Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Cold Fusion actually real?

You may recall the furor 20 years ago when Martin Fleischmann and Stanley Pons announced they had been able to generate more energy than was put into a tabletop nuclear fusion apparatus. If their experiment could be proven real, it would open the prospects for abundant, virtually free, and--almost more important than anything else (considering the fears that had arisen from the Three-Mile Island nuclear accident and the Chernobyl disaster only 10 and three years before, respectively.

If future such accidents could be avoided, it would be a great boon for civilization.

As it turned out, no other scientists who tried to duplicate their experiments were able to confirm similar effects. And so Fleishmann and Pons suffered the ridicule of the scientific establishment to the point where, as one commenter has put it, "cold fusion research [became] about as scientifically respectable as astrology." Or, as another person put it, "to some, [Department of Energy cold fusion discussions (that really did take place)] would seem no less outrageous than if the DOE honchos had convened for a séance to raise the dead."

And yet, just a week ago (last Monday),
analytical chemist Pamela Mosier-Boss of SPAWAR [the U.S. Navy's Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center], . . . [s]peaking at the American Chemical Society in Salt Lake City (the site of the infamous Pons/Fleischmann press conference) . . . described "The first scientific report of the production of highly energetic neutrons from a LENR device."

LENR means Low Energy Nuclear Reaction, a euphemism that has been adopted since the words "cold fusion" tend to provoke bouts of metaphorical heretic-burning.
Question is: Is it real?

Check out the stories at New Scientist, on a true believer's website, and at Wired.com.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Housekeeping: Please forgive me

I have been using a blog plug-in, called SezWho, that was meant to improve users' social networking abilities. Among other things, it was meant to help visitors recognize the comments of commenters respected by the community of commenters.

Well, SezWho announced early this month that they had been purchased by another company, JS-Kit.

This past week I received an urgent warning that if I wanted to get the same--and even broader--benefits, I should switch over to JS-Kit . . . which I did on Friday.

Well, JS-Kit didn't do what I intended. And it added a layer of complexity to commenting (especially long comments) that I could not countenance.

So it is gone.

Meanwhile, however, it appears I caused one commenter unnecessary aggravation and, in removing JS-Kit, have lost both his comment as well as the comment of another. I have both commenters' words, but am requesting the commenters themselves to please repost their comments. (I could do it, but then I would be identified as the commenter. And I don't think that would be right.)

If you were commenting at the moment I removed JS-Kit this morning (about 4:45 Mountain Time), I expect you, too, were inconvenienced (to put it mildly).

Please forgive me.

Thank you.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

CHEC "Men's Leadership Summit," Part II--"For Such a Time as This -- The 1000-Year Battle Over the Hearts and Minds of the Next Generation"

#2 in an ongoing series on Christian Home Educators of Colorado 2009 "Men's Leadership Summit" (otherwise known as the "The Vision of the Leadership Summit") held in Indianapolis, Indiana, at one of the hotels owned by Bill Gothard's group over the weekend of March 5-7, 2009. Previous (and first) post in this series: 2009 Christian Home Educators of Colorado (CHEC) "Men's Leadership Summit," Part I.

I should note that, in my last post on this theme, I was quoting from my informant's summary notes about the CHEC 2009 Men's Leadership Summit held at the Indianapolis Training Center of Bill Gothard's Institute in Basic Life Principles.

I decided, if I was going to report any more, I had better listen to the recordings from the meeting and convey very accurately the specific messages of those who spoke at the convention.

This post comes from the opening speech Kevin Swanson made to the convention on Thursday evening, March 5, 2009 and is available in full, audio form from ResoundingVoice.com.


After some introductory comments about his family and his father-in-law's deathbed conversion from anti-Christian zealot to believer, Swanson transitioned to the primary subject of his speech, "The 1000 Year Battle Over the Hearts and Minds of the Next Generation."

He began with an expression of thanks:
Let's thank God for the men and women who went before us--the R.J. Rushdoonys, the Gordon Clarks, the Cornelius Van Tils--who created the materials that we are using today. I've also read some great materials written by Gregg Harris and Chris Klicka and Mike Farris. These guys were writing things in the 1980s that we are saying today. . . .

We here, today, stand on the shoulders of guys who went before us 20 and 30 years ago who started The Reformation of the 20th Century [the homeschool/home discipleship movement].

Let us also thank God for the many Deborahs and Esthers--the many, many women who were faithfully teaching their children in the '80s, '90s and 2000s. . . .

But if men don’t step up to the plate today, this Reformation will not move on. . . . We have been raised up for such a time as this.
And with that, he was off and running, first with a littany of societal failures.

Key points:
  • "Manhood has virtually become extinct. Men are not being men." Evidence for this claim:
    • 70% of young men, according to Newsweek magazine, are not grown up by 30 years of age. ("That's up from 35% in the 1970s.")
    • They don’t have steady jobs.
    • They are making less money than their parents did in the 1970s and less than women their same age.
    • They live at home with their parents.
    • More girls are in college and involved in student government than are young men. (57% of the people in college today are women; 43% men. "In our local public high school, where our church meets for worship, there are pictures for all the members of student council: 18 are women; three are little boys.")
    "I believe you're seeing, here, a picture of the future of this nation if men are not men."
By contrast,
  • 1 Samuel 23 shows us mighty men of God, the mighty men of David, men who, for a span of 40 years, had the opportunity to advance the kingdom of God. They were men of vision and courage. And we need such men today to discern the real dragons and take them on.

    "I believe, with the 480 men here, today, we can see some significant positive change in hundreds and hundreds of churches and families across America."
What are the dragons Swanson believes these men must slay?
  • "We need to engage in the battle of Ideas--the most dangerous battle today. We need to take down everything/every thought that puts itself above Christ."
  • "We need to engage in this conflict together."

    "People are engaged in vision-casting, but not involved in a battle for unity."

    Swanson noted that in Ephesians 4:1-3, Paul says, "I want you to strive [Swanson: "like a gladiator, fighting for your very life"] to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."
  • We need to "destroy speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God," and "take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ" (2 Corinthians 10:5). But at the same time, we need to engage in the battle of love.
  • We need to give our lives.

    "I want men willing to die, to shed their blood for the Christ who shed His blood for us. Oh, would that God would make us willing to bleed for the Kingdom, to bleed for the truth, and to bleed for the love of the brothers!"

    Therefore, "Don't you dare bring your vision to the dinner table where you are slicing differences between brothers. No. You engage in vision-casting as you bring brothers together at the same time.
And with those principles in mind, then, Swanson noted, "I have been working with many of you on a Homeschool Manifesto. But I'm not bringing the Homeschool Manifesto out to split the homeschool movement. No! I'm bringing a vision, a manifesto, that we can agree upon. . . . "

At this point, then, he inserted a side note about the Manifesto many of the men who attended the Summit expected they were going to be working on:
By the way, we are going to put off the publishing of the Manifesto. We're not doing it this week, because we don't think we have cultivated it enough. We're going to give you an outline, a preview of that Manifesto. And we're going to beg for your wisdom, for your vision, as we continue to mold this vision of a Christian education manifesto for the 21st century.

I think it's about time we had such a manifesto because, number one, education is falling apart in America. Our culture is falling apart. And the culture, the social system, is a derivative of the educational system. And the political system is a derivative of the social system. And it's all falling apart. Is that clear to anybody who has picked up the Wall Street Journal lately . . . or any newspaper? Our world is falling apart! I mean, the character of this nation is in free-fall. [He then recapitulated the statistics he quoted already plus a lot, lot more--a very grim report about Western culture and how it is destroying everything it touches.] . . .

Call it what you will, existentialistic, humanistic, materialistic, whatever it is, it is enveloping our culture, our academic system, our universities, our economic system. It is raging. And if our little children even get one little toe in that river, it will suck them through and [make] them join the millions upon millions of Christian children who have been taken into this river.
It's against this bleak backdrop of a virtually irredeemable culture that Swanson then builds his case for a new model, a new vision for education--not education; not homeschooling, but discipleship and nurture.

He begins with a little intellectual history lesson and a statement of how he, himself, would prefer we teach world history--the history of what he calls the City of God and the City of Man.

What is the source of all the cultural decay he summarized for us?
I think we're coming to the end of an about 1000-year project of building the City of Man.

The City of Man is built by the Cains of this world, the humanists, those that refuse to fear and love and worship the living God. It is their project. And this project has been worked on for the last 1000 years. . . .

[W]hat we see over the last 1000 years is the slow growth of the modern empires, beginning with the Holy Roman Empire, moving on to the Spanish Empire, then the French Empire, then the English Empire, and, finally, the American Empire. . . .
"We need to teach our children the history" of these empires, says Swanson. "About 30 seconds for the City of Man."

What is the City of Man?
  • Egypt. It builds its towers, then they fall down.

  • Assyria does the same.

  • Then Persia.

  • Then Greece.

  • Then the Romans.

  • Then the Spaniards.

  • The French.

  • The English.

  • The Americans.
They all fall down.

That's the history of the City of Man. And that's all our children need to know. About 30 seconds.

THEN we need to take about four years to teach them about the City of God--church history, what God is doing around the world. We should take about four years to teach about the City of God, the Kingdom that will never die. "We want to give our children a radically different education than what they will get in the City of Man."

"Schaeffer said that the City of Man always builds its towers so high that they all fall down. They start with optimism, but they end in pessimism." That's why these empires begin with tremendous literature, and then they stop writing. "It all ends in pessimism . . . because they are not focused on the eternal, the Kingdom that will last forever."

  • Swanson mentioned several examples of optimistic literature with which various (modern European) empires began and then contrasted those to Nietsche, Schopenhauer, Jean Paul Sartre, the Existentialists, and so forth.

  • In terms of popular culture:

    • "The '80s most popular hit was 'My grandfather's clock' ("My grandfather's clock was too large for the shelf, so it stood 90 years on the floor . . ."). --Yes, the '80s. The 1880s."

