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Redefining Creationism

The focus on evolution vs. creation distracts from what Genesis 1 actually teaches.
| Feb 18, 2014 | 58 comments |

Creation_windowOn February 4, 2014, the much hyped debate occurred between Bill Nye, supporting evolution, and Ken Ham, supporting creationism. The debate centered around which origin theories were acceptable science. You can watch the whole thing on YouTube if you desire.

Disclaimer: I did not watch the debate. In part because it is long and I haven’t had the time, but also because I believe it is a non-issue. So why am I writing an article on it?

The focus on evolution vs. creation distracts from what Genesis 1 actually teaches.

The approach to creation that Ken Ham promotes overlooks the obvious. It takes Genesis to be a modern, Western historical narrative. It is not. But Ken suggests if you don’t believe in his interpretation of the text, you do not believe in the Biblical creation nor the Bible.

Likewise, the theory of evolution remains just that: a theory. One that can find supporting evidence with inner-species evolution, but not much showing inter-species. Due to the fact that so little of animal life on this planet gets fossilized, it would be impossible to prove the theory from the fossil record. There are too many gaps, making faith-based leaps of logic a necessity. Theories within a theory.

I think most of us have heard all the arguments. I personally chose to accept what it says without the need to defend it. The reality is that it says God created the world and us. Whether He chose to do it in six literal days or 36 million years is irrelevant. Genesis 1 can be interpreted validly either way. If I arrive in Heaven to discover that God took millions of years to create the world and used evolution to create us, it won’t shake my faith in the least.

Creationism is about who and why this world and universe exists, not about how.

One of the first things I learned in Biblical exegesis is to determine the type of literature I’m interpreting. To interpret Jesus’ allegory of the Vine and Branches in John 15 literally would be to miss the point of Jesus’ message. Likewise, an analogy or type used in Scripture can be both literally and symbolically true.

What many people miss is that Genesis 1 is constructed as Hebraic poetry. Does this mean it is all symbolic? Not necessarily. However, it does mean how you read it and the message you get should be informed by that type of literature.

Why is it poetry? Because Hebraic poetry is structured on a rhyme of thought instead of words. It uses parallelism and contrasts to make its points. This is typical of Psalms and Proverbs.

O ye simple, understand wisdom: and, ye fools, be ye of an understanding heart. (Pro 8:5 KJV – parallelism)

He that covereth a transgression seeketh love; but he that repeateth a matter separateth very friends. (Pro 17:9 KJV – contrast)

Likewise, the more the same thing is said in different ways, the stronger the emphasis.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. (Psa 23:2-3 KJV – 4 parallel statements on God’s comfort in times of sorrow)

If you ignore the concerns about evolution or six literal 24-hour days, what you discover is that the period of time labeled as “a day” is being used to create a parallel structure. When viewed this way, the scientific sequence actually makes more sense.

Days one through three detail the creation of environments. Days four through six parallel those days with the creation of the entities within those environments.

Day one, for example, talks about the creation of light. Day four, about the sun and stars. On day three and six, you get a two-parter for each day. Day three shows the creation of land while day six fills that land with animals. But the second half of day three, God creates the plants, where as in day six, He creates man.

In both cases, the second half of the days creates links to and within creation. The plants link the inanimate life to the animate, while man links animal life and the world to God. This dynamic is highlighted in a triple parallel statement for emphasis:

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. (Gen 1:27 KJV)

The message? We’re all linked to this world, and designed to be linked to God, through man who was created in His image (having a capacity for divine life to live in him) and His likeness (the divine life living in him).

This message sets up not only the context of the Fall, but our redemption.

For God rested on the seventh day, to which there is not given a parallel structure. It isn’t until Jesus Christ dies and rests in the tomb on the seventh day of the week—the Sabbath—that the eighth day of creation occurred when He rose from the dead.

This is why you’ll find most early church baptistries were eight-sided. Dying with Christ and being raised to new life in Christ was to enter into the eighth day of creation.

That’s the message of Genesis 1. I have no problem believing that God created the world in six literal days. He’s certainly more than capable. Most pre-Darwin interpretations default to speaking of them as days without any qualifications. Likewise, if those days represent an undefined time period and are used more as poetic divisions than actual days, as the Hebrew would allow, I’m fine with God creating the world and us in that way.

But how God created the world and us, and in what order He did is not the point of Genesis 1. The more we focus on a side-show like the debate between Bill’s and Ken’s, the more we take our focus off the Gospel that Genesis 1 points to. The meaning is so rich as conveyed, it’s a shame we focus on surface details. Evolution can’t prove God didn’t create us, nor can Genesis 1 be used to say God didn’t use evolution.

In the end, what is the point of how God did it? The real point is He did, and He did it for a reason.

When’s the last time you did a study on Genesis 1 that didn’t end up focusing on evolution vs. creation?

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Aaron DeMott
Guest

I’m getting so sick of articles like this.
No, not your opinion. We’re each entitled to our own, blah, blah… that’s an entire different topic.
What I’m sick of is Christians that attack Ken Ham over this debate, that haven’t watched it.
First, the topic of the debate was NOT “…which origin theories were acceptable science…” The topic of the debate was “Is Creation viable in today’s modern world?” Or, can you still be a good scientist if you believe in creation.
Every Christian opposing the debate (who hasn’t seen it) also says: “…because I believe it is a non-issue…” or calls it “pointless”.
Again, I feel that this opinion is formed by the viewpoint holders own opinions because they haven’t watched the debate.
Such a debate isn’t pointless (or a non-issue) for several reasons. Isn’t anytime we can talk about the word of God good? Over two million people watched the debate stream live over the internet. Many of these streams were groups watching, and more have watched it since. If you’d actually seen the debate, Ken presented the Gospel several times during the debate (oddly, some people were upset at him for presenting the Gospel instead of arguing evidences, but that’s another topic.)
Shouldn’t we rejoice whenever the gospel is proclaimed, instead of attacking each other over theological issues?

