what I know of the evidence as a scientifically literate expert in many of the areas. Another part is because I read Christian scholars in other areas – to evaluate their approach as legitimate and then to consider their evidence.
    We need to take Christian scholars seriously and we need to allow those scholars to tell their part of the story honestly. This should not be as individuals but in community and in prayer, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit. We need more Chrisitan scholars in all areas of the academy and we need to support and listen to these Christian scholars.
    One of the hardest things to do these days is to stand as a Christian scholar for God and for Truth. One is battered on one side by the secular academy where many would like to remove the Christian God from the scene and on the other side by Christians who are threatened by the evidence of accrued and vetted human understanding.
    If God exists – and I think he does – and if he is all we say that he is – and I think that he is – then we should rest on that rock and marvel in his creation, not worry that the foundation of our faith will crumble as we struggle to understand him and his work.
    And now I’ll step off my soapbox.

  158. #171 BRAVO!
    Balance is good. Listening is good. Communicating is good.
    Respect is great.
    I still respect my friends and teachers who adhere to a literal view. I have no regrets growing up among them.
    I no longer agree with them but I can still learn from them.
    If its not this issue, it will be another.
    She is right — learn not just about the issue but the greater problem!

  159. RJS –
    I think you should not presume to know what the reasons that others have for believing what they believe.
    “Those very few who don’t accept an old earth base their decision ultimately on the Bible – more accurately on a specific interpretation of the Bible and the Christian story – not on the scientific evidence.”
    This is both (a) a misreading of what counts as evidence, and (b) a mischaracterization of many people’s views. For instance, C14 dates are almost always calibrated by history. We don’t do C14 dating in absence of a historical understanding. Yet we do other forms of radiometric dating an attempt to pin the dates independently of historical markers. Creationism simply applies the same combination of history and date markers that others use with more recent history.
    A good introduction to this concept is the opening chapters of Perspectives in Diluvial Geology. They make an excellent argument as to why a Creation interpretation more properly respects the limits of science and history than does the evolutionary one.
    “One of the hardest things to do these days is to stand as a Christian scholar for God and for Truth”
    I think your post is turning into a bit of a martyr complex. First, you both mischaracterize and make blanket statements about people you disagree with, and then put yourself in the position of being the sole fighter “for God and for Truth” amidst the rest of the neophytes that surround you. I don’t condemn you for holding your position, but I do think think that you should step off of your high horse about it. That more than anything else is what makes the conversation difficult. If you can’t admit that other people hold different views for legitimate reasons, then reasonable conversation just isn’t possible.
    “If God exists – and I think he does – and if he is all we say that he is – and I think that he is – then we should rest on that rock and marvel in his creation, not worry that the foundation of our faith will crumble as we struggle to understand him and his work.”
    Again, this wholly mischaracterizes the Creationist enterprise. No one in Creationism is worrying about their faith crumbling from understanding. What many in Creationism are worried about are people demagoguing the subject and pretending that anyone who disagrees must be an idiot. What many others are more interested in is simply doing science – and doing it on the basis of what God has revealed to us. They make “marveling in his Creation” the subject of their life’s work, rather than an afterthought that has to be mixed in somewhere, as the author of this book seems to be doing.

  160. Jonathan,
    You seem to view your job here to counter every comment to bring creation science back into the fray.
    Your comments on carbon 14 dating and other forms of radiometric dating are downright stupid and misleading. One can quibble about errors (the kind of correction used for C14 dating) – but the orders of magnitude are rock solid. Nothing gets us a young earth.
    But I begin to think that I am merely feeding a troll.

  161. For those who don’t want to take my word for it. And I can fully understand that. There is a new book out by Davis A. Young and Ralph Stearley, Geologists at Calvin College (well, Young is now emeritus). They carefully and thoroughly interact with the YEC statements on the age of the earth.
    The Bible, Rocks and Time
    We may review this book at a later date.

  162. Again, more personal attacks. This is why the issue is tough to discuss – because so many people want to take the issue personally, and attack the people behind it, rather than having a reasoned arguments about the facts. Very well, if all you want to do is call names, belittle those who disagree with you, and just say “everyone who knows anything agrees with me”, go ahead. I’ll go away and leave you to your own world.