    Contrast that to

    • The most popular album two years ago which included a song that referred to the singer's mother as a female dog. Or

    • The #1 song last year--it spent 8 weeks as #1 on the charts--was by Katy Perry, a pastor's daughter . . . "and it encourages girls to be lesbians!" [Well, not quite. Though it definitely comes close. The song is titled "I Kissed a Girl (and I liked it)." --JAH]
"How do we get to the culture we have today? From a fairly Christian Europe to a thoroughly secular culture we have today?"

Swanson suggests,
It all started back about 1000 years ago when Aquinas said [Summa, Part I, Question 1, Article 1--"Whether, besides philosophy, any further doctrine is required?"--JAH], "Theology, included in sacred doctrine, differs in kind from that theology which is part of philosophy." What he says is, "You've got your Christian theology over here. You've got yourself about the trinity, about the redemption, about the atonement, about the incarnation. You've got all that over here. And then we've got our philosophy over here and that's the stuff the Greeks gave us. That's science, that's physics, and that's chemistry. And never the twain shall meet. They don't have contact with one another. They are not a division of one another. They are just separate forms of learning."

Moreover he says [Summa, Part I, Question 1, Article 2--"Whether sacred doctrine is a science?"--JAH], "[J]ust as the musician accepts on authority the principles taught him by the mathematician, so sacred science is established on principles revealed by God."

So you've got the authority of the scientists and the mathematicians over here, and you've got the authority of God over here. And he has this radical separation in mind.

And why is this important? Because this is the beginning of the secular university. This produces the intellectual apology for Christians to engage in building the City of Man.

See, Christians wouldn't have been involved in these things--Christians wouldn't have gotten into these horrific systems that leave God out--if they weren’t taught a thousand years ago that you can have your theology over here and your philosophy over here, and these things are separate things.
[I am sorely tempted to comment on what he says at this point, but I would like to let him finish his "argument," and then I will say a few things. So let us continue. --JAH]

Illustrations of this radical separation:

  • In seminary: "I never had a seminary professor ask me about my personal walk with God. If you have seminary professors teaching theology without getting involved in nurturing and discipling, you've got a problem."

  • A 13-year-old girl from his church was babysitting a three-year-old girl who, the babysitter knew, went with her parents to a certain mega-church in the area. At one point in the evening, something happened so that the 13-year-old said to the 3-year-old, "We need to praise God for this." And the 3-year-old replied, "No we don't! We only do that on Sunday!"

  • I do not understand how 35% of evangelical young people could vote for Barack Obama.

  • Book in Barnes & Noble called Galaxy. "'The heavens declare the glory of God . . . '--but that verse was never mentioned in the book. God is nowhere mentioned in the book."

"Guys," says Swanson, "if you teach science, if you teach chemistry, . . . don't you dare to do it without stopping from time to time and saying, '. . . Children, let's worship [the God who made these things]. Get down on your knees and worship the God who made these things.'"
Universities haven't taught that way in hundreds of years. I'll tell you, that's what's ruining chemistry and biology and science in our modern age. It's a scary thing what's happening. You teach science without the fear of God for a hundred years, I fear what they will do to that science. They'll destroy it.
As an example of what he expects dads to do, he tells of a science class his family held centered on the dissection of a road-kill raccoon his wife picked up one day on her way home from the store. Apparently, they invited a number of other families to join in the lesson. There were "about 25 kids and moms" all ready to begin when, Swanson says,
I said, "Let's lift our hands and praise the God Who made this animal. Let's worship God in this. . . . Have you made a raccoon like this lately? . . . Let's worship God." So we worshiped God together. We lifted our hands and we worshiped God who made this beautiful raccoon. . . . I know that's weird because we're a thousand years away from doing that kind of stuff. But we've got to restore "The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom and knowledge" in all of these various areas of life.

I believe that the reformation of the modern era began in the 1960s . . . with Henry Morris and John C. Whitcomb who said, "There is a God who made these things."

I know that evolutionism and deism and Unitarianism has distanced us from God over 200 years of our history. And we have been learning these things in laboratories that have not been teaching the fear of God and the worship of God. There has been nobody trembling before this God as they wonder at His universe. And, by the way, this is one reason why science is so dull. Because you take a book like Galaxy, and you gut God from that book, and you start saying, "Hey, it was chance that put it together. There is no purpose, no meaning in any of that. It's just a random event that create-- . . . I'm sorry. It just happened. . . ." --When they complete their explanation of the metaphysic, we're all wondering why we should stand in wonder about all these things. . . .

If you can't fear a personal God Who is behind it, Who made all this, then you have no reason to be interested or engaged or in amazement in any chemistry class or astronomy class or biology class.

May God help us to restore these things.
Another point:

If you had the choice to subject your children either to four hours a day of study under a public school teacher or four hours a day of interaction with their peers--one or the other but not both: which would you choose? I think, with the average child, I would go with the teacher. Why is that? . . . Because, it turns out, the people who do the most to discipleship, the most education, the most training in terms of a child's education, academics, attitude, perspectives, etc., etc., are not so much the teacher as Hollywood. The Hannah Montanas, the Eminems and the Nicholas Cages and the Katy Perrys of the world that have a tremendous amount of influence upon the attitudes, the perspectives, the dress, the language of our children--far more than the average teacher. And this is why we are concerned. [Not sure who, exactly, the "we" is in this sentence. But that is the word Swanson used. "We are concerned." --JAH]

We see a raging river that is sucking our children into an alternate worldview, an alternate perspective, an alternate culture, an alternate social system. And we think that's extremely dangerous, and therefore, brothers, I'm telling you, where we are today is desperate times. And desperate times call for desperate measures. And this, I believe, is why you are here today. And this is why about 95% of our Christian friends out there don't understand what we are doing. They think we are pretty whacked. They think we are the radical right fringe of the Christian movement. That's because they believe there is a tiny little dent on the fender of their social system and that's about it, and there isn't something principally wrong with the way we've been educating in our private schools, even--our Christian schools as well as our public schools.

[But] we've got to reassess the way we are educating our children from the bottom up. "Desperate times call for desperate measures."
And so the solution? The "desperate measures"?
I think the solution we are talking about this weekend is . . . found in Deuteronomy 6:7.

[In] Deuteronomy 6:7 God says, "I want you to teach your children My Word as you sit in your house, as you walk by the way, as you rise up, as you lie down. I want it to be integrated and I want it to be like a frontlet between the eyes. Write it on the posts of your gates and on your house. Write it on the walls. Put it all over the place.

"I want your children to run into Me all the time, always confronted with the existence, the importance, the relevance, the fear and the reverence of Me. I don't want your children ever, ever, ever to get the impression they can go to Sunday school and learn their little God stuff on Sunday, but then Monday through Saturday they can enjoy their godless education, their godless art, their godless culture, their godless Eminem, their godless rape rap, or what have you. No! I want My Word to be integrated into every aspect of their lives. I want them to live in the atmosphere of the fear of God all the time. As the Proverbs say, ' . . . all the day long.'

"I don't want them ever to have the impression that they can pray on Sunday and do whatever they want the rest of the week."

Brothers, this begins by bringing the fear of God and passionate worship and the confession of our sins right into the algebra class.

I'm tired of segregating these things. And if I ever do any other kind of classes where I'm teaching anybody but my own children, I'm going to do the same thing I do with my own children: we are going to be on our knees worshiping God. We are going to be confessing our sins . . . as we study chemistry . . . because God says, "I want you to teach your children My truth as you sit in your house. You see, I want you to take the truth, the reality, the absolute truths, the ethics of God, the laws of God, the perspectives of God, and teach them My worldview, My truth, in the womb of relationship."

And I say we call that discipleship.

And that, brothers, is the Manifesto.

We are going to bring back the relevance of God. We're going to bring back worship, bring back confessions, bring back relationships in the education of our children.
Swanson describes some of the things he witnessed in the Christian school where, when he first started his church, he rented office space.
  • He says he saw a boy "[drop] his pants for a girl in the hallway."

  • And he heard a lot of "yelling and disrespectful language" and kids "taking God's name in vain." And in the midst of all this kind of behavior, a teacher stops the class and says, "Let's pray." Which they do. And then he has them open their "pagan textbooks which had no mention of God at all; God was irrelevant to these textbooks."
"Guys," says Swanson, "I think that's a travesty! If God made this world, I think He deserves a little more credit for it. And it bothers me when you've got these Aquinasites in these Christian schools that are saying, 'We'll have our little prayer over here, but, boy, that prayer, that relationship with God is sure not going to touch the way we do science. It's sure not going to touch the way we walk through the hallways. It's sure not going to touch the way we speak disrespectfully to the teachers in the classroom. . . .'"

A few moments later, Swanson makes a confession.
I taught in Christian schools myself and I tell you . . . I don't remember wading into some kid's life and discipling him. Now that is to my shame, but that is just what we did . . . at least in the early 90s when I was teaching in the Christian school movement.

As you read the Word of God what do you find? You don't find the word education. What do you find? You find words like discipleship, nurture, hearts ("My son, give me your heart." [Proverbs 23:26]). Can you remember a teacher say, "My student, give me your heart"? Did you ever have a college professor do that? "William, I'm concerned about you"? That's not taught in teaching colleges. They're not taught about hearts. They're not taught about relationships. They're not taught about discipleship and nurture and love. Maybe love. But I just don't think we've uncovered these things enough.

We need to call [Christians] to use words like discipleship and nurture. Stop talking schools with me. Don't talk about education with me. Let's not talk about home education and Christian education, Christian schools. Let's talk about discipleship. Let's talk about a focus on faith and character. Let's focus on the discipling of a child.
To make the distinction he's trying to make absolutely clear, Swanson notes that, if the public schools were ever to collapse . . . so that those who currently send their children to the public schools were to begin teaching their children at home, that wouldn't solve any of the great societal problems he mentioned.

