Saturday, February 28, 2009

Mark Looy replies . . .

Mark Looy is CCO [Chief Communications Officer] for Answers in Genesis, as he said in his comment about my post yesterday (search for "Mark Looy"). I wrote a response to his comment (search for "Dear Mr. Looy"). And he has now sent an email reply.

I am sorry he did not also respond in public. I think, considering the charges he leveled against me and "other [unnamed] Christians," and considering my response, he really owes us all a more open, public reply. In hopes of eliciting such a reply, I am posting his response . . . and my reply to him. . . . I will then email him directly as well so there can be no question that I have operated openly and fairly with him.

From Mark (9:24 AM MST):

Thanks for the largely irenic response. The opening paragraphs were encouraging to read.

With respect, Proverbs 18:13 applies to situations when someone has come to a conclusion without hearing the other side. The passage shouldn't be applied to the problems we may have with your materials’ interpretations of Genesis. You see, we know what you teach and how you defend it, and thus we are not jumping to a conclusion -- which Proverbs 18 admonishes against.

Thus a book review, web review, or other public comment about a person's materials in which we might see some problems is not contrary to Proverbs 18. If we believe that incorrect teaching has been presented (e.g., death before the Fall, which has implications on the atonement/Gospel message) in a public way, and we are fully aware of the position being presented, we are not violating Proverbs 18 when we caution people not to get a particular resource.

Let's try to meet soon. For example, when your travels take you eastward, please plan on connecting through the Cincinnati Airport (a major Delta hub), and I would personally pick you up, give you a tour of the Creation Museum (just two exits from the airport), we can chat, and then return you to the airport to continue your journey.

I hope this can be arranged soon (or, if in one of my travels westward, I could meet with you). But I truly hope you can tour our museum one day soon, meet some of our staff, and communicate face to face as opposed to web postings and emails. Thank you.


And my response:
Dear Mark:

Thank you so much for replying.

Since your initial charges against me and the "other Christians" were so public, as I indicated in my email to you, I posted my response on my blog, expecting that you would continue the open dialog. It seems a bit unfair to all parties concerned that you would not continue the discussion publicly.

Therefore, I am posting your reply, and this, my response to you, in a new blog post. I will--and I'm sure readers of my blog, too, will--appreciate hearing your perspectives in that forum.


Specifically, in response to what you wrote:

As I read your reply it struck me that we must be speaking past one another.

You said,
Proverbs 18:13 applies to situations when someone has come to a conclusion without hearing the other side. The passage shouldn't be applied to the problems we may have with your materials’ interpretations of Genesis. You see, we know what you teach and how you defend it, and thus we are not jumping to a conclusion -- which Proverbs 18 admonishes against.

And that's what's got me so confused. Because I wrote what I did to you this morning precisely because, in fact, Mr. Ham and Answers in Genesis demonstrated on numerous occasions that you-all absolutely did not know what you were talking about and you did jump to [false] conclusions on numerous occasions . . . --Unless you want to confess that the lies spoken about me and about Sonlight Curriculum were the result of malicious intent. . . .

I would prefer to assume the former rather than the latter. But if you are inclined toward the latter interpretation, I am sure I would be gratified to hear your confession in behalf of AiG. . . .

Proceeding on the theory that there was no malicious intent, but that Mr. Ham and Answers in Genesis "simply" hadn’t yet adopted the policies you described yesterday: It was very obvious that, back in 2000-2001, Mr. Ham (and AiG) did not know what I (or Sonlight) taught; and he and AiG were jumping to [false] conclusions. Indeed, Mr. Ham and AiG "bore many [false] tales" about me and about Sonlight. And, even worse, it took numerous pleas on my part to get Mr. Ham even to acknowledge his behavior, much less to quit engaging in it.

So that's why I wrote to you as I did this morning:
[H]as AiG now dedicated itself to act--as it has most definitely not acted in the past--so that it no longer (and will no longer) discuss the views or practices or beliefs or teachings of those with whom it believes it is in disagreement . . . unless and until it has, as you said, done "the Proverbs 18 thing"?

[A]re you saying AiG has now dedicated itself never to "use a public arena like the worldwide web [and/or magazine articles and/or homeschool conventions and/or radio programs and/or seminars, etc.] to denigrate other Christians/ministries for [any shortcoming that AiG believes it has discovered] without first contacting those persons (or ministr[ies]) to get [their] perspectives--and thus hear all sides before coming to a conclusion (per Proverbs 18:13)-- and certainly before going public"?
Please, Mark.

When Ken Ham "warned" homeschool audiences around the United States in 2000 that I was teaching--and (even more preposterous) that Sonlight was teaching--old-earth creationism: he was speaking flat-out lies. I was not teaching old-earth creationism. I had never taught old-earth creationism. And Sonlight, a company of which I am a minority shareholder (I co-own--and co-owned back then--with my wife and our kids); and, moreover, Sonlight, presided over by my wife (who is president)--my wife who is "even today" committed to a "literal six-day" young-earth creationist interpretation of Scripture-- . . . Sorry. Sonlight wasn't even beginning a process of moving toward old-earth creationism. It hasn’t moved toward old-earth creationism even today--eight or nine years later.

But, you see, it is not only the truth that Mr. Ham failed to discover the facts about my teaching and Sonlight's teaching, but it is also true that I appealed to Mr. Ham several times to please stop talking about me and about Sonlight in the manner different witnesses kept telling me he was referring to us in public. I warned him that, based on the testimony of witnesses, his comments were false and he ought not to be making them.

But when I specifically protested to Mr. Ham to stop speaking inaccurately about me, and when I told him exactly how and where he was misunderstanding and misrepresenting me, he first of all denied saying anything about me (though, as I have said, numerous witnesses testified they had heard him talk about me in public speeches at numerous homeschool conventions). Then he agreed he may have said something about me or Sonlight Curriculum "in passing," but he assured me he had not said what the witnesses claimed he had said. Things finally came to a head when a witness--a committed young-earth creationist, but a committed truth-teller as well--protested to him directly: "That is not what John Holzmann teaches!" He denied saying what she said he had. She was so incensed at his denials that she purchased a copy of the tape of the presentation she had heard, and listened to it until she found the offending statement. She then sent me a copy of the tape cued to Mr. Ham's specific comments . . . and recounted the history of her so-far fruitless protests.

At that point, when I protested to him again, but now with tape in hand, he still refused to make amends. At least not right away. After all, he was really busy, and he was only a day or two away from having to leave for Australia, and he wouldn't be back for two or three months. He did promise, however, to do some research on the matter when he returned. . . .

I don't know, Mark! How would you respond? "What kind of 'research' do you need? Sir! I've sent you the tape. Here's what you said. It's false. Please retract it."

It took many more months, but eventually he did admit he had misspoken.

But the damage had been long done.

Happily, however, I have never heard of him mentioning me again in public.

That has been very nice.

But still, I think my questions from this morning are pertinent. And I would dearly love to get some straight answers. Because, unlike you, I don't believe Answers in Genesis acts in accord with the principles you laid out for everyone else. And I think you--and the readers of my blog--should know the grounds on which my beliefs were formed.

Let me begin with the specific claims Mr. Ham made about me and about Sonlight Curriculum on the tape my friend purchased. It was from the Gulf Coast Home Educator's Conference in June of 2000. And Mr. Ham said, specifically (transcript from the tape): ". . . Hugh Ross has an organization called Reasons to Believe . . . --He's greatly influenced the person who owns Sonlight Curriculum, by the way, who now tells you you've got to believe in billions of years. . . ."

As I noted to Mr. Ham at the time: His assertions were baseless. And inaccurate.
  1. I am not and never been a great fan of Dr. Ross. If anything, I have been critical of his work--especially his exegesis. So I have no idea to what Mr. Ham could have possibly been referring. I am aware of absolutely nothing in my view of origins that may have come from Dr. Ross.

    I am willing to be friendly toward Reasons to Believe. I recognize them as Christian brothers and sisters. They have been friendly toward me and prayed for me and have offered emotional support during some very dark periods in my life. I am extremely grateful for the RtB staff's friendship. But when it comes to "influence," I'm sorry, Mr. Ham was creating a connection whole cloth from nothing.
  2. I am not, nor have I ever been "the" person who owns Sonlight Curriculum. Indeed, there has never been a single owner of Sonlight Curriculum, Ltd. So, again, Mr. Ham was speaking without knowledge when he spoke of "the" person who owns Sonlight Curriculum. There never has been such a person. So, once more, we find he was "bearing [false] tales" (to use a phrase you attempted to use against me and others in your email this morning).
  3. I have never told anyone what they "have got to" believe (or, as Mr. Ham attempted to "clarify" once he finally did engage with me on the matter: I have never told anyone what they've "gotta" believe. [I will confess, the distinction between those two phrases isn't wholly clear to me. But Mr. Ham wanted to make sure I understood he was speaking in the "softer" sense of "gotta believe" rather than the "harder" "got to believe." . . . Whatever. --I don't think either phrase comes anywhere even remotely close to what John Holzmann has ever said. Certainly not about the matter of Earth's age or the mechanisms of creation. . . .]
But moving on from the tape and the homeschool convention speeches. I mentioned this morning the matter of AiG's practice, for a while, of "warning" potential Sonlight customers away from buying Sonlight Curriculum. I said that I called the AiG office to get the story first-hand: "What are they saying about Sonlight?"