  163. Jonathan,
    I agree with RJS. Like I said earlier, you can throw out tidbits of loose data, but the OVERWHELMING evidence is for a very old earth. Do you really claim to suggest that 99% of the scientific community has it wrong, but a very few young earth scientists have it right? Even being aware that they (the young earth creation scientists) have a very clear agenda around finding a certain result because of a pre-existing bias?
    I know you’ll want to point out that we’re all biased. And I agree. But the difference in the degree of bias here is significant – to say the least.

  164. I grew up YEC. I managed to finish 4 science degrees and be published while still a YEC.
    Honestly, it was never an issue because I never made it one. I graduated summa cum laude and had all the honors of being one of the best in my programs.
    I have subsequently changed views but it took YEARS to do so.
    For me, cant speak for all YEC people, it was mainly FEAR that prevented me from making the switch. Actually it was that FEAR that pushed me to study the Sciences.
    I had been convinced that if I accepted the view that there was absolutely no hope left for me.
    As my whole life revolved around my sect (other than school), that was really the only way I saw the world.
    I believe someone else in this thread commented on this very thing. They were really close to the truth.
    I remember a critical event that tweaked me was talking about — of all things — UFOs with an elderly minister in my sect.
    His comment was that if aliens from another planet would land on earth he would stop believing in God.
    I remember at the time (being a sci-fi reader as well as a conservative Christian) that that struck me as really odd.
    Why was his faith so fragile? Why couldn´t he just resolve that he would FIND A WAY TO BELIEVE or something of that order.
    Well, several years passed in my life, I found myself in a situation where I had quite a bit of free time on my hands. Long story I wont go there.
    So, I bought all of Karen Armstrong´s books (well, all except the auto-biographies). Mainly it was a curiosity of Islam that got me started on it.
    This opened a totally different world for me. And actually I could see that in some ideas what she was saying was totally compatible with my upbringing. Her concepts of God, existence of God, etc. were really solidly identical to what I had been taught as a child.
    Of course, she is not a Christian. Also, I cant say I find everything she wrote correct (even now). It was just snips and bits here and there.
    Not too long after this, my life was consumed by two things: work and ministry. Those ideas were seeds. I began to question quite a bit of my dogma. Subsequently, I ran across some other more moderate theologians like Dennis Bratcher and Ben Witherington. These further steered me in different directions.
    I found myself re-examining my hermeneutics and discovering that it meant different things (at least to me) than it had meant to my teachers.
    I found a way to remove the fear that had plagued me.
    That said, I can appreciate where my brothers YEC are at. I still have friends who are YEC and — shock — some still accept me as their brother.
    I definitely know that many YEC will never come to the same conclusion I did. Frankly, ideological divides cannot be removed by Scientific evidence. I would just have to look at their world-view and respect them even though they might or might not return the respect.
    Anyway, what I guess I had hoped to gain from this thread has been partially accomplished. I wanted to see as many different solutions that individual Christians use to deal with the issue and the motivations behind each.

  165. Darren (#178),

    I know you’ll want to point out that we’re all biased. And I agree. But the difference in the degree of bias here is significant – to say the least.

    Could you explain this please? Scientific method starts with the assumption that all observed phenomenon should be able to be explained by natural forces. And we know that the majority of scientists take a dim view of Christianity or even any kind of theism.
    A non-Christian scientist will never allow for the possibility of a supernatural event – and there have ever been attempts to explain away Bible miracles with purely naturalistic explanations. So even if a non-Christian scientist/geologist was looking directly at – for example – evidence of a global flood, that would (in most cases) never be the conclusion they came to.
    So I am interested in how you see the bias as being of such different degrees between scientists who take their cue from Genesis to interpret the evidence, and scientists who will never even consider those events as a possibility?

  166. Phil,
    All of the ideas we are discussing are not created equally. And there are some real biases in approach by bith Christians and non-Christians alike.
    I suggest that you read the first part of Young and Stearley’s book (See comment #176). This is some of the history of the development of ideas within a Christian framework. We did not get to where we are because scientific investigation started from an assumption of “godlessness.” Much of the early investigation (age of the earth for example) was from a solidly Christian worldview.