Discipleship, however, "teaching to obey all things Jesus commanded us": that is transformative.
So, brothers, let's restore the concept of discipleship in our homes and in our families. Let's take the arms of those little children and say, "Let me lead you to Jesus. Let me teach you about Christ." Let's nurture them in these relationships. Let's nurture them in the algebra class. Let's disciple them in the chemistry class. Let's worship God in the physics class. And then we'll shock everybody when we begin confessing our sins in the geography class.

That's education!
Swanson closed with an appeal to teach a few deeply rather than the many in only the shallowest manner.
"See," he says, "what I see happening throughout Christian history, . . . is a trade-off between quality and quantity. . . .
[O]ver the last 200 years, thanks to the 19th-century missionary movement--and I praise God for it--we have had a massive increase in the quantity of the Christian faith in places like Africa and Asia. And I say, praise God for that. But at the same time, most of that Christianity went a mile wide and an inch deep. Now I think we need to make a very important, deliberate strategy change in the way that we do missions, evangelism, Kingdom work on Planet Earth and that is to apply ourselves to more of a quality effort in establishing the Kingdom of God.
And where will that quality effort come from?

First and foremost, from Christian families discipling their children--and in the case of the men who were listening to him speak, from the fathers discipling their sons in the way they should go.

John's Commentary

I want to begin my commentary by noting that I agree with much of Swanson's analysis, most of his attitudes, and, over-all, his revulsion at the way our culture--and most of the evangelical Christian subculture--has gone (and is still going).

I can't imagine responding in any different way. The stuff that is happening is truly horrifying.

I agree, too, with the majority of his prescription for solution. Let us "go deep." (Indeed, that is what my wife and I attempted with our own kids while they were living at home and we homeschooled them; it is what we continue to do even today as they are now young adults in their 20s and very early 30s. We continue to speak into their lives. Regularly. Not only--nor, necessarily, even, primarily, by words. But by deeds. How we live our lives.)

But then. Then. Then there is something--I have a hard time putting my finger on it, but there is something--I just can't quite go along with in what he says.

[ETA at 4:00 p.m. on 3/29/09] I can identify and fairly easily parse one piece that bothers me. From his conclusions surrounding the raccoon story.

He says he called his children and the other students to worship God. "So we worshiped God together. We lifted our hands and we worshiped God who made this beautiful raccoon."

I think that's beautiful.

And I appreciated his comment about the feelings such behavior tends to engender:
I know that's weird because we're a thousand years away from doing that kind of stuff. But we've got to restore "The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom and knowledge" in all of these various areas of life.
I know what he's talking about. I get some of the same feelings sometimes (though not much, anymore, since these have become such deeply engrained "habits of life" after years of practice; but . . . ). I get those feelings sometimes when I have to interrupt someone at the start of a business meeting at Sonlight: "Hold on a second! We start our meetings with prayer!" (Clearly, what is habitual and "normal" for us, who have led the company for several years, is not habitual for any of our external advisors nor most of our employees.) Or when our family goes to a restaurant and bows for prayer.

So I'm "all up with him" in this matter of worship.

But I have a harder time with his comment about "the reformation of the modern era began in the 1960s . . . with Henry Morris and John C. Whitcomb who said, 'There is a God who made these things.'"

I'm sorry. Weren't any other evangelical Christians saying God had made--or created (even ex nihilo)--everything there is?

Even if they didn't advocate for a young-earth and/or instantaneous, God-spoke-it-and-poof-it-came-into-existence kind of scenario, is it legitimate to suggest that these, our spiritual forebears, didn't say, "There is a God who made these things"?

Having said what I just said, however, I find my heart beating in rhythm with what Swanson says about how "evolutionism and deism and Unitarianism has distanced us from God."

And it disturbs me every bit as much as it seems to disturb Swanson that--I dare say--very, very few Christians have been teaching "the fear of God and the worship of God" in the sciences in the last 100 years or more. Our advocacy for methodological naturalism comes far too close, far too often, to real ontological naturalism (as I discussed in my post on Seeking to distinguish "methodological" from "ontological" naturalism). Far too often, I'm afraid, we really do operate (as I confessed I operate too often) as "functional atheists."

And so I applaud Swanson when he seeks to indict us for failing to tremble before God as we wonder at His universe. Swanson is onto something when he says, "[Y]ou take a book like Galaxy, and you gut God from that book, and you start saying, 'Hey, it was chance that put it together. There is no purpose, no meaning in any of that. It's just a random event that create-- . . . I'm sorry. It just happened. . . .'" --You do that, and, I agree, there is good reason to ask "why we should stand in wonder about all these things. . . ."

And I join him in praying that God will help us to restore the fear of God as the recognized beginning of wisdom in our culture.

At the same time, however, I'm not convinced he and his friends "have it right" when they suggest the only proper, the only possible solution to the perceived purposelessness of our culture is to be found in a young-earth, poof-God-made-it-appear-in-an-instant "metaphysic."

He (and they) may be right. But, as I've been discussing here in John's Corner of the World, I sense the young-earther's philosophically-based opposition to the so-called "random chance" aspects of modern evolutionary theory not only fail to reply appropriately to the challenges raised by atheists when it comes to the modern theory of evolution, but it fails to respond properly to the philosophical problems in Christian theology associated with God's sovereignty over apparent randomness, chance, and chaos ("chaos theory") as these relate to everyday issues . . . whether the throw of the dice, the flipping of a coin, or any other apparently unpredictable event.

It doesn't help us understand--nor seem to show much confidence in--God's sovereign oversight of history. If God is acknowledged by Christians as only in control when He controls through obviously miraculous means, then it appears there is something wrong with the statements found in such passages as Proverbs 16:33 ("The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from [Jehovah]."); Proverbs 16:9 ("The mind of man plans his way, But [Jehovah] directs his steps."); Proverbs 21:31 ("The horse is prepared for the day of battle, But victory belongs to [Jehovah]."); and so forth. (See the section on "Historical Science" in Perspectives on an Evolving Creation, 2c - Evolution and Creation - Excursus 2: Science.)


Moving on.

Perhaps it is his own It's not quite as clear to me, but I think some of my discomfort with Swanson's speech comes from his extension of the bifurcation Aquinas noted in his Summa essays.

Swanson pulled two sentences--in fact, two pieces of sentences--from larger sections. And when I read those portions-of-sentences within context, I get a different sense, a different meaning, than what Swanson (and, potentially, many others) may have pulled from them.

For example, the first quote: "[T]heology included in sacred doctrine differs in kind from that theology which is part of philosophy." That is the final sentence in a longer (though only an 8-1/2" x 11" page long) article in which Aquinas notes that, in accordance with what we learn from 2 Timothy 3:16 (as well as other Scriptures), "It was necessary for man's salvation that there should be a knowledge revealed by God besides philosophical science built up by human reason." Yet there are truths which God has granted us humans to learn by means other than the Scriptures. Thus, "the astronomer and the physicist both may prove the same conclusion: that the earth, for instance, is round"--a conclusion learned not from Scripture but from these "philosophical sciences."

Yet Swanson seems bent on criticizing Aquinas for making that observation. Why? Is he trying to make points where none, rightly, ought to be made?

Then again, he says,
[W]hy [are these things that Aquinas says] important? Because this is the beginning of the secular university. This produces the intellectual apology for Christians to engage in building the City of Man.

See, Christians wouldn't have been involved in these things--Christians wouldn't have gotten into these horrific systems that leave God out--if they weren’t taught a thousand years ago that you can have your theology over here and your philosophy over here, and these things are separate things.
And I think, "What are you talking about? God's people have always been involved in culture-building, the same kinds of activities that Swanson identifies as "building the City of Man."

God has called His people to the responsibilities of fiduciaries, the responsibilities of stewards, the responsibilities of exercising dominion under His dominion. And responsibilities include--and have always included--food gathering or production; the building of houses; the caring for children; protection with lethal force, if necessary; trade. . . .

The question is not whether Christians are permitted to "engage in building the City of Man." The question is, "whom will we serve" while doing it (Joshua 24:15)?

Sadly, I have seen many Christians--even those who are outspokenly in line with the Swanson/Phillips/Baucham camp--engage in building their own "Cities of Man." Perhaps their empires are no larger than the influence they exert on their own families and the people and groups they directly touch outside their families.1 But the fact remains: the key question is and always will be--even moment by moment: "Whom will you serve . . . now?" And, "How will you serve?"

Suppose I determine to honor God through analyzing weather patterns (which analysis may contribute to the saving of human lives, the protection of crops, or all manner of other "City of Man" kinds of benefits). And suppose I engage in that kind of activity through the use of complex computer models created on supercomputers developed by God-hating atheists: Is all my work for naught, because, somehow, I am building the City of Man?

Listening to Swanson, I get the idea he thinks such work would, indeed, be defective for just such reasons.

But I don't think so.

On the other hand, perhaps I am missing his point.


There are a couple of final things I would like to note.

"It bothers me," he says, "when you've got these Aquinasites in these Christian schools that are saying, 'We'll have our little prayer over here, but, boy, that prayer, that relationship with God is sure not going to touch the way we do science. It's sure not going to touch the way we walk through the hallways. It's sure not going to touch the way we speak disrespectfully to the teachers in the classroom. . . .'"

I wonder who he means to be criticizing with these words.

It sounds as if he is criticizing the Christian school teacher himself for calling his class to prayer in the midst of all manner of coarse and God-dishonoring behavior. It sounds as if he is criticizing the school administrators and those who support such schools.

But isn't it the students (primarily) who ought to be called on the carpet for their failure to recognize God in their daily activities?

Oh, yes! The teachers (and, probably more, the parents), I have no doubt, need to call their children to account for their behavior. But the heart change is something that has to take place in the God-dishonoring students themselves.

Now, Swanson criticizes the Christian school for using a "pagan" textbook. And perhaps the criticism is deserved. I don't know what book they were using nor the alternatives available to them. I don't know to what degree the instructor may have wrestled with the text to note its deficiencies in the hearing of his students.