When I called, no one suggested even a hint of doubt about AiG's knowledge of what Sonlight's future development plans were with respect to its science and/or history curricula related to origins. No. When I spoke with Dave Jolly, he was more than happy to tell me that AiG was warning people to stay away from Sonlight "because Sonlight is changing all of its curriculum to teach from an old-earth perspective." Somehow, he knew! (Y'know. Kind of like your comment this morning about how "Proverbs 18:13 applies to situations when someone has come to a conclusion without hearing the other side" but that doesn't apply to Answers in Genesis because you-all "know what [I--or Sonlight] teach[es] and how [I or Sonlight] defend[s] it, and thus [you know you] are not jumping to a conclusion." --The arrogance of such claims to such absolute knowledge blows me away, Mark! Proverbs 18:13 applies to everyone else, but not to you and your organization?)

The problem is, Dave Jolly had no idea what he was talking about. Because Sonlight was not in the process of "going old-earth," and, even today, it has not transitioned in any way into teaching any kind of old-earth perspective. And if it has, my wife, the president, would dearly love to know about it!

I know Sonlight doesn't teach origins exactly the way AiG would prefer. But it is by no means an advocate of old-earth creationism nor of evolution!

So, once more, I believe my questions from this morning remain valid, and I would dearly love to hear your reply:
Beyond expressing your discomfort with how you believe I and, apparently, others behaved ourselves over the last two days,

  • Are your pleas also a declaration of a change of heart and change of policy on the part of AiG with how it treats--and plans to treat--those with whom it believes it is in disagreement? I.e., has AiG now dedicated itself to act--as it has most definitely not acted in the past--so that it no longer (and will no longer) discuss the views or practices or beliefs or teachings of those with whom it believes it is in disagreement . . . unless and until it has, as you said, done "the Proverbs 18 thing"?

    Put another way, are you saying AiG has now dedicated itself never to "use a public arena like the worldwide web [and/or magazine articles and/or homeschool conventions and/or radio programs and/or seminars, etc.] to denigrate other Christians/ministries for [any shortcoming that AiG believes it has discovered] without first contacting those persons (or ministr[ies]) to get [their] perspectives--and thus hear all sides before coming to a conclusion (per Proverbs 18:13)-- and certainly before going public"? . . .
. . . [I]f this is so,
  • I would sincerely appreciate learning from you how AiG works these things out in practice. I mean, for example, how do you make sure you have contacted your presumed opponent? How much time do you give him or her or them to respond? How many rounds will you go with him/her/them in private before bringing the issue out into the public sphere? . . .

    If Answers in Genesis has established those kinds of policies and practices, would you please share them with us? Truly. I cannot guarantee I will adopt all of them myself. But I think your open leadership and guidance in these matters could--pretty much as you implied by your email--go a long way toward revolutionizing relationships among Christians for the good.
Thanks so much!


John Holzmann
ETA at 6:38 AM MST, 3/1/09:

I have now sent Mr. Looy the following email follow-up to the above:

I feel badly that I didn't reply to your suggestions about meeting face to face, nor to your gracious offer of hospitality if I'm ever in the Cincinnati area (or can arrange to get there!).

I would be delighted to meet and talk with you--or anyone else at Answers in Genesis--face to face whenever the opportunity affords itself. That will be great.

I don't often get out your direction. I do occasionally fly further east, but I have yet to have had Cincinnati serve as a hub for any flights I have taken. I will, however, keep your offer in mind. I hope you will keep your suggestion in mind as well: that if you're ever in the Denver area, you will look me up so we can meet. I think that really could be profitable for the Kingdom. (At least I hope and pray it might be.)

I want to comment just a bit more on some of the things I said late last night.

I recounted a part of the history of AiG's behavior toward me and toward Sonlight primarily because it seemed, for some reason, that you were unaware of it. You spoke so strongly--in public--about what you perceived as my (and others') failures toward you. Your protests "just" seemed so ironic; I wondered if you could help me overcome that deep-seated feeling that you were attempting to hold me to a much--much--higher standard of behavior than that to which you and your organization seem(ed), to my mind, to demand of yourselves. And I wondered (and wonder) why.

And, if you believe AiG does not hold itself to a lower standard, I was hoping (and still hope) you will help me understand.

You said, apparently in justification of some of your organization's comments about me or about Sonlight (I do not know specifically which comments you might have been referring to, since none of those I specifically mentioned fit the description) . . . --You said, "a book review, web review, or other public comment about a person's materials in which we might see some problems is not contrary to Proverbs 18. If we believe that incorrect teaching has been presented . . . in a public way, and we are fully aware of the position being presented, we are not violating Proverbs 18 when we caution people not to get a particular resource."

All right. I'll "buy" that. But/and/so . . . I don’t understand why that "exception" doesn't apply to my comments, in my web log review of AiG's inaccurate presentation of Spurgeon's sermon. Obviously, not only did I believe that "incorrect teaching ha[d] been presented in a public way," but you agreed.

So if Proverbs 18:13 does not apply to you and to your firm under those circumstances, on what grounds do you demand that I and other unnamed Christians should apply it to ourselves? It just doesn't make sense.

Well. I think you understand my concerns. And I look forward to hearing back from you.


John Holzmann

Should be interesting . . .

Mark Looy, Chief Communications Officer for Answers in Genesis, has sought to clarify what happened that led to the events that inspired me to write my "Honesty . . . it's such a lonely word . . ." post yesterday morning (click on the link, then do a search on Mark Looy).

But in his comment, he didn't merely clarify the history. He pleaded for a more biblical response to disagreements or mistakes or failings such as what I and some others pointed out.

I am all about obeying Scripture. May it be!

I am all about confessing my sins and shortcomings when and as I need to.

I am also all about honesty and integrity.

And with that in mind, I invite you to read my response to Mr. Looy (scan a few comments down from Mr. Looy's comment to me).

I look forward to receiving his reply.

And if you have some suggestions about how I might have done better in the current situation, or how I might do better in the future, or what kind of personal "policy decisions" I might adopt to ensure a more biblical response in the future, I would be very grateful.

How exciting!

Can one person make a difference?

My brother is rejoicing over something he did recently that, in its own small way, could make a little difference nationally . . . and, perhaps, internationally.

"Little ol' me actually winds up influencing Al Gore . . . via a blog post!"

Check it out!

Friday, February 27, 2009

Honesty . . . it's such a lonely word . . .

To quote Billy Joel:
Honesty is such a lonely word.
Everyone is so untrue.
Honesty is hardly ever heard.
And mostly what I need from you.
I am so disappointed!

Answers in Genesis claimed their "Charles Spurgeon-Reloaded" series would "update" Spurgeon's sermons, "not to change the meaning, but to make them more easily understood by modern readers." Moreover, they said, "the original text [would] also [be] included so that [readers] can see what was changed."

How disappointing, then, to find what they have done with only the 30th sermon they have "updated."

Due to limitations of the blogging software I'm using (I can't get any table cells to align vertically to the tops of their cells), I am breaking sentences apart into separate cells within the following table . . . so the actual quotes will align as closely as possible one with the other. However--as you will see if you visit the referenced sites, I have removed no sentences from either quotation, nor altered the wording in any way. I have added italics and bolding to call attention to the obvious tampering that AiG has done with the text of Spurgeon's sermon as preached:
OriginalAiG's "Modernized" VersionJohn's Comments
In the 2d verse of the first chapter of Genesis, we read, "And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters." In Ge 1:2, we read, “And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.”Yes. Very minor update.
We know not how remote the period of the creation of this globe may be--certainly many millions of years before the time of Adam. !!!! Oh! Can you say "point-of-view censorship"?!?

How about honoring Spurgeon enough at least to point out the massive emendation?

Spurgeon's actual views about the age of the earth--views he expressed four years before Darwin's Origin of Species came out--didn't align with AiG's. "Too bad! Down the memory hole with them!"

How incredibly dishonest, don't you think?!?
Our planet has passed through various stages of existence, and different kinds of creatures have lived on its surface, all of which have been fashioned by God. But before that era came, wherein man should be its principal tenant and monarch, the Creator gave up the world to confusion.Our planet has passed through various stages in creation, and different kinds of creatures have lived on its surface, all of which have been fashioned by God. But before that era came, when man should be its principal tenant and monarch, the Creator initially created the world as a chaotic mass on the first day of creation.Sorry! "Pass[ing] through various stages of existence" isn't quite the same as "pass[ing] through various stages in creation. Close, but not quite the same.

Worse, however, "[giving] up the world to confusion" has a very different meaning than "initially creat[ing] the world as a chaotic mass on the first day of creation." Not even close. The original leaves plenty of room for a gap of millions of years (as is rather clear Spurgeon allowed for, based on what he actually said in the sentence two up from this one--the sentence AiG's "modernizers" so carefully removed!). But AiG's rephrasing leaves no such option. Anyone who would speak as AiG has made Spurgeon to speak would have to be a literal, six-day, young-earth creationist.