D. M. Dutcher
Member

The thing is, if you want to preach God, preach God. What Ken Ham really wants I think is to disprove evolution, and that’s not quite the same thing. You have to be careful about how much energy you spend on things which are incidental to your important goal.

E. Stephen Burnett
Guest

If that’s his motive, he’s doing a poor job of it. I still haven’t seen much of the debate, but I understood he took plenty of criticism (some from fellow creationists) for focusing tightly on the topic of God’s Word, rather than trying to debunk every little evidence (“rightly” interpreted, of course!) that Nye brought up for evolution.

In general I agree with this approach. Let the Bible “off the leash” to defend “itself” — though Christians know this means that it is the Holy Spirit does just where He wants.

E. Stephen Burnett
Guest

I’m pointing out that this focus distracts from the real message of Genesis 1.

I think AiG folks in their smarter moments would agree with you. It’s a crying shame that we have to go on about creation/evolution and dating methods and blah blah blah when there are far more vital matters at stake. AiG, though, remains convinced that people are getting stuck on society’s alternate creation/salvation mythology and unable to consider the Real Message. This mythology might say:

  1. Creation: Our world has evolved over billions of years.
  2. Fall: Our world has gone wrong because of religion and/or global warming.
  3. Prophets, Priests and Kings: We need technocrats such as moral activists, political leaders and scientists.
  4. Salvation from Sin: They help us correct our past mistakes.
  5. Judgment: On the way we fight enemies of the cause (e.g., the pagan and heretical Outsiders who now carry our expiated guilt for past sins).
  6. Good Works: With help from wise leaders, we mortify our cultural sins.
  7. Eternity: After defeating our enemies we as basically good humans will enjoy a world made right thanks to the efforts of wise leaders, technology, and conformity/individuality.

I think that if Christians, creationists, AiG, non-creationists, whatever, err at all in this issue, it’s because we fail to recognize that we are not dealing with simple small intrusions into a default Biblical world-view. This is a wholly other religion that rips off all the points of the Biblical narrative and sets up a total parody of it.

Steve Taylor
Guest
Steve Taylor

Evolution is a doctrine of atheism (which is a religion).  It has zero facts to even make it a theory.  Its sole purpose is to discredit the Bible.  Death came after sin and if this were not so then the Bible is not true and none of it can be taken seriously.  The Bible college I went to taught that the Genesis account was literal and since then I’ve learned it to also be scientifically accurate.  
Groups like AIG, ICR and Creation International defend the authority of God’s Word and are evangelistic ministries that have as their main goal of saving lives from eternal fire. Very honorable if you ask me.  Doesn’t sound like a mon-issue to me. In my persoanl ministry I find the debate a fantastic platform to share Jesus with the lost. 
Yhumbs uo Aaron. You hit the nail on the head. 

Austin Gunderson
Member

I’m sorry, Steve, but not only does evolutionary theory have plenty of evidence in its scientific court (when interpreted from a certain perspective), but the gospel isn’t dependent on physical death being a consequence of sin.  Consider:

1.)  Adam lived 930 more years on the earth after God said to him, “on the day that you eat of [the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil] you shall surely die.”  (Gen. 2:17)  Obviously, the death Adam suffered when he ate the fruit was a spiritual death, a death that separated him from God.

2.)  After the Fall, God drives Adam away from the Tree of Life, “lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever.”  (Gen. 3:22-24)  Why on earth would God need to do this if Adam was already condemned to die a physical death?

3.)  Prior to the Fall, God commands Adam and Eve to “be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it.”  (Gen. 1:28)  He also gives the exact same command to every kind of animal.  Unless physical death had been a part of the original creation (as indeed it’s necessitated by the basic, fundamental physical processes of the reality we inhabit — without physical death, the Second Law of Thermodynamics wouldn’t have been in effect and it would’ve been impossible for physical creatures to eat and there would’ve been no point to their gastrointestinal tracts), the earth would’ve become unsustainably overpopulated within a few years, if not months.  The insects alone would’ve obliterated the plant kingdom.  Not a “very good” world at all.

Point is, it’s entirely possible to believe that physical death predated the Fall while remaining committed to the inerrancy and infallibility of scripture.

HG Ferguson
Guest
HG Ferguson

Pretty untenable in the light of Romans 5:12.  Death entered the world through one man’s sin.  Death was not present before Adam sinned.  Something can’t enter if it is already there.  I think that settles it.   No think to it, really.  It’s settled because God says so, bugs aside.  Death entered the world through one man’s sin.  That’s the Truth.  Because God says so.  There was no death of any kind.  The wages of sin is death.  Without sin, no death.  
P.S.
I agree with the point of today’s post, forcing Genesis 1 into “science” is not what the passage is intended to convey.

Austin Gunderson
Member

It’s not as simple as you’d like it to be, HG.  What kind of death is Paul talking about in Romans 5 — physical death, spiritual death, or both?  You’ve gotta define your terms.  It’s obvious, in light of scripture’s totality, that these two forms of death are separate and distinct: I’m currently alive in Christ (Eph. 2:1-6), but my present physical body is destined for death and decay.  I’m alive spiritually and “dead” physically.  So the question isn’t whether death takes multiple forms, but which form was God referencing when He proclaimed the Curse?

It makes sense to me that you’d look at Romans 5 and assume that Paul was talking about both forms of death.  That’s what I used to believe, too.  But go back and read Genesis 1-3 and consider the observations I’ve listed in my comment above.  If God was referencing physical death when He said “on the day that you eat of [the fruit] you shall surely die,” then why’d Adam live 930 more years?  If you claim that God was just being dramatic and that He didn’t really mean that Adam would physically die the same day that he sinned, then why was it necessary for God to drive Adam away from the Tree of Life, “lest he … live forever”?  And, since the Second Law of Thermodynamics couldn’t have been in effect in the absence of physical death, why was it necessary for man and the animals to eat prior to the Fall?  If their bodies weren’t gonna die, than they wouldn’t have needed physical replenishment, either.

