Saturday, May 29, 2004
* Award-winning student athlete (a baseball player) suspended for four days because school officials saw an 8-inch bat (a "weapon"!) that had broken off of his baseball trophy lying in his locked car. . . .
* Honors student, in a fund-raiser, pays for the opportunity to possibly "pie [his] favorite (or least favorite) teacher or principal in the face." He wins. The moment the 110-pound student pies the principal with the pie she handed to him, she has him charged with assault and suspended for 80 days because she believes he used "too much force." [Hmmm! "Too much force" obviously could be a problem. But as one commentator at zerointelligence.net says (do a search for the May 21, 2004 story titled "Sour Pies"), "Since she supplied the weapon and instructed Blake to strike her with it, isn't she an accessory in her own assault?"]
* Another honor-roll student used her mom's car to drive to school (her own had broken down). At some point during the day, a trained dog sniffed something wrong in the car. Amanda Conroy was called out of class and asked to open the car. Police found a stun gun inside. "Bob Conroy said his daughter's punishment increased throughout the day as he talked to an assistant principal, the principal and then an assistant superintendent: from a five-day suspension with no prom, to a 10-day suspension with no graduation ceremony, to expelled from school and no diploma." The school district's assistant superintendent said things would go better for Amanda if Mr. Conroy would keep attorneys and the media out of the issue. Mr. Conroy decided to follow his own route. Amanda was, eventually, permitted to go to her prom and graduate, though she had to finish her year in an "alternative" school. . . .
In following through on these stories (looking for other sources), I'm astonished at all the crazy/stupid stories one can find about the public schools, all gathered in one place.
Check out http://www.zerointelligence.net/.
But I thought the article at Ethics Scoreboard was particularly insightful. It helped me understand why "zero tolerance" policies were established in the first place . . . and why they are so completely unethical.
Friday, May 21, 2004
Sarita and I had the opportunity to take a vacation in late January/early February. We went to Thailand and spent a week on this gorgeous boat--the Star Flyer.
Ah, yes! Here we are onboard with Celine, the parrot. If you look closely, on my right shoulder you'll see the remainder of my gorgeous sunglasses strap that Celine destroyed. I thought she was being friendly when she hopped on my shoulder and began nibbling at my ear. Moments later I discovered she had chopped the band that held my glasses!
Thursday, May 13, 2004
[I]n the first module, [Dr. Wile] makes a point of saying that all the great scientists of the Dark Ages were devout Christians and that the Christian worldviewMy correspondent thought Dr. Wile is overstating his case.
. . .is "a perfect fit with science, and the establishment of that worldview was essential for starting scientific progress again."
I found it rather interesting that she happened to use this particular illustration, because I "just" happen to have read recently a book that addresses this very point.
Dr. Rodney Stark, Professor of Sociology and Comparative Religion at the University of Washington, addresses the issue of the religious roots of modern science in chapter 2 of his book, FOR THE GLORY OF GOD: How Monotheism Led to Reformations, Science, Witch-Hunts, and the End of Slavery (Princeton University Press, 2003). Stark argues, 1) that "science arose only once in history--in medieval Europe"; and, 2) that "science could only arise in a culture dominated by belief in a conscious, rational, all-powerful Creator." (See p. 197 in his book.)
I should note his definition of "science":
Science is a method utilized in organized efforts to formulate explanations of nature, always subject to modifications and corrections through systematic observations.And so, Stark concludes,
Put another way, science consists of two components: theory and research. Theorizing is the explanatory part of science. Scientific theories are abstract statements about why and how some portion of nature (including human social life) fits together and works. However, not all abstract statements, not even all of those offering explanations, qualify as scientific theories; otherwise, theology would be a science. Rather, abstract statements are scientific only if it is possible to deduce from them some definite predictions and prohibitions about what will be observed.
And that’s where research comes in. It consists of making those observations that are relevant to the empirical predictions and prohibitions. Clearly, then, science is limited to statements about natural and material reality--about things that are at least in principle observable.
. . .(124-125)
Consistent with the views of most contemporary historians as well as philosophers of science, this definition of science excludes all efforts through most of human history to explain and control the material world, even those not involving supernatural means. Most of these efforts can be excluded from the category of science because until recent times "technical progress--sometimes considerable--was mere empiricism," as Marc Bloch put it. That is, progress was the product of observation and of trial and error, but was lacking in explanations--in theorizing. This objection even applies to Nicolaus Copernicus (1473-1543), since his heliocentric conception of the solar system was merely a descriptive claim (almost all of it wrong). He had nothing useful to say about why planets remain in their orbits around the sun, or moons about the planets. Until Newton there was no scientific theory of the solar system.
. . .
[T]he earlier technical innovations of Greco-Roman times, of Islam, of imperial China, let along those achieved in prehistoric times, do not constitute science and are better described as lore, skills, wisdom, techniques, crafts, technologies, engineering, learning, or simply knowledge.
Thus, for example, even without telescopes the ancients excelled in astronomical observations. But until they were linked to testable theories, these observations remained merely "facts."
. . .(125)
As for the intellectual achievements of Greek or Eastern philosophers, their empiricism was quite atheoretical, and their theorizing was nonempirical. (126)
[I]t is the consensus among contemporary historians, philosophers, and sociologists of science that real science arose only once: in Europe. In this regard it is instructive that China, Islam, India, and ancient Greece and Rome had a highly developed alchemy. But only in Europe did alchemy develop into chemistry. By the same token, many societies developed elaborate systems of astrology, but only in Europe did astrology lead to astronomy. (126-127)I'm sorry (actually, I'm not sorry: it's a great book!), you'll have to read Stark's book to find the sociological reasons he believes "science could only arise in a culture dominated by belief in a conscious, rational, all-powerful Creator."
[NOTE: Stark's sociological arguments won't go so far as to prove that only evangelical Christianity could give rise to science. But his arguments are quite interesting when it comes to demonstrating the inescapably real influence of religious worldviews on the advance of science. It is possible, sociologically speaking, that modern science could have arisen from the midst of one of the other religious groups that believes in a conscious, rational, all-powerful Creator, Stark argues. It is sociologically inconceivable that such a way of dealing with the physical world would have arisen from the midst of a different religious milieu.]
I encourage you to get a copy of Dr. Stark's book to learn more not only about his unique sociological perspective on science, but concerning witch-hunts, slavery, and religious reformations as well. (By the way, when he speaks of religious reformations, he is not talking solely--or even primarily--about the so-called Protestant Reformation!). The historical data he brings and the sociological perspectives he provides are both quite eye-opening.
What impresses me in this book is not only its "defense" of the honor of the so-called Middle Ages, but its concomitant "attack" on the honor (as most of us think) of the so-called Enlightenment or Renaissance!
Pernoud attacks the Renaissance/Enlightenment and defends the Medieval period not only with respect to Medieval v. Renaissance art and architecture, but with respect to literature, law, serfdom v. slavery, the position of women in society, and religious v. political persecution. When it comes to all but the last comparison (i.e., all but the issue of persecution), she is very explicit: the real conflict, she suggests, is between Christian and Roman worldviews. And, she suggests, the Roman perspective is probably further from that which most moderns would want to embrace than is the Christian view.
To take the matter of the roles and/or position of womens in society as an example (please understand and forgive Ms. Pernoud’s focus on FRENCH society as the exemplar!):
[I]n feudal times the queen was crowned just like the king, . . . always by the hands of the archbishop of Reims.Pernoud has much more to say on this. I strongly encourage you to read her book! It is an eye-opener, to say the least.
. . .
In other words, as much importance was attributed to the crowning of the queen as to that of the king.
. . .It was only in the seventeenth century that the queen literally disappeared from the scene. . . .
[T]he place [women in general] held in society, the influence they exercised, followed an exactly parallel line. While women like Eleanor of Aquitaine and Blanch of Castile really dominated their century, while they unquestionably exercised power when the king was absent, sick, or dead, while they had their chancellery, their dower, their field of personal activity,
. . .the woman in classical times was relegated to the background; she exercised power only in a hidden way and found herself excluded from any political or administrative function. She was even considered, especially in Latin countries, as being incapable of ruling, or succeeding to a fiefdom or domain, and, finally, . . .of exercising any right whatsoever over her personal property. . . .
