Posts Tagged With: Creation

Nearly Twenty Years Later…

Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology

I came across this the other day:

“It is likely that scientific research in the next ten or twenty years will tip the weight of evidence decisively toward either a young earth or an old earth view, and the weight of Christian scholarly opinion (from both biblical scholars and scientists) will begin to shift decisively in one direction or another. This should not cause alarm to advocates of either position, because the truthfulness of Scripture is not threatened (our interpretations of Genesis 1 have enough uncertainty that either position is possible). Both sides need to grow in knowledge of the truth, even if this means abandoning a long-held position” –Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, p. 309, 1994.

Grudem was hopeful that this debate would be settled by now.  I wish it was, but the lines are still drawn.  I wonder if they will ever be erased!

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A Good Parent Condescends, God Does too

You probably won’t answer your son as elaborately as the dad in this commercial, but I wonder if you condescended in a similar way when your 4-year old asks where babies come from. Why do you do that? Why don’t you just come on out and talk about sexual intercourse and all the things around it? Well–duh!–he’s four years old! It wouldn’t be appropriate for him to learn about all the aspects of human sexuality (which you, of course, have mastered)! I’m not a child psychologist but I think I know why you might do it:

-For one thing, he won’t really understand what you’re talking about.
-It will introduce him to concepts that are either inappropriate or irrelevant to his current lifestyle (let’s hope!).
-Also, he might not be emotionally ready for full-disclosure on the topic.

So maybe you’ll just be as vague as possible. That’s a safe move. You don’t want to bring out the textbooks and talk anatomy. You don’t want to use dolls for any illustrative purposes. You’d rather not use specific terms. The main thing you try to do is condescend to your son. You want to put complex matters into understandable terms. And why would you do such a thing to your son? Are you trying to lie to him? Confuse him?

Just the opposite, actually. You want to answer his questions in a way that is relevant to his life experiences and his current mental acumen. This is a little heavier than working with fractions and pie charts, after all.

As you explain some things, you’re holding back. You’re not being dishonest or deceptive. You are giving him the amount of information that he can handle. He uses some terms that are not technically correct, but you’ll overlook that and actually use his terminology to communicate the main point clearly. As he grows up, you’ll talk about these things more and correct some of his misconceptions.

So we condescend to our children because we love them and want them to understand matters that are relevant to their current situation.

In the same way, God the Father is the best dad of all (Matt. 7:11) and condescended to answer people’s questions. The ancient Hebrews wondered where they came from and where they were going. God answered with the creation narrative–Gen. 1-3. The Hebrews weren’t asking questions about science–at the time, nobody was! So God answers their questions in ancient symbols that they would understand. He could have told them how old the earth was. He could have described the creation in much more scientific detail. He could have explained how there could be light before any sun existed, or how a day could pass before the sun even existed (Gen. 1:14). But apparently, those things didn’t matter to the Hebrews.

Instead they asked, “Are we special?” And God said that he created them in His image and ordained them to rule the earth in his place. They learned that they are included in a divine struggle between the serpent and God. They learned that their disobedience leads to separation from God. They learned that sacrifice would be necessary to cover their shame before the Almighty. God was answering their questions based on the terms and knowledge they had. That’s what a good dad does. God condescends, he does not lie.

Categories: Biblical Studies, Creation, Theology | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Faith of the Christian; Faith of the Scientist

An illustration of a character from a story; a...

An illustration of a character from a story; also, an illustration of illustrations (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Does the Christian have the same kind of faith the scientist has?  Maybe if they go to the same church, but otherwise, I’d say no.

The argument goes like this:

At the end of the day, the scientist who boasts evolution has the same faith that the Christian creationist does.  Since no one beheld the creation of the world, both the Christian and the scientist have to have  faith in their own explanations of how the world came into existence.  Simply put, evolutionists have faith just like creationist do.  Or maybe: atheists have faith similar to that of theists.

I used to use this argument a lot to get evolutionists to admit that their conclusions were no different than my former creationist ones.  I even used this argument to further conclude that the atheist evolutionist was being just as religious as I, since his conclusions were also based on faith.  Since he wasn’t there at creation, he’s just guessing how things came into being.  But it frustrated me how often my argument didn’t work!  Here’s the heart of the problem: What do you mean by faith?

Here are the basic definitions for faith (COED, 11th ed.).

  1. complete trust or confidence.

  2. strong belief in a religion, based on spiritual conviction rather than proof.

Notice that the two definitions are distinct.  Let’s use them both here:

1. Atheist/evolutionists have complete trust or confidence in their conclusions just like Christian/creationists have complete trust and confidence in their conclusions.

2. Atheist/evolutionists have a strong belief in religion, based on spiritual conviction just like        Christian/creationists have a strong belief in religion, based on spiritual conviction.

Do you see the problem? If faith means definition #1, then the statement really doesn’t affirm anything remarkable.  You’re confident in your system and I’m confident in mine.  So what?  Further, it doesn’t solve any problem at all, it just hurls us back into a debate over which side best handles the burden of proof.  We might as well discuss our ‘faith’ in our favorite football team.  Such faith is only proven when the Crimson Tide easily dismantles LSU in the national championship.

…but I digress.

If faith means definition #2, then the statement accuses the atheist of a strong belief in religion based on spiritual conviction.  The Christian would be accusing the atheist of being just as religious a person.  But the atheist is not burning candles to saints, he’s not devoting himself to an hour of prayer each day, nor is he trying

to have a relationship with any deity.  He’s coming to conclusions based on his own studies.  Those conclusions might be wrong.  Only then will he re-evaluate.  Christians do the same thing.  A crisis of faith can lead to a paradigm shift and modification of theological thinking.