These aren’t easy questions, HG, but they certainly don’t deserve a brusque, dogmatic dismissal.  I’m not claiming that you need to share my belief in pre-Fall physical death.  My point isn’t necessarily to persuade you of my opinion on this matter — my point is to call out the unfounded narrow-mindedness exhibited by comments like “death came after sin and if this were not so then the Bible is not true and none of it can be taken seriously” (see Steve Taylor above).  There’s nothing wrong with believing as you do.  But there’s a whole lot wrong with claiming that the entire gospel message hinges on one’s personal opinion regarding the exact moment that physical death entered the creation.

Paul Lee
Member

Good thoughts, Austin. I’d never really considered that angle before.

It’s obvious, in light of scripture’s totality, that these two forms of death are separate and distinct: I’m currently alive in Christ (Eph. 2:1-6), but my present physical body is destined for death and decay.

To add to that point, consider that death does not mean the end of existence. It’s theologically incorrect to say that everyone will live forever but that the unrepentant will live forever in hell, because hell is spiritual death.
 
The fundamental theory behind the concept of death is that death is complete corruption and total deconstruction, irreversible except through divine miracle. If God’s pattern for biological life included physical death, than what we call physical death would actually not ultimately be death. If physical death were part of the pattern, it would not be a symptom of rebellion or of chaos. And we all seem to agree that God did incorporate some physical death into the pattern of life, because cells must die and be replaced, plants must wither and shed their seeds, etc.

Austin Gunderson
Member

“If God’s pattern for biological life included physical death, than what we call physical death would actually not ultimately be death. If physical death were part of the pattern, it would not be a symptom of rebellion or of chaos.”

Exactly.  You said it better than I’ve been trying to.

E. Stephen Burnett
Guest

Austin and I have civilly squabbled over the whole “death before sin” thing. I remain convinced that the plain, contextual, symbolic-yet-physical meaning of Scripture — when left untampered by outside ideas — clearly connotes that spiritual-then-physical death indeed came into the world because of sin. Redeemed humanity’s future is total immortality, not a new concept but a restoration of the original concept.

But I need to agree with Austin when he critiques this:

It has zero facts to even make it a theory.

By saying this:

evolutionary theory have plenty of evidence in its scientific court (when interpreted from a certain perspective)

Per my other note about the definition of “theory,” shall we simply refer to it by Austin’s term “perspective”? That’s how this all gets started anyway. Remember your AiG propaganda, Steve: it’s not a matter of “who has the biggest pile of evidence” but, for Christians: “which view is most faithful to the best Scripture reading” and then “which view can make the most sense out of the ‘neutral’ evidence”? This rules out generalizations or “magic bullets” one way or the other.

Austin Gunderson
Member

Genesis 1 is indeed rich with parallelism and symbolic meaning, as you point out.  And you’re absolutely correct that, even if it turns out that God fashioned the universe through the processes of cosmic, geologic, and biologic evolution, the central gist of Genesis’ creation account would remain unchanged.  And I agree that far too many Christians invest far too much of their emotional and intellectual security in a literal interpretation of that particular text.  God transcends all boundaries that He hasn’t placed around Himself.

But.

Genesis 1, as written, makes no sense as allegorical poetry.  I don’t say this as a Hebraic scholar (kinda like you don’t critique the Ham-on-Nye debate as an actual viewer); I say it as an ordinary reader.  On the face of it, Genesis 1 has no point if it’s not a literal recounting of God’s creation process.  Why go to elaborate lengths to mix up the actual history that inevitably did occur?  Why bother rearranging events or artificially segmenting them if that’s not how it happened?  What new insights about God do we gain from a fictionalized account of His creation work?  What spiritual principles can be gleaned from His very specific claim that He created plants before the sun or fish before terrestrial animals?  With every other allegorical portion of scripture (except prophecy, for obvious reasons), meaning is apparent — it is, after all, the whole point.  When Jesus talks about seeds and weeds or vines and branches, it’s obvious what He’s really talking about.

So what’s Genesis 1 really talking about?

I don’t mean the first verse.  If “God created the heavens and the earth” is your only takeaway from Genesis 1, then you’re effectively ignoring the rest of the passage.  In that case, God could’ve skipped straight to Chapter 3 without changing the essential message.  But He didn’t.  Instead, He wasted two whole chapters with a remarkably specific account of precise temporal sequencing.  It isn’t just a simple progression.  God pauses after each creation and declares it good in the absence of its eventual context.  Had He been employing an evolutionary approach in which cosmology, geology, flora, and fauna developed concurrently, this wouldn’t have been possible, let alone have made any sense.  The days which segment His process have evenings and mornings.  Why on earth do they have evenings and mornings?  How does that mesh with the “with God, a day is like a thousand years” interpretation?  The whole passage is rife with pointlessness if it’s not interpreted as literal history.  And the fact that the rest of Genesis goes on to become a straight-up history book unpunctuated by poetic allegory just reinforces the obvious.

E. Stephen Burnett
Guest

You just blew my mind, brother. Somehow after our last discussion I’d been led to conclude you were a theistic-evolutionist chap. (Not there there’s anything wrong with that!) It’s another reminder to me that faithful Christians may only seem like they’re compromising theistic evolutionists grumpy fundie creationists, when the real person with firm-beliefs-mixed-with-just-simple-human-uncertainty is more complicated. Which is why I endorse constant discussion about this topic — yet a unified front (please?) when anti-Christian folks attack the whole faith from outside.