Her influence [during the post-medieval period] diminished in direct proportion to the rise of Roman law.
. . .It was a progressive obliteration, whose principal stages, in France at least, one can follow very easily. . . .
Roman law is no more favorable to the woman than it is to the child. It is a monarchical law, which allows only one single end. It is the law of the PATER FAMILIAS, father, proprietor, and, in his own home, high priest, the head of the family with
. . .unlimited power in what concerns his children: he has the right of life and death over them--it is the same for his wife, despite some limitations belatedly introduced during the Byzantine Empire. . . .
The influence of [Roman] law [became] so strong that in the sixteenth century the age of majority, which for the most part was twelve years for girls and fourteen for boys, was returned to the very age fixed in Rome, that is, twenty-five years (in Rome majority scarcely mattered, since the power of the father over his children remained effective all during his life). This was a clear regression from what had been customary, which permitted a child to acquire true autonomy when very young, without
. . .withdrawing him from the solidarity of the family. . . . [I]nthe case of a deceased couple without any direct heir, the property originating from the father went to the paternal family, but that originating from the mother returned to the maternal family. . . .
[But i]n the seventeenth century, already, we note a profound evolution of this point of view: children, considered as minors until twenty-five years old, remained under paternal power, and the character of ownership as the monopoly of the father became only more pronounced. The Napoleonic Code put the final touch to this system and gave an imperative sense to tendencies that had begun to assert themselves from the end of the medieval period. Let us recall that it was only in the twelfth century that women were obliged to take the name of their spouse; and also that it was only with the Council of Trent, thus in the second half of the sixteenth century, that the consent of parents became necessary for the marriage of children.
. . .(98-102)
"[Let us] recall here that some women
. . .enjoyed . . .an extraordinary power during the Middle Ages. Certain abbesses were feudal lords whose power was respected equally with that of other lords; some wore the cross just like a bishop; they often administered vast territories with villages, parishes . . .One example among thousands of others: in the middle of the twelfth century . . .the life of an abbess of that period included a whole administrative aspect: donations were accumulated that allowed, here, the collection of a tithe on a vineyard, there, the right to rent on hay or corn, here to have a barn, and there a right of pasture in the forest . . .Her activity was also that of an owner, indeed, of a lord. This is to say that, by their religious functions, certain women exercised, even in secular life, a power that many men would envy today.
On the other hand, one notes that the religious of that time
. . .were for the most part extremely well-educated women who could have rivaled the most learned monks of the time in their knowledge. Héloïse herself knew and taught Greek and Hebrew to her nuns. It was from an abbey of women . . .that a manuscript came in the tenth century containing six comedies in rhymed prose in imitation of Terence. . . .
[T]he best-known encyclopedia of the twelfth century came from a woman religious, the abbess Herrad of Landsberg. [From it] scholars draw the most reliable information about the state of technical knowledge of that time.
. . .
If one wants to get an exact idea of the place held by women in the Church in feudal times, one must wonder what would be said in our twentieth century of convents of men placed under authority of a woman.
. . .This was . . .achieved with great success and without providing the least scandal in the Church by Robert d'Arbrissel at Fontevrault, in the early part of the twelfth century. . . .Robert d'Arbrissel decided to found two convents, one for men and the other for women. . . .Now this double monastery was placed under the authority, not of an abbot, but of an abbess. . . .[And l]etus add . . .that the first abbess, Petronilla of Chemillé who presided over the fortunes of this order of Fontevrault, was twenty-two years old." (104-107)
Saturday, May 08, 2004
(Last updated 8 May 2004)
PrefaceOver the last few years, it appears that the vast majority of evangelical Christian homeschoolers--and certainly the majority of leaders in the evangelical Christian homeschool movement--have aligned themselves with a particular interpretation of Genesis 1-11. Specifically, they have aligned themselves with what is known as a Young-Earth creationist (YEC) perspective, a viewpoint preached by many, but, in homeschool circles at least, most notably and powerfully advanced by Ken Ham, the founder and president of Answers in Genesis (www.answersingenesis.org).
I wrote the following paper because, it seems, the move to a YEC perspective has been so strong that any Bible-believing Christian who dares publicly to raise serious questions about the YEC model risks social ostracism and possible official exclusion from homeschool groups or events on that ground alone.
I am dismayed by this apparent division in the Body of Christ. I am saddened by the chilling effect these attitudes and actions seem to portend for honest scholarly, intellectual, and, ultimately, Biblical study. I am grieved to think that some would seek publicly to deny the opportunity for fellow lovers of Christ to openly ask whether there may not be a better way accurately to interpret the Scriptures. And so I want to see whether I might help to heal the breach and reopen the opportunity for communication.
Clearly, our beliefs in this area of the age of the Earth can affect our exegesis of Scripture [exegesis has to do with explaining or interpreting something--especially a piece of literature (the Scriptures!--see 2 Peter 3:16)--that is complex or difficult]. They may affect our apologetics [apologetics has to do with answering critics of fundamental Christian beliefs]. They may affect our ability--for better or worse--to evangelize effectively. But, I believe, we evangelical Christians need to be careful that we do not permit the debate, like the “endless genealogies” in the time of Apostle Paul, to “promote controversies rather than God’s work” (I Timothy 1:3-4).
On the one hand, we must not teach false doctrines (I Timothy 1:3), but we must not promote controversies, either (I Timothy 1:4). I am afraid that the Old-Earth/Young-Earth debate may be at the point where some of the spokespeople are, indeed, promoting controversies rather than the work of God.
Since the majority of the evangelical Christian homeschool movement seems to be committed to the Young-Earth perspective; since, therefore, it is the advocates of an Old-Earth perspective who are most likely to be shoved out the door; since I am concerned, as St. John Chrysostom was, that the Body of Christ would show “[i]n essentials, unity; in non-essentials, charity; [and] in all things, Jesus Christ”; since I try to speak to a large and diverse group of people who, I know, believe differently one from the other in this area; since, moreover, I am committed to teach from an international, Christian, missions-minded perspective: my purpose here is to try to help kindly-disposed Young-Earth creationists to understand how and why someone who is truly concerned to uphold the Scriptures might come to believe a bit differently--or even very differently--from what Young-Earth creationists teach.
My purpose is not to advocate for an Old-Earth view. I am not interested in “converting” anyone to such a view. I am, myself, not convinced that any Old-Earther “has it right.”
But I think the subject ought to be discussed. I think the evidence ought to be addressed. There ought to be a few people in the homeschooling marketplace who are willing to stand up and say that Old-Earth creationism (OECism) is not the same as atheism, heresy, or, as the people at Answers in Genesis suggest, a reliance upon the wisdom of man in opposition to the perfect Word of God. Adoption of an Old-Earth perspective is not, in itself, a sure sign that a person has abandoned his or her faith in or desire to ingest the “pure milk of the Word.”
Before I get to the body of the paper, I would like to address those for whom the entire Old-Earth/Young-Earth debate seems foolish.
I have quite a number of people ask me, “Why does it even matter? Who cares? What difference does it make? This whole debate is so
So let me begin by attempting to answer those questions.
Why is the Age of the Earth Such a Big Deal to Many Christians?Many Christians suggest that the Young-Earth/Old-Earth debate is of vital importance not only or merely because there is a vast difference between 6,000 to 10,000 years on the one hand, and 5-billion-plus years on the other. But, they say, this debate is important because of a syllogism, a logical and appropriate progression of thought:
a. Either God did things as the Bible says He did them, or He did things differently.By these logical steps, beginning from a “scientific” inability to believe that the Scriptures are trustworthy, many people who once committed themselves to love, honor, and obey the Lord Jesus Christ have been led in their adult years to abandon their Lord and Savior.
b. If God did things differently than what the Bible tells us, then the Bible lies and/or isn't God's word.
c. If the Bible lies and/or isn't God's word, then it isn't worthy of our trust.
d. If the Bible isn't worthy of our trust, then Christianity isn't worthy of our trust, either.