But based on what he actually said, Spurgeon--at least at the time he preached this sermon--obviously believed in a world that was "certainly many millions of years" old.

Is AiG being honest with the historical record?

I don't think so!
He allowed the inward fires to burst up from beneath, and melt all the solid matter, so that all kinds of substances were commingled in one vast mass of disorder. The only name you could give to the world, then, was that it was a chaotic mass of matter; what it should be, you could not guess or define. Oops! Another major emendation. And AiG expects us to believe this is a faithful rendition of Spurgeon's meaning? (Remember their promise "not to change the meaning"?)
It was entirely "without form and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep." The Spirit came, and stretching his broad wings, bade the darkness disperse, and as he moved over it, all the different portions of matter came into their places, and it was no longer "without form, and void;" but became round, like its sister planets, and moved, singing the high praises of God—not discordantly, as it had done before, but as one great note in the vast scale of creation.It was entirely without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. The Spirit came, and stretching his broad wings, bade the darkness disperse, and as he moved over it, all the different portions of matter came into their places, and it was no longer “without form, and void;” but became round like its sister planets, and moved, singing the high praises of God—not discordantly as it had done before, but as one great note in the vast scale of creation.Ah! How nice! Back to our regular broadcast . . . having first eliminated one of those damning pieces of evidence that AiG's version of Christian theological history may not, in fact, be accurate.
A few days ago, in anticipation that AiG just might engage in this kind of dishonesty, but with sincere hopes and expectations that they wouldn't, I wrote,
If [AiG does, indeed, decide to engage in such behavior,] I go back to my original post that kind of sparked this entire discussion: Are you being treated like a child? Who controls what you get to hear?
Apparently, if you can't win your argument on the merits, AiG believes in winning through altering the historical record--as I intimated above, the old "memory hole" trick.

Oh. And in case, for some reason, you are unaware, the memory hole was not merely a literary device dreamt up by George Orwell. No. He got his idea from a master of such historical lies. Look at how Joseph Stalin dealt with inconvenient history. . . .

--Thanks to Tim Martin and Jeff Vaughn for bringing this story to my attention. (See their comments yesterday in answer to my post in which I asked, Does old-earth/old-universe creationism=Liberalism? Atheism?)

I wrote my comments above before reading Tim's post on the same subject.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

The customer is NOT always right

Found this website this morning and was grateful I was not the customer service representative!

Clueless in Seattle ("You're kidding, right?")

. . . And (ignore the bleeped-out language): I hope she got the house.

Oh, how sad!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Perspectives on an Evolving Creation, 3 - Theological Issues Related to Evolution

#5 in an ongoing series on Perspectives on an Evolving Creation edited by Keith B. Miller. Previous post in this series: Perspectives on an Evolving Creation, 2c - Evolution and Creation - Excursus 2: Science. First post in the series: Perspectives on an Evolving Creation, 1 - Introduction.

In his introductory chapter, "An Evolving Creation: Oxymoron or Fruitful Insight?," Keith Miller notes three primary theological issues that Christian evolutionists have to address if they are to be taken seriously by evangelical Christians.
  1. The idea of the "God of the gaps."
  2. The concepts of chance, randomness, or "accident."
  3. The role of what we might call "natural evil"--the problem raised by young-earth creationists in such passages as this from Answers in Genesis:
    [Interpreting the Bible in terms of an old earth] means having to accept that there were billions of years of death, disease, and bloodshed before Adam, thus eroding the creation/Called/restoration framework within which the Gospel is presented in the Bible.
With respect to the "God of the Gaps," Miller writes (p. 8):
[The perspective] that God's action or involvement in creation is confined to those events the lack of scientific explanation [or that m]eaningful divine action is equated with breaks in chains of cause-and-effect processes . . . has been called a "God-of-the-gaps" theology. God's creative action is seen only, or primarily, in the gaps of human knowledge where scientific description fails.

With this perspective, each advance in scientific understanding results in a corresponding diminution of divine action, and conflict between science and faith is assured. However, this is a totally unnecessary state of affairs. God's creative activity is clearly identified in Scripture as including natural processes. According to Scripture, God is providentially active in all natural processes, and all of creation declares the glory of God.

The evidence for God's presence in creation, for the existence of a creator God, is declared to be precisely those everyday "natural events" experienced by us all. Thus Christians should not fear causal natural explanations. Complete scientific descriptions of events or processes should pose no threat to Christian theism. Rather, each new advance in our scientific understanding can be matched with excitement and praise at the revelation of God's creative hand.
With respect to Chance, etc. (pp. 8-9):
Chance or random processes are often seen as antithetical to God's action. Many people understand "chance" as implying a purposeless, meaningless, and accidental event. However, scientifically, chance events are simply those whose occurrence cannot be predicted based on initial conditions and known natural laws. Such events are describable by probabilistic equations. . . .

The Bible . . . describes a God who is sovereign over all natural events, even those we attribute to chance such as the casting of lots [see Proverbs 16:33: "The lot is cast into the lap, But its every decision is from the LORD." --JAH] or tomorrow's weather [the broad mechanisms of which are understood and explained by modern science as related to heat from the Sun interacting with Earth's atmosphere and land formations, its oceans, and so forth . . . causing air and sea currents, certain patterns of evaporation and condensation, etc. . . . But yet see Psalm 147:16--"He gives snow like wool; He scatters the frost like ashes." Psalm 148:7-8--"Praise the LORD . . . Fire and hail, snow and clouds; Stormy wind, fulfilling His word." And so forth. Obviously, God is in control of the events and conditions that modern science describes--rightly--in terms of "chance" and "probability." --JAH] . . .

Regardless of how one understands the manner in which God exercises sovereignty over natural process[es], [once one understands God's intimate involvement in these processes,] chance events certainly [ought to] pose no theological barrier to God's action in and through [an] evolutionary process.
And then, finally, with respect to what may be called "natural evil," but is, actually, primarily a question of animal death before the Fall, I would like to to quote from Edward B. Davis' essay (the third in the book) titled, "The Word and the Works: Concordism and American Evangelicals."

Davis writes (pp. 43-45) about the work of several leading late 18th and early 19th century American scientists who sought to bring their understanding of science into line with their conservative interpretations of Scripture. Among them:
Both [Benjamin] Silliman1 and [Edward] Hitchcock2, like Galileo before them, believed that theologians simply could not interpret the Bible correctly without input from scientists, and many theologians shared their view. As Charles Hodge (1797-1878) saw it three decades later, "we only interpret the Word of God by the Word of God when we interpret the Bible by science." [I should note: Charles Hodge was one of the leading conservative American theologians of the 19th century.--JAH] For concordists the principal point of contact between geology in the biblical story of creation was the fact that the Earth was much older than 6,000 years; thus they had to confront the crucial theological problem of explaining the existence of animal death before the fall of Adam. This very issue is still at the heart of young-Earth creationism in our own day, motivating its adherents perhaps more than any other issue to reject old-Earth interpretations of Genesis.

Hitchcock dealt with this forthrightly. . . . "Not only geology," he noted, "but zoology and comparative anatomy, teach us that death among the inferior animals did not result from the fall of man, but from the original Constitution given them by their Creator. One large class of animals, the carnivores, have organs expressly intended for destroying other classes for food." Even herbivores "must have destroyed a multitude of insects, of which several species inhabit almost every species of plant," not to mention the destruction of "millions of animalcula [microscopic organisms], which abound in many of the fluids which animals drink, and even in the air which they breathe."

"In short," he added . . ., "death could not excluded from the world, without an entire change the constitution and course of nature; and such a change we have no reason to suppose, from the Mosaic account, to place one man fell." Furthermore, on biblical grounds alone one might have to allow animal death before the fall. Not only does Romans 5:12 explicitly limit the scope of death to humanity; unless Adam himself had seen death, how could the threat of death for disobedience have real force? [Edward Hitchcock, Elementary Geology,8th ed. (New York: Newman, 1847), pp. 299-300.] Therefore Hitchcock believed . . . the fall introduced humans to spiritual death, not animals to physical death.
For what it's worth, this is the theological view with which I was raised. And I see no Scriptures--Old or New Testament--that require a different view. I can see how or why a young earth view can be brought into line with the idea that every form of death of man and animal was brought about as a result of the sin of Adam and Eve, but, frankly, I sense there may be stronger reasons--both biblical and scientific--for limiting the implications of Adam's and Eve's sin to humans and the spiritual realm than to suggest their sin produced both spiritual and physical death for human beings and the entire physical realm.

--To be continued. Of course!

1 Look up the standard encyclopedic references, and you'll find nothing about Silliman's Christian commitment or, even, his involvement in geology or "natural history." Davis, however, urges us to read John C. Greene's "Protestantism, Science, and American Enterprise: Benjamin Silliman's Moral Universe" in Benjamin Silliman and His Circle: Studies in the Influence of Benjamin Silliman on Science in America, ed. Leonard G. Wilson (New York: Science History Publications, 1979), pp. 11-27.

Davis summarizes Silliman's life:

[O]ne morning in July 1801, Silliman happened upon his father's friend Timothy Dwight, the evangelical president of Yale College, who asked him on the spot to become Yale's first professor of chemistry and natural history, a post he assumed in September 1802. Although some other scientific subjects had been taught at Yale in the 18th century, Dwight recognized the importance of natural history and desire to fill the position with a person of solid Christian. Or, who would use science as an ally of faith.