Austin Gunderson
Member

LoL.  I never would’ve thought I’d ever come across as a theistic evolutionist.  Guess that just goes to show how attached some creationists (such as myself, I’m sure) can become to their various pet hypotheses and interpretations.  As I’ve begun to emerge from the AiG mold over the years, I’ve been amazed at how dogmatically my fellow creationists can cling to notions that aren’t necessarily scriptural.  😉

Bottom line: the Bible has the last word.  Unless I defer my preferences to its assertions, I’ll end up as my own little arbiter of truth and miss out on reality.

E. Stephen Burnett
Guest

I’ve been amazed at how dogmatically my fellow creationists can cling to notions that aren’t necessarily scriptural.

“Haw! Haw! [a little Jack Chick lingo, there] you silly secularists won’t find any kind of life on Mars with your expensive probes; you’re wasting your time!”

I say: stop saying that.

You can make a Biblical case — though I kind of hope it’s somehow wrong — that cool sentient humanoid aliens aren’t out there. (All creation was affected by the curse, Christ died only for humankind, so all the Klingons still go to Hell, etc.) But there is absolutely no Biblical case for presuming that probes won’t find organic life on Mars or on Jupiter’s moons or anywhere else. In fact I think it’s dangerous to set this up as a cause for any creationist. It’s shaky construction of an absolute negative on something to which Scripture simply doesn’t speak.

Plus it’s boring and curmudgeonly. Like contemporary-pragmatic “benefits” of tolerating evolution (as I said earlier), this attitude doesn’t bring me joy, doesn’t lead me to want to praise our Creator more. I’m not a creationist because it lets me shine a hot light of truth in the face of some evolutionist pagan somewhere, but because through this light I can better see the full spectrum of redemption.

Austin Gunderson
Member

Jack Chick … *shudder*

“I’m not a creationist because it lets me shine a hot light of truth in the face of some evolutionist pagan somewhere, but because through this light I can better see the full spectrum of redemption.”

Nice metaphor. *virtual high five*

E. Stephen Burnett
Guest

I reluctantly agree with Aaron up there, though I’ve gladly found that share so much more with my brother Rick than we share disagreements over this one.

So far I remain persuaded with the overall case for reading Genesis 1–3 as both poetry and literal history. (For one thing, the early Church nearly-unanimously agreed that the passage should be read as such, with the exceptions trying to allegorize the text to be shorter periods, not longer.)

I also remain persuaded by the overall case: that science disciplines that attempt to project the past are not nearly as reliable, and are more subjective, than science disciplines that use the scientific method to predict present or future results.

It’s not true to say that science-of-the-past is worthless. After all, it would put creation advocates as well as evolution advocates out of business. But it is true to say it is not as reliable as what Ham, et. al., call “operational science.”

No, you don’t need evolutionary notions* to do science. I’m not sure why some Christians — with the best of intentions, like AiG folks, to save Christianity from compromise and irrelevance — seem so intimidated by the faux claims that we need evolution to do science and technology. I’m not saying that if you accept evolution you’re an evil heretic/comprimiser. But I will suggest you need not be intimidated.

I also seem to have found a new approach to this debate: what possible joy is there in the evolutionary story/”theory”*/ball of wax? I see none. There’s no proactive, worshipful reason to leave the door open for curiosity about this idea. Does it glorify God more on the individual or corporate level? Do we want to praise His Name more now that we’ve “learned” something the early Church apparently never knew — that God may have (all we need say here is “may have”) actually worked through millions of years to “create” animalkind and mankind? Are we drawn to respect and stand in awe of His majesty? Or is there no difference to our own worshipful stance — or if anything, a bit of decreased awe, perhaps because we’ve made God the Creator into more of a glorified cameo in an “evolution” process?

Please understand, I’m not saying this: that if you, upon accepting/leaving the door open for evolution, don’t personally want to worship God more and marvel at the mystery and exalt Him for eternity, then it’s a wrong notion or that you are a bad Christian. I’m only saying that, in general, if a new** notion leads us only toward pragmatism or “usefulness” or supposedly being able to evangelize, and not chiefly toward increased awe and worship and praise of God, that’s a huge hint about whether this supposedly crucial change in our thinking is really so crucial.

* I don’t even elevate “evolution” with the  term “theory.” Every truly scientific theory, after all, should have the key to its own destruction, and the evolutionary notion is so fiercely held and defended, and so firmly grounded in the assumed-as-gospel presumptions of materialism/naturalism, that it can’t be questioned at all unless one first starts overhauling the whole philosophy/religion of the thing.

** And yes, it is a new notion to accept evolutionary beliefs and add them to Biblical faith. See also: dispensational end-times theology, another viewpoint that leads to contemporary “usefulness” more often than it does to awe and praise.

E. Stephen Burnett
Guest

See above for my glad agreement with my brother Austin and recognition that one’s views can be more complex than “grumpy anti-science wooden-literalist creationist” or “worldly compromising Bible-hating faith-denying evolutionist.”

I think Austin misses something, though, in suggesting this:

Unless physical death had been a part of the original creation (as indeed it’s necessitated by the basic, fundamental physical processes of the reality we inhabit — without physical death, the Second Law of Thermodynamics wouldn’t have been in effect and it would’ve been impossible for physical creatures to eat and there would’ve been no point to their gastrointestinal tracts)

It was actually AiG that started rolling back the early creationist notion — still in use, alas, among some defenders — that the Second Law of Thermodynamics began at the fall. (Also related: “The First Law of Thermodynamics easily disproves evolution.”) Search the site and find articles such as this one. The concept is that yes of course, organic material could “die” in a perfect world, and presumably will again in the restored creation. Organic material is a “machine,” so of course it can die — just as you may need to fix cars in the New Earth — in order to keep the most important creatures running. (I wonder if that also means insects could have died.)