The point: if we can't trust the Biblical account of creation, then we have no reason to trust the Bible as God's authoritative word at any other point, either.
Let me say: I am in full agreement with this point of view. I agree with those who say that if we shrink from defending the truth of Genesis 1-11, we cut very close to--if not completely through--the heart of the Gospel message itself.
The Apostle Paul says that “as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men
Genesis 1-11 forces a question upon us: was there, or was there not, a first Adam, so that Jesus Christ can be a contrasting second? Or consider Noah: was he a real person whose faith we are to emulate (see, for example, Hebrews 11:7)? Or was he a mythic figure whose exploits we can (and ought) to safely ignore?
I am, as I have said, committed to the Bible as the very Word of God, a Book that teaches true history.
I believe, however, that a correct interpretation of Genesis 1-11 is extremely difficult--perhaps more difficult than the interpretation of almost any other section of Scripture.
And herein lies a problem.
Many brothers and sisters in Christ believe that a scientifically well-informed person can--and ought--to believe the Scriptures for what they seem to say on their surface (or, as some would prefer: "according to the words' grammatical-historical meaning"). Moreover, they find it offensive if someone even suggests that their reading may be problematic. They say--or at least strongly imply--that to question their interpretation of Scripture (their obvious or inescapable interpretation!) is to question the very Word of God.
I beg to differ.
While such questioning surely challenges interpretations of Scripture, it need not indicate or lead to a skeptical view of the Scriptures themselves.
The Plain Teaching of Scripture?Many Young-Earth creationists claim that the Bible is “clear” about the “fact” that the Earth is 6,000- to 10,000-years old. They follow the methods of Irish Archbishop James Ussher (1581-1656) who attempted to work out a chronology for ancient world history based solely on the date clues found in the Bible. When he was done, he concluded that Adam and Eve were created in 4004 BC (on Sunday, 24 October 4004 BC, to be exact).
While most Young-Earthers are willing to concede that Ussher almost assuredly did not hit the date of creation “on the nose,” they wish to limit the age of the Earth and the creation of Adam to no earlier than 10,000 years ago at the very most.
Having said this, however, we immediately come upon a problem. While the Bible itself, as we believe, is without error in its original manuscripts, 1) we no longer possess those manuscripts, and, 2) far more importantly (because we believe that God has preserved His Word against substantive corruption), we are not God; therefore, we do not have an automatic understanding of what those manuscripts really meant--what they were intended to communicate.
Problems of InterpretationAnyone who has engaged in any type of serious translation work--especially a translation between widely divergent cultures--can understand the difficulties of the task. In case you are not aware of the kinds of difficulties cultural differences may create, let me illustrate.
A Bible translator was working with a tribal group in southeast Asia. The translator, as all good translators do, would regularly read his work to a group of informants to see if they understood his translation and to ensure that what he had written was conveying accurately to them what he thought the original text meant.
The translator had come to Luke 13:32 where Jesus is said to have referred to Herod as a “fox.” As he read his translation of Luke 13:32, the men who were listening burst forth with laughter. And not just a little laughter. Some of the men were holding their bellies as they rolled around on the ground.
“ ‘Herod, that fox’ is a funny turn of phrase” the Bible translator thought to himself, “but it is not that funny! I wonder why these men are laughing so hard?” --So he asked them: “Why are you laughing?”
One of the men was able to control himself long enough to choke out a reply: “If a man is a ‘fox,’” he said, “it means”--and here the informant spoke in a high falsetto--”he speaks with a high voice.” And the implications of a man speaking with a high voice? Why, he is effeminate!
“No! No!” the missionary protested. “Jesus didn’t mean that! He was saying Herod was sly, crafty, deceitful.”
“Oh!” the men replied. “Well, in that case, then, you need to say ‘that mountain lion’! Herod was a mountain lion.”
Ah. Exactly. Just so.
My point is simply this. People around the world often use linguistically identical words to achieve very different purposes. Clearly, Herod was neither a mountain lion nor a fox. But in one culture he could be characterized as the one animal, and in the other culture he could be characterized as the other. Was Jesus lying when he referred to Herod as “that fox”? Was he seeking to mislead those of us who are alive today by using this figure of speech? My conviction: no, on both counts.
But similar problems in translation and interpretation occur in many areas that we, in our culture, think ought to be crystal clear and beyond misunderstanding.
The fact is, the same words in different languages really and legitimately may have completely different meanings. No one is “lying.” No one need charge the other with “misleading.” But we must, in one way or another, address the fact that a person who is a fox in one culture and language is a mountain lion in another.
When it comes to dates and ages and chronologies, we must address the facts that, for example, a baby that has just passed through the birth canal may be zero years old (literally speaking) in one culture and a full year old (literally speaking) in another. And a baby born one day in one culture (on “New Year’s Eve”) may be two years old the very next day! (In China a baby is one year old on the day of his or her birth. S/he advances a year in age at each New Year. (All the babies born during a particular year are the same age.) So a baby in China born on New Year’s Eve will be two years old the very next day, while your baby, born on New Year’s Eve will have 364 days to go before s/he is even one!)
My purpose, here, is to illustrate the truth--well recognized by cross-cultural missionary Bible translators; not so well-known by others--that translation and interpretation is not a “simple” or “mechanically accurate” function. It takes real skill, and knowledge, and insight, and research. And sometimes we just don’t know.
Evangelical Bible scholar Roland K. Harrison once wrote:
It would seem evident that while the numbers assigned to the ages of the patriarchs in Genesis had real meaning for those who were responsible for their preservation in the first instance, they cannot be employed in a purely literal sense as a means of computing the length of the various generations mentioned in the text.1And those of us who are attracted or committed to a Young-Earth or “traditional” (Western!) interpretation of the Bible, may want to say: “The man is simply trying to cover his own disbelief. He is saying what he is because he has some preconceived notion (evolutionism!) and he wants us to think he still believes in the Bible, even though, obviously, he does not.”
I ask you to be careful before you make such a charge against your brother in the Lord. Can you be sure you are correct?
I first read Harrison’s comment years ago when I was a student in seminary. Just recently (in 2002), I came across a book by Jacob A. Loewen, a missionary and Bible translator. Loewen tells a story that touches on the same issue we’re discussing here. He isn’t talking about the age of the Earth. He’s talking about translations and culture.
When we look at the Bible “through the eyes of our own culture” only, he says, we miss a goodly portion of the Bible’s message.
Africans, for example, have great interest in the genealogies of the Bible, and find them significant. I first noticed this when I observed committees of African translators working on the Gospel According to Matthew, with its genealogy of Jesus’ ancestry. Matthew lists fourteen generations from Abraham to David, another fourteen from David to the exile in Babylon, and a final fourteen to the birth of Jesus (Mt 1:1-17).Does the Africans’ interpretive scheme make no sense? Are you willing to charge them with some kind of ungodly prejudice that leads them to interpret the Biblical genealogies in such a way that they can “force” an Old-Earth interpretation on an obviously Young-Earth Bible? I hope not!
When one group of African translators read the three sets of fourteen generations listed there, they held a long discussion, speculating about why the people in the Bible remembered only fourteen generations, when African people like themselves remembered sixteen. Did that imply inferior memories, or what?[Comment by John Holzmann: Notice how the Africans’ cultural assumptions affected their interpretation! Notice how they placed great emphasis on a feature of the text that we will barely notice. Moreover, they interpreted this feature in a “scientific” (or medical/biological) manner. They assumed the number implied something about the mental capacities of Jews!I was intrigued because for me biblical genealogies were totally uninteresting and of no significance. “What do you do when you reach the seventeenth generation?” I asked.
. . .But back to the story.]