Perhaps his teaching was wholly inadequate, and he, himself, needs a major dose of education and discipleship so he begins to see God's hand at work in and through the very subject matter he is attempting to teach.

But I think I'd like to throw Swanson's comment a bit back in his lap. He obviously doesn't like that "little prayer" offered in the midst of a crowd of students who have, themselves, clearly not bought-in to a vibrant Christian faith.

But what should we say about the "little worship" (or even "big worship") Swanson wants to tack on to all his science, math, and "even" geography classes? Suppose his own children (or whoever is present for one of his lessons) happens not to believe in God or desire to serve God: is Swanson's worship, then, invalid? Or is it, for some reason, more valid or efficacious than the "little prayer" of the teacher he implicitly criticizes in the Christian school classroom?

I'd like to press the point one step further. What if a teacher in the Christian school (or public school) were to take Swanson's admonition to "nurture" and "disciple" to heart? What if such a teacher were to do the very thing Swanson says he never did when he was a teacher in the Christian school? Might that teacher have a profound impact on his or her students?

(I believe he or she would.)

Let me confess: My kids have been nurtured and discipled by a caring Christian teacher or two in the public high school where they attended. They received similar ministry from Christian professors at the universities and colleges where they attended. I was nurtured and discipled by some Navigator disciplers when I attended Michigan State back in the mid-1970s. I am very grateful for all these people's ministries.

I think it is fine for Swanson to call us to deeper and more effective ministry to our children and others--both children and adults. But I don't think it is necessary or right for him to suggest (or, at least, strongly imply) that only he and his group and those who follow him--and no one else--"does it right."


Finally: I really appreciate his call for us to seek the hearts of the next generation. May we do that very thing.

May it be said of us, or of our children after us:

"Thank you, teacher, for saying, 'Give me your heart.' Thank you, professor, for saying, '_________, I'm concerned about you.' --Your personal concern made a profound difference in my life."

1 4 April 2009, 11:59 AM emendation: This sentence originally featured a parenthetical clause that offered an example of such City-of-Man empire-building: "failing to pay legitimate bills, for example, while keeping funds for [one's own family]."

The clause included two links to a site that, when I wrote this article, gave documentary evidence for such behavior on the part of a modestly well-known "leader" in homeschool circles--someone who was present at the 2009 CHEC Men's Leadership Summit but did not speak.

Under threat of legal action for making such information known, the owner of the website I referenced has since removed the documentation.

Since I have no direct or personal knowledge of the situation; since I now lack the documentary evidence to back the example; and since I, myself, do not want to become embroiled in a lawsuit; I have decided to remove the reference.


This circumstance, however, has gotten me thinking about a new idea. I have posted a separate post to cover that idea.

Return to text.

Next post in this series: CHEC "Men's Leadership Summit," Part III - "The Battle for Faith and Family".

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Synsepalum dulcificum - the "miracle fruit"

Hope for seniors and chemotherapy patients who find their taste has so shifted that they find food unpleasant to eat.

People who have tried it say that, after chewing the fruit and rubbing the pulp against the tongue, "for about 15 to 30 minutes, everything sour is sweet." "Lemons . . . taste like candy. Oranges become sickeningly sweet. Hot sauce that usually burns the tongue tastes like honey barbecue sauce."
The miracle fruit contains a natural protein, called miraculin, which has sugar molecules that bind to the tongue, . . . said [Linda Bartoshuk, a professor at the University of Florida's Center for Smell and Taste]. When acid enters the mouth, the sugar molecules press into the sweet receptors.

Some of her colleagues are looking into how the berries could help people with diabetes and obesity, because they sweeten the taste of food. Unlike sugar, the miracle fruit has very few calories and unlike artificial sweeteners, the berries are natural.

Bartoshuk said she hasn't seen any reports of dangers from eating the berries, but warned against premature health benefit claims.

"Everyone's immediate response is it's an artificial sweetener, it'll help you lose weight," she said. "But the bad side is artificial sweeteners don't help you lose weight. Any real claims for health benefits are going to have to be supported by good research."
Go to CNN Health for more.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

2009 Christian Home Educators of Colorado (CHEC) "Men's Leadership Summit," Part I

It was two weeks ago this past weekend that CHEC (Christian Home Educators of Colorado) sponsored its second "Men's Leadership Summit"--an event held not in Colorado, but in Indiana, at one of the hotels owned by Bill Gothard's group.

Before I say any more, let me note:

Up until very recently, I wouldn't have noticed what CHEC was doing. The organization was very much off my radar. Even all last year, despite CHEC having the reputation of being the largest homeschool advocacy group in our family's home state; and despite their having banned our family's company from attending their conference, CHEC was way off my radar. I "just" really didn't pay much attention to what CHEC was doing.

And then--I think it was while I was on vacation in January and I began to read some of the books written by Christian evolutionists, and I began to realize how blind I had been to the concerns of an entire "wing" of the evangelical church--suddenly I became alarmed that we homeschoolers are having our educational options censored. As I wrote on January 20: Are you being treated like a child? Who controls what you get to hear?

So CHEC came onto my radar.

And then several people brought to my attention that I was not the only one concerned about CHEC. Indeed, they pointed out, CHEC seems to be part of--or becoming part of--a much bigger movement toward "patriarchy" or "patriocentricity."

As I followed the links, sometime in February I came across this post about a conference coming up in early March: The Vision of the Leadership Summit.

I agreed with "That Mom," the author of the blog post that brought this to my attention: it's rather disturbing to realize that the "leaders" of this "Leadership Summit" are themselves relative Johnny-come-latelies to the homeschool movement . . . and they are all men. Where are the women--the ones who are actually doing (a conservative) 90% of the work involved in homeschooling the kids?

[By the way: I didn't find this till today, but if you want a really disturbing follow-through to ThatMom's post, check out Cindy Kunsman's Under Much Grace post that, because, apparently, Cindy has suffered spiritual abuse in the past, focuses on some of the manipulative methods these "leaders" use.]

Considering the other issues I had been dealing with at that time, I decided I had to get an "inside look" at what was about to take place at the conference. And, happily, I did.

I didn't attend in person. But I got the recordings, and an eye-witness account, and the one document I was most concerned to see: the "Manifesto for Christian Education."

I thought you might be interested in what I found.

First. Some consistent themes throughout the conference [ETA on 3/29/09: as reported by my informant].

  • Reformation
  • The father is responsible for discipling his family. [Okay. Whatever that means. Does that mean he has to do it all? What is the appropriate role of the mother? And what of the use of resources outside the family? No answers. --JAH]
  • The phrase we should use is Home Discipleship not Home Education or Homeschooling. We ought not to be preparing our children for Harvard . . . but (instead) for heaven. [Of course, a lot rides on the definition of discipleship. Back in college, I certainly appreciated the emphasis the Navigators made on "making disciples," "being disciples," "finding [our] Timothys," and so forth. Of course, the supposed dichotomy between “Harvard” and “heaven” is completely unnecessary. I believe Christians should be preparing their children to engage the world, whether they choose to go to college or not. But to completely cede the academic world to non-Christians means Christians also cede any and all hope of ever providing true cultural leadership. --How far we will have fallen, if that's the case! From the founders of most of the leading educational institutions around the world, Christians, apparently--according to these "movement leaders"--are to shun the very institutions they founded.

    Strange, too, from my perspective: Each of these "leaders" is, himself, a highly-educated person--enjoying not just a high school education, but a college and post-graduate degree! . . . But they feel their own children are unable to match them?]

  • "Biblical Manhood and Womanhood." [Of course, what biblical manhood and womanhood should look like is matter of broad controversy within the church today. But, as we will see, these "vision-casting leaders" have one very particular view . . . and one with which I am not particularly comfortable.]
  • The rise of feminism in culture, the church, and the homeschooling movement. We can expect judgment from God as a result. [Hmmmm! Wonder what they really mean when they speak of "feminism"?]
  • God should be integrated into every subject we teach. [Okay. Deuteronomy 6:6 and 7 and 11:18 and 19: "And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up." We who claim the name of Christ need to consciously live our lives under God in every area of life--not only in our personal ethics, but in our cultural exploits as well. We need to seek God's "wisdom from above" (James 1:5; 3:13-17) in all we do and say. . . . and we need to teach our children to do this--and how to do this--as well.]
  • We should teach the "City of God" rather than the "City of Man." [As one of my friends commented: "This needs some elaboration. Are they just referring to Augustine, for instance, or do they mean something else? The way it is presented here makes it a possibly false dichotomy. It also suggests somewhat a strong separationist approach rather than an engagement or transformational approach to the Christian role in culture."]
  • There was no mention of our daughters or the daughter as a leader. The only mention of the daughter was to train them to be moms and supportive spouses.

    In an open forum Friday night, one of the participants at the conference asked three questions of Doug Phillips related to this obvious missing piece. One of the questions specifically asked for Phillips' views concerning a woman’s ability to have a career in addition to being a great mom and a great spouse. Phillips' response indicated that he believes it is unbiblical for a woman to have a career. Period. No discussion of any exceptions or options.[This really blows me away. Not that, after having become somewhat familiar with Phillips views, I am shocked to hear him actually say such a thing. Rather, I am astonished that he can suggest, with a straight face, that Christians should adopt such a view as normative for all without exception.

    I take it he thinks St. Paul must have been horribly mistaken to list the seven or eight women he does among the "workers in the Lord" he specially greets at the end of the book of Romans (chapter 16): Prisca (Priscilla), Mary, Junia (female name, or, possibly, Junias, a masculine name), Tryphaena, Tryphosa, Persis, Julia, and the sister of Nereus. And, of course, he seems to ignore the Proverbs 31 woman who engages in all kinds of commercial ventures, buys real estate, earns enough from some venture to plant vineyards . . . and is educated enough that she can "open her mouth in wisdom" (see especially, vv. 13-14, 16, 19, 24, and 26).

