Exploring

ExploringFor forty-two years, they have camped around the world. The exploits of Gary and Monika Westcott have been captured on their Turtle Expedition blog. For someone who grew up loving to go camping, I think this may be one of the greatest jobs ever. Companies pay them to test their products, by going camping.

Beyond the excitement, adventure and making s’mores on six continents, they enjoy an amazing opportunity to see the incredible world God has created. Sometimes though, we’re tempted to view our world through just our kitchen or office window. Content and comfortable to experience just what lies within our sight. I want to invite you to go on an adventure with me through these pages.

This issue of Dedicated introduces you to some other parts of the world. Dr. Annette Harrison, professor of intercultural studies, shares what her Bible translation teams learned in Africa and how those lessons can enhance ministries at home. Dr. Mark Jacobson, professor of biblical studies, describes his explorations of the other biblical land, Jordan. Often forgotten when Bible events are discussed, the land that is Jordan today contains many important and beautiful sites for the Christian explorer. I offer a review of The Baker Illustrated Guide to Everyday Life in Bible Times. Author John Beck has created a fresh resource for those interested in discovering how biblical characters lived and how that helps us understand the Scripture’s message. Dr. Gary Derickson, professor of biblical studies, recommends Four Views on the Role of Works at the Final Judgment, edited by Alan Stanley. For pastors and teachers looking for insight into issues of works and grace, this review is a good start.

Thank you for sharing this issue with us. We hope you enjoy the journey.

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Speaking in Tongues: Using Scripture in Multilingual Churches

Communication is more than content; it is also media, or the channels and ways in which content is communicated. This fact is crucial for church leaders and other Christians in our increasingly diverse and pluralistic society. The challenge is how to present a Church unified around the truth of God’s Word, yet diverse in its expressions of worship, and in its affirmation of each personality.

Access to the truth of God’s word is a challenge in the central African region where I most recently served with Wycliffe Bible Translators. There are approximately 313 languages spoken in the four-country region;  close to half of these languages are unwritten, and their speakers do not have access to Scripture they can adequately understand. We call these languages “mother tongues,” but the Congolese call them banzinga ya mboka, “village languages” (though their speakers may sometimes live in cities). To us, the number of languages represented a clear imperative for translated Scriptures in each one. Yet the African church leaders, evangelists, and lay people with whom we were attempting to build working partnerships for Bible translation did not seem as inspired or compelled by this cultural and linguistic diversity. Most of our suggestions, initiatives, and plans fell by the wayside due to inaction. It seemed the more we advocated for the crucial role of Scriptures in village languages, the more pastors and evangelists retreated from the idea.

 

The Conundrum

Though we couldn’t understand what appeared to us to be passive-aggressive behavior on the part of African Christians, we also believed that people have good reasons for their behavior. The study of worldviews demonstrates that patterns in outward action can be a clue to the beliefs and value systems buried beneath the surface. Christians in central Africa certainly value the Bible. The Congolese Bible Society has a difficult time keeping the French Louis Segond version in stock because it sells quickly. There are at least two translations of the Sango Bible in Central African Republic; there are also two Lingala Bible translations that serve the Democratic Republic of Congo (former Zaire) and the Republic of Congo. Lingala and Sango are both known as “Languages of Wider Communication” because they are spoken as language of inter-group communication, and they are not the ethnic heritage languages of any group. Further, after the Kituba New Testament was dedicated in January 2006, my husband and I helped with the distribution process.  Kituba is a third Language of Wider Communication in the area. At one of the larger Protestant churches in Brazzaville, we ran out of New Testaments and were scolded by disappointed would-be buyers for not having enough copies to sell. Clearly Christians value and use these Bibles. However, leaders of this same church were among those whose support of Bible translation into the village languages of their own parishioners was lacking.

In order to understand this apparent contradiction of Christians who valued Scripture, yet did not seem to value the translation of it into village languages, my team and I designed a project to discover a “market niche” for village language Scriptures. We wanted to know all the different ways (media) that communication happened in the life of a church: what kinds of activities and “products” did the pastors and parishioners use, and what languages did they use for those activities and products? We reasoned that if we could discover where village languages already had a place in the life of a church, we would be able to identify where Scripture in village languages would most likely be welcomed. It would give us a starting place to introduce Congolese Christians to the power of God’s Word in their own village languages.

 

How We Proceeded

Our team was small and limited, but over time we had all been able to become part of different networks of contacts within Congolese communities. So we developed a way for us and for our friends to systematically observe what went on in as many churches as possible, on as many days as possible. We also interviewed denominational leaders, pastors, and evangelists. And we also distributed questionnaires within the churches for parishioners to fill out. These questionnaires were designed to tell us something about how individuals used Scripture in their personal devotions and regular family activities.

