Why Not YEC?

In the opening chapter of Four Views on Creation, Evolution, and Intelligent Design Ken Ham describes and defends Young Earth Creation, the primary argument is that this is the most faithful interpretation of Scripture. None of the other three contributors Hugh Ross (Old Earth Creation), Deborah Haarsma (Evolutionary Creation), or Stephen Meyer (Intelligent Design) find this argument compelling. All three take Scripture very seriously as the inspired revelation of God’s mission in his creation, as the word of God.

Hugh Ross finds the most agreement with Ken Ham. Like Ham, he finds concordance between Scripture and modern science, but disagrees that a young earth is the best interpretation. He brings up a number of counterpoints – but perhaps the two most significant are first, we should have some humility in our interpretations.

Ham’s core message is this: “The issue of the age of the earth for Christians comes down to one of authority [of God’s Word] (p. 34). He implies that disagreement with his view denies biblical authority. In making such a statement, he (inadvertently) equates his particular interpretation of Genesis with “God’s Word.” While the text is inerrant, no mere reader of the text can be. Let me add that I, too, fully embrace the authority of God’s Word. (p. 51-52)

And second, the importance of free will in God’s good creation.

God certainly could have created a world with no death, disease, or pain. However, that would be a world where humans either lack free will (with no possibility for love) or continually face the awful risk of rebellion. God’s goal was to give humans a realm in which love is real, and by his loving intervention sin and evil could be permanently conquered and eliminated while keeping free will intact. The new creation (Rev 21) – where free will is safe because its already been tested by the strongest possible temptation – is his ultimate plan. (p. 53)

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The Bible Tells Us So

I recently received a copy of an intriguing book (due out next week) courtesy the publisher. Four Views on Creation, Evolution, and Intelligent Design brings together leading proponents of Young Earth Creationism (Ken Ham), Old Earth Creationism (Hugh Ross), Evolutionary Creationism (Deborah Haarsma) and Intelligent Design (Stephen Meyer). Each is given the opportunity to express their own view and to respond to the essays provided by the others. Within the necessary length constraints each contributor was encouraged to put forth the strongest argument for their position. If you are interested in this issue – either personally or pastorally – this book can be an excellent resource.

The book begins with Ken Ham and his description and defense of young earth creationism (YEC). I would summarize his argument as four-fold.

(1) A young earth (ca. 6000 years old) is the straightforward and clear teaching of Scripture. He provides a number of scripture references to demonstrate his point. It is an interesting exercise to look at the context of each of these references and consider how they support Ken Ham’s argument. It was the nearly universal teaching of the church until very recently.

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What Color are Your Glasses?

In his thought-provoking book Evolutionary Creation: A Christian Approach to Evolution Denis Lamoureux begins the discussion with an analogy.

The world of ideas is similar to the world of color. We appreciate that many topics are not simple black-and-white issues and that many shades of opinion and understanding exist. Yet in contrast to the world of color, the ability to discern the spectrum of ideas is based more on our education and life experience than on genetic predispositions. Categories are for the most part learned, and once they become part of our mindset, they act like glasses through which we “see” the world. (p. 1)

A new comment popped up on an old post yesterday. The benefit and bane of being a moderator is that these comments show up on my feed, even when the post is “stale.” But this comment helps to highlight some of the problems we have when dealing with the world of ideas.

If there is no historical Adam, then there is no historical Cain or Abel. And if there is no historical Cain and Abel, there is no historical descendants leading to Noah. And if there are no historical descendants to Noah, then everything in the first eleven chapters of Genesis is a lie. Do we then believe in an historical Abram, or are we to deny that as well? And if so, then let’s also deny the whole of Imago Dei. And let’s deny sin in any form, because it’s just myth. And if you are willing to do that, then why bother identifying as a Christian in the first place?

This kind of argument seems to be grounded in a view of the world through a specific set of monochrome glasses. Everything must fit into one or another of a set of learned and accepted categories, cemented together to float or sink as a whole.

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Return to Adam

One of the most contentious questions in the conversation between contemporary science and faith is the question of Adam – more specifically human origins and the origin of sin. The next set of essays and responses in Old Earth or Evolutionary Creation homes in on this question. Loren Haarsma and Kenneth Samples provide perspectives from BioLogos and Reasons to Believe respectively. Ted Cabal acts as the Southern Baptist moderator for this discussion. The question posed doesn’t ask for a definitive answer, but rather for the range of viable positions concerning Adam and Eve.

Loren Haarsma begins by laying a foundation with three key doctrines to which the people associated with BioLogos are committed (p. 50).

  • Humans are created “in the image of God,” with a special relationship to God and a role to play in God’s creation.
  • All humans who have ever lived have sinned by rebelling against God’s revealed will.
  • God has dealt with sin through Christ’s incarnation, death, resurrection, ascension, and promised return.

Viable positions concerning Adam will affirm these three points – even if questioning some of the traditional theological positions that have surrounded them. There are a number of viable views of Adam that are consistent with these doctrines. They can’t all be right of course, but it is not wise to question the commitment of individuals to orthodox Christian belief on the basis of their preferences or current thinking here.

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But They Know God is Real!

So far we’ve looked at five of the scientists profiled in Tim Stafford’s book the adam quest. In this book Stafford found Christian scientists “who hold strong opinions but are not quick to condemn others.” His purpose is to let them tell their own story with little interference, to humanize the nature of the conflict with real people and to provoke thoughtful engagement in the church. This is a book that every interested person, especially pastors or other Christian leaders, can learn from. Whether you are searching for answers or hold strong opinions of your own, it is always helpful to understand where others are coming from. In fact, it is probably most important when holding strong opinions that we take the time to understand and view others as fellow humans, in this case fellow Christians, members of the same family.