    Sarita, my wife, reminded me, too, of the phenomenal growth of women's mission societies in America between 1861 and 1910 and the multiplication of single American women missionaries . . . and the subsequent decline of the societies (though not quite as dramatic a decline in the number of female missionaries) as soon as men decided they needed to "take over" and "provide leadership." [That story is worthy of its own post, so I'll hold off telling it here.]

    I ask myself: Where does this kind of dominionist stance toward women end? When daughters are no longer permitted to learn how to drive?1 When wives are disciplined through spanking? (By the way: Notice the subtitle on the Links page of the immediately preceding reference: "Christian Domestic Discipline - Loving Wife Spanking in a Christian Marriage"! Why is it wives who must receive this kind of treatment? Men never deserve to be disciplined? --Oh! Sorry! I guess I'm showing my feminist side. . . . ) --But truly: Where does this kind of thing end?]
Bill Roach, CHEC's president, introduced each speaker at the Summit. According to my source, before he introduced Kevin Swanson for Thursday Evening Session I, he said, "This weekend is to define what Christian Home Education is and to strategize our next moves." My correspondent said he never heard a "final" definition of Christian Home Education. "I got a bunch of people’s opinion, but nothing that said, 'Yea, verily, this is Christian Home Education and here are the next steps to implementing.'"

1 And now I realize who it was that was a popular speaker on the homeschool circuit a few years ago and who was preaching, as a keynote speaker at these conventions, that parents ought not to teach their daughters how to drive but leave it to their [future] husbands to decide whether they should learn. Yep. The author of the referenced article: Jonathan Lindvall. Keynote speaker at CHEC (and other conventions) in 2003.

Burqas, anybody? Human chattel? Is this what CHEC and some of the other self-declared Christian state homeschool groups are leading us toward? Such speakers are so important to be heard that they receive keynote speaker status . . . without apology? Return to text.

Next post in this series: CHEC "Men's Leadership Summit," Part II--"For Such a Time as This -- The 1000-Year Battle Over the Hearts and Minds of the Next Generation".

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

What do we know?

In my last post in the Perspectives on an Evolving Creation series, I wrote, "We must beware the dangers of thinking our interpretations of Scripture are as infallible as the Scriptures themselves. We must similarly beware the dangers of ever imagining our science expresses a definitive understanding of nature."

As I wrote that second sentence, I was reminded of something I have wanted to blog for many weeks--about a frustration I experienced while reading Glover's book, Beyond the Firmament. Page 30.

I was out of town at the time I wrote that post, so I couldn't get a-hold of Glover's book to quote it. But now that I'm back, I have access.


On page 30 Glover writes,
[E]very astronomer knows that stars are formed when clouds of interstellar dust and gas, mostly hydrogen, fall in on themselves under the influence of gravity, and the intense pressure and heat ignites the nuclear furnace that fuses the hydrogen into helium and releases tremendous amounts of energy.

Some of the details are still a little sketchy, but no supernatural explanation is necessary for that. . . .
When I read these statements by Glover, I thought: "Whoa! Hold on, Glover! 'Every astronomer knows? How well does he or she know? Do you really think your 'known' explanation for the formation of stars is going to remain intact for another hundred years? The relatively few sketchy details you think there are: Are you sure they aren't actually many details . . . and perhaps more sketchy than you realize?"

--Just thought I should comment.

There is plenty of need for humility on all sides.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Perspectives on an Evolving Creation, 4c - God's Two Books, Part III

#8 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, 4b - God's Two Books, Part II. First post in the series: Perspectives on an Evolving Creation, 1 - Introduction.

It took a while for me to realize I had forgotten an important point I had intended to make in my last post in this series.

What I had intended to note--and forgot to mention--is a valid observation Dr. Danny Faulkner of Answers in Genesis makes concerning a fundamental imbalance between Science and Scripture. Specifically (in criticism of some things Hugh Ross says), Faulkner comments:
Ross argues as follows. There are two books: the book of nature and the Bible. God is the author of both, so both must agree. So far this seems reasonable.

Then Ross subtly equates science for [sic] nature, from which one could infer that science and the Bible should be equated in authority.

Most of Ross’s intended audience would have abandoned him had he made such a claim, because this is precisely the sort of equation that most liberals have made. Science is the (man-made) way that we have to study nature. If Ross wants to make the correct analogy, it should be to exegesis, which is the (man-made) way of studying the Bible.
I want to applaud Faulkner's observation about science and exegesis. He is absolutely correct. They are the correct/true corrollary entities. Science is not a good analog for Scripture (or the Bible) anymore than exegesis is a good analog for creation or the physical universe.

Moreover, Faulkner is correct to point out that we need to keep clear about the distinction between science and the physical realm (God's creation) on the one hand, and exegesis (or biblical interpretation) and the Bible itself on the other.

"Science is to creation as exegesis is to the Bible" and "Scripture is to exegesis as the physical universe is to science." But it is absolutely inappropriate to suggest that "Science is to creation as Scripture is to exegesis" or "exegesis is to Scripture as the physical universe is to science." These latter proposed equivalencies are exactly backwards.

So, assuming Ross makes the error Faulkner attributes to him, Faulkner is correct to call our attention to it. [By the way: I can see how Ross could equate science to nature. He could do that (legitimately--though potentially dangerously!) if he used the word science as a synecdoche for nature (or vice versa).]

But/and/so let us look at how the young-earth spokespeople distinguish--or fail to distinguish--Scripture from interpretations of Scripture. And as they distinguish--or fail to distinguish--these two: What do they say--or, at least, imply--about the possibility properly to interpret Scripture?

My sense: To the extent that their suggestions are correct that true (accurate, useful, informative) science is impossible, to that same extent they are really saying that true (accurate, useful, informative) exegesis is also impossible. Conversely, to the extent that they say true (accurate, useful, informative) exegesis is possible: to that same extent, they should be telling us that true (accurate, useful, informative) science is also possible. If they can have the one, then they should be able to have the other; if they can't have the one, then they should not be able to have the other, either.

But you tell me.

Dr. Faulkner notes (as I have quoted in the last two posts of this series; and these comments are in the same article in which Faulkner criticizes Ross):
Scripture teaches that the creation is cursed (Gen. 3:17—19, Rom. 8:20—22), but Scripture itself is ‘God-breathed’ (2 Tim. 3:15—17). So how can a cursed creation interpreted by a fallible methodology of sinful humans determine how we interpret the perfect, unfallen Word of God?
Please concentrate, here, with me. I'm not sure I can interpret accurately whatever-it-is he is attempting to say.

It sounds to me as if Faulkner is intending to suggest that, because God's Word is perfect, therefore, somehow, that means we sinful human beings, using a fallible methodology, are able accurately to interpret the perfect, unfallen, "God-breathed" Word of God.

Is that what he's saying? If so, then I would like you to consider the other half of this "equation."

If it is true that because God's Word is perfect, therefore, somehow, that means we sinful human beings, using a fallible methodology, are able accurately to interpret the perfect, unfallen, "God-breathed" Word of God; is it then also true that, because the creation is cursed, therefore we human beings are absolutely unable accurately to interpret whatever-it-is we may want to discover about our world? (I mean, really. Forget the talk about fallible methodologies and human beings being sinful. At root, really, isn't Faulkner saying that it is the fallenness of creation, on the one hand, and the perfection of God's Word, on the other, that makes all the difference when it comes to our ability to interpret either of these things accurately? . . . If so, then where are we to go with disagreements like the one we saw between Dr. Bouw and Dr. Faulkner?

Consider, then, too, the questions raised by Dr. Morris of the Institute for Creation Research about human capabilities properly to understand or interpret much of anything:
Can man, with a brain and reasoning powers distorted by the curse . . . accurately reconstruct the history of the universe? . . . Or is man and his mind locked in the effects of the curse--a poor reflection of the once glorious "image of God"--now blinded by sin and the god of this world, seeing things through a glass darkly?"
Am I understanding Morris accurately when I say he appears to be asking rhetorical questions whose answers, he wants us to believe, must be "no"? Moreover, do his questions--and answers--equate to this: "Humans' brains and reasoning powers are so distorted by the curse and our minds are so blinded by sin and the god of this world that we are incapable of interpreting anything accurately"?

If I am wrong, then what is he saying? I don't see any other possible interpretation than the one I have just put forward.

But if my interpretaton is correct, then that leaves me wondering: Where does he think that leaves us with respect to Scripture? If we can't properly interpret anything else, then how and why does Morris think we can properly understand and/or interpret the Bible?

If Morris wants to reference a verse like John 16:13 (in which we read that Jesus said He would send His Spirit, the Spirit of truth to guide His disciples into all truth), I would want to ask:

1) If we are to believe his pessimistic view that all humans' brains and reasoning powers are so distorted by the curse and our minds are so blinded by sin and the god of this world that we are incapable of interpreting anything accurately: then why should we believe Morris' interpretation of John 16:13 (or whatever Scripture he actually is referencing)? And,

2) If the Spirit of truth, meant to guide us into all truth, is able to overcome our curse-caused blindness and/or distorted perceptions with respect to the Bible: why can that same Spirit (meant to guide us into all truth!) not also help us overcome those same limitations with respect to the physical world? And,

3) Why shouldn't our God-informed interpretations of His creation not help us interpret His Word . . . every bit as much as our God-informed interpretations of His Word should help us interpret His works (His creation)?

Finally, however, let us consider Ken Ham's comments:
Why would any Christian want to take man’s fallible dating methods and use them to impose an idea on the infallible Word of God? . . .