To prepare himself for the job, Silliman studied chemistry and medicine at the University of Pennsylvania Medical School and attended lectures and chemistry at Edinburgh University, where he met Robert Darwin (father of Charles Darwin). In later years he was influenced by the "concordists" approach to Genesis and geology advocated by Edinburgh geologist Robert Jameson.

At Yale, Silliman enjoyed a long, distinguished career as a highly influential teacher (many leading American scientists were his former pupils), founding editor of the American Journal of Science and the Arts (known in its early years as "Silliman's Journal"), and president of the Association of American Geologists, which in 1848 became the American Association for the Advancement of Science. . . .

He was perhaps best known to the general public . . . as a popular lecturer throughout the length and breadth of the early republic, in which connection he captivated audiences with his love of science coupled with his obvious love of God.

"Admiring as we do the perfection of science exhibited continually by the lecturer," commented a Boston reporter who had heard him give a lecture in 1843, "we have yet a higher love and reverence for that beautiful exhibition of divine truth which Mr. Silliman constantly alludes." This, he added, "is the source of our respect for this accomplished Professor, in comparison with which our admiration for his scientific attainments sinks into insignificance."

2 Hitchcock's religious views are somewhat more readily recognized. Wikipedia, for example, notes that "His chief project . . . was natural theology, which attempted to unify and reconcile science and religion, focusing on geology."

Davis writes:
From 1821 to 1825 [Hitchcock] was pastor of a Congregational Church in Conway, Massachusetts, before ill health forced his dismissal. The following four months studying with Silliman, he became professor of chemistry and natural history--later professor of geology and natural theology as well as president--at Amherst College, where he remained until his death.

Appointed geologist for the states of Massachusetts and Vermont, his Report on the Geology, Mineralogy, Botany, and Zoology of Massachusetts (1833) is the first of its kind. Soon afterward, Hitchcock reported on the first dinosaur tracks ever found, though he and others (including Silliman) words.

Hitchcock served as first president of the Association of American Geologists and was a founding member of the National Academy of Sciences. This text book, Elementary Geology, was reprinted at least 30 times after the first edition of 1840, and The Religion of Geology (1851), is most complete statement of natural theology--the subject closest to his heart--was widely read on both sides of the Atlantic.
Question that bothers me: Why have I never heard of these men before?

I see the need for some new directions in scientific education for Christians!

Is that what's bothering you, Bunkie?

We were talking about something last week that inspired me to remember the famous line I quote in the title of this post. No one else could remember what I was talking about, so I did a little research online.

Ah! "The Old Philosopher" by a guy named Eddie Lawrence:
In September 1956, a single entitled "The Old Philosopher" rose to the Billboard Top 40 chart, a rare distinction for a comedy record by a little-known performer. It turned out to be a one-hit wonder for Eddie Lawrence, but nonetheless paved the way for his long comedy career.

In a four-minute routine, a crotchety, ridiculous-sounding character recounts a litany of nonsensical calamities. Speaking in a comically downtrodden, empathetic voice, you hear . . .
Hiya, folks.
Ya say ya lost your job today?
Ya say its 4 A.M. and your kids ain't home from school yet?
Ya say your wife went out for a corned beef sandwich last weekend - the corned beef sandwich came back, but she didn't?
Ya say your furniture is out all over the sidewalk 'cause ya can't pay the rent and ya got chapped lips and paper cuts and your feets all swollen up and blistered from pounding the pavement looking for work?

Is that whats troubling ya, fellow?


Well, lift your head up high and take a walk in the sun with dignity and stick-to-it-iveness and you'll show the world, you'll show them where to get off.
You'll never give up, never give up, never give up . . . that ship!

Hey there, friend.
Ya say your radiators never worked all winter and now that its summer they started up again and ya can't turn them off?
Ya say your wife sent your lightweight suits to the cleaners and that means you'll have to wear your itchy tweeds this morning when they say it'll hit 106 and ya gotta meet an important business man in an hour and your bridge just broke and ya pasted it together with bubble gum and ya hope it don't fall apart while you're doing some fast talking to this man?
And - and your shoelace just busted and ya opened a big cut on your cheek trying to
even out your sideburns and your daughter's going out with a convict and your wife just confessed she gave your last sixty dollars as a deposit on an airplane hanger?
Is that what's troubling ya, friend?


Hey there, cousin.
Ya say ya can't pull your car out of the mud and you're in the middle of nowhere and its pouring rain and ya can't get the top back up and your paycheck's all blurred and your foot went right through the gas and your girl's screaming bloody murder; she's scared of the dark and a stroke of lightning splits your motor in half and your suit's shrinking up fast and ya start up the windy road on foot and sixty yards barbed wire hits ya right smack in the puss and ya both fall down in the mud and then a wild animal comes over and runs away with your shoes and your car blows up suddenly and your windshield-wiper ends up in your mouth and ya can't move and the mud's rising up to your nostrils and you're sinking fast and ya don't hear your girl screaming anymore?
Is that what's on your mind, cousin?


And now, this is the old philosopher saying, so long, folks.
Not the original recording. But one that Lawrence released a bit later that gives you the flavor:

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Bailout Prize Patrol

Which check do you want?

I'm afraid you've got not choice. . . .

Thank you, Congresspeople!

Monday, February 23, 2009

History repeating itself?

One of my sisters visited Westerwald (Stahlhofen am Wiesensee) in Germany with her family this past weekend. (They live in Germany, so it wasn't too big a trip!)

Our dad wished her a safe trip and said, "I found [your destination] on the internet and spent some time with you in my thoughts! . . . I also found a less pleasant story about Westerwald from the New York Times published in November 1988."

Title of the article: For Germany's Jews, the Night Hope Died--by Serge Schmemann. It's a retrospective on what has come to be known as Kristallnacht, an event that, I know, transformed my father's view of the world, but whose transformative effects, in his letter to my sister, he ascribes mostly to his dad. Quoting from the end of the article, he said the following statements were appropriate for his parents, "especially Papa":
[U]ntil the pogrom, many resisted the gathering evidence that they could no longer stay in a place where their ancestors had lived for centuries and for which many had fought in World War I. "I had wanted to emigrate to Australia already in 1934, but my father wouldn't hear of it," Ernst Kahn recalled. "My mother and father were old people, and they said the Germans won't do us any "harm. . . ."

After the pogrom of Kristallnacht, nobody in Germany could plead ignorance any longer. "Inside Germany, there could no more be any doubt that the country was in the hands of a mass murderer, and there were too few who understood that in this situation patriotism meant to stand up and be counted," said Michael Sturmer, a West German historian.

"War on humanity in Germany intensified on the late afternoon of Nov. 9, 1938," Mr. Sturmer said. "But it took the bystanders, near and far, a long time to understand that their own fate was at stake.'"
I have been doing some research--very, very preliminary research--into what is going on in the United States today. The stuff I've found sounds like it's coming from total nut-cases. Or is it?

I haven't gotten much beyond having the following kinds of information presented to me. Now I need to follow up to find the actual text of the Executive Orders and to find independent (Google Earth?) photos of the alleged detention camps.

But, truly: If these things are so, then what kind of society are we heading toward? And when does it become appropriate to "stand up"? When should the freedom-loving Germans have stood up against the Nazis? Clearly, November 9, 1938, was too late. . . . When and where and why was the "point of no return"? Are we past that point in the United States . . . when the Congress can pass trillion-dollar appropriation bills that no one has even read? (See here as well.)

ETA 2/23/09 at 11:10 AM:There are wonderful skeptics who offer reasonable questions to help counter-balance the "nut-case" perspectives. That's one of the reasons I so appreciate blogs in which comments are turned on! Here, for example, are some counter-balancing perspectives--with specific questions to ask--about (at least some of) the alleged concentration camps.

EXAMPLE: You see a large, mostly undeveloped property being patrolled by a bunch of guys with guns?
More than likely, someone started to develop the site without really knowing what they were doing and went bankrupt in the middle of the project.

If that is the case the ownership of the property will pass to the receiver. These properties will typically sit for a few years while they get the legal mess straightened out and all the liens cleared.

I've seen it happen time and time again. The guards are there to protect the receivers from liability. A half completed golf course is a hell of an attractive nuisance for every teenaged wanabe motocross/ BMX racer.

Once all of those hurdles are cleared, you still need someone to step in and redevelop the site. There could be other hurdles in the way of that. It could be that the original developer tried to fill in a protected wetland, or maybe there is a zoning issue that the local government can not resolve.

If you are really curious, check with your local planning commission. The chances are excellent that they will know exactly who owns the site and what the future planes are for it.

Do you have any idea the type of infrastructure you would need to successfully house 20,000 people, let alone 2 million.

You need water, and plenty of it, you need waste treatment facilities, housing, heat, medical facilities.

Oh, and how are you going to get 2 million people up to Fairbanks Alaska without going through Canada? Oh, yeah, that's right. The Canadians are part of the NWO also.
I guess the main thing is: We need healthy skepticism on both sides!