We gathered data in the three largest cities in the Republic of Congo, from the five largest church denominations. Two-thirds of the Republic of Congo’s population lives in the cities where we gathered data. Two of the denominations were those that had sent the first missionaries to the Republic of Congo–the Catholic Church in the sixteenth century, and a Swedish Baptist mission which founded the Evangelical Church of Congo in the nineteenth century. Because these two denominations are so well established, they also keep very good records of church attendance. Several of the churches where we observed count upwards of one thousand people in a single church service on any Sunday morning.

What We Discovered

We discovered that the majority of the times when Scripture was read or taught in church services, two kinds of languages were used:  the language in which the church leader had theological training and access to Bible study tools such as concordances, dictionaries and commentaries (i.e., French), and the languages most widely understood within the congregation (i.e., Lingala and Kituba). But when the congregation sang and when choirs led worship or performed special numbers, and during all-night prayer vigils or times of personal testimony, village languages were used ̶ we counted upwards of fourteen different languages in these contexts.

The patterns in our data are suggestive of two priorities for African church leaders and their congregations: (1) authoritative Scriptural teaching, and (2) the inclusion of diversity in expressions of worship. Not only do these patterns give us an idea about why Church leaders appear to resist Scripture translation into village languages, but they also demonstrate that African Christians are successfully managing the cultural and linguistic diversity of members of their congregations.  First, for authoritative teaching of Scriptural and doctrinal truths, the language used is one associated with education and power, and one that can be used internationally with Christians from other countries, whether regional neighbors or those from outside the African continent. Then, for expressing worship and adoration to God, to celebrate being Congolese Christians together, and for telling of what God had accomplished in local contexts, village languages are used. The choice of which language to use reflects more than concern about the content of the message; each language is a medium, a channel for a message that also communicates a message. The choice of which language to use signals something about whether the content is to be understood as a universal truth for all Christians, or whether the content is local and special to the people in the immediate context.

Moreover, the contexts in which local languages are used are the most affirming for diversity in the church. While for the most part, scriptural truth and doctrinal points are taught in French, the language that affirms the authority and universality of the message, individual expressions of the joys and trials of the Christian life in the Congolese context are most often communicated in village languages. The ultimate message of the use of village languages is that all are welcome, accepted and affirmed for just who they are in the Christian community.

 

How Our Discovery May Enrich Churches in the USA

Christians in the United States, particularly those of Anglo-European heritage, who speak only English, may not see the valuable example these Congolese Christians are setting for us. After all, everyone speaks English in America; our communities are not as diverse as the ones described in this article. We all understand sermons and Bible study in English. But we commit two grave errors in this kind of reasoning. First, we overlook the diversity of our American communities. And secondly, we fail to understand the power of the choice of using a language to express welcome, acceptance and affirmation.

How Diverse Are Our Communities?

The community in which I live is not considered especially diverse.  During the three years that I have lived here, I have been told by many people how “white” our city is, meaning that it is a community dominated by those of Anglo-European heritage. And it is true that in my personal, daily activities, I mostly see white faces. But I have been wondering lately if that is because the core of my network of friends, acquaintances and colleagues also has white faces. It is a sociological principle that “birds of a feather flock together.” In other words, we tend to congregate with those most like us; this is true no matter what our skin color or background. It may be that when we believe that Salem is a “white” community, we are not seeing the whole picture.

Diversity is more than skin tone, and skin tone may even mask diversity. Not all brown people are from the same place and speak the same language; not all white people have the same national or ethnic heritage. In my small apartment complex, we have a family from Great Britain, a Sikh family from the Punjab, two families from the Pacific Islands, and at least two families from Mexico. I have friends from the Republic of Congo and Burkina Faso. I work with professors married to women from South Korea. When I tutor English at the Broadway Life Center, my students come from Russia, the Ukraine and Mexico. This past winter, I volunteered to drive to a women’s conference. We were three women in the car: one from England, one from Argentina (both of them blond), and me. And the kicker: the other two women had lived longer in Oregon than I have. Finally, if you get a pedicure at Salem Center Mall, chances are the pedicurist is from a country in South Asia. If you stop for a shwarma at one of at least two locations in Salem, you’ll be talking with someone from the Middle East. There are delicious Thai restaurants, as well – run by …well… someone from Thailand. There is a Japanese language fellowship in town. There are people from at least fourteen national and ethnic backgrounds in our “white” community.  This does not include the sizeable deaf community that speaks a language other than English. Chances are that a similar kind of diversity is hidden in other communities as well.