The less-than-poetic key phrase here is the most important creatures. Biblical creation advocates do (or should) defend the truth that God made Adam and Eve, and perhaps also the animals, exceptional. With some differences, including that they didn’t know good and evil as God does, Adam and Eve were meant to reflect God’s nature. This surely included the fact that God Himself does not die. (God in Christ later did, but death could not hold Him.) If they had died, where would they go? God had made paradise on Earth and walked in the Garden. His home was here, just as it will someday be again (Rev. 21). The whole point of the Story is that God is building Himself a “house” on planet Earth among His people.

So, did immortality also apply to the animals? This seems a stretch for my creationist mind, but maybe not. Maybe Rom. 5 only refers to human death, the death that began slowly and spiritually when Adam and Even sinned and finally ended in its physical counterpart. (Similarly, our redemption begins slowly and spiritually, and finally ends with its physical counterpart at the Resurrection.)

But … Rom. 8 also specifies that “the creation itself” groans with the consequences of mankind’s sin. This is a crucial passage. Creation bears the brunt of mankind’s sin and groans. Why suggest that animal death, which reflects man’s death, is not part of this? In both Testaments the promise is that animals will live in peace in the Kingdom — this is poetic, yes, but what is the most beautiful meaning of the poem if not a literal and visible and physical fulfillment?

God > man. Man > animals/creation. In general, as God is to man, man is to animals/creation. Animals are man’s to care for, just as man is God’s to care for. Thus, as mankind goes, so goes animals/creation. When we fall, creation is cursed. But it will take the Creator/steward of us all to make everything right again.

Anyway, more and more I dig deeper into the wondrous poetic and beautiful truths of “literal” creation almost entirely because it is so crucial to get the future right. All this evolution/creation stuff will someday be over. It’s necessary to talk about it now, but how much more necessary is it to enlarge one’s picture of the extent of the Fall and the Curse, and the final reversal and redemption of all for God’s glory.

Paul Lee
Member

ButRom. 8 also specifies that “the creation itself” groans with the consequences of mankind’s sin. This is a crucial passage. Creation bears the brunt of mankind’s sin and groans.

But do we know for certain that the reason creation groans is because of mankind’s sin? What of the rebellion of Lucifer?
 
I think the biggest theological shortcoming of YEC is its weakness in addressing the existence of angels and their fall. One of the creationist books I read years ago (I’m guessing <i>Biblical Creationism</i> by Morris) suggested that the angels were created within the literal creation week, and consequently Satan must have rebelled when he was only a few days old.
 
I prefer the Old Earth Calvinistic hypothesis that after the angels fell (possibly marring the original creation and rendering the first version of Earth “formless”), God decided to create the lower race of humans and to reveal His grand plan of redemption among them. However, I only “prefer” this theory in that I find it more interesting. I don’t think it has much evidence going for it.
 
The Bible very pointedly refrains from telling us about the origins of angels, and I think that’s hard for most YEC folks to accept. It may be kind of hypocritical for me to criticize YEC for failing to account for angels when I strongly prefer interpreting the Bible as a book written only for the context of humanity. However, the fact that angels aren’t explained by the Bible favors my viewpoint, I think — the Bible isn’t completely universal as far as all of creation is concerned, only universal for humanity.

Austin Gunderson
Member

Ah, but how long was the period of time between the creation and the Fall?  It’s not implied by scripture that the Fall occurred on Day Eight.  Theoretically, it could’ve been as long as nine months before Satan decided to make an entrance.  😉

Austin Gunderson
Member

Personally, I’d be inclined to agree with you that humans, at least, were physically immortal by nature prior to the Fall (as much as that’d fly in the face of thermodynamics), were it not for the fact that the Bible nowhere says that they were. Instead, the Bible, when approached without preconception or eisegesis (and I’m sorry, but what else can I term your “bigger picture” theorizing?), implies fairly strongly that they derived their physical immortality from the fruit of the Tree of Life. I’m just callin’ it the way I see it, here.
 
(And tangentially, the approach to biblical interpretation you seem to be advocating here seems based largely on whatever makes you feel good as a believer and as a connoisseur of epic stories. But God’s ways are not our ways, His will is frequently indesipherable from ground-level, and His actions are not dictated by any formula or abstract set of principles higher than said will. He’s not a tame Lion. And consequentially, I don’t need to understand, approve of, or feel good about anything He did in order for Him to have done it.)
 
But this isn’t something I’m interested in evangelizing about. I don’t think it’s terribly important which view one holds on this topic. In that sense, I fully agree with R.L.’s overall point in this post: as Christians, we need to prioritize our emphasis. My point in bringing up an alternate (and legitimate) understanding of death’s relation to the Fall isn’t to proselytize, but to illustrate the fact that there’s room for diversity among biblically-solid perspectives on Genesis.

Geoff
Guest

I’m an Old Earther, but I don’t begrudge the Young Earthers. I’ve learned a lot from them over the years.
I agree that if God chose to do it via evolution, I would harmonize that and be content. But the scientist in me sees Darwinism for the house of cards it is. I oppose neo-Darwinism because it is bad science. And I oppose the bad science because God’s glory is more clearly seen in the truth and in the fact that God has done amazing things in creation.
The people I have an issue with is the theistic evolutionists. Many of them aren’t even open to the possibility of active design in biology. It’s like they don’t want to be reminded they compromised when they didn’t need to. And by compromise I don’t mean they held the position they do, but they cut off the possibility of being wrong about design when they did take their position. They didn’t hold it tentatively. Many in this camp will argue against you on theological grounds when we argue based on the science. Talk about the shoe being on the other foot.