“Oh,” they said, “we consider sixteen to be the maximum that a non-literate person can remember, so when the seventeenth king dies, the elders of the tribe review the sixteen. If one of them is not considered important, but the king who has just died accomplished a great deal, they eliminate the unimportant one from the genealogy and add the deceased king. If the recent king is not very important, they don’t count him.”[Comment by John Holzmann: Notice how the Africans’ culture is at work! They are asking completely different questions about the genealogies than we do! Moreover, the fact that each set of names includes “only” fourteen generations causes them no difficulties at all. They don’t ask “why” each set includes that many names--a question that we in the West are prone to ask. They assume the answer. They “know” it: “Fourteen is all the names that people in that culture can memorize.” And rather than asking whether these lists are “accurate” or not, or “complete” or not, they innately recognize that certain names have been left off: “No big deal!”
. . .But to us in the West it is a big deal! Everyone is important. Completeness and accuracy is important. We may be bored to tears when we have to read the genealogies of the Bible; we may avoid them as much as possible; but we are pleased to know that they exist and that Biblical scholars can puzzle their way through and use such lists to calculate (what we hope is) an accurate age of the Earth. . . . ]2
I have no idea what the Africans’ ideas may be about the age of the Earth. Mr. Loewen never tells us. As I said above, his concern, and the concern of the African translators, had nothing to do with how old the Earth is.
My point is simply this: that what many Young-Earth advocates believe is an “obvious” interpretation of Scripture may be wrong. While it is clearly “obvious” to them, it is not so obvious to others! Indeed, some very different interpretations are “obvious” to others (note the Africans’ interpretation), and the difference in perspective has absolutely nothing to do with an aversion to a Young-Earth view. While some of those for whom a Young-Earth perspective is non-obvious may be Old-Earth creationists, there are others for whom it is non-obvious who hold no “scientific” prejudices against the Young-Earthers’ perspective in the least.
In sum: while the YECs’ over-all schema concerning the age of the Earth may be correct, it is possible that they are wrong. And we ought not to assume that those who question their interpretations are anti-Bible. Moreover, we cannot simply decide to trust one interpretation of Scripture (say, the Young-Earth creationists’) and say, “They are right, and whoever comes to a different conclusion is a scoffer and an infidel!”
Does It Make Sense for Us to At Least Look at Scientific Data when Interpreting Scripture?Martin Luther, we are told, once wrote, "This fool Copernicus wishes to reverse the entire science of astronomy [by claiming that the Earth spins on its axis and that the Earth revolves around the Sun]; but sacred Scripture tells us that Joshua commanded the sun to stand still and not the earth." 3 [Luther is referencing Joshua 10:12-13 where “Joshua said to the LORD in the presence of Israel: ‘O sun, stand still over Gibeon, O moon, over the Valley of Aijalon.’ So the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, till the nation avenged itself on its enemies.”]
Most Christians--even most leaders in the Young-Earth creationist movement--no longer read verses like Joshua 10:12-13 the way Martin Luther seems to have read it. Indeed, our brothers and sisters at Answers in Genesis say that those who think they see geocentrism taught in the Scriptures are reading it into the text rather than finding it there to begin with.
[Note: Geocentrism is the idea that the Earth is fixed--stationary--at the center of the universe. The Sun, Moon, stars, and all the planets revolve around it. Besides Joshua 10, geocentrists will also point to such Scriptures as Psalm 93:1 in the King James Version as evidence for their viewpoint: “the world also is stablished, that it cannot be moved.” The alternative theories to geocentrism are Copernicus’ heliocentrism (in which the Earth and all the planets revolve around the Sun) or geokineticism (which simply means that the Earth moves).]Russell Grigg, for example, notes in his essay, “Joshua’s Long Day” (found on 9 September 2002 at the AIG website: http://www.answersingenesis.org/docs/243.asp), that Joshua 10:12-13 “uses the language of appearance and observation”--i.e., describes the apparent movement of the Sun from the perspective of an Earth-bound observer rather than from the beyond-this-world perspective of God.
Or as Danny Faulkner writes in the introduction to his essay “Geocentrism and Creation” (found on 9 September 2002 at http://www.answersingenesis.org/home/area/magazines/tj/docs/TJv15n2Geocentrism.asp), “[T]he Bible is neither geocentric nor heliocentric.”
That’s what these Young-Earth creationists say. But how do they know these things? On the basis of Scripture? Or on the basis of science (i.e., “man’s fallen wisdom”) being brought to bear upon Scripture?
As you read his article, Dr. Faulkner’s arguments sound reasonable and convincing. Indeed, I think he is “right on.”
But try using these arguments with members and supporters of The Biblical Astronomer (TBA; formerly the Association for Biblical Astronomy)! Listen to what those brothers and sisters have to say. Their arguments against Copernicanism and against “compromisers” and “Biblioskeptics” like Dr. Faulkner sound remarkably like the arguments I have heard many [non-geocentric] Young-Earth creationists use against their Old-Earth brethren.
Anyone who suggests the Earth is not at rest in the center of the universe, say TBA supporters, has abandoned the clear teaching of God’s Word. Indeed, they say,
the Bible’s authority is weakened by [any other view];To suggest that the Bible does not teach geocentrism is tantamount to saying that human science is superior to God’s Word, say the TBAers. While “everyone since Adam can understand that Isaiah 55:12 is a literary device [Isaiah 55:12 speaks of the trees “clapping their hands”],
. . .the Bible teaches geocentricity. Geocentric verses range from those with only a positional import, such as references to “up” and “down”; through the question of just what the earth was “orbiting” the first three days while it awaited the creation of the sun; to overt references such as Ecclesiastes 1, verse 5:
The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to his place where he arose.Perhaps the strongest geocentric verse in the Bible is Joshua 10:13:
And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies. Is not this written in the book of Jasher? So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and hasted not to go down about a whole day.Here the Moderator of Scripture, the Holy Ghost Himself, endorses the daily movement of the sun and moon. After all, God could just as well have written: “And the earth stopped turning, so that the sun appeared to stand still, and the moon seemed to stay.
. . .”
[Unless otherwise noted, the above and future quotations from TBA sources are from “Why Geocentricity,” an essay found at http://www.geocentricity.com/whygeocentricity.htm on 9 September 2002.]
Indeed, the Church’s entire modern slide away from faith is directly traceable to the seed sown by faithless (or, at least, misdirected!) men like Copernicus:
[E]ither God writes what he means and means what he writes, or else he passes off mere appearances as truths and ends up the liar. The ultimate issue is one of final authority: is the final say God’s or man’s? This is brought home again and again by humanists, such as the twentieth-century philosopher Bertrand Russell and astronomer Ivan King, who point to the church’s abandonment of geocentricity as having “freed” man from the ancient God-centered outlook on life to the modern man-centered outlook.To summarize the geocentrists’ position in the most succinct manner possible:
. . .
The Copernican Revolution, as this change of view is called, was not just a revolution in astronomy, but it also spread into politics and theology. In particular, it set the stage for the development of Bible criticism. After all, if God cannot be taken literally when He writes of the “rising of the sun,” then how can He be taken literally in writing of the “rising of the Son”?
[T]he reason why we deem a return to a geocentric astronomy a first apologetic necessity is that its rejection at the beginning of our Modern Age constitutes one very important, if not the most important, cause of the historical development of Bible criticism, now resulting in an increasingly anti-Christian world in which atheistic existentialism is preaching a life that is really meaningless.If you are familiar with the kinds of arguments that the good people at Answers in Genesis use, you will recognize some powerful parallels here. Indeed, internally, I find the TBA presentation quite a bit more attractive, on its surface, than I do those who would suggest, as Dr. Faulkner does, that the Bible is “neither geocentric nor heliocentric.”
To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them. -- Isaiah 8:20
[Found on 9 September 2002 at http://www.geocentricity.com/credo.htm.]
To reference the TBA author once more: how could any ordinary Christian have interpreted the Bible in the manner Dr. Faulkner suggests
[Please understand: I use this “setting science above Scripture” phrase only to illustrate a point. I have heard this exact phrase used as a pejorative to cast Old-Earth creationists in a negative light, indeed, to suggest that people who hold such views obviously twist Scripture to evil purposes
I find the geocentrists’ historical references to Biblical criticism and atheistic existentialism equally cunning. What self-respecting conservative Christian would ever want to be associated with any such things?