This is the crux of the issue. When Christians have agreed with the world that they can accept man’s fallible dating methods to interpret God’s Word, they have agreed with the world that the Bible can’t be trusted.
--I have already called into question Ham's final suggestion that evangelical "two-books" advocates believe or promote the idea that the Bible can't be trusted. Perhaps some self-proclaimed evangelical somewhere has said the Bible can't be trusted. And, as Davis noted, I guess it could be said that, at least in one sense, Calvin suggested the Bible can't be trusted. ("See, for example, [Calvin's] comments on Ps. 58:4-5, where he doubts that snake charming is genuine, although those verses liken the wicked to deaf adders that do not respond to the charmers.")

But more significantly, I would like to return to one of the key points for which I lauded Faulkner earlier in this post: the important matter of maintaining cognizance of the fact that the interpretation of a thing (i.e., science in relation to physical phenomena and exegesis with respect to the Bible) . . . --The interpretation of a thing is different from the thing being interpreted. Science is not the same thing as the physical universe or physical phenomena within the universe; nor is exegesis or an interpretation of Scripture the same thing as the Bible.

Yet what does Ham say? When Christians interpret God's Word in a certain manner, they are saying thereby--by their interpretation (NOTICE: not by a statement to this effect, but by the fact of the method of their interpretation!)-- . . . They are saying that the Bible can’t be trusted.

Right? Isn't that what Ham says? "If your interpretation doesn't agree with mine, then--because of your interpretation, because you have disagreed with me--you obviously don't believe the Bible can be trusted."

And if that's what he is saying, isn't he confusing the Bible with a certain interpretation of the Bible?

Put another way: "If you disagree with my [young-earth] interpretation of Scripture, then you are not merely disagreeing with my interpretation of Scripture; you are disagreeing with the Bible itself."

Right? Isn't that what he is saying?

If I am misinterpreting Ham, please help me see where I have gone wrong.

But if I am interpreting him correctly, then please pay attention to the following.

In the same article from which I took my other quotations from Faulkner, Faulkner writes,
It is not clear whether Ross consciously made this slippery switch [equating science with nature]. More likely, this swap escaped his notice. If that is so, then such a logical fallacy would cast doubt on his competence.
Okay. Fair is fair. Following Faulkner's reasoning with respect to Ross' equating science with nature, then what are we to make of Ham when he equates his interpretation of Scripture with Scripture itself?

Again, I'll leave the answer to that question for you to think about on your own. [--Or maybe not. Let me make the same comment, here, that I made concerning Ross: I can see how Ham could equate the exegesis of a passage of Scripture with the Scripture itself. He could do that (again, legitimately--but with serious potential danger!) if he used the word Scripture as a synecdoche for biblical interpretation (or vice versa). --We must beware the dangers of thinking our interpretations of Scripture are as infallible as the Scriptures themselves. We must similarly beware the dangers of ever imagining our science expresses a definitive understanding of nature.]

As for me, I'm driven back to a (slightly modified--Thank you, Dr. Faulkner!) version of what I wrote seven or eight years ago:
Our . . . science and our [exegesis], I believe, ought to work together in a virtuous cycle of interactive and mutual correction.

[Our interpretation of] Scripture, in that sense, is made to submit to science. But science, too, is forced to submit to [our interpretation of] Scripture. [The] Scripture[s themselves], 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.
May we all--young- and old-earth creationists, God-spoke-it-into-existence-in-the-moment-He-spoke-it creationists as well as God-spoke-it-into-existence-over-millions-of-years creationists . . . --May we all conduct ourselves with appropriate humility and grace: humility and grace before God, humility and grace toward one another, and humility and grace in light of the data before us--the data of Scripture and the data of the physical universe in which we live, the book of God's Word and the book of God's Works.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Interesting article

Saw this in our local paper:
Creationist museum makes odd selection

By Dylan T. Lovan The Associated Press

A Kentucky museum that rejects evolution is making room for an odd guest: Charles Darwin. . . .

Museum founder Ken Ham says he wants to show that creationists accept natural selection--but that doesn't mean they accept evolution theory. . . .
I want to honor "fair use." The article is rather short . . . and cryptic. And probably somewhat misleading due to a failure on the author and/or editor's part to clarify exactly what Ham means.

But it is rather interesting!

Perspectives on an Evolving Creation, 4b - God's Two Books, Part II

#7 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, 4a - God's Two Books, Part I. First post in the series: Perspectives on an Evolving Creation, 1 - Introduction.

In my last post in this series, I attempted to summarize the thoughts of a number of leading Christian thinkers down through the centuries in reference to the idea of "God's two books." All of these thinkers seemed to believe that scientific inquiry and biblical study should inform one another. I closed my post with representative quotes from three leading modern young-earth creationist spokespersons. All of them seem to disagree with their spiritual forebears, and to disagree with them sharply.

My purpose, here, is to summarize why I believe their objections to the two-books idea are illegitimate.

I reject their objections for at least the following reasons:
  1. Because their primary claims against the two-books doctrine are simply false.
  2. Because, it is my observation, these young-earthers themselves (I am happy to report!) permit data external to the Bible to help them interpret the Bible. But that means they are behaving in a hypocritical manner when they raise these kinds of charges against their two-books brethren.
  3. Because the fears I expressed in my Young- and Old-Earth Creationists: Can We Even Talk Together? essay seven or eight years ago are coming true more and more. Their anti-two-books teaching is producing the evil fruit of unnecessary division within the body of Christ. More and more people are being cut off from fellowship with brothers and sisters in Christ . . . for reasons as inappropriate as these.

    And, finally,
  4. Because these men's claims cut them off from many of their own--and their audiences'--leading spiritual forebears. In seeking to be so "pure," they deny their own spiritual heritage and history.
Let me remind you again of what the young-earth creationist leaders have said about "God's Two Books."

John Morris of the Institute for Creation Research:
Can man, with a brain and reasoning powers distorted by the curse . . . accurately reconstruct the history of the universe? Should his historical reconstructions be put on a higher plane than Scripture? Or is man and his mind locked in the effects of the curse--a poor reflection of the once glorious "image of God"--now blinded by sin and the god of this world, seeing things through a glass darkly?"

Dr. Danny Faulkner:
Scripture teaches that the creation is cursed (Gen. 3:17—19, Rom. 8:20—22), but Scripture itself is ‘God-breathed’ (2 Tim. 3:15—17). So how can a cursed creation interpreted by a fallible methodology of sinful humans determine how we interpret the perfect, unfallen Word of God?
And, then, finally--and preeminently--Ken Ham, president of Answers in Genesis:
AiG’s main thrust is NOT ‘young Earth’ as such; our emphasis is on Biblical authority. Believing in a relatively ‘young Earth’ (i.e., only a few thousands of years old, which we accept) is a consequence of accepting the authority of the Word of God as an infallible revelation from our omniscient Creator. . . .

Let’s be honest. Take out your Bible and look through it. You can’t find any hint at all for millions or billions of years. . . .

[T]he reason [many well-known and respected Christian leaders] don’t believe God created in six literal days is because they are convinced from so-called ‘science’ that the world is billions of years old. In other words, they are admitting that they start outside the Bible to (re)interpret the Words of Scripture. . . .

[By contrast,] I understand that the Bible is a revelation from our infinite Creator, and it is self-authenticating and self-attesting. I must interpret Scripture with Scripture, not impose ideas from the outside! . . .

[A]s a ‘revelationist,’ I let God’s Word speak to me, with the words having meaning according to the context of the language they were written in. . . . I accept the plain words of Scripture in context. . . .

And the fact is, every single dating method (outside of Scripture) is based on fallible assumptions. There are literally hundreds of dating tools. However, whatever dating method one uses, assumptions must be made about the past. Not one dating method man devises is absolute! Even though 90% of all dating methods give dates far younger than evolutionists require, none of these can be used in an absolute sense either. . . .

Question: Why would any Christian want to take man’s fallible dating methods and use them to impose an idea on the infallible Word of God? Christians who accept billions of years are in essence saying that man’s word is infallible, but God’s Word is fallible!

This is the crux of the issue. When Christians have agreed with the world that they can accept man’s fallible dating methods to interpret God’s Word, they have agreed with the world that the Bible can’t be trusted. They have essentially sent out the message that man, by himself, independent of revelation, can determine truth and impose this on God’s Word. Once this ‘door’ has been opened regarding Genesis, ultimately it can happen with the rest of the Bible.

False Charges

I want to call your attention to some of the more "damaging" things these men have to say about their elder brothers in Christ. And I want you to consider whether their (at least implicit) charges are valid. Are the charges they level against people who seek to balance science and Scripture legitimate? Are the behaviors these young-earth creationists say people who try to use science to inform their interpretations of Scripture: are these the behaviors in which Calvin and Galileo and Kepler and Hodge . . . and so many others . . . engaged in?

Ken Ham:
  • They "agreed with the world that the Bible can’t be trusted."
--Is that what these men did?
  • They "sent out the message that man, by himself, independent of revelation, can determine truth and impose this on God’s Word."
--Again: Is that what any of these men did?
  • They said that "man’s word is infallible, but God’s Word is fallible."
  • They "start outside the Bible to (re)interpret the Words of Scripture."
--Really? Those were Calvin's and Hodge's hermeneutical principles?
  • They refused to accept "the authority of the Word of God as an infallible revelation from our omniscient Creator."
--Calvin? Hodge?

John Morris:
  • They put their "historical reconstructions . . . on a higher plane than Scripture."
--Is this an honest evaluation of where these men were coming from? Their attitudes and behaviors with respect to Scripture?

I dare say the correct answer to each one of my questions is No. Neither Calvin, nor Galileo, nor Kepler, nor Hodge--nor many, many others down through the centuries who have said that we must interpret the Bible not only "by itself" but also by science: NONE of these people--these faithful Bible-believers-- . . . NONE of these people ever suggested that the Bible can’t be trusted.

Oh, yes; no doubt: they did suggest--no; in fact, they taught--that some interpretations of Scripture can't be trusted. And they taught that certain evidence from the natural world ought to change our interpretations of Scripture. But I know of no sayings of any of these men that would lead me to suspect that they believed the Bible itself was untrustworthy . . . as Mr. Ham suggests they must.