ETA 2/23/09 at 7:37 PM: My sister added a note this morning concerning some thoughts that resulted from her visit and our dad's letter:
A friend of mine lent me a book recently. [It was] written by Amelie Fried. It told the story about her father. She had no idea what her father and grandparents had gone through in the Nazi time until her husband saw a name in some documents in New York which made him wonder if she had a larger family than she knew... and what a family!!! Almost everyone [was] destroyed in the Hitler regime.

It's amazing what kind of information she was able to get her hands on even though her father had already passed away.

One thing I read I thought I wanted to pass on to you....

She told about her Grandfather gettting beaten up and landing in prison... How she described it reminded me of your grandfather... He ended up going to the police to complain!! They, of course, were not so interested. So he wrote a complaint to Austria where he came from. They ended up writing to the Germans in his town and got a response back... The response made her speechless, and kind of hits me as well to understand--in a sick kind of way--how people could do the things they did those days long ago.

They wrote (I am translating as I can),
On the 18th of May Mr. Fried was insulted in the most crude manner from The NSDP and hit to the ground and then beaten until he was injured. The response from the Police in Ulm was "There was absolutely no rage expressed against Mr. Fried personally. Instead it was only his attribute of being a Jew which was being attacked. Mr. Fried's threats of complaint through the Austrian government makes no impression on us and could only be used against him. Please give us the honor of informing the Austrian consulate that there in no persecution taking place against the mentioned Austrian person.
Mrs. Fried then wrote, "Let that example go over your tongue a few times.... The attack wasn't meant for my Grandfather... it was only meant for his attribute of being a Jew and therefore he shouldn't take it personally, please!"

The perverse thinking of the Nazis was that the Jews were no longer people... They were no longer individuals and therefore it was ok to get rid of them without a bad conscience. They weren't being killed as people, it was only their character of being a Jew.... "The Jews can't really take that personally!"

Mrs. Fried then told about an aunt of hers who still lived in Germany [at the time she wrote the book in 1996]. [The aunt] still had a bad feeling about herself since she was Jewish.... Somehow she still shouldn't [exist]. This was in 1996!!!!

Can you imagine what was done to a whole generation and a half of people... and continues on in the minds of many?

How many people have been told, "You are not meant to be... Please disappear. You are not wanted!!"

And what does Jesus have to say?!

"Cowards die many times . . ."

I've been studying a series of courses called Simpleology for the last few years off and on. Sometimes they drive me nuts: they just don't scratch where I itch. But then, at other times, I realize I need their gentle discipline to keep me moving forward and on track day to day.

Right now I am in a period of time where I am trying to use the program to good benefit. And so, this morning, I listened to Simpleology 103, Lesson 20: "Sources of Distress: Mental Poison."

At one point, the instructor, Mark Joyner, quotes Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, Act II, Scene 2, where Caesar, trying to explain why he is unwilling to be cowed by his opponents, says, "Cowards die many times before their deaths;/The valiant never taste of death but once."

The point: Because they concentrate so much upon risks and opportunities for failure, cowards often permit themselves to operate as if they really were dead. They don't do what they believe they ought to to do . . . out of fear.

Such "operational" death is bad enough. But for the cowards who are aware of their cowardice, I imagine there is a form of mental death as well every time they act as if they were dead: how crushing to the human spirit!

The valiant, meanwhile, thrust aside their fears and proceed to do what they believe they ought to. And so, they do not die until physical death takes them away.

Joyner, of course, urges us to follow the path of the valiant and avoid the mental poison of, as he puts it, "obsessing over failures." Other mental poisons he urges us to avoid:
  • Negativity
  • Hatred
  • Anger
  • Pessimism

Just for fun: some Uranium ore!

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Check out the customer comments. Hilarious!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Whatever method God used to create it, this world is an amazing place

You've got to take the time to watch this video of amazing creatures from the ocean by David Gallo that he presented at a 2007 TED conference. There's a 15-second BMW ad at the beginning, then video clips that will blow your mind . . . especially the last section on an octopus. Gallo's presentation is complete by 5:24:

For some additional stunning videos . . .

Check out this octopus doing a "Great Escape":

Absolutely gorgeous clip (how did the videographer ever capture it?) of a Great White Shark coming completely out of the water:


Or--mostly for fun--this one, of a shrimp on a treadmill, set to music:

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The state of America's biggest banks: Zombies, Walking Wounded, Risky but Proud, or Hidden Gems?

I thought this article was interesting: The Top 12 U.S. Banks: From Zombies to Hidden Gems. Is yours one of these? (Ours is. "Risky but Proud.")

On the medical front . . .

I had some follow-up blood work done in early January and spoke with my "vitality and longevity" doctor about the results.

Good news: my cholesterol numbers are great. The standard LDL/HDL ratio put me at half the normal risk for cardiac disease--about an eighth of what it was last August.

The number of cholesterol-carrying molecules is down to almost half of what it was last August. But last August I was at very nearly double what my doctor told me was high acceptable. . . . So though I'm close to being at the high acceptable range, I'm not "even" quite there. Wonderful progress, but he wants the number of molecules per deciliter of blood reduced still further.

Most worrying: my fasting blood sugar level has risen even higher than it was (and it was already at the upper edge of acceptable). . . . I'm not sure if my numbers (blood glucose and HgbA1c--glycosylated hemoglobin) place me in the range of pre-diabetic, but they are certainly not optimal.

But my doctor told me he believes part of the reason my blood sugar is off is because of some of the things he is having me take for my cholesterol: specifically, the large quantity of Niacin and, if I recall accurately, Vitamin D as well.

So to drive my cholesterol down even further, he has upped my dose of Simvastatin to 30mg a day (50% more than I was taking), and he's pushing me to cut back on my carbs even more.

I was pleased, two weeks ago, to read in our local paper what Dr. Andrew Weil had to say about cholesterol. He confirmed much of what my "vitality and longevity" doctor was saying about the size and number of cholestorol-carrying particles:
You may not know that LDL ("bad") cholesterol comes in two main forms -- small, dense particles and large, fluffy ones. [Stephen R.] Devries[, director of the Integrative Program for Heart Disease Prevention at the University of Illinois at Chicago and author of What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Cholesterol,] explains that the small [cholesterol particles] are the dangerous ones: Because of their size, they're much more likely to get stuck in coronary arteries while the big, fluffy ones roll on through. The size of your LDL particles has a strong genetic basis.
This all sounds right. It accords with what my "vitality and longevity" doctor was telling me (though it is totally outside the knowledge of my regular, insurance-covered doctor).

However, Weil goes on to say,
If your LDL particles are small, Devries says you can change their size and number with simple lifestyle changes including weight control, a low-glycemic-index diet (, fish oil supplements and regular exercise.
I find that harder to believe . . . primarily because, while the number of particles in my blood has decreased dramatically under the regimen my doctor has given me--a regimen that, I would say, is not "simple" and includes far more than mere "lifestyle changes" (i.e., it includes statins)--the size of my cholesterol particles has hardly budged. And I have made the lifestyle changes . . . plus taken the additional steps. . . .

To top it all off, I get reports like this one I just read this morning (from Dr. Russell Blaylock's The Blaylock Wellness Report:
Statins Found to Increase Cancer Risk

A new 41,000-patient study reported in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology
found that taking statins to lower LDL-cholesterol was associated with a significant increase in cancer risk. Researchers were not certain if the increase was due to the dramatic lowering of the LDL-cholesterol or to taking statins.

My studies indicate both may be at fault. We know that statins significantly impair the immune system and that immune surveillance, a system whereby the body’s immune system continuously scans the body for newly appearing nests of cancer cells, is also impaired.

And my mom didn't die at 55 from heart disease; she died from cancer. Of course, her brother died at a relatively young age (not as young as she was, but still relatively young) from heart disease. But she didn't. And my dad is still alive. And heart disease hardly looks as if it's going to be the problem that "does him in."

. . . So I begin to wonder: What should I do?

Kind of the "same old" questions I keep running into with respect to theology: Whom does one believe? Everyone seems to focus on a different issue. . . .

Oh. And then this last note that our paper printed last week:
Vitamins don't prevent disease, new study says

. . . The eight-year study of 161,808 postmenopausal women echoes recent disappointing vitamin studies in men.

Millions of Americans spend billions of dollars on vitamins to boost their health. Research has focused on cancer and heart disease in particular because of evidence that diets full of vitamin-rich foods might protect against those illnesses. But that evidence doesn't necessarily mean pills are a good substitute. . . .

The study appeared in Monday's Archives of Internal Medicine. Co-author Dr. JoAnn Manson said that despite the disappointing results, the research doesn't mean multivitamins are useless. The data is observational, not the most rigorous scientific research. And it's not clear if taking vitamins might help prevent cancers that take years to develop, said Manson, chief of preventive medicine at Harvard's Brigham & Women's Hospital.
You can find a few more scraps of data on the subject in the original article.

It's been a bit "heavy" here, lately. So . . . for a change of pace . . .

I ran across a post on the Sonlighters Club forums with a link to this video: "I Think My Wife's a Calvinist" . . .