But we must dig below the surface. Are the geocentrists’ charges valid? Just because they sound good, does that make them good?
I ask these questions because it is this kind of behavior I find too many homeschoolers engaging in as they listen to the Young-Earth creationists. When YEC speakers brand Old-Earth creationists as unbiblical, and when they associate OECs’ positions with those held by people of unsavory character, far too many homeschoolers are ready to accept the YEC speakers’ statements as “gospel,” without evaluating carefully whether they are even valid.
[To take the matter of “setting science above Scripture”: let me note that I believe God gave us our minds and enabled human beings to develop the scientific method in order to acquire wisdom and to gain knowledge--true wisdom and true knowledge. I believe it is legitimate to seek to know more today than people knew yesterday or two thousand years ago. And I believe God intends for us to use that wisdom and knowledge in the service of His Word. He desires us to bend all our energies--not only of our spirits, but of our minds and bodies as well--to obeying His commands (see Mark 12:30).Young-Earth creationists say that their Old-Earth brethren are "compromisers" when they want to (re-)interpret Genesis 1-11 with the aid of their understanding of modern science.
Therefore, I believe, not only is it a grave injustice to those dedicated brothers and sisters who are engaged in scientific research, but it is a grave mistake for any of us to suggest that we cannot, or ought not, to use science to help us interpret the Scriptures or to do the work of God.
Yes, of course our science must be submitted to the Scriptures. But our interpretations of Scripture, too, ought to be moderated by our scientific understanding. Our understanding of science and our understanding of Scripture, I believe, ought to work together in a virtuous cycle of interactive and mutual correction.
. . .
Scripture, in that sense, is made to submit to science. But science, too, is forced to submit to Scripture. Scripture, ultimately, must have the last word. But when do we know we have made it to the end? When do we, as limited, fallible human beings, know that we have fully and accurately comprehended what the Word of God is saying? --I think we will never arrive at that destination until we stand before God face to face. Until that day, we will continue to “see in a mirror, dimly” (1 Corinthians 13:12). And for as long as that remains true, we ought to conduct ourselves with appropriate humility and grace
. . .before both God and man.]
I believe the Old-Earth creationists would have every bit as much right, if they wanted, to say that they are no more "compromising" than their Young-Earth creationist brethren who are not also geocentrists. “On what grounds are you willing to reject the ‘obvious’ meaning of the Scripture passages that ‘teach’ geocentrism?” the Old-Earthers might ask. “If it is modern science that has led you to reject a literal interpretation of those numerous portions of Scripture that ‘obviously’ teach geocentrism, why are you unwilling to permit the same science to lead you to at least consider alternative (i.e., in this case, Old-Earth) interpretations of Genesis 1-11 without branding them as unScriptural?”
And so the arguments go.
But my point is not to mock Young-Earthers, geocentrists, or Old-Earthers. My point is to appeal to members of each one of these communities to beware of their tone, to avoid mockery, and to carefully evaluate the legitimacy of the “arguments” they use to bolster their cases. In this particular paper, I want to ask Young-Earthers, especially--because I am a member of the homeschool community and because, in the homeschool community, they are in the majority and are positioned to squelch all presentations coming from other directions: I want to appeal to you, especially, to be careful to “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”; use only those kinds of arguments against others’ positions that you believe, in your heart, you would want them to use against yours. If you believe that such an “argument” would be invalid if used against you: see if that same argument is truly valid when used against those you perceive as your opponents. If not, then do the right thing: discard it for the sake of honesty, integrity, and the honor of Jesus’ Name.
Clearly, Christian preachers in the past have used their interpretations of the Bible to oppose and mock other viewpoints, other interpretations--viewpoints and interpretations that almost everyone, Young-Earth creationist and Old-Earth creationist alike, now believes are not only good science, but wholly in line with acceptable and, indeed, the best Biblical methods of interpretation.4
Alan Hayward, a British physicist who is concerned about the relationship between science and Scripture, concludes his comments about interpretive differences with these words:
It is only too easy for us, with the benefit of hindsight, to say, “Luther and Co. ought to have been more humble. They should have said, ‘We think our interpretation is correct, but we admit that other interpretations are possible. Maybe those Scriptures do not intend to describe things as they really are [i.e., from God’s omniscient (all-knowing) perspective. --JAH], but only as they appear to be from our viewpoint.’ ”My conclusion? I believe we need to keep our hearts and minds open to the possibility that what we read “on the surface” of a passage (controlled by our 21st century Western cultural viewpoint) may not be correct. A phrase that we, in our “simple” and “obvious” reading, may want to interpret as loaded with scientific import, may actually have little scientific importance at all. While we may wish to say, “See! The Bible tells us that the Sun stood still (implying that it is the Sun that normally moves and not the Earth!),” it is possible, upon further observation, and deeper study; it is possible that we will discover what we inferred from the passage, what we were sure was accurate based on our interpretation of the words: it is possible that we will discover we were wrong.
But the fact is that their kind of behaviour has been very common among enthusiastic believers of all ages. If we had been in his shoes, many of us would probably have fallen into the same trap as Luther and thumped our Bibles as we denounced Copernicus.5
Are you willing to acknowledge such a possibility? I hope so!
What Biblical Evidence is There for an Old Earth (or an Old Universe)?Once more: please remember my purpose here. I am not trying to convince anyone that the Earth is older than 6,000 to 10,000 years old. I am merely trying to present some compelling arguments that would move my brothers and sisters who are committed to Young-Earth creationism to grant mercy to my brothers and sisters who believe differently on this matter of the age of the Earth.
Let me begin my presentation about Biblical evidence by referencing an article called “Morning has broken
I use Mr. Grigg’s article partially because I believe it is instructive about our need for humility in dealing with people with whom we disagree. We can be absolutely convinced of the things we believe, but we need to hold some glimmer of open-mindedness to hear another perspective. We need to listen. And we need to speak with grace and humility.
If we have studied a matter in depth, we ought to feel no compunction to pretend that we have not done our studies. But we must also admit that we haven’t necessarily comprehended (our minds probably haven’t fully encompassed) absolute Truth!
With that as background, let us look, briefly, at Mr. Grigg’s article.
Morning has broken It seems to me that the crux of Mr. Grigg’s argument is to be found at the point where he says:
. . . but when?
The phrase ‘heaven(s) and earth’He says, “The phrase ‘heaven(s) and earth’ in Genesis 1:1 is an example of a Hebrew figure of speech called a merism, in which two opposites are combined into an all-encompassing single concept”--in this case, then, “the totality of creation--the universe.”
. . .[t]hroughout the Bible . . .means the totality of creation, not just the Earth and its atmosphere, [n]or our solar system alone. . . .
One of the words in this Hebrew figure of speech is the plural noun shamayim, which signifies the ‘upper regions’ and may be rendered ‘heaven’ or ‘heavens’, depending on the context. The essential meaning is everything in creation apart from the Earth. The word translated ‘the earth’ is erets, and here refers to the planet on which we now live. [Emboldened emphasis added.]
If I’m reading him correctly, it sounds as if Mr. Grigg is quite sure and wants us to believe, along with him, that wherever in Scripture we find the phrase “hashamayim [the heaven(s)] v’ [and] haerets [the earth],” it always “means the totality of creation, not just the Earth and its atmosphere, [n]or our solar system alone.”
Would you agree?
Whether you do or you don’t, I would like you to consider the significance of Genesis 1:6-8.6
When we read (in Genesis 1:6 and 7) that God created an “expanse” (or “firmament”) “in the midst of the waters”; that He then separated the waters so that some of the waters were below and others above the “expanse”; and when we read that God Himself called this “expanse” shamayim: I have to ask: Does this sound like the shamayim that we know of as “the solar system,” “outer space,” or (even) “the universe” (apart from the Earth)?
I guess it is possible that God may have been referring to outer space and the universe when He spoke of this “expanse”/shamayim, but it’s not the kind of thought that hits me when I read the passage. Indeed, from my youth, I have always thought that the “waters above” the “expanse”/shamayim were the clouds that we see in the sky--the kinds of clouds that can rain dihydrogen oxide (ordinary rain water) upon us.