Using Language to Welcome, Accept and Affirm

As Christians in the Republic of Congo know all too well, it is not always practical or desirable to preach, teach or hold activities for large and diverse crowds in more than one (or two) languages. And, to affirm and teach the truths of the Gospel as applicable to all, preaching and teaching in a single language may send a message of its universal authority. On the other hand, to accept and affirm those of various backgrounds into Christian fellowship, the use of a variety of languages sends a message that all are welcome and valued. As the Congolese Christians discovered, singing songs in multiple languages, and allowing for personal testimonies in multiple languages (with interpretation available as necessary), is imminently do-able. One great resource for singing in multiple languages may for choirs or singing groups to learn songs in other languages that are well-known in English. These singers would then be available to lead a congregation in singing songs with familiar tunes, whose content is already known. Those who wish to try to follow along in another language, or whose language is being used, may sing along with gusto. Those who do not wish to sing in another language may still participate in the singing, but in English. All are welcome; none are excluded.

Likewise, Scripture verses could be recited in multiple languages in various ways. Either a representative of the national or ethnic group may recite the Scripture while others listen; or that person might teach others to recite the verse in another language. A third idea is an “every tongue, tribe and nation” demonstration where everyone is invited to recite a verse together in whatever language is most comfortable. Such actions communicate acceptance.

Crucially, these demonstrations of diversity must become common in the worship of a given church. Putting people on the platform once a year to affirm diversity reduces the display to something like a Sunday school pageant – a learning experience for the children, and a delightful presentation for the adults. In order to affirm and welcome diversity, it must be practiced so as to not appear awkward or out of the ordinary. The point is that diversity then becomes ordinary, not a special or unusual presentation.

Conclusion

The church leaders in the Republic of Congo were not resisting the use of Scripture, nor were they denying the value of village languages. Instead, they had developed ways of using languages within a highly diverse context in order to teach and reach the largest number of people from as many ethnic backgrounds as possible. I don’t believe their goal is any different from the goals of church leaders here in the United States. And while it is true that the nature of ethnic and language diversity in central Africa differs in significant ways from the nature of ethnic and language diversity here in the United States, the fact that Christians are called from all of those diverse backgrounds remains the same.

It is not necessary to view multiple languages or multiple heritages as obstacles to church unity. On the contrary, as Christians in the Republic of Congo have demonstrated, how languages are used, which ones and for which purposes, may make powerful statements about the universality of God’s truths as expressed in Scripture, and may demonstrate appreciation for the great diversity of the members of God’s kingdom as well. We are richer for the many ways we can worship the Lord together, speaking in the tongues He created.

“May the nations praise you, O God. Yes, may all the nations praise you. How glad the nations will be, singing for joy, because you govern them with justice and direct the actions of the whole world.” (Psalm 67:3-4, NLT)

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Four Views on the Role of Works at the Final Judgment

Contributors: Robert N. Wilkin, Thomas R. Schreiner, James D. G. Dunn, and Michael P. Barber. Alan P. Stanley, general editor. Stanley N. Gundry, Counterpoints series editor. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2013. 234 pages.

 

What will be the basis of my entrance into heaven when I stand before Jesus on judgment day? What role will my works play? Do I have to stay faithful to the end? How assured of my salvation can I be if I don’t know if I’ll persevere to the end?

This book is a must read for anyone who wants to be abreast of the present debate over works, faith, and assurance of salvation. It reflects the developments over the past twenty years of the Lordship/Free Grace Salvation debate which began between Charles Hodge and Lewis Sperry Chafer in the 1920’s and continued between John MacArthur and Zane Hodges (now deceased) in recent years. Michael Barber’s essay is especially helpful for Protestants who want to understand the Catholic view on the relationship between faith and works as they relate to justification and eternal life.

Wilkin (Free Grace view) represents the view that no works will determine one’s destiny in eternity, but rather one’s rewards. Schreiner (Reformed Calvinist) argues that works are a necessary fruit of faith, which if absent, proves faith was not present, and so will determine one’s eternal destiny at the final judgment. Dunn (Arminian) considers works necessary for final justification, seeing Paul through the lens of first century Judaism’s covenant nomism (the new perspective on Paul as promoted by N. T. Wright). Barber explains the Catholic view that salvation is by faith in Christ who empowers the believer to do works that merit salvation.

The book was especially helpful for understanding the issues in the debate and the challenge before evangelicalism with regard to the gospel of salvation. Though all four views agree that initial justification is by grace through faith alone—Ephesians 2:8-9 was quoted by all—they are very different understandings of the relationship of works following initial justification to final salvation, whether one “goes to heaven” or not.