Abigail Packer
Guest
Abigail Packer

WOW, what a fantastic read, I can’t even remember how I stumbled across this site/page/discussion but I sure have been educated/fascinated and entertained by it’s contents and your comments above.
Oh that I had the time to read all and the intellect to understand and absorb the various thoughts/opinions and insights expressed.
To close I will just say, thank-you gentlemen for your participation and shared wisdom… this lady found it most edifying. 🙂

Sarah Parks
Member
Sarah Parks

I have a hard time believing the Genesis account did not refer to a literal 24-hour period, if only because repeatedly in the Mosaic Law God used it as the basis for the Sabbath. 
I agree that creation vs. evolution and all its permutations — old Earth, young Earth, theistic evolution, gap theory — is not the most important debate we can have, but i disagree that it’s unimportant, or that we’re somehow missing the point of Genesis 1. 

Leah Burchfiel
Member

HECK YES, MOTHERFLUFFERS! FLUFFING CONTEXT! Genesis is about cultural narrative and identity, not about scientific facts.
And I’m going to outsource my commentary to links again: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/slacktivist/2014/02/10/why-young-earth-creationism-needs-to-be-killed-with-fire-part-1/,  http://www.patheos.com/blogs/slacktivist/2014/02/12/why-young-earth-creationism-needs-to-be-killed-with-fire-part-2/

E. Stephen Burnett
Guest

Notleia, your old-time-religious-style fundie dislike of old-time-religion-style fundies is ironic. 😛 Also, I interpret that your remark is about personal narrative and identity, and isn’t actually about making any direct propositional truth claims.

E. Stephen Burnett
Guest

P.S.: Thanks for “cleaning” it up. Sort of. It’s about showing love to others who have different language standards. (For the Biblical Christian, love for other people pwns all “freedom” we may feel we have, or even truly have [Rom. 14, 1 Cor. 8–10]).

D. M. Dutcher
Member

Notleia, the point of those posts as I see it though is basically “in order to kill “clobber-text” hermeneutics which give birth to things we don’t like, we need to kill creationism. That has little to do on why creationism is good or bad in itself, and is a pretty cynical approach to belief. Any approach that tries to interpret the bible in light of an ulterior motive to graft things alien to it is not fruitful at all.

Most of us who are devout Christians and aren’t six-day creationists don’t do this for ulterior motives, but that we can’t really presume to treat the earliest pre-history as literal due to scientific observation of the earth. The slacktivist approach is about destabilizing things to get your way, not the truth or falsity of the belief.

E. Stephen Burnett
Guest

This is also called “reverse-fundamentalism” (my term). Or “immaturity.”

But I also remember passing through this kind of time myself, when I wanted to have nothing to do with anything that reminded me of religious things I felt were scarring (or that were actually scarring; I’m not trying to discount others’ scars). And I also wanted to pound the pulpit and turn against them and kill them with FIRE AND BRIMSTONE. … And in so doing I only repeated the very dark-side evils that sent Luke Skywalker pounding in rage on Darth Vader.

“Anger, fear, aggression. The dark side are they. Once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny.”

Leah Burchfiel
Member

The Slacktivist’s point is that literalist hermeneutic needs to go die in a fire, and YEC happens to be part of a literalist interpretation. Literalist interpretation is where we get slavery apologetics and justification to subjugate women and QUILTBAG people. There is nothing good in that. And literalists do cherry-pick, they just prefer the legalism in Timothy to the daughters of Zelophehad (somebody correct me on the name) or the part where Jesus talked to the woman at the well without mentioning that the living water was conditional on her not being a ho.

D. M. Dutcher
Member

I’ve never seen a case where it has died in a fire and done the believer or church a bit of good. It just seems to me that they mimic whatever the secular, educated culture tells them as a replacement, and people just stop believing after a while. Or they start using Christianity to justify people in polyamory, or pre-marital sex, or the non-existence of God. You can’t build a life around a Bible that’s entirely figurative or subject to something greater than it, and I think you lose a lot more than you gain when that happens. 

E. Stephen Burnett
Guest

[…] You can’t build a life around a Bible that’s entirely figurative or subject to something greater than it, and I think you lose a lot more than you gain when that happens.

DMDutcher, thank you. You win seven Internets.

Disregard outraged reaction, reflexive human-level defense of Scripture (at least at first), or moral arguments. Acquire a gentle, firm reminder: that there is absolutely no benefit or joy to this kind of loveless “hate ALL the fundies!” approach to life. It’s a pathetic, sad motivation for doing anything.

E. Stephen Burnett
Guest

Notleia, once again you’re arguing against an imaginary villain. You clearly have no idea what “literalist” means or how evangelical advocate reading Scripture according to context, genre, and other hermeneutical rules. I think I’ve recommended to you an excellent little book about that called How to Read the Bible For All Its Worth. It’s not a “fundie” book, so it contains no demons that can fly out and make you hate women or else people with alternate sexual notions. In fact it’s a lay-level, careful, vital instruction on how to read Scripture rightly and avoid the kinds of nonsense interpretations you say you want to avoid. (In fact the hateful attitudes you claim you dislike don’t even come from “literalist” readings of the Bible, but the same subjective “reading” you push.) I even offer to send you this book.

(Hey, wait a minute, Notleia, isn’t “fear and ban and detest and despise and KILL IT WITH FIRE” a fundie behavior? I see what you did there.)

It sounds like your “chief end” is to declare your hatred for “literalists,” real or imaginary, and rant that they should all go to Hell. Again, that’s quite a “literalist” attitude of your own that you’ve got there. But also, if that gives you joy now, what are you going to do after you die? If you plan on ending up anywhere nice for eternity, what will be your source of pleasure? There will be no more “literalists” to fight. Thus my recommendation is to learn how to enjoy the best pleasures now that could actually continue in eternity.