The chorus:
I think my wife's a Calvinist, she only owns an ESV.
I'm always catching her reading Romans 10:28-30 . . . Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology.
She has a tattoo that says "I [heart] John Piper" in Greek. She likes Spurgeon more than she likes me.
And that's okay. I didn't choose her. She chose me. . . .
And some of the "verses":
She doesn't read the Beth Moore book I bought her; she'd rather read St. Augustine.
If she wasn't a Baptist preacher's daughter, I think she'd be Presbyterian.

She put me in the doghouse for liking the Emergent Church.
She won't fix my supper now 'cause I brought home a book by Norman Geisler.
If you ever met her you know she's not mean; she's really sweet . . .
Except when it comes to the little bitty matter of doctrine and theology.
I listened for a while, and as I listened, I read the comments on the YouTube webpage where you can view the video. Suddenly, it wasn't so funny anymore. I realized (or, rather, I was reminded) how divisive Calvin is (or can be).

Somehow, that got me looking at some of the other videos on the same page. And first one up: "Mariah Carey is a Calvinist?"

That caught my eye. Perhaps more than it might normally since I happened to read a brief bio of Carey last night when one of her songs came up on my Pandora "Sweet Vocal" station:
The best-selling female performer of the 1990s, Mariah Carey rose to superstardom on the strength of her stunning five-octave voice. . . . [A]n elastic talent who moved easily from glossy ballads to hip-hop-inspired dance-pop, she earned frequent comparison to rivals Whitney Houston and Celine Dion, but did them both one better by composing all of her own material.

I know nothing more about Carey or her music than what that particular article said. I don't know that I'm aware of a single song she sang. But to hear that she had (or has) a five-octave range: now, that's impressive!

Anyway. I decided to see what this particular videographer had to say about Carey's theology. And I had to stifle my laughter . . . since Sarita was still asleep in the next room, just feet away from where I'm sitting.


The video begins rather slowly (but what can you do when the song itself, upon which the video is based, begins so slowly?). Eventually, too, you may feel it becomes repetitive. But if you're familiar with basic Calvinist doctrine, I expect this should bring a smile (at least).

Oh. And please forgive the author's misspelling of "Perseverance."

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Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Does old-earth/old-universe creationism=Liberalism? Atheism?

Last night, I followed a few links . . . and links from links . . . from Tim Martin's paper, Homeschooling, the Genesis Debate, and Hypocrisy, and comments about the paper.

Tim, for example, included a link to a brief quotation from a sermon by Charles Haddon Spurgeon preached on June 17, 1855--four years before Darwin's On the Origin of Species saw the light of day. The title of Spurgeon's sermon: The Power of the Holy Ghost.

Tim preceded the quote from Spurgeon with this comment:
[O]rganizations like the Institute for Creation Research, Answers in Genesis, and Creation Ministries International, [promote the concept] that any belief in an old earth or universe is compromise with Bible-denying liberals and unbelieving atheistic Darwinists. For devoted young-earth advocates the situation is as simple as this: believe our interpretation of Genesis creation and Noah's flood, or side with the liberals and godless scientists. . . .

[But] the next time you witness this tactic, perhaps you can ask a very simple question. Was Charles Haddon Spurgeon a liberal evolutionist? Here is what he taught in one of his sermons:
. . . In the 2d verse of the first chapter of Genesis, we read, "And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters." We know not how remote the period of the creation of this globe may be—certainly many millions of years before the time of Adam. Our planet has passed through various stages of existence, and different kinds of creatures have lived on its surface, all of which have been fashioned by God. But before that era came, wherein man should be its principal tenant and monarch, the Creator gave up the world to confusion.
I found it so hard to believe that Spurgeon would say such a thing (after all, I, myself, have been listening quite carefully to the declarations of the young-earth creationists, and they really do make the kinds of claims Tim ascribes to them: that anyone who disagrees with their perspective has been, at minimum, influenced by godless liberals (if not having become one outright))--that I decided I had to look up Spurgeon's original for myself. (You can find it at

What I found there astonished me even further, because it went beyond that which Tim quoted.


It sounds as if Spurgeon himself was preaching a view of providential creation very similar to what I have been hearing and writing about, here, that I have now heard from the Haarsmas, Glover, and, now, Miller and friends.

Immediately preceding the passage that Tim quotes, I found this:
[T]he Spirit has manifested the omnipotence of his power in creation works; for though not very frequently in Scripture, yet sometimes creation is ascribed to the Holy Ghost, as well as to the Father and the Son.

The creation of the heavens above us, is said to be the work of God's Spirit. This you will see at once by referring to the sacred Scriptures, Job 26, 13th verse, "By his Spirit he hath garnished the heavens; his hand hath formed the crooked serpent." All the stars of heaven are said to have been placed aloft by the Spirit, and one particular constellation called the "crooked serpent," is specially pointed out as his handiwork.

He looseth the bands of Orion; he bindeth the sweet influences of the Pleiades, and binds Arcturus with his suns.

He made all those stars that shine in heaven. The heavens were garnished by his hands, and he formed the crooked serpent by his might.

So, also, in those continued acts of creation which are still performed in the world; as the bringing forth of man and animals, their birth and generation. These are ascribed also to the Holy Ghost.

If you look at the 104th Psalm, at the 29th verse you will read, "Thou hidest thy face, they are troubled; thou takest away their breath, they die, and return to their dust. Thou sendest forth thy Spirit, they are created; and thou renewest the face of the earth." So that the creation of every man is the work of the Spirit; and the creation of all life, and all flesh-existence in this world, is as much to be ascribed to the power of the Spirit, as the first garnishing of the heavens, or the fashioning of the crooked serpent.
--I quote this latter passage because it seems to indicate that Spurgeon himself would have found little difficulty with the idea that God may have used "natural processes"--what I referred to, yesterday, as "proximate causes" (possibly, "even," "evolution"!)--to bring about His creation.

But back to the links I found from Tim's article.

"Virgil" commented:
When the folks at are disagreeing with Ken Ham, you know that he has gotten out of control and he is in fact falling out of favor with his followers. He has played the "heresy" card one time too many if you ask me. . . .
--And he provided a link to an article on, posted just yesterday, but referencing something Mr. Ham wrote some ten years ago: The god of an old earth: Does the Bible teach that disease, bloodshed, violence and pain have always been 'part of life'?

Writes the Free Republic author:
By declaring “the god of an old earth cannot be the God of the Bible” and “the god of an old earth destroys the Gospel,” he is accusing old-earth creationists of heresy.

Disagreements in the body of Christ are inevitable. And history has shown debate in the church can be edifying and unifying when it is conducted properly. This requires focusing on the things that unite us and avoid passing judgment on nonessential matters (Romans 14:1). But, that is not the spirit of Ham’s paper. By claiming old-earth creationism violates orthodox Christian teachings, he seeks to denigrate and marginalize it. That only serves to divide faithful Christians and prevent them from having fellowship together.
Ouch! --Kind of what I was referring to last night when I referenced Mark 9:40 and Luke 9:50 (where Jesus says, "he who is not against us is for us") v. Matthew 12:30 and Luke 11:23 (where Jesus says, "He who is not with Me is against Me"). While not denying the latter in any way, I noted that "my predilection is to seek, hope, and believe the best, and to pursue the former [a general sense of cooperation], rather than the latter [a general sense of opposition]."

What disturbs me most grievously in the ongoing creation/evolution wars is this: that most partisans seem to enjoy exactly what my friend Tracy warns against in her article on the finest practices Christians should adopt when they engage in sacred-cow tipping. Sadly, too many of us take joy in tipping others' cows. We don't put pillows down for other people's cows. We don't give them time and space to realize that their cows are down. [Please read her entire (short) article to place these comments in context!]

I hope my ongoing discussion of these issues, here, will not cause my young-earth brothers and sisters to feel that I am abandoning them or taking pleasure in attempting to tip their cows! That is not my intention at all.

Rather, I am attempting simply to share what is going through my mind pretty much as it is going through my mind . . . and hoping you'll accompany me on my journey . . . provide warnings and counter-balancing perspectives, if and as you see the need, and, perhaps, point out additional vistas that I might otherwise miss.


A postscript: I wrote to Tim, before I did my own search for Spurgeon's sermon, and commented, "He really said that in 1855--four years before Darwin's book came out?!?"

Tim replied: "The Spurgeon quote shocked me, too. A reader sent it in a few weeks ago. I thought it was funny because of the date. And, you probably haven't noticed, but AiG is releasing a 'modernized' version of Spurgeon's material. Jeff [Vaughn, Tim's co-author for Beyond Creation Science] investigated and found that they omitted that sermon!" Edited to Add, on 2/22/09 at 7:20 AM: I have now followed the link Jeff provided in his comment (Comment #2, below). At this moment, there is no evidence that AiG has omitted anything. If they are going to omit something, that should become obvious beginning on Thursday of this coming week--on February 26th--since that is the day on which, it appears, their Charles Spurgeon--Reloaded program should come to the particular sermon under question: Spurgeon's Sermon #30, The Power of the Holy Ghost.

If the charge is true, I go back to my original post that kind of sparked this entire discussion: Are you being treated like a child? Who controls what you get to hear? --Are we entering a new era of "Christian soviet thought-control" . . . in which one side attempts to control the debate by censoring what the majority of people can hear from those they view as opponents?

On the art of sacred-cow tipping . . .