03.365 (02.08.2009) Faith

03.365 (02.08.2009) Faith (Photo credit: hannahclark)

But here’s the big difference.  Part of the reason Christians believe in the triune God is because of their personal experience with Christ.  That experience also influences the way they see the world.  Christians grow as they continue to interact with the Bible,other Christians, and God.  This is a worshipful activity, a religious enterprise.Science is not a religious enterprise.  It looks at empirical evidence and makes conclusions based  it.  Scientists (evolutionists included) may be Christians, but relating their work to religious activity is a misrepresentation of their efforts.  Sure, they have faith (confidence) in their conclusions but there is no mysticism involved.

I also think that some people actually mean this:

Atheist/evolutionists have confidence in their conclusions just like Christian/creationists have a strong belief in religion, based on spiritual conviction.

Technically they would be right.  But of course, the definitions are different; so it amounts to a word game or rhetorical trick.

Categories: Creation, Evolution, Theology | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Genesis 1: God Creates with Purpose

When I was in college, I listened to a lot of Christian talk radio and sermons on tape.  What I heard bolstered up my Christian world view which was a particular help in my philosophy classes.  I remember hearing one theologian (I think it was R. C. Sproul) state that Genesis 1-3 was one of the most difficult passages in scripture to interpret.  I thought that was crazy!  As a literalist, the Biblical account was clear to me.  God created the world some thousands of years ago in six literal 24 hour days.  There were two accounts of the creation: Genesis 1:1-2:3 focused on creation as a whole, and 2:4-25 told the story again, paying special attention to the creation of Adam and his wife.  A serpentine creature possessed by Devil destroyed the pristine Garden of Eden by tempting the woman to disobey God’s command not to eat of a special tree.  She convinced Adam to do the same, so sin and death came into the world.  God divvied out judgment to man, woman, and serpent, and cast the first human couple from the garden paradise.  What’s hard to understand about that?

These days, I’ve recognized what that speaker meant.  I’ve considered some different perspectives on the Bible’s creation account, and would like to share some of the most influential works that have moved me into a new direction.  Each of the authors has a high respect for the scripture and recognizes the authority of the text.  However, as experts in their field, they are sensitive to interpretive issues that the average person would not catch.

John H. Walton, The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate.

When anyone reads the Bible, he or she naturally and automatically interprets it based on their own culture and experiences.  For example, since I am an American, any reference to stars and stripes makes me think of the American flag and what it represents: fifty stars which represent states, thirteen stripes which represent the original colonies.  Feelings such as patriotism might also arise.  Since I have lived in America all of my life, I recognize such symbols immediately and effortlessly.  The point is, all people recognize the symbols from their own culture.  So, we also recognize that the writer of Genesis 1 was, at the very least, familiar with ancient Mesopotamian symbols and used them when he wrote the creation account.  Walton argues that we must read Genesis 1 as the ancient Mesopotamian would.  As he puts it, Genesis 1 is scripture, so it was written for us; but it was not written to us.  It was written to an audience already familiar with these symbols.   That means that it takes more work for us to unearth these symbols to correctly interpret the writing.  We go too far when we expect that the writer was using symbols relevant only to us–a modern audience.

Walton uses small chapters to take us step-by-step to a better reading of Genesis 1.  He promotes the view that the Biblical creation account is about transforming chaos (Genesis 1:2) into order.  He posits that the word for “create” in Hebrew has to do with making something purposeful, and thus God ordered the chaos that existed to give the world a specific function–bringing glory to himself.  He made it into something that could serve him and put images of himself–mankind–into positions of authority over it.  Walton also shows how Genesis 1 portrays all the created cosmos as a temple directing worship to its creator.  This strikes me for two reasons.  First, it shows further relevance to the ancient audience, who would appreciate the importance of the actual temple in Jerusalem.  Second, it gives more reason for people to find reason for praising God through creation (Ps. 19:1).

As for the seven days themselves in Genesis 1, they have nothing to do with how God actually created the universe and instead represent the seven-day inauguration of the world as a cosmic temple (1 Kings 8:65; 2 Chron. 7:9).  God is certainly behind the creation of all things, but Genesis 1 is really about establishing a worldview for the Hebrew people at the time of writing.  They were steeped in other ancient creation accounts and world views.  These neighboring stories taught the people that they were a mere byproduct of divine conflicts between deities.  The Hebrew account told a different story.  God took the chaos that existed before (Genesis 1:2), carefully ordered it, and gave it all purpose and meaning.  Mankind is not a side effect of warlike events, but God took great care to hand craft governors in his own image to rule on earth as he does from heaven.

So we are to read Genesis 1 as a theologically instructive account of creation that has nothing to do with how God created the universe.  Walton doesn’t stop there, but also gives his thoughts about the teaching of evolution in the classroom.  Genesis 1 ought not be taught as science in the public school system since it was never intended as a scientific document.  On the other hand, evolution should never be taught as a world view in the public school system.  Just because a person believes that evolution is true, it does not mean that person is a naturalist, thinking that there is no meaning or purpose in the universe.  Though Genesis 1 does not reveal the science of how God created the universe, it does reveal that he created it with meaning and purpose.

Why all the trouble?  Why not just read Genesis 1 literally?  Walton insists that he is reading it literally:

“I believe that this is a literal reading.  A literal reading requires an understanding of the Hebrew language and the Israelite culture.  I believe that the reading that I have offered is the most literal reading possible at this point.  Someone who claims a ‘literal’ reading based on their thinking about the English word ‘create’ may not be reading the text literally at all, because the English word is of little significance in the discussion” (170).

I really appreciate his approach!  What do you think?

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