  167. RJS, it’s a long road from “how did God do it” to “God had nothing to do with it, or if he did, it certainly wasn’t in the way the founders of our faith, whom many of us revere but know beyond a shadow of a doubt were profoundly wrong, believed,” which is where we are in this post-evangelical, post-modern, no-longer-God-fearing century.
    I repeat an exchange from one of Flannery O’Connor’s short stories:
    “The monks of old slept in their coffins.”
    “They wasn’t as advanced as we are.”
    Perhaps a more interesting question to tackle, one that wouldn’t alienate people so easily, might be WHY God did it instead of HOW. But I suppose that wouldn’t be provable, either.

  168. Phil,
    RJS answered your question well. Its not that scientists reject all supernatural phenomena, but rather that they stick to science – which is, by definition, not about the supernatural. There is a difference between testing a hypothesis and having an opinion about a matter beyond the reach of science.
    Now, on the global flood, geologists will look into the geological record and postulate as to shifts, movements, developments, in the history of the earth. If there was evidence of a global flood, as opposed to regional ones, then it would be in the data – and thus, the conversation. But it’s not there.
    While all human beings are subjective in their viewpoint, not all ideas are born of the same degree of bias. When a YEC stakes his entire worldview on a particular point of view, he will seek to bend the evidence into that line of thought. Not because he’s evil, but because he’s human. There’s a big difference between observing the overwhelming evidence, making a theory, and then testing it, vs. starting with a preconceived belief (without evidence to do so), and proceeding to string together lose bits of data to support it; even when the vast majority of the evidence supports anything but.

  169. Bob (#182): Actually, I think asking “Why” instead of “How” is going in the wrong direction (in terms of both difficulty & conflict). We will stumble very quickly into a discussion of theodicy – and after 2000 years of Christian discussion (and many more of Hebrew discussion), I’m not sure we are any closer to resolution on that than “Who has known the mind of God?”.
    Maybe a better starting question given the discussion here is “When”. And to that, the evidence for “The earth is really, really, really old” is just about as strong as “The earth is really, really, really round”. (Note I used the term evidence; “prove” is not a term that is normally appropriate in science – it is a tool of mathematics). That is why many of us are as exasperated with a young earth position (see RJS #174) as we are with a flat-earth position. The book RJS mentions is probably very good (I’ve read some of Young’s previous works & assume this will be just as strong). For an internet resource on radiometric dating (something at which doubt-grenades still get launched – see jonathan #173), I highly recommend Roger Wiens paper “Radiometric Dating: A Christian Perspective” at http://www.asa3.org/ASA/RESOURCES/WIENS.html .

  170. Bob,
    I’d much rather talk about why. And what – as in what is the gospel and what should we be doing as a result of the gospel.
    But as long as the how of creation is a big question – and a big stumbling block, I will continue to talk about how as well. If for nothing else – so that people can realize that there are many “christian” answers; they don’t need to work out all details; and can move on to considering the why and what questions.

  171. First of all, I’d like to apologize to RJS for being snitty. My “take my ball and go home attitude” was not appropriate or Christian-like. Second, a friend suggested that I should go ahead and continue in the conversation, so I’ll post a short review here today or tomorrow. But I thought first I should say that I’m sorry for my attitude in the last couple of posts.

  172. Jonathan,
    The argument got a bit testy on both sides. Thank you for coming back and doing so graciously. From the YEC and anti-evolutions I think the word “stupid” and “ignorant” are the red flags, and anything that suggests that others think of them that way. For the Christian evolutionists, the suggestion that you cannot truly be a Christian (or at least the “right sort of Christian”) if you believe in evolution are a red flag. So I think we need to avoid those assumptions in this discussion. The discussion is not about whether some Christians are being willfully ignorant by insisting on YEC or whether evolution is true. Those are separate discussions tearing up the blogosphere in many places and very few people are changing their minds on the basis of that rhetoric. The discussion here is IF evolution and and old earth were true, how does that change or not our theology. I recognize that you are trying to preserve the faith. RJS is trying to do the same thing. I am not sure how old you are but it is possible that you will change your mind about YEC, as many have done. If or when that happens RJS (and the rest of us who are Christians in spite of also believing in an old earth and evolution) would hope that you would see that there is an alternative way of thinking about these things and preserving God’s central message so that you don’t leave the faith – just go to a different room. BTW, RJS is a lot more orthodox than many of us. I am guessing that part of the reason she is having this discussion is that she wants to preserve not only the central message espoused in the creeds, but the majority of Reformed theology. Personally I think she should let some of that go 🙂