All four contributors tended toward a dogmatic hermeneutic in that they used verses, sometimes out of context, to define or defend their position. They all failed to address key passages that weakened their arguments. This has characterized much of theological debate in the past centuries and so is not surprising, not just on this topic, but on others a well. I was disappointed in both Wilkins and Schreiner in that both tended to force passages through their theological grids. Still, they are helpfully clear about the differences between their views. Additionally, in their defense, space was limited and all four clearly defined their views, both in their contributions and their responses to the other contributors.

It should be noted that the three views that require good works to be present for one to receive eternal life at the final judgment are Amillennial views with a single judgment, the Great White Throne, where everyone must appear. Wilkin alone has two judgments, one for the Saints at the Bema Seat of Christ prior to His millennial reign and one for unbelievers at the Great White Throne Judgment following the Millennial Kingdom of Christ.

 

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The Baker Illustrated Guide to Everyday Life in Bible Times

By John A. Beck. Baker Books. 2013.

Pastors and teachers can never have enough resources to illuminate the Scripture for themselves and to enliven sermons and lessons for their hearers. John Beck’s Everyday Life in Bible Times represents one more solid help that Bible students or teachers will want to add to their libraries.

Beck notes in his preface that the millennia long gap between our world and the biblical world can dampen and distort the message God intended for us to hear. What were normal and everyday activities for biblical characters can seem odd and confusing to us. His purpose in writing this guide is “to restore clarity and vitality to those portions of God’s Word that speak of the activities and social stations of the past” (p. 7). For the 100 topics he addresses, he has succeeded.

Everyday Life in Bible Times does an excellent job of marrying clear informative writing with interesting insightful photos. Many guides available today offer one or the other. Some are essentially photo books with little information, much more suited for a coffee table than a study desk. Others contain incredible verbal detail, but lack visual interest. This work represents a helpful and needed middle ground.

The book is arranged in topical format with two to three page articles on each subject. It also includes a Scripture index in the back that notes every passage cited in the articles. Articles also have footnotes directing the reader to sources for further study or to important clarifying points. The articles typically begin by explaining the background of the object or practice. Then Beck briefly discusses the significance of the object or practice in the key biblical texts where it is utilized. I found the two-part arrangement helpful for sermon and lesson development. The background discussion helps you better understand more concretely how biblical people lived. This section provides excellent support material for sermons. The text discussion not only enhances the understanding of the culture, but it also directs your thinking to important texts related to the one you’re studying.

One example of the insight available is the discussion of vineyard establishment. Beck details the steps required to begin a vineyard in ancient times. You can feel the perspiration rolling down your face as he describes the months of first hauling thousands of stones to build the terraces and then carting tons of soil to fill the rows. You appreciate the patience as the vinedresser cultivates and waits for four years or more before harvesting any grapes. This background illuminates the image of the Lord as cultivating and pruning His own children in John 15. It also highlights the gall King Ahab demonstrated when he stole Naboth’s vineyard and the foolishness the king exhibited when he destroyed generations of cultivation to plant a vegetable garden (1 Kings 21). These kinds of details enliven sermons and lessons.

A book of this nature has some inherent limitations. By covering only one hundred topics, many that might be useful are missing. For instance, the discussions of betrothal and divorce are fascinating and beneficial. However, I did not find an article devoted to the wedding ceremony itself. Some information was included in the bridegroom article, but I wanted more. Also, a two to three page article cannot definitively address most topics. If you are looking for extended treatments, you will need to locate a book on that particular subject. There are many books focused on single topics such as warfare, farming and building. Often, Beck includes such resources in the endnotes.

Like a great vacation leaves you happy, but wishing for two more days, I do have some wishes. I looked for a cross-reference index of topics. The book has a Table of Contents and a Scripture Index. However, if readers wanted to read about springs, they would have to know to look under “water.” An index of subtopics discussed within articles would help readers find hidden gems that might be missed.

A second wish I have is an electronic copy that would allow a teacher or preacher to incorporate the photos into presentation software such as PowerPoint. A system such as the one utilized by Logos Research Systems, where a right click on a photo opens a box with an option to send the photo to PowerPoint, would be extremely useful. To be able to quickly move images from study stage to presentation stage would be welcomed by a multitude who teach the Scriptures.

Overall, I highly recommend Everyday Life in Bible Times to anyone who wants personally to enter the lives of biblical characters or who wants to bring the truths spoken through those lives to their listeners.

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Dreaming of Jordan

It’s been two months since I’ve been back from a whirlwind, six-day, border-to-border excursion to the country of Jordan, and I can’t get it out of my mind, or, I should say, my heart. Yes, it was hard travel; no, I never did adjust to the time change; yes, I’d do it again. My intent is to share some impressions and memories that I will cherish for years to come.