A Holstein cowImage via Wikipedia

I just posted about Tracy moving on from her duties as a Sonlighters Club forum moderator.

In the responses to her farewell address, one participant wrote,
I still consider your thoughts on sacred-cow tipping to be among the finest things I've ever read on the art of interpersonal communication, especially in regards to views on religion.
Oh, wow! I agree!
On the sport of Sacred-Cow Tipping....

As moderator, I often get a lot of "reaction" to various threads and posters and topics.

May I make some observations?
  • You [generally] all have sacred cows in your barnyards.
  • You [generally] are most upset and most convinced that [fill in the name] is being inflammatory and mean when it is YOUR cow that is being tipped. And vice versa.
  • You [generally] are also [generally] equally convinced that you are "just telling the truth" when you are tipping someone else's cow.
It has been my observation, that the degree of "fairness" and "appropriateness" of any single argument/post/thread depends in large part (but not entirely so) on whether or not the cow being tipped is in your [general] barnyard.

Now I am sometimes handicapped by not being able to speak MY own personal mind about the delicacy or lack thereof of the various cow-tippers and their cow-tipping technique. But if I may speak in some general terms?

Don't take joy in tipping others' cows or tip them solely for the fun of it. Perhaps it might be possible to get someone to abandon his/her cow WITHOUT proving how easily it can be tipped. It doesn't always have to be about tipping the cow. Have MERCY for crying out loud!

But if you MUST tip the cow....

Put pillows down for other people's cows. Soften the blow. Make it about YOU and not THEM and as much as possible treat their cow with all of the respect that you can.

Give them time and space to realize that their cow is down. And frankly, let them walk away without admitting or even realizing that their cow [in your opinion] has actually been tipped. It's THEIR cow. They are entitled to keep it as long as they want even if it isn't steady on its feet.

The more certain you are that all of your cows are not only standing but couldn't POSSIBLY be tipped, the greater your obligation to be gracious and let the Holy Spirit do the work.

And ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS . . . keep it about the cows and NOT their owners. Cows are stupid. Cows are stubborn. Cows may be smelly and stinky and wobbly on their feet. Their OWNERS are loved by God.

Feel free to work this metaphor into oblivion . . . sometimes it isn't about the elephant in the room, it's about cow-tipping.
As I wrote earlier: I'm going to miss Tracy!

An era passing: I shed some tears this morning . . .

I get on the Sonlighters Club forums only very occasionally anymore. ("Back in the day" I used to spend hours there every day.)

This morning I went to one of my favorite Sonlighters Club forums (Lifelong Learners) and read the "farewell address" of one of the Sonlight moderators, one of the forums' very early participants, a woman whose services I urged Sonlight to acquire as a moderator specifically because I had seen how thoughtful and well-spoken she was.

Tracy has served as a moderator so long, I don't even recall when she began her duties. Probably about eight years ago, I would guess.

Well . . . her time of service seems to have come to an end as of this last weekend. And I happened to stumble upon her summary, goodbye post as a moderator.

I thought her insights were well worth repeating here. Through her moderating work, she helped to establish as practice (not always followed, but ever-more-intentionally pursued) what I expressed as a principle of communication I seek to follow in my own life and attempted to integrate into the Sonlight Curriculum. Specifically: "Seek first to understand, and then to be understood."

Sadly, I'm afraid, for too many of us--especially in the Christian community--the emphasis is entirely the other way 'round. (Indeed, I'm afraid, too often the matter of understanding is neglected completely in our headlong rush to make sure we "preach the 'Good News'"!)

Anyway. The following is an excerpt from Tracy's "Farewell Address" that made me cry:
On this, my last day as a Sonlight moderator, I’d just like to say, “Thank-you!” to each and every last one of you that has ever posted on the Sonlight forums, to those of you who lurked, to those of you I’ve spoken to on the phone, and with whom I have had email conversations. You’ve changed me in deep and lasting ways, and I am grateful to you.

You’ve made me lose sleep, miss meals, say bad words, and yes . . . scream in frustration. You’ve also inspired me, challenged me, taught me, shaped me, pushed me, stretched me, encouraged me, prayed for me, and been my friends . . . even when you didn’t know it was me that you were encouraging. Thank you for good times and bad.

I’ve had to learn to articulate just what it is that tends to make communication spiral out of control. Even though on good days, many of you have inspired me by your ability to look past your differences and reach out in genuine acts of loving charity toward someone with whom you completely disagree. I’ve had to learn to pinpoint, define, and express what pushes people to lash out. And in the end, you’ve changed me. Perhaps, not so much my opinions with regard to politics and religion and parenting and Harry Potter, and breast-feeding (or not), but in my ability to look for and express common ground where it can be found and to have a real affection for those with whom I disagree on substantive issues . . . like eggplant. To that end, you’ve helped me be a better co-worker and parent. To learn to articulate a principle is to become a better teacher of it both to oneself and to others.

I like to think I am a better person today, than when I started this job. You’ve challenged me and stretched me.

On the bad days, I’ve had to sit down and define just what made a post charitable or uncharitable completely independent of whether or not I agreed with the opinion expressed therein. That was hard and it taught me a lot. Many, many of you have taught me through your fine examples how to have a controversial opinion and express it with charity. If I have ever managed to express in words, how to communicate charitably; then, it is because I have seen so many fine examples of how to do it during my time as a Sonlight moderator. Through that exercise, I’ve learned to be more charitable in the way I express myself (I hope) in all aspects of my life and shockingly (to me) in many ways, I am more charitable than when I started work as a moderator and not just in the ways I express myself. By that I mean, I don’t just say things charitably but I AM more charitable. I am grateful to you all beyond words for that gift to me. . . .

From the bottom of my heart that you’ve all had a hand in enlarging . . . Thank you.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Yowzie! The CHEC controversy looks like it is about to boil over . . .

Tim Martin forewarned me he intended to write about what happened between Sonlight and CHEC. (See the follow-up posts as well. For example, my Change of Interpretation article, CHEC, Part III, and, finally, A direct (indirect) statement from Kevin Swanson about CHEC's perspective on Sonlight.)

And, in fact, Tim forwarded me an early draft of his document for my review. But I didn't take the time to read it until he emailed me to say he had actually posted what he had written, posted it in public.

I just (in the last hour or so, ending a few minutes ago) read the document: Homeschooling, the Genesis Debate, and Hypocrisy.

I'm impressed with the quality of research, thinking, and, finally, writing Tim has done! The paper is hard-hitting and, I think, by and large, very clean-hitting. Just a couple of places I think Tim may have overstepped the bounds a bit . . . ascribing motives to behaviors that I doubt he could be absolutely sure about. (I think, particularly, of his charge, under "Learning Lessons: Failure of Leadership," that "When John and Sonlight pursued the matter [of Sonlight having been banned from the CHEC convention], CHEC decided to embark on a fishing expedition to find some new 'concern' that would vindicate the ban on Sonlight, saving face for CHEC's previous decision." I think that is a reasonable hypothesis. I just can't know for sure that it is true.)

Tim's words, clearly, are his own. They are not mine. But--as implied by my linking to it--I think the article is well worth reading and the questions it raises worth thinking about. . . .


And knowing how this kind of stuff works, let me address an issue that might soon blow up in my face if I don't make note of it now.

Tim is an advocate of an eschatological system known as preterism.

I know enough to know that this perspective is wildly divisive in some circles. (Indeed, Tim's paper says as much.)

I know enough about the subject to find it mildly intriguing but also seriously troubling, all at the same time.

I have stumbled around just enough on a few preterist websites to realize that some preterists call others heretics. And at least one such preterist levels exactly that charge against Tim.

I wouldn't be at all surprised to find that many non-preterists are convinced that all preterists (or, at least, a goodly number of preterists) are heretics.

I will confess ignorance on these matters.

But, then, by personality and preference, I tend to gravitate more toward Jesus' statement to His disciples that "he who is not against us is for us" (Mark 9:40; see also Luke 9:50) than I do to His other statement (Matthew 12:30; see also Luke 11:23) that, "He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters."

ETA: Clearly, there is truth in both perspectives. Jesus Himself obviously taught both. I am simply saying my predilection is to seek, hope, and believe the best, and to pursue the former, rather than the latter . . . with respect to friends and ostensible foes.

I seek, hope for, and try to pursue the former unless and until it becomes impossible. . . .

Perspectives on an Evolving Creation, 2c - Evolution and Creation - Excursus 2: Science

#4 in an ongoing series on Perspectives on an Evolving Creation edited by Keith B. Miller. Previous post in this series: Perspectives on an Evolving Creation, 2b - Evolution and Creation - Excursus 1: Naturalism. First post in the series: Perspectives on an Evolving Creation, 1 - Introduction.

In my last post in this series, I mentioned a co-worker who told me he found the Haarsmas' and Glover's presentations--at least as far as I quoted them--quite unconvincing [see my posts from January 21st and 28th and then, finally, on February 1st].

I suggested that the first reason he may have found them unconvincing had to do with my failure adequately to distinguish the methodological naturalism of science (as science, i.e., science per se) from the thoroughgoing ontological naturalism of those we can properly describe as scientists who are committed to advancing an atheistic philosophy.