D. M. Dutcher
Member

I don’t think hating literalism means hating literalists, although it often happens. It’s not fair to jump to that to accuse a person’s motives.  I understand the reason why people may not like literalism, but I don’t agree that destroying it would be beneficial. I don’t think it’s fair to accuse notleia of hating.
 
I think the point is more that “literalism’s bad because LGBT” isn’t true. I’d rather the idea be argued against than the person here, Stephen.

edit: my point too is not about joy and pleasure in literalism. It’s more that even the thing you wanted becomes worthless. You make christianity affirming SSM at the cost of it no longer have any concrete meaning in itself. Saw off the limb you’re on. Pleasure and joy is iffy because being a literalist often means less joy at times and some sorrow. Like any true belief that goes against the crowd.
 
 

E. Stephen Burnett
Guest

‘Tis a great point, DM, but I don’t think I’ve judged any motives. I’m also, admittedly, conflating this kind of dislike or whatever it is with a sort of approach that sees “killing fundamentalism/literalism” as the chief end. I’ve flirted with such things myself, and can testify it is not sustainable and not joyful.

Kirsty
Guest

Otoh, evolution was used to justify slavery, racism, eugenics etc. That doesn’t prove it was wrong either. Humans will use any belief to get their own way.

Two interesting articles:
http://thinktheology.co.uk/blog/article/what_your_biology_teacher_didnt_tell_you_about_charles_darwin
http://thinktheology.co.uk/blog/article/what_phil_didnt_tell_you_about_charles_darwin

Paul Lee
Member

HECK YES, MOTHERFLUFFERS! FLUFFING CONTEXT!

Can we please all just agree to use the Galactican “frak” as the substitute for the f-word? That would make having a real conversation in the comment section so much simpler.

D. M. Dutcher
Member

I vote for Niven’s Tanj! (there aint no justice.)
 
Now I want to go reread Ringworld…

Leah Burchfiel
Member

Or we could go with the Firefly “rutting,” but I went with “fluffing” because it’s funny.

Jill
Guest

“It uses parallelism and contrasts to make its points. This is typical of Psalms and Proverbs.” Chiastic structures, which are very different from parallel ones, are very common in the Bible and occur frequently in Genesis. Without that understanding, some passages are difficult to make sense of in an orderly, consecutive time fashion. Chiasm works in an X structure, with statements moving toward a central statement, at which point the passage will reverse itself and work its way back to the beginning. See also <a href=”http://biblicalchiasmus.wordpress.com/”>Biblical Chiasmus</a>. This blog is a great reference for understanding chiasmi in the Bible.
I want to know where the Bible answers the “why” of creation. I want to know because it will answer my most nagging existential questions. Thanks ahead of time.

merechristian
Member
merechristian

I personally lean towards theistic evolution, but I just don’t know. I’m not scientifically inclined, and the arguments are way over my head.

I will point out that, though God inspired the Bible, he allowed men to write it, with all the foibles that would indicate. I bring forth the issue of Galileo and the scientific “error” in Joshua (I think that’s where it was), about what orbits what. To one of the writer in question’s pov, what he wrote reflected what he saw. Because he didn’t know what we do now about astronomy. Of course, quick note that it was NOT due to the religious reasons that Galileo got in trouble, but because he was an in-your-face, know it all jerk who lorded his intellect over others. Others who then went to great lengths to get back at him. Oh yeah, and basing a character meant to be stupid on the Pope didn’t help either, especially since it was the very same Pope who defended Galileo and helped him out when his secular critics (the other scientists) were gunning for him.

The Bible is almost all true, but certain areas really were influenced by the writers’ ideas and personality. God allowed this to be so. This is undeniable… unless you think the Almighty really does approve of His people having a fervent desire to take the infants of unbelivers and splatter their brains on the ground, as it is put in one Psalm. The rest of the Bible suggests to me this is not the case.

Austin Gunderson
Member

We can’t pick and choose which parts of scripture we’ll accept as truth.  Either it’s all true or it doesn’t even matter.  If I think I can differentiate between actual divinely-inspired biblical passages and those which are only kinda-sorta divinely-inspired based on my own sensibilities, my own moral code, or what I presume to be my own knowledge, then I’ve set myself up as a judge over the Word of God and appointed myself as the ultimate arbiter of truth in my own life.  The Bible is the basis for everything I know about God.  It’s His special revelation.  If I undermine it by saying to this or that troublesome passage: “Well, obviously you don’t belong with the rest of scripture; obviously you’re just an aberration attributable to human personality or error of transcription,” then I’m left with absolutely no basis for my faith whatsoever.  What’s stopping me from applying that same reasoning every time I find something I don’t like in the Bible?  What’s stopping me from creating a Jefferson Bible — a “holy” text fashioned after my own image?  Why, only my own sensibilities.  They’re all that’s stopping me.

I can’t afford to ever find myself in that situation.

So, that issue having been dispensed with, the question now becomes: In what way is a specific passage true?  In the case of Psalm 137:8-9, it’s likely that the plea for brutal vengeance it voices was true for the psalmist, an Israelite captive in Babylon.  The psalms are prayers — outpourings of the heart to God — and though they contain prophecy and universal truth they also contain much personal truth and vulnerable emotional transparency on the part of their writers.  They’ve never claimed to be anything more.

(Of course, if you think that God couldn’t possibly bless the bloodthirsty actions advocated by Psalm 137, then I submit that your idea of God may be artificially limited.  I challenge you to read passages like Hosea 13:4-16 and then tell me that our God isn’t a consuming Fire Whose wrath will be unendurable to all left uncovered by His own blood on the Day of Judgement.  God Himself is the only One capable of surviving His Own wrath.  Which is why He took it upon Himself for our sakes.  There’s much more to God than love.  He’s not a tame Lion.)