  173. #188
    I remember my room mate in Physics graduate school.
    Dutch and a proud Atheist — actually a really great room mate by the way!
    We would frequently have people visiting our campus arguing a vast array of topics.
    I remember distinctly a fellow coming in and arguing he had built a perpetual motion machine.
    My room mate had a great time arguing with him. He was upset and arguing — but, you know, that guy was good for my room mate. As he would retell the story, you could see him ironing out his own understanding of the topic.
    One way humans learn is by contrast.
    If everybody thought exactly the same thing, well, I believe we would be learning a whole lot less.
    Can you imagine the amount of effort and time put by those in the evolutionary camp trying to explain and make understable their position? Equally, on the other side?
    Of course, this can also lead to intellectual cul de sacs, but it also can lead to teaching super highways.

  174. A short review of Nature’s Witness:
    * liked the terminology of “involvement” over “intervention”
    * liked the treatment of randomness/indeterminancy with regards to God’s overall plan.
    * does not seem to understand how a materialist view of the world actually negates the reality of choice
    * does not understand that the “precision” of materialist science only works when the events under discussion are themselves materialist. If God has involved Himself, then the results may be precise, but completely wrong.
    * does not understand the different types of scientific inquiries and their varying epistemological import – i.e. as has been noted by Mayr, the Baconian scientific method does not apply to evolutionary biology, so one instead has to use a “historical narrative” approach
    * does not seem to notice that normal historical interpretation are almost always grounded in historical accounts, while evolutionary reconstruction is done entirely on circumstantial evidence (the Creation model, on the other hand, rightly or wrongly, uses the Biblical historical account to guide the interpretation of circumstantial evidence)
    * puts way too much emphasis on the Natural Selection theory of evolution, which is only one of many (others include symbiogenesis, structuralism, biological self-organization, and of course Intelligent Design :] ).
    Harrell has wrestled theologically with integrating natural selection into his theology. What happens when science moves in a different direction (which the Altenberg conference seems to be pushing toward)? Will he stick by natural selection or will he change with the prevailing winds?
    Perhaps instead God has given us Scripture so that we wouldn’t be blown about in the wind of man’s changing opinions.

  175. #190
    Which is basically why I would argue that you should not take Genesis as a scientific description at all — young or old Earth.
    By taking a young Earth position you have done nothing different than a person taking an old Earth position.
    That brings to mind something I really do not know — when did Christians first start trying to put a definite time on the Creation?
    Not talking geneaologies because that was not the purpose of them!

  176. As a member of Park Street Church years ago, I’m disappointed by the reviews of the current pastor’s book. From what people are saying, the author seems very impressed by the precision of science. What is the precision of psychology, please? Some people try to say that psychology is not really science but it’s included in science departments everywhere.
    The problem is that when people say “science” they think of physics. But that is only one small part of science. There is much, much more that is generally recognized as science but does not have the precision or prestige of physics.
    What is the precision of evolutionary biology? There should be an uncertainty specified with every generalization. Otherwise it’s dogmatism. The uncertainty of Darwinism is very high but that is not mentioned. So much for science and precision.

  177. Genesis is not a science book. Per creation it tells “Who” did it; not how. Its writer(s)were pre-scientific. Why do we Western Christians think we have to know all the details of that which is by nature mysterious? Accept that God is creator and leave it at that. If he set evolution in motion then okay. If he didn’t, then okay. Who cares? We’re here, aren’t we? Enjoy the mystery.

  178. So this is what happens when non-scientists write as if they are. “Evidence” of an “old earth”, etc. Either you didn’t do your homework on these ‘sources’ or you don’t care to intelligently engage the dialog. Yeah – DIALOG!
    How come y’all never post the “evidence” for a young earth or quote the very-NON-Christian scientists who think Evolution, as you’re using it even in this post, is ridiculous (cf. most of the neuro-scientists who, although required to use evolutionary titles for various parts of the brain, by-and-large do NOT subscribe to Evolution because, to quote one, “You canNOT be a neurologist and believe in Evolution.” (emphasis from original professor)
    I would encourage you to reconsider whether the motive for your pro-Evolution stance is that you’re afraid to look stupid by Evolutionists (instead of thinking of this as “theology”). Or perhaps in your desire to be _not irrelevant_, you jumped into the current culture-at-hand but without much critical assessment.
    Writing (I presume) on behalf of us equally legitimate scientists who find theologians even more ridiculous when they ‘talk science,’