The next three scientists profiled by Stafford take an old earth view, Mary Schweitzer is a paleontologist who has made some fascinating discoveries. Darrel Falk is a biologist, former president of BioLogos, who wrote an outstanding book contributing to the discussion of science and faith (Coming to Peace with Science). Ard Louis is a physicist, a professor of physics at Oxford University in England.

Mary Schweitzer, as a non-traditional older graduate student at Montana State University, rocked the scientific establishment with the identification (discovery) of what appear to be fossilized blood cells in dinosaur bones. This was followed by discoveries of blood vessels and osteocytes and more. She is now a professor of paleontology in the department of biological Sciences at North Carolina State University. Her work has been used as an argument for a young earth – but not by Schweitzer herself. The evidence for an old earth is persuasive and follows many varied lines of evidence. However, the discovery of the preservation of organic material in ancient fossils – millions of years old, is highly significant and opens up new lines of research. A fresh eye will often see things that experience over looks or dismisses as impossible.

Schweitzer is a Christian and her story is fascinating. On the conflict between science and faith she says

“It’s a false chasm. You don’t have to choose between science and faith.” She cites her experience when she first recognized the strength of the case for an ancient earth. “I could have gone away from my faith, but I knew God.” … She believes there is room in the Bible for an old earth once populated with dinosaurs. “Let God be God,” she likes to say. (p. 115)

But as a Christian and a paleontologist she does experience a sense of isolation at times. It is hard to form strong friendships when viewed with suspicion. Non-Christian scientist friends don’t really relate to much of what is important in her life and far too many Christians are wary of the science. Nonetheless, it is the friendship with fellow Christians that matters the most – even with the occasional tension over the questions of origins and the age of the earth.

Darrel Falk started his independent research career at the University of Syracuse, but came to realize that his true calling was not in the research university. Rather it was to teach in a smaller Christian college environment. Among other factors, a driving force was the need for Christian community. This is hard to come by at the research university. He found a church in Syracuse, where while they “certainly didn’t believe in evolution, the members never bothered about the fact that Falk did.” (p. 124) Darrel’s approach to the question of science and Christian faith is best seen in his book – Coming to Peace with Science – and in the course he charted at BioLogos. “We must be patient with each other and allow each other to follow truth as we see it in Scripture.” (p. 136) Much of Stafford’s profile of Falk is based on his book, with a few more recent additions. Continue reading

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The Many Faces of Creation

The creation narratives in Scripture are many and varied – although certain themes are always present. God alone is the creator of the cosmos. His creation is good, playful, purposeful. Creation is grounded in God’s wisdom – in a manner often beyond human understanding. Tom McLeish, in Faith and Wisdom in Science surveys several of the creation themes found in Proverbs 8, Psalm 33, Psalm 104, Jeremiah, Isaiah and Hosea before turning to Genesis 1 and 2. Job 38-41 could be thrown into the mix as well, but McLeish will delve into Job in detail later.

Proverbs 8 provides “a playful, delightful description of a young world full of hope!.” (p. 56) There is a child-like delight expressed by Wisdom, present at the time of creation: “Then I was the craftsman at his side. I was filled with delight day after day, rejoicing always in his presence, rejoicing in his whole world and delighting in mankind.” (v. 30-31) In Proverbs 8 Creation is described as a time when God … set the heavens in place, … marked out the horizon on the face of the deep, … established the clouds above … fixed securely the fountains of the deep … gave the sea its boundary ….marked out the foundations of the earth. God tames, gives order and control to creation.

In Psalm 33:6-7 we read that “by the word of the Lord the heavens were made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth. He gathers the waters of the sea into jars; he puts the deep into storehouses.” God’s word and spirit/breath creates and again he establishes order, controlling the sea and the deep.

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Which Will You Choose?

I led a discussion this last Sunday morning focused on Proverbs 8 and 9. These chapters (along with the preceding 1-7) are the key to understanding the focus of the book of Proverbs. The wisdom literature is a crucial, and often misunderstood, part of the Old Testament. Scot has been working through Tremper Longman’s new book The Fear of the Lord Is Wisdom. Chapter 1 of this book along with Longman’s commentary on Proverbs (Baker Commentary on the Old Testament) and his study guide How to Read Proverbs provided the basis for our discussion. (Note – if you buy the Baker Proverbs commentary, try to find a used hard cover edition. The binding on the new paperback edition is horrible.) Quotes below are from the commentary unless otherwise noted. Longman goes over many of the same points in all three books although the commentary has the most detail.

To begin, Longman introduces the concept of implied reader and actual reader. It is important to understand the distinction between the implied reader/hearer and the actual reader of the book of Proverbs. The implied reader or hearer is a young man being instructed by a trusted male adult. On the surface the relationship is father and son, but it may also be teacher and disciple. To understand the illustrations we, as actual readers, must put ourselves in the place of the implied reader/hearer. The book speaks to me as a middle aged American woman … but I gain the most insight when I try to see it from the perspective of a twenty year old ancient Near Eastern male.

Wisdom and Folly are personified in this book as women. The point isn’t that women are wiser (or more foolish) than men, but that wisdom should be made an integral part of life. Choosing the right path matters. As no young man should allow prostitutes and promiscuous women to become integral parts of his life, so too he, and all of the rest of us, should reject Folly and choose Wisdom.

In Chapter 8 we find Wisdom’s autobiography. The chapter can be outlined as follows:

  1. v. 1-3 Third person introduction – Where to find Wisdom.
  2. v. 4-11 Preamble of Wisdom’s speech.
  3. v. 12-21 Introduction to Wisdom’s autobiography.
  4. v. 22-31 Wisdom’s accomplishments.
  5. v. 32-36 Wisdom’s advice.

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