As for Joshua 10:12-15, the passage doesn’t say whether it was the sun or the earth that stopped orbiting.  All it says is that “the sun stopped in the midst of heaven.”  It’s a straight-up description of the event from an earthling’s perspective.  What was actually occurring from a logistical standpoint during this cataclysmic miracle is up for speculation.  The fact that medieval scholars saw it as proof that the sun orbited the earth in no way impinges on the simplistic integrity of the original description.

merechristian
Member
merechristian

I didn’t say that the Bible isn’t inerrant. I said that it is also subject to people’s own differences in who the author’s were. Each author has a different style, the recognition of which is a part of Bible study. As well, Mark, who it is thought was writing what Peter related to him, paints a very negative picture of Peter, and leaves out many of Peter’s good points in the other Gospel. Likely because that is what Peter told him.

Also, on the issue of God and judgment, as Paul makes clear in Romans 12, that is an act for God to decide, not man. The times when God told people to wipe out an entire people are the only times that said action, or even the desire to commit it, can be morally justified. The rest of the times, including in Psalms, it would be evil and sinful, period. I hope you are not suggesting that God approves of people in general wanting to slaughter or torture unbelievers because He ordered it a few times. That assumption is not biblically justifiable, and there is no way the hope for murder, or sadistic joy, is anything but sin. God is holy, and in his holiness, can execute wrath without taking pleasure in slaughter, which the Bible says elsewhere He specifically DOESN’T take. The sin of sadism and desire for murder is recorded for our betterment in learning lessons from it as part of the whole Biblical narrative, but that it is sin nonetheless, is no doubt to me.
 
Maybe I am misinterpreting you, and if I am, I apologize. But you sound like a former friend who consistently maintained that nothing bad in the Bible can be criticized because they’re in there and we aren’t, or because somehow God likely ordered the bad stuff even when we are not told so. Weird exegesis that girl had, to say the least.

Austin Gunderson
Member

Nope — not saying that the Bible doesn’t contain plenty of accounts of horrendous sin and negative object lessons.  Just saying that we can’t be squeamish when it comes to the will of God.  My exact words were: “if you think that God couldn’t possibly bless the bloodthirsty actions advocated by Psalm 137, then I submit that your idea of God may be artificially limited.”  God did, in fact, order Israel to commit genocide.  In those instances — and only those instances — in which He ordered it, genocide was in fact the right thing to do, and Israel was judged by God for not committing it.  That’s something that most Christians try to ignore nowadays, but truth isn’t always appealing or convenient.

I’m heartily glad that we agree on the inerrancy of scripture — it must’ve been a misinterpretation on my part that lead me to conclude that you were waffling on that foundational assumption.  And yes, certainly each human author of a biblical text brought his own personality to bear on the manner in which it was written.  But the text itself still ended up inerrant.

merechristian
Member
merechristian

Nothing bad that the people did in the Bible at times they weren’t listed as told to do so, rather. Think faster than you think, and you don’t make sense as I didn’t.

Also, about Galileo, maybe to you or me, it doesn’t matter what was what in terms of the Joshua passage, but it mattered a lot to people at the time. While the Church didn’t go after him for religious heresy or stuff like that, but on secular grounds when pushed by his enemies because the science at the time was based on what he was refuting, it still didn’t make them happy AT ALL.

Also, I go by a simple idea about martial issues. Either even the times that God didn’t order exterminations, and the times that folks took sick pleasure in murder, are right, or avoiding that, and having moral concerns about warfare, is right. God doesn’t change. So either, when not ordered by God, man for certain periods of history was still right, and we today are wrong to be so worried, or man at those periods was wrong, and we are right. You can believe that things not relevant to the Gospel are not dealt with because God let man develop at his own level, but that’s all you can think. Either the sadistic way was morally right, or the concern for right and wrong of the past few centuries is right. Both can’t be right. God doesn’t change and His morality doesn’t either. Either they were wrong to do what they did when not ordered by God, or we are justified today in deciding to do torture, wanton murder, genocide, so on, and in enjoying it.

When God ordered it is one thing. But for when He did not, either the ancients were right and we are wrong, or we are right and they are wrong. It can’t be both ways with an unchanging God.

Tony Breeden
Guest

So it really doesn’t matter whether you believe what Christians have traditionally believed about Genesis or that a loving God “created” the universe by setting into motion a chain of all-natural process involving death, decay, suffering, cancer, mass extinctions and all that? It’s a non-issue, so long as we say God created, even if we mean He didn’t do anything at all.
Sounds legit.

Chrisite Devlin
Guest
Chrisite Devlin

Mr. Copple, thank you for your refreshing view of Genesis.  I agree wholeheartedly that the argument about *how* has thoroughly distracted us — and, so much more sadly, the world around us — from the real points of Genesis 1: *who* created us, and *why.*  The poetic parallelisms you describe in the creation account hadn’t yet been drawn to my attention, but they are indeed beautiful and open a window to more of the depth of God’s amazing artistry.  Thank you!

I am also passionate, though, about the *how* question.   As a scientist, I’ve personally struggled with the creation account–interestingly, for the very same reason you mention above–why did God bring in light *before* the sun and moon, rather than the other way around?   I’ve always been fine with letting God take as long (or as short) a time as He wanted to in creating–or to use whatever tools (evolution or “magic Hands” or whatever), but it seemed like this part should make better sense.

Permit me to lead you to the answer that came my way:  http://www.reasons.org/videos/did-god-create-the-earth-before-the-sun-and-moon

Dr. Hugh Ross is an astronomer/astrophysicist in his own right, and uses his knowledge (and his biblical insight) to teach people like me, who like a good, solid, satisfying answer to the *how* — while continuing, of course, to appreciate the *why*.

Thanks again for your delightful and spiritually eye-opening post.

Steve Taylor
Guest
Steve Taylor

Can a person be saved and be an evolutionis?