I read Genesis 1:20 and find my youthful interpretation strengthened when I find that the birds fly “above haerets across the ‘expanse’ of hashamayim.” I don’t know of any birds that fly in outer space.
Mr. Grigg says, “The Bible [in Exodus 20:11, where it refers to ‘the heavens, the earth, the sea, and all that is in them’] unequivocally states that everything in the universe was created within a time period of six days
Again, he is so absolute in his claims, so uncompromising, so sure of himself and of his interpretive capabilities: “The Bible
Before I refer you to a couple of passages that seem clearly to tell us that some things were created before “the heavens, the earth, the sea, and all that is in them,” let me note that, in context, and when thinking of what things God placed in “the heavens” (birds--Genesis 1:20-21), “the earth” (vegetation, animals, and human beings--Genesis 1:11-12 and 24-27), and “the sea” (fish and other swimming creatures--Genesis 1:20-21), it makes a lot more sense to me to think that what is primarily in view in Genesis 1 and 2 is not “the universe,” but is the earthly biosphere.
If you would care to disagree with me, that is fine, and I would be happy to hear your arguments. But my point, again, is to show that the evidence to which Mr. Grigg refers is not quite as open-and-shut as he wants us to believe. It is not “unequivocal” that Genesis 1 and 2 refer to “everything in the universe.”
I said I believe there are a few Scriptures that seem clearly to show Mr. Grigg is wrong when he says that “nothing was created before these six days.” Let us turn to them now.
- What do you make of Proverbs 8:22-31? --Doesn’t it suggest that something existed--indeed, was “brought forth as the first of [God’s] works”--before the Earth and the heavens were made?
- What of Job 38:7? According to Mr. Grigg’s interpretation of Genesis 1, when do the morning stars and angels get created so they can be singing together and shouting for joy when God laid the earth’s foundation, set its footings, and laid its cornerstone?
- What of John 1:3 where it talks about the creation of “all things”? Mr. Grigg suggests that “Hebrew has no word for ‘the universe’ and can at best say ‘the all.’” --Okay. So why doesn’t Genesis 1 say “the all”? John 1:3 refers to “the all.” Why doesn’t Genesis?
Here’s one that may not be quite as directly fruitful:
- Why are there all kinds of references elsewhere in Scripture (i.e., outside of Genesis 1) to God laying the foundation of the Earth and stretching out the heavens, but there is absolutely no discussion of these activities in Genesis 1? Is Genesis 1 really the story of the entire creation of all the universe? Or is it a description primarily--indeed, almost entirely--of the creation and organization of the Earthly biosphere (as Gorman Gray suggests in his The Age of the Universe: What are the Biblical Limits?7)? (Check out Isaiah 40:21, 48:13, 51:13 and 51:16 for just a few references to the “founding” and “stretching” activity of God.)
- Psalm 102:25 says the foundations of the earth were laid “of old.” Elsewhere we read that the heavens are “of old.” What does “of old” mean? Six thousand years? Maybe. Micah 5:2, however, seems to suggest that it could be a bit longer than six thousand years. There we read that the origins of One Who was to come out of Bethlehem, One Who would be ruler over Israel, “are from of old, from days of eternity.”
(Please understand: I am using a rhetorical device. There are other places in Scripture that refer to “days of old” that can be no more than a few hundred years in the past. Again, my purpose is not to suggest that the universe must be older than 6,000 years. I am merely trying to argue that the case for a 6,000-year-old universe is not, to my mind, quite as cut-and-dried as Russell Grigg suggests.)
After spending 15 closely-spaced and closely-argued pages presenting biblical evidence for the possibility that the universe is older than the Earthly biosphere, Burr concludes, “A side benefit of reading Genesis [in this way] is that much of scientific evidence [having to do with astrophysics] fits nicely with the Bible. This requires no hoops to jump through, no black holes, white holes, event horizons or attempts to change constants like the speed of light.”
Notice: Burr calls this a “side benefit.” And I believe him. I believe he is speaking honestly. (Burr’s paper, from which I have here quoted, is called “A Biblical Answer to the Starlight & Time Problem” and is available online at www.heavensdeclare.org. See for yourself whether I am “reading him” correctly.)
Russell Grigg charges that anyone who disagrees with his interpretation of Genesis 1 is “using humanistic evolutionary scientific opinions to determine the meaning of the Bible, rather than vice versa.”
I believe he is unfair. I found nothing in Mr. Gray’s book, for example, that made allowances for any kind of evolutionary opinions. Nor have I found Mr. Burr making such allowances. I’m not interested in making such allowances, either.
In sum: Mr. Grigg’s charge is false, and he has no ethical ground for making it. I’m sure he could ethically charge some Christians with engaging in such activity. But, as elsewhere in his paper, he offers no fudge factor and makes no allowance for the possibility that he could be in error. No. He “knows” these things to be true!
But I don’t believe him
Death and Suffering before the FallOne of the YECs’ strongest “arguments” for a young Earth arises from a certain interpretation of such passages as Genesis 1:31, Romans 6:23, and Revelation 21:4. For example:
The Bible plainly says that God is the Creator, and He called everything that He had made--before, leading up to, and including Adam and Eve, but before their Fall--‘very good’ (Genesis 1:31).Please note. I introduced the preceding quotation with a comment about a “certain interpretation” of Scripture. If you are like me, however, and if you have read a presentation such as the one I have just quoted, I expect you might think I--and anyone who would speak of such things--must be crazy even to suggest that there could be “interpretive” differences that would make you consider an alternative! “How can any self-respecting evangelical Christian interpret these Scriptures in any other way than how Mr. Ham and Dr. Sarfati have interpreted them?”
. . .
As soon as Christians allow for death, suffering and disease before Adam’s sin (which they automatically must if they believe in [a world that is] millions of years [old]), then they’ve raised a serious question about their Gospel message. What, then, has sin done to the world? According to Christian teaching, death is the penalty for sin (Romans 6:23)--and this fact is the foundation of the Gospel! Moreover, how can all things be ‘restored’ to a state with no death, pain or tears in the future (Revelation 21:4) if there never was a time free of death and suffering? The whole message of the Gospel falls apart if you have this view of history. It also would mean that God is to blame for death.
Fortunately, God has given us a different account of the history of death, recorded in His Word--the Bible.
. . .God originally created a perfect world, described by God as ‘very good’ (Genesis 1:31). People and animals ate plants, not other animals (Genesis 1:29–30). There was no violence or pain in this ‘very good’ world.
But this sinless world was marred by the rebellion of the first man, Adam. His sin brought an intruder into the world--death. God had to judge sin with death, as He warned Adam He would (Genesis 2:17, cf. 3:19).
Indeed, God apparently caused the first death in the world--an animal was slain to make clothing for Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:21). As a result of God’s judgment on the world, God has given us a taste of life without Him--a world that is running down--a world full of death and suffering. As Romans 8:22 says, ‘the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs’--because God Himself subjected the creation to processes of decay (v. 20).8
Once more, I want to be clear about my purpose.
I am not trying to convince you to disbelieve Mr. Ham or Dr. Sarfati. I am interested in encouraging you to consider whether it is appropriate for you to grant grace to someone who believes differently than Mr. Ham and Dr. Sarfati or who simply wants to question their interpretation. Is it possible for someone to believe differently than those gentlemen without seeking to twist God’s Word or, as some charge, without “placing science above Scripture”?
I am not asking you to adopt an alternative perspective. I am asking you to consider whether it is reasonable to consider an alternative perspective and whether it is legitimate to think of people who tend to believe such a perspective over against your own as brothers and sisters in Christ who are worthy of your full “right hand of fellowship” (Galatians 2:9).
Are you willing to consider just a few of the interpretive issues involved? I hope so!