I urged that we need to distinguish philosophy from science. [I wrote further on the subject, yesterday.]

Today, I'd like to address a second objection my friend raised: that the study of evolution/creation is not and cannot be science--"after all, you can't engage in replicable experiments; you can't follow the scientific method. . . . Creation (or evolution) was a singular event, therefore, by definition, unreproducible." Indeed, "If we're going to let science impinge on our Scriptural understanding of creation, then, logically, we have to permit it to adjust our understanding of the Virgin Birth as well, aren't we? It's a short step from having 'science' redefine our view of creation to having 'science' throw out all the miracles of the Bible."

Let me note: I placed these statements in quotation marks, but this is my [I'm sure faulty] recollection of our conversation. I believe what I have "quoted" him as saying accurately represents the basic sentiments he attempted to communicate, but I hope he will forgive me if I have failed fully and accurately to state his "argument" as he presented it to me.

"Before discussing how the relationship of 'creation' and 'evolution' might be best understood, it is useful first to define the terms." writes Keith Miller in the first sentence of his opening essay in Perspectives on an Evolving Creation. (Essay title: "An Evolving Creation: Oxymoron or Fruitful Insight?")

After "creation" and "evolution," there is a third term I believe we need to define. That is science.

What is science?

Miller writes:
Science is a methodology, a limited way of knowing about the natural world. Scientific research proceeds by the search for chains of cause-and-in fact and confines itself to the investigation of 'natural' entities and forces. This self-limitation is sometimes referred to as 'methodological naturalism.' Science restricts itself to proximate causes, and the confirmation or denial of ultimate causes is beyond its capacity. Science does not deny the existence of a creator--it is simply silent on the existence or action of God. The term 'methodological naturalism' is intended to communicate that only natural (as opposed to supernatural) causes can in principle be investigated using scientific methodologies. Methodological naturalism describes what empirical inquiry is--it is certainly not a statement of the nature of cosmic reality. . . . Our most profound questions about the nature of reality (questions of ultimate meaning, purpose, and morality), while they may arise from within science, are theological or philosophical in nature, and their answers lie beyond the reach of science.

--Op. cit., p. 7

"Ahh!" many of us think: "The scientific method." And we think of what we learned in high school about making observations, forming hypotheses that might explain the observations, then creating experiments that might confirm, disconfirm, or force one to modify one's hypotheses, etc.

Oh. And we think in terms of replicability: other people must be able to repeat the experiments and replicate the results--one key aspect of the scientific method I remember from high school and that my friend said he believes is lacking from any and all positive discussions of the idea that all living things descended from a common ancestor.

Despite, at this point, being in the midst of a discussion of Miller's book, I want to turn once more to the Haarsmas' Origins to respond to the objection.

Specifically, I would like to point out the different types of scientific method utilized in different types of science--a concept I think we all understand, but that our high school science teachers failed to emphasize.

The Haarsmas list three different scientific methods in their book (pp. 48-50): experimental, observational, and historical. Once you think about it, I expect you, too, will agree that all three of these qualify as legitimate science, even though they don't all partake of the character of what we were taught concerning the scientific method back in high school.

1. Experimental Science

The Haarsmas write:
Experimental science is the primary type of science done in the fields of physics, chemistry, and molecular biology, as well as parts of ecology and geology. [Done i]n the laboratory, experiments are accessible; the scientist can measure what is happening, monitor the experiment from beginning to end, destroy the products of the experiment, and start over at any time. She can control many variables in the experiment . . . and remove external variables. . . . And she can repeat experiments in the lab if necessary to confirm the first results. . . . Experimental scientists make testable predictions . . . that can be confirmed or contradicted in future experiments.
2. Observational Science
Sometimes controlled experiments cannot be done because the system under study won't fit in the lab, is too far away, or is too dependent on its environment. In those cases, scientists can still do careful observations. . . .

Observational science is commonly done in the fields of meteorology, ecology, medicine, astronomy, and geology. . . . The ecologist can't sit all year and watch the plants grow, and an astronomer can't travel to a star to measure its temperature. But scientists devise alternate methods to get around these difficulties, such as counting plants periodically or analyzing the light of the star to deduce its temperature. Observational science is not controlled; meteorologists cannot produce a cold front whenever they like, nor do ecologists burn down forests just so they can watch how they recover. Observational science must take nature as it comes.

A lack of control makes observational science less repeatable than experimental science. The forest fire can't be repeated whenever the ecologist wants, but fires happen often enough that many are available to study. Usually enough examples are available that the consistency of the underlying laws of nature can be tested on several cases. . . . [J]ust like experimental science, observational science makes testable predictions (like the wildflower growth rate after a fire) that can be confirmed or contradicted in observations of other similar systems.
And then, finally, there is

Historical Science
[This] third method of scientific investigation [involves] modeling the past behavior of systems, including events that occurred before they could be directly observed. Here's an example:

An ecologist travels to a remote forest in order to study its history. She first examines a large tree that has recently fallen down in a storm. She takes a thin slice of the trunk to the laboratory and counts the tree rings. She finds that a 131 years ago a particular ring is extremely thin (indicating drought) and shows evidence of mild fire damage. She hypothesizes that much of the surrounding forest earned down 131 years ago, but this tree survived. Based on the work of her colleague who studies recent forest fires, she makes predictions about the other trees living in the forest: the largest trees will show similar fire damage 131 years ago; many of the smaller trees will prove to be a 120-125 years old, having sprouted 5-10 years after the fire. To test this prediction, she takes core samples of several living trees and looks at their rings. The results confirm her prediction: the older trees all show fire damage 131 years ago, and many of the smaller trees are about 120 years old.

Historical science is common in the fields of ecology, climatology, astronomy, cosmology, evolutionary biology, geology, and paleontology. The goal of historical science is to deduce the natural history of systems. . . . Historical science is not directly accessible because no scientists were around at the time to make observations; however, those events are indirectly accessible because of the evidence they left behind. Like a detective, a historical scientist uses the evidence available today to deduce the history.

Like observational science, historical science is not controlled: scientists cannot go back in time to change the initial event, so they have to work with what actually happened. Historical science investigations can be repeatable when many similar historical situations are available to study (such as the many different trees born after the same forest fire). In some cases, however, the event is not repeated (as in the case of the universe: there is only one universe for cosmologists to study), but scientists can still find evidence that tells them about the natural processes that occurred during that event.

Historical science, at its best, is particularly useful for testing whether physical laws remain unchanged over the years, because historical science gathers data related to events that happened over as wide a period of time as possible.

Most important, historical science makes testable predictions, just as experimental and observational science do. Scientists routinely study one system (such as one tree or one star cluster), make a model for its history, and then predict what they will find in additional observations. These observations could be of other similar systems, or they could be of the same system but made with different instruments. In either case, the observations test the prediction, supporting or contradicting their model for the history of the system.
The Haarsmas suggest you check out the article K-T Boundary Investigation for "another real-life example of historical science."

Can--indeed, should--the results of historical science investigations be questioned? Absolutely!

Should we question the assumptions of those who engage in such investigation? Yes!

Is it legitimate to suggest that such investigations are, necessarily, and by definition, unscientific? No. I think not! Some (maybe even most) such investigations may be unscientific. Indeed, I imagine many are. But I believe it absolutely is illegitimate to suggest they are unscientific by definition.

As I attempted to clarify yesterday, the scientific enterprise is, by definition, all about seeking "proximate, material causes for whatever phenomena scientists determine they want to discover proximate, material causes."

Is their enterprise doomed to failure?

In some areas, I expect, it will, indeed, fail. I lack faith in the idea that the material universe is all that exists. I believe there is evidence that a "supernatural"--i.e., beyond-nature, spiritual--reality exists. And I believe this supernatural realm impinges upon the "natural" or physical. Indeed, as I have often noted in the past (and as the Haarsmas, and Glover, and just about every other Christian evolutionist I have met note), the Bible teaches this and I (and they) believe it: God supervenes over history . . . all history . . . even those portions where, to our eyes, "pure, unadulterated, random chance" seems to rule. Some of the Scriptures that bear on the subject:
  • With respect to pure, unadulterated chance (at least as as it is perceivable from a human perspective): Proverbs 16:33--"The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from [Jehovah]."
  • Colossians 1:17: "[I]n [Jesus] all things hold together."
  • Hebrews 1:3: "[Jesus] upholds all things by the word of His power."
  • Proverbs 16:9: "The mind of man plans his way, But [Jehovah] directs his steps."
  • Proverbs 19:21: "Many plans are in a man's heart, But the counsel of [Jehovah] will stand."
  • Proverbs 21:31: "The horse is prepared for the day of battle, But victory belongs to [Jehovah]."
  • Genesis 50:20 (where Joseph speaks to his brothers who had sold him into slavery): "As for you, you meant evil against me, {but} God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive."
  • And so forth.

The point in all of this: It doesn't matter whether we, as humans, can discern a supernatural prevenience at work; Christians are convinced--to the point that we would say we "know" (by faith), God is in control . . . just as, I might add, atheists also are convinced--to the point that they would say they "know" (and, I would note, "by faith"), "There is no God."

And in both cases, I can state with absolute assurance, the claims are non-scientific.