I have seen no evidence that any of these men "sent out the message that man, by himself, independent of revelation, can determine truth and impose this on God’s Word." No. I have only seen them advocate a careful interplay between interpretations of Scripture and interpretations of natural phenomena: let the one impact the other . . . and vice versa.

"Man’s word is infallible, but God’s Word is fallible"? --Preposterous!

"Start outside the Bible to (re)interpret the Words of Scripture"? --I don't think so! . . . Oh, yes, there is evidence, external to the Scripture, that may make it very clear to us if or when certain words of Scripture ought, perhaps, to be interpreted differently than the "plain reading" seems to indicate. (More on that in a few moments.) But that any of these men held it as an axiom of Scriptural interpretation that they should start outside the Bible to (re)interpret Scripture? --Again: I don't think so.

They refused to accept "the authority of the Word of God as an infallible revelation from our omniscient Creator"? --I don't think Ham could provide a shard of proof.

So I object to the young-earthers' charges, first, because they are simply false.

But I object to them on other grounds as well.


Ham and friends make this big deal about being so "above it all" in their manner of handling the Bible.

Yet, as I discovered those many years ago when I wrote my paper about young- and old-earth creationists being able to talk together, they themselves don't live up to their bold proclamations. They themselves have adopted a post-Copernican view of the structure of the universe, permitting modern science to help instruct them about the meaning of passages like Joshua 10:12-13 (where Joshua commands the Sun to stand still) and Hebrew words like raqiya‘ (translated as "firmament" in most older versions of the Bible, and "expanse" in most modern translations; see Is the raqiya‘ (‘firmament’) a solid dome?).

As I write in my Young- and Old-Earth Creationists: Can We Even Talk Together? essay:
Russell Grigg . . . notes in his essay, "Joshua's Long Day" (found on 9 September 2002 at the AIG website: www.answersingenesis.org/docs/243.asp [available now--in 2009--at their former partners' site: http://creation.com/joshua-s-long-day--JAH]), 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 Dr. Danny Faulkner writes in the introduction to his essay "Geocentrism and Creation" (accessed 8 March 2005 at www.answersingenesis.org/tj/v15/i2/geocentrism.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; also known as 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.5

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,
[T]he Bible's authority is weakened by [any other view]; . . . 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. . . ."6
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"], . . . there is not a clue to tell those before Copernicus that Joshua 10:13 is not to be taken literally."

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. . .

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"?
To summarize the geocentrists' position in the most succinct manner possible:
[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.

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

[Accessed 10 January 2006 at www.geocentricity.com/bibastron/credo.html.]
If you are familiar with the kinds of arguments that our brothers and sisters at Answers in Genesis use, you will recognize some powerful parallels here.7 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 reference the TBA author once more: how could any ordinary Christian have interpreted the Bible in the manner Dr. Faulkner suggests . . . unless and until s/he had been influenced by Copernican doctrines? Who would have even imagined thinking in non-geocentric terms prior to the Copernican Revolution? So, in a sense, isn't it true that Dr. Faulkner is "setting science above Scripture"?8

5 See, for example, "Creation Compromises," found on 12 January 2006 at www.answersingenesis.org/home/area/faq/compromise.asp [closest equivalent available on 15 March 2009: www.answersingenesis.org/get-answers/topic/creation-compromises], and "Geology and the young earth: Answering those 'Bible-believing' bibliosceptics," found on 12 January 2006 at www.answersingenesis.org/creation/v21/i4/geology.asp[, but available as of 15 March 2009 at http://creation.com/geology-and-the-young-earth-creation-magazine]. Return to text.

6 Unless otherwise noted, the above and future quotations from TBA sources are from "Why Geocentricity," an essay found at www.geocentricity.com/geocentricity/whygeo.html {accessed [15 March 2009]). Return to text.

7 For example, 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." —Russell Grigg, "Morning has broken . . . but when?" Found at [http://creation.com/morning-has-broken-but-when 15 March 2009]. Return to text.

8 It turns out that Dr. Gerardus D. Bouw, the head of the Biblical Astronomer, has now written a scathing response to Dr. Faulkner's attack that takes this very tack:
In examining Faulkner's case against geocentricity we found that his insistence that the Scriptures do not present a geocentric universe is not founded on any reason other than his opinion. In effect, his view is founded on the assumption that the proper interpretation of the Bible in the realm of science may await future discoveries by science. . . . Given that the geocentric model is pure physics, mathematically tractable, and realistic, and consistent with Scripture, we conclude that the creationist's desire to reject it can only be for the sole purpose of appearing intellectual and acceptable to the world, which desire is enmity with God (James 4:4).
As of [March 15, 2009], you can find Dr. Bouw's article at www.geocentricity.com/ba1/fresp/index.html. Return to text.
But besides this (what appears to me to be) patent hypocrisy (the young-earthers themselves obviously do turn to science to help them understand their world and how to interpret Scripture . . . not only here, when it comes to geocentricity, but also (as I have noted), as the Haarsmas point out, in terms of their meteorology, embryology, and, I'm sure, many other areas of scientific investigation. [Indeed, when it comes to meteorology and embryology, I can't imagine they would "even" speak of "the language of appearance and observation." I may be wrong; I have not read anything from a young-earth creationist concerning meteorology or embryology. But in reference to the Scriptures that speak of the storehouses and floodgates of heaven where the rain and snow and winds are held and released (Genesis 7:11; 8:2; Deuteronomy 28:12; Job 38:22; Psalm 135:7; Jeremiah 10:13), or in reference to a passage like Psalm 139:13 where David speaks of having been "knit together" in his mothers' womb, I expect young-earthers would say that the Bible is speaking metaphorically or figuratively. --But, again, the only way anyone could come up with any such interpretation of such passages is "with a brain and reasoning powers distorted by the curse" (Morris), "by a fallible methodology of sinful humans" (Faulkner) "impos[ing] ideas from the outside" on the Word of God (Ham).]

As the Haarsmas point out, God's Word, the Bible, doesn't tell us about "how water evaporates from the ground level, rises to where the air is cooler, and condenses into water droplets that form clouds." Nor does it teach us about "how cold fronts and warm fronts and low pressure systems bring rain" (Origins, p. 8).

They are definitely not merely "interpret[ing] Scripture with Scripture." Indeed, that's one of the points that the Haarsmas and Glover make in their books: the issues we are dealing with here--with respect to cosmology, the age of the earth and the mechanisms by which God created all the things we see--are really little different from the issues we have to confront every time we think about the verbal inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture:

If they want to teach us how we ought to limit the use of science in our interpretation of Scripture, fine. Let them do that. But for them to make these kinds of blanket, condemnatory statements about others . . . and then to engage in that very behavior themselves! . . . It's not right.

Illegitimately Cutting Others Off From Fellowship

Despite whatever finer points may be placed upon the base of these kinds of charges, the fact is, Christians are "buying" this kind of hypocritical falsehood, and, as a result, scorning and ostracizing faithful brothers and sisters in Christ. For merely questioning the young-earth interpretation of Genesis 1ff, I have, myself, received rather shocking statements of repulsion from brothers and sisters who, until that moment, had been kindly disposed toward me.

And I have received testimonies of many people who claim that they have to hide their old-earth convictions for fear of being thrown out of the fellowship groups of which they are a part. "We just hold our peace so as to not rock the boat. If I were to say anything, I know we would never hear the end of it. It wouldn't be worth the price. So I keep my mouth shut, even though the leader of our group makes the most outrageous remarks [in favor of young-earth creationism]."

Sonlight Curriculum itself first faced the prospect of being banned from CHEC due, first, to the "warnings" it received from Mr. Ham and those who listened to him--"warnings" of my supposed championing of the idea that man and his fallen wisdom should be placed on a higher plane than Scripture. Having been "warned" in this manner, they then saw some "evidence": Sonlight carries books that include pages (for example, 2 or 4 pages out of a 160-page book) that are obviously based on an evolutionary perspective.

Was Sonlight promoting evolutionism by carrying such books?

Absolutely not!
  1. The company never scheduled those pages for reading.
  2. The Instructors Guides always included commentary on those pages written from a young-earth perspective.
  3. While any one Sonlight course might include a total of four to six pages that could be said to be "pro-evolutionary" (in a curriculum composed of well over a thousand pages), that same program would also include full books written very explicitly and specifically from a young-earth perspective.
But none of these things was good enough. Sonlight was "pro-evolution" and/or "pro-old-earth" and, therefore, worthy of being discriminated against by the self-appointed "keepers of the [young-earth] faith."

Cutting Themselves and Their Followers Off From Their Spiritual Forebears

I think this last issue is what motivated me, in January, to begin this recent foray into looking at evolutionists' [and, more particularly, Christian evolutionists'] arguments in favor of the theory.

Honestly--frankly--I have never really studied evolution prior to a few months ago.

I heard something (though I have no idea what) about the theory back in high school.

I have read all kinds of young-earth/creationist books that have told me what evolutionists believe (and, most importantly, why they are wrong). But--to my shame--I have never read any sustained "arguments" or presentations of data by thoroughgoing evolutionists themselves.

And then I heard about Francis Collins, former director of the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), who led the successful effort to complete Human Genome Project (HGP) which mapped and sequenced the entire human genome. I heard that he is a committed, Bible-believing, evangelical Christian . . . who is also fully convinced of the truth of evolution.

"Why is he not held out as a Christian whom our children might want to emulate? Why do we never hear of him?" I asked myself. "If we homeschoolers want our kids to pursue culture-leading careers in science, why would we not hold him up as an example?"

And, of course, I knew why: Because the Christian homeschool community in America is largely in thrall to the young-earth creationists. And they will not permit non-young-earth creationists to speak publicly as paragons of Christian virtue or achievement and also as what they are--people who believe in an old earth and/or evolution.