Let me ask some key questions and offer some possible answers. See whether the answers that “disagree” with your viewpoint are “obviously” unbiblical or whether they present at least a reasonable sense of Biblical integrity. (Note that I have presented the following questions not in an order designed to strengthen a particular argument (indeed, they may be rhetorically weak). Rather, they follow the flow of the “argument” I just quoted from Ham and Sarfati.)
Here are the questions and some potential answers:
- Does tob meod, “very good” in Genesis 1:31, mean “perfect” in the sense of “no violence or pain” (let alone no death and destruction)?
Please look at Genesis 26:7. The same root adjective, tob (but here with the feminine suffix –ah, so, tobah), appears. It lacks the intensifying adverb meod. But do you think the lack of the Hebrew word for very would completely change the meaning of tobah?
Here in Genesis 26:7 we get to “listen in” on Isaac’s thinking about his wife Rebekah: “When the men of that place asked him about his wife, he said, ‘She is my sister,’ because he was afraid to say, ‘She is my wife.’ He thought, ‘The men of this place might kill me on account of Rebekah, because she is tobah.’ "
Question: What does tob mean? Does it necessarily mean perfect in the sense that Ham and Sarfati suggest? Or may it merely mean good or beautiful, happy or cheerful, wealthy or prosperous? (See Psalm 16:2; 65:12; 106:5; Ecclesiastes 5:10; etc., for other places in Scripture where this same word (or cognate), tob/tobah is used.)
While we’re thinking about that point, let me address a rhetorical question that YEC leaders often ask. It is worded something like this: “If there was death, decay, and disease before there was the Garden of Eden and/or the creation of man, can you honestly say that God would have pronounced His creation to be good, or even very good--as He did at the end of the third day (when He created the various kinds of plants) and the sixth day (when He created all the animals and human beings)?”
Answer that Bible-believing OECs would give? “Yes.”
And here’s why.
I’m afraid many of us may have adopted Alfred Lord Tennyson’s unbiblical view of death--at least the death of animals. We have adopted his Romantic (and evolutionary) notion of a revulsive “Nature, red in tooth and claw”: “Oh, how ugly!”
But does the Bible speak that way?
What should we make of Job 38:39 where God glorifies Himself when He asks Job the rhetorical question: “Do you hunt the prey for the lioness and satisfy the hunger of the lions
. . . ?”Clearly, in context, God is saying, “I satisfy their hunger!” And He offers no apologies, and feigns no embarrassment.
And what of Psalm 104:21 where the author extols God’s glory by noting that “[t]he lions roar for their prey and seek their food from God”? Who provides the red meat (i.e., the dead animals for these carnivores? (God.)
Or verses 27-28 of the same Psalm: Are we to argue against God’s Word when the psalmist notes that all the creatures of the earth and sea “look to [God] to give them their food at the proper time. When [He] give[s] it to them, they gather it up; when [He] opens [His] hand, they are satisfied with tob (NIV: good things)”? Would you want to say, on the basis of a preconceived notion about the use of the word tob in Genesis 1 that God’s provision of meat to the meat-eating animals a few years later is not good? (For at least one more Scripture that says much the same thing about God’s good provision, see Psalm 145:15-16.)
Perhaps the Young-Earth creationists want to argue that this kind of provision--this provision of meat--freshly killed animals--is “less than God’s best”: “It wasn’t the way God had planned it from the beginning.”
And I will certainly grant that they may be correct. But I do not think they can convincingly argue their case for such a view on the basis of Scripture alone. They have to make some assumptions. And those assumptions come from outside the text. Or they should, at least, admit that the case is less than airtight for the idea that tob meod means “perfect,” “without death, decay or disease.”
- Is Romans 6:23 focused on all death--human, animal, plant, etc.?
Notice what the verse says: the wages of sin is death. Who sinned? Who earned death? Was it the animals? Was it the plants? And to whom is God’s gift of eternal life promised? Is it to animals or plants that you see God making promises of eternal life?
I would make similar comments and ask similar questions about such passages as 1 Corinthians 15:12ff: is God really speaking about the death and resurrection of all created things: not just human beings, but animals and plants as well? I think not. I think that these passages are speaking about human death and human resurrection; human destruction and human salvation.
Young-Earth creationists seek to strengthen their case for “no death of any type” before the Fall (and “all death of all types” after the Fall) by suggesting that, for however long the period of time on Earth was subsequent to the creation of the animals and prior to the Fall, the so-called “deaths” of plants and lower animals had nothing to do with true biblical death.
Thus, for example, “People and animals are described in Genesis as having, or being, nephesh (Hebrew)--see Genesis 1:20-21, 24 where nephesh chayyah is translated ‘living creatures,’ and Genesis 2:7 where Adam became a ‘living soul’ (nephesh chayyah). Nephesh conveys the basic idea of a ‘breathing creature.’ It is also used widely in the Old Testament, in combination with other words, to convey ideas of emotions, feelings, etc.
. . .Plants do not have such nephesh, and so Adam eating a carrot did not involve death in the biblical sense.”9
As with some of the statements that Mr. Grigg made, above, I’m afraid that the authors of this statement, too, may have overstated their case. They may be correct that in Genesis 1 we ought to distinguish between the deaths of plants and the lower animals as compared to “breathing creatures” like reptiles, mammals and humans. But the Bible as a whole, and Moses himself, does not appear to hold such absolute distinctions.
Look up Job 14:8 for a tree whose stump dies (yamut--third person future tense of the same word God uses in Genesis 2:17 to promise Adam that if he eats of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, he will “surely die” (mot tamut--the m-t structure is the basic root word; by “repeating” that structure (mot tamut), we get the intensive, “you shall surely die” or “dying you shall die”)).
We find frogs dying (same root word--m-t!) in Exodus 8:9.
And in Exodus 10:17 we find Pharaoh using that same word, m-t, only this time in its noun sense (i.e., “death”: hamet), to refer to the destruction by locusts of “everything growing in the fields and the fruit on the trees” in Egypt: “Now forgive my sin once more,” says Pharaoh, “and pray to the LORD your God to take this death (hamet (death) hazeh (this); or, as the New International Version has it, “this deadly plague”) away from me.”
So is it true that “death” in Genesis 1 is to be accorded to nephesh only? Is someone who would suggest that there were some forms of death--of plants, at least, and possibly, too, of animals: is such a person “twisting Scripture” and worthy of being cut off from the right hand of fellowship for his or her views?
Some Young-Earth creationists suggest that “corruption,” and “decay” (with reference to passages like Romans 8:18ff) didn’t occur on Earth prior to the Fall.10 Corruption and decay, they suggest, are direct results of God’s curse upon Adam. Indeed, with this very idea in mind, many YECs suggest that the second law of thermodynamics (the law that says the universe is tending toward randomness and disorder) didn’t come into play until after the Fall.
But if plants were eaten before the Fall; and if the digestive bacteria in the guts of animals helped them to digest plant material before the Fall; and if the transfer of energy from one place to another occurred prior to the Fall, then the plant matter that humans and animals ingested did “decay”; the digested material was “corrupted”; and the second law of thermodynamics most definitely was in play
. . .before the Fall.
[Note: Due to reasons such as those I have just mentioned, Dr. Sarfati of Answers in Genesis has recently written a brief note to urge YECs to abandon the “No Second Law of Thermodynamics Before the Fall” concept of physics. See his article “Moving forward: Arguments we think creationists shouldn’t use" which was first published in the March-May 2002 issue of Creation magazine. The article is available online at http://www.answersingenesis.org/home/area/magazines/docs/v24n2_moving_forward.asp as of 6 September 2002.]
- Do passages like Revelation 21:4 speak of restoration
. . .or something else?
Rather than belaboring the point, let me simply point out that I have yet to find the word “restore,” or any of its cognates, in Revelation 21. I find a new creation. I don’t find a “restoration.”
Having said this, however, I would also like to note that the observation I have just made may hold very little water. Turn to passages like Acts 3:21 and Matthew 17:11, and you will find all the references to “restoration” that you might likely want.
Does this mean that OECs are wrong? Does it mean that YECs are right?
When we read in Isaiah 11:6-9 about wolves lying down with lambs, leopards with goats, calves with lions, and so forth: is that a “restoration” of the Garden of Eden? Or is it a new creation?
Frankly, I don’t know. I don’t believe the evidence is beyond question. It is “just one more” area where I believe we--all of us, on both sides of the debate--should think and pray and speak with humility and grace as we seek, first, to understand what God is saying, and seek, second, to acquire a consensus of understanding in the Body of Christ.
- When Romans 8:18-25 speaks of groanings and longings and “liberation from bondage to decay,” etc.: do these words necessarily refer to God’s curse upon the ground (Genesis 3:17), or is it possible that they refer to a new creation along the lines of what we may be reading about in Revelation 21 as distinct from the entire physical system of this present world in which we live (in which, indeed, things are running down!)?
The alternative answer to this question, more, even, than its counterpart in the previous one, leaves me rather unmoved. I have always “understood” these groanings and longings to have to do with the Fall and ultimate salvation. But is it possible that God is not merely restoring, but is actually completely transforming or creating brand-new a “world” or “universe” the likes of which no human being--even Adam and Eve--has ever seen?
Once more, I am left with the strong sense that I should probably speak in hushed tones, with reverence, awe, and humility. I don’t know. And I doubt anyone else on Earth knows, either. Someone may have happened upon the “right answer,” but I seriously doubt they can “know” that their answer is correct
. . .any more than that someone can “know” the day or the hour when Jesus returns.
Back in the early 1980s, my family moved to California. We went to work with the U.S. Center for World Mission. I was astonished at the great diversity of people who work there. At the time, there were--and I knew there were--devout, evangelically-minded Anglicans, Methodists, Baptists, Pentecostals, dispensationalist independent Bible church members, and more. And there, too, was Phil F, a retired missionary from the extremely conservative Presbyterian denomination of which our family had been a member. I knew that people from that denomination did not associate with all these others!
I asked Phil why and how he could work with all these people.
He answered: “John, when we were in Japan, in the precinct (suburb) of Tokyo where we lived, there were over 50,000 families. And just three of us were Christians. Do you think we focused on our differences? No! We needed each other! We needed the fellowship that our fellow believers offered. We were involved in a much bigger task. We needed to make Christ known to the 49,997 other families who did not know Christ!
I would say, in my opinion: So it is here with respect to the question of the age of the Earth and the ministries of both Old- and Young-Earth creationists. Each one seems to appeal to a different population. Since their teachings about the age of the Earth are so opposite one another, both of them cannot possibly be true. At least one of them must be wrong. But it is also possible that neither one really “knows the truth” about the age of the Earth; both may be wrong.
And so where does that leave me? Must I feel compelled to shun either one? Or is it legitimate--as I do--to pray for both of them and for the true, eternal fruitfulness of their ministries? For those areas in which either camp’s teaching is in error, I pray it will be thwarted. But may I never falsely accuse of evil intention those who have followed God’s call--to the best of their ability--for the praise of His glory (Ephesians 1:11-14)!
1 Roland Kenneth Harrison, Introduction to the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1969), pg. 152. Return to text.
2 Jacob A. Loewen, The Bible in Cross-Cultural Perspective (Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library, 2000), 3-5. NOTE: In earlier versions of this paper, I continued quoting Mr. Loewen for another couple of paragraphs. On March 22, 2004, in an article titled "Hold on, Mr Holzmann," Dr Jonathan Sarfati of Answers in Genesis pointed out some significantly and truly awful errors on Mr. Loewen's part. Not wishing to present false information, as of March 26, 2004, I deleted the offending section. I wish to acknowledge with gratitude Dr. Sarfati's positive contribution to this paper. Return to text.
3 Cited by A. D. White in his anti-Christian diatribe, A History of the Warfare of Science with Theology in Christendom, 1896, republished Appleton, New York & London 1932, vol. I, pg. 126; quoted and referenced in Alan Hayward, Creation and Evolution (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 1985), pg. 71. Forster and Marston say that this alleged “quotation” from Luther “is actually based on hearsay” though “it is entirely in keeping with [Luther’s] approach, language, and the way he speaks of the sun and starts in his commentary” --Roger Forster and Paul Marston, Reason, Science & Faith (London: Monarch Books, 1999), pg. 217.
I would like to acknowledge again a debt to Dr. Sarfati. He seems to have found a more foundational provenance for the alleged quote:
White misleadingly failed to mention that, far from a sustained strong opposition, Luther’s only recorded comment on the issues is a single off-hand remark (hardly a concerted campaign), during a ‘table talk’ in 1539 (four years before the publication of Copernicus’ book). The Table Talk was based on notes taken by Luther’s students, which were later compiled and published in 1566—twenty years after Luther’s death. Luther actually said:I do not know from what source Dr. Sarfati acquired his quotation. Return to text.‘Whoever wants to be clever must agree with nothing that others esteem. He must do something of his own. This is what that fellow does who wishes to turn the whole of astronomy upside down. Even in these things that are thrown into disorder I believe the Holy Scriptures, for Joshua commanded the sun to stand still and not the earth [Jos. 10:12].’
4 I should note: my statements here are in no way intended to denigrate Christians in general, Christian preachers, or the Church! I am merely saying that brothers and sisters in Christ, well-meaning brothers and sisters, well-educated brothers and sisters, brothers and sisters who lived long before the modern era, have made mistaken interpretations (or inferences) based on what they were convinced were “clear” statements of the sacred text. Return to text.
5 Hayward, op. cit., pp. 71-72. Return to text.
6 I would like to acknowledge one more time Dr. Sarfati’s influence upon me.
In earlier editions of this paper I had made a bad joke at this point when I said
In 2 Samuel 18:9 we find Absalom riding a mule. He rides under an oak tree and gets his hair tangled in the branches. The mule keeps going while Absalom finds himself, according to the Hebrew, “lifted up between the heavens [hashamayim] and the earth [haerets].”Dr. Sarfati took me to task on my joke when he noted that in 2 Samuel 18:9 “both hashamayim and haerets have the preposition beyn (between) in front of them.” He went on: “So this [the phrase beyn hashamayim ubeyn haerets] has no bearing on what we said above, where it is simply the conjunction of heaven and earth without any preposition that is the merism for ‘universe.’”
I hope you can appreciate my attempt at humor when I suggest, “That must have been one tall tree to lift Absalom somewhere into outer space where he found himself in the middle of [between] ‘the totality of creation, not just the Earth and its atmosphere, [n]or our solar system alone’”!
If you look at Mr. Grigg’s article, you will not see any reference to the specific Hebrew words hashamayim v’haerets. Mr. Grigg refers solely to the English words “[the]
I found the 2 Samuel 18:9 reference in English where, it seems to me, an interpretation of “the heaven and the earth” is unequivocally not referring to “the totality of creation.” But there is no case (that I could find) where the specific Hebrew phrase hashamayim v’haerets unequivocally has to mean something other than “the totality of creation.” I still believe that the case is not iron-clad for Mr. Grigg’s and Dr. Sarfati’s viewpoint; but I hardly need to retain the joke in order to argue my main point.
So I have removed the joke from the body of my paper but left it here to make clear how I have modified the body of my paper in honor of Dr. Sarfati’s objection. Return to text.
7 Gorman Gray, The Age of the Universe: What are the Biblical Limits? (Washougal, WA: Morningstar Publications, 2000). Available online from http://www.ageoftheuniverse.com/. Return to text.
8 From “Why is there death and suffering?” by Ken Ham and Dr. Jonathan Sarfati, http://www.answersingenesis.org/docs2002/death_suffering.asp. Found 6 September 2002. Return to text.
9. From “How did bad things come about?” adapted from The Revised & Expanded Answers Book by Ken Ham, Jonathan Sarfati, and Carl Wieland (Master Books, 2000) and found at http://www.christiananswers.net/q-aig/aig-c008.html on 6 September 2002. Return to text.
10 See, for example, “Creation and the Curse” by James Stambaugh of the Institute for Creation Research available at http://www.icr.org/pubs/imp/imp-272.htm. Return to text.