"So why not? Indeed, What does Collins actually say?" I honestly don't know, though I can hazard a guess, based on some very limited reading I have done on a couple of threads in the Sonlight Lifelong Learners forum and in Daniel J. Fairbanks' Relics of Eden: The Powerful Evidence of Evolution in Human DNA.

[Before I got to Collins' The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief, someone told me about these other books I've been commenting on: the Haarsmas' Origins, Glover's Beyond the Firmament, and Miller's Perspectives on an Evolving Creation.]

Meanwhile, however, I have been deeply disturbed by other discoveries I have made concerning other faithful Christians--many of them spiritual forebears to the modern Bible-believing fundamentalists and evangelicals . . . modern Bible-believing fundamentalists and evangelicals who, if they were consistent in their ostracism of people who disagree with their young-earth views and were aware of these forebears' (old-earth and/or evolutionary) views, would need to shun any association with them . . . just as they shun their modern old-earth and/or evolutionary brethren.

My view: Such an outcome would be grievous in the extreme.

[You wonder about these spiritual forebears? To whom might I be referring?

How about J. Vernon McGee, former chair of the Bible department at the Bible Institute of Los Angeles (currently Biola University), a visiting lecturer at Dallas Theological Seminary, and, most famously, as founder and primary teacher of the Thru the Bible Radio Network?

Of course, some are convinced he was an apostate. (But then, according to these same people, just about every Christian leader you might admire is similarly going to hell.1)

But if you think someone who taught--without censure--at both BIOLA and Dallas Theological Seminary just might be worthy of some respect, consider McGee's teaching as quoted by Tim Martin and Jeff Vaughn in their disturbing book Beyond Creation Science (BCS):
The first eleven chapters [of Genesis] cover a minimum time spans of two thousand years - actually, two thousand years plus. I feel that it is safe to say that they may cover several hundred thousand years. I believe this first section of Genesis can cover any time in the past that you may need to fit into your particular theory, and the chances are that you would come short of it even then.

--BCS, p. 95, referencing J. Vernon McGee, Genesis Chapters 1-15, "Thru the Bible Commentary Series," Volume 1 (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1991), pp. xliii-xliv.

Who created the universe? God did. He created it out of nothing. When? I don't know, and nobody else knows. Some men say one billion years ago, some say two billion, and now some say five billion. I personally suspect they are all pikers. I think God created it long before that.

--Ibid., referencing McGee, op. cit., p. 59.

Martin and Vaughn comment:
McGee . . . held to the common old-earth view for decades during his early radio career.2 He even openly mocked the suggestion that the date of creation was around 4000 BC:
In our day there is so much misinformation in the minds of intelligent human beings. For example, before me is a clipping from a secular magazine from several years ago. It posed a question, then answered it. First, the question: "What, according to biblical records, is the date of the creation of the world?" Now listen to the answer that was given: "4004 B.C." How utterly ridiculous can one be?

--Ibid., pp. 104-105, referencing McGee, op. cit., p. 58.

For full disclosure, let me note that at some point later in his career (and Martin and Vaughn note this as well--see op. cit., p. 105), McGee came to appreciate Whitcomb and Morris' The Genesis Flood, the book, more than any other, I believe, that launched the modern young-earth creationist movement. Moreover, despite the pro-old-earth rhetoric I've just quoted, as far as I can tell, at no point was McGee an evolutionist. Indeed, he proclaimed:
This idea that man has come up from some protoplasm out of a garbage can or seaweed is utterly preposterous. It is the belief of some scientists that evolution will be repudiated, and some folk are going to look ridiculous at that time.

Evolution is nothing in the world but a theory as far as science is concerned. Nothing has been conclusive about it. It is a philosophy like any other philosophy, and it can be accepted or rejected. When it is accepted, it certainly leads to some very crazy solutions to the problems of the world, and it has gotten my country into trouble throughout the world.

--Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee, Genesis 6:4 (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers) 2000, c1981.

So please don't take me to be suggesting more than I have. I am not attempting to make McGee into an evolutionist. I am not attempting to make him into an anti-young-earth-creationist. I am merely attempting to point out that he was most definitely not a hard-core young-earth-creationist and, at points, he was rather outspoken in his old-earth beliefs.

And I want to ask the question: Should we banish him from consideration as a full-faith-and-credit, Bible-believing, God-honoring, fellowship-deserving brother in Christ?

McGee was just one well-respected spiritual forebear whose old-earth/non-young-earth-creationist views I came to find out about in the last few months.

What about Spurgeon--to whose views I was only introduced about a month ago . . . and whose views, I believe, are being hidden and distorted by our brothers at Answers in Genesis?

And Warfield, that champion of biblical inerrancy recognized "even" by young-earth creationists,3 whose teaching on the subject of evolution is summarized by Noll and Livingstone as follows:
Warfield's strongest assertion of evolution was theological and came in a lengthy paper on Calvin's view of creation from 1915. Warfield ascribed to Calvin what was doubtless his own view as well: "[A]ll that has come into being since [the original creation of the world stuff]--except the souls of men alone--has arisen as a modification of this original world-stuff by means of the interaction of its intrinsic forces. . . . [These modifications] find their account proximately in 'secondary causes'; and, this is not only evolutionism but pure evolutionism." . . .

[Warfield adhered] to a broad Calvinistic conception of the natural world--of a world that . . . reflected the wisdom and glory of God. . . . [W]hile Warfield consistently rejected materialist or ateological explanations for natural phenomena (explanations that he usually associated with "Darwinism"), Warfield just as consistently entertained the possibility that other kinds of evolutionary explanations, which avoided Darwin's rejection of design, could satisfactorily explain the physical world.

In several of his writings, Warfield worked carefully to distinguish three ways in which God worked in and through the physical world. . . . "Evolution" meant developments arising out of forces that God had placed inside matter at the original creation of the world stuff, but that God also directed to predetermined ends by his providential superintendence of the world.

At least in writings toward the end of his life, Warfield held that evolution in this sense was fully compatible with biblical understandings of the production of the human body. "Mediate creation" meant the action of God upon matter to bring something new into existence that could not have been produced by forces or energy latent in matter itself. . . . The last means of God's action was "creation ex nihilo," which Warfield consistently maintained was the way that God made the original stuff of the world. It also seems that . . . Warfield held that God created each soul directly ex nihilo. . . .

The key for Warfield was a doctrine of providence that saw God working in and with, instead of as a replacement for, the processes of nature. . . .[Thus, for example,] in his eyes, physical healing through medicine and the agency of physicians was as much a result of God's action (if through secondary causes) as the cures claimed as a direct result of divine intervention.

--Perspectives on an Evolving Creation, pp. 68-70

What are we to make of Warfield? Again I ask: Should we banish this man from consideration as a full-faith-and-credit, Bible-believing, God-honoring, fellowship-deserving brother in Christ, indeed, even, a man whom we should gladly honor as a worthy teacher in the church?

If not, then on what grounds can we acquiesce--with respect to other people today--to John Morris' pronouncement that,
I . . . am uncertain about young-earth creationism being a requirement for church membership; perhaps it would be proper to give new members time to grow and mature under good teaching.

But I do know one thing: Creationism [what he clearly defines as "beliefs in creation and a young earth"--JAH] should be a requirement for Christian leadership! No church should sanction a pastor, Sunday school teacher, deacon, elder, or Bible-study leader who knowledgeably and purposefully errs on this crucial doctrine. [Most emphases added--JAH]
If we are to ban people like Warfield from leadership in the church, then what are we to say of our spiritual heritage and what are we to make of the self-anointed "keepers of the faith" who, on the one hand, will condemn such a man, but, on the other, reference him with approval when it serves their purposes?

Sorry. I think we do have Trouble in River City . . . and it doesn't start with "T" nor rhyme with "P" nor stand for "Pool." It's something very much deeper. And, sad to say, I'm afraid a lot of it stems from what I am unable to discern as anything other than false and hypocritical claims emanating from brothers (and, I expect, sisters!) in the anti-old-earth/pro-young-earth, anti-evolutionist/pro-spoken-into-instant-full-blown-creation camp against brothers and sisters who are unable to affirm that "God created the heavens and the earth" in quite the same way that these brothers and sisters do. Oh, they affirm, without hesitation, that God created the heavens and the earth. "I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth." They simply believe--on the basis of a thoughtful review of the evidence from both of God's books, that when He spoke the world--and all that is within it--into existence, it didn't happen to appear in quite the way that their young-earth creationist brethren imagine it did.

It happened. God did it. But "just" not in the way that their brothers and sisters in the young-earth camp think He did.

And for that, apparently, false and hypocritical as the charges against them may be, they are to be condemned and shunned, and/or their real teachings rewritten or blotted from memory.

How sad!

Late addition (3/19/09 at 8:35 AM): For a positive exposition of how to approach the "two books," I would like to recommend How should we interpret the Two Books of God, in Scripture & Nature? by Craig Rusbult, Ph.D.

1 The list includes, among many others, Billy Graham, James Dobson, John MacArthur, Tony Evans, Chuck Smith, Chuck Swindoll, Harold Camping (Family Radio), John Piper, Charles Spurgeon, Jack Hayford, Ray Comfort, Chuck Colson, C. S. Lewis, Hank Hanegraaff, "or any of the like." Go the the "A True Church" website for the complete list. Return to Text.

2 Martin and Vaughn comment in an endnote at this spot:
McGee believed in the gap theory. He rejected evolution and yet had no problem with a millions-of-years-old earth. For example, he writes: "When Adam was told to replenish the earth, we assume that there had been living creatures - I don't know what to call them - before Adam. They apparently were living creatures of God's creation; anything I could say beyond that would be pure speculation." McGee, Genesis Chapters 1-15, p. 144. McGee's book is filled with statements like this. The most obvious can be found on pp. xliii, 55-60, 113, and 117.
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3 See Whitcomb & Morris, The Genesis Flood, p. xx. Return to Text.