John and Jesus at Bethany Beyond the Jordan

I have visited Israel, referred to as the Holy Land, and with the trip to Jordan I experienced what has often been called “The Other Biblical Land.” In both visits, what impacted me most was the lay of the land. Not much by way of material remains exist either in Israel or in Jordan that date back to the days of the Patriarchs or Moses, or even to the time of Jesus, except the lay of the land. That impressed me once again as our group made its way to the site referred to in the Gospels as “Bethany beyond the Jordan” (John 1:28).

I will never forget standing on the east bank of the Jordan River opposite Jericho. It didn’t take much imagination to look across the plain to see the walled city that Joshua saw, shut up against a host of Jewish invaders who were standing in the exact place where I was standing. I wondered about how the mothers with small children in tow felt on the eve at that crossing. How did the soldiers feel when they realized that this was it—this was the all-or-nothing critical point of no return? Life would be forever altered for the nation after this moment.

I then thought back to the double-blessing that Elisha received from Elijah, and Elijah’s subsequent ascension into heaven. That took place opposite Jericho, on the other side of the Jordan (2 Ki. 2:5ff.), again, at the very place where I was standing. This was indeed holy ground! But Joshua and Elijah are not why the Jordanians have supervised extensive excavations at this site. That is due to the presence and ministry of the one who fulfilled the prophecy of Elijah’s return: John the Baptist.

The biblical name for this place is “Bethany Beyond the Jordan,” a site rich in archaeological remains spanning centuries, which if nothing else, tells the visitor that the Christian church from the earliest of times has deemed this to be the location where John the Baptist conducted his ministry and where he baptized Jesus. The Baptism Site Commission Director, speaking with a fervor that would rival that of a gospel-preaching tent evangelist, repeatedly reminded us that this side of Jordan, not the other side, was where God chose to begin Christianity.

Assistant

Assistant Commission Director Rustom Mkhjian explains features of various archaeological remains at the Baptism Site on the east bank of the Jordan opposite Jericho. “This is the birthplace of Christianity!”

When you visit here, you’ll be as close to Israel’s border as you can get while in Jordan—twenty or thirty feet is how wide the Jordan is at this point. The contrast will strike you. Across the Jordan stands a gleaming white, multi-million dollar visitor center built to accommodate the masses of people who visit this site, many of whom come prepared to be baptized in the Jordan near the place where their Lord was baptized. On the Jordanian side a more rustic look has been maintained, done so intentionally by the Jordanian government. I will never forget sitting on the bank and dangling my feet in the slow-moving Jordan, trying to imagine John the Baptist and Jesus standing near this very spot.

A group of tourists is conducting baptisms on the Israeli side. I (foreground) and a couple of fellow travelers cool off in the muddy river.

A group of tourists is conducting baptisms on the Israeli side. I (foreground) and a couple of fellow travelers cool off in the muddy river.

River

 

 

“The country of the Gadarenes”

I had other opportunities to ponder the past, one of the most memorable being the afternoon visit to one of the cities of the Decapolis, in Jesus’ time ancient Gadara, now named Umm Qais. Matthew refers to “the country of the Gadarenes” (8:28) as the place where Jesus freed two men from the demon(s) possessing them, which in the end resulted in a herd of demon-possessed swine rushing down a steep bank to their death.  We visited the site on a clear day, which revealed that the ancient city was perched on a high cliff, with Syria and the Golan Heights directly opposite, the Yarmuk River immediately below, and the Sea of Tiberius (east-side name for the Sea of Galilee) nearby. I will let the historians and the archaeologists continue their debate about whether or not this was the place where the swine fell to their death (a decent case can be made for it); my thoughts at the time were elsewhere.

The Roman theatre at Umm Qais, biblical Gadara. This theatre seats about three thousand.

The Roman theatre at Umm Qais, biblical Gadara. This theatre seats about three thousand.

I had never sat in a Roman theatre before, or grasped a Roman pillar. I wonder how many sites like this are as open to the public as this one is—no guardrails or ropes keeping visitors at a distance, no guards or officials shadowing your movements, and on this day only our group and another small one. I left our group to take some photos on my own. I entered the theater through ancient, arched walkways and sat down alone, wondering about the people who had sat in this very seat. What event brought them here? What did they see; what did they hear? I marveled at the construction of the individual seats, carved so precisely that the joints between them would not have been noticeable. Sitting in such a place and touching Roman-era pillars proudly standing after millennia, produced an unexpected emotion mixed of wonder, awe and joy. 

Flee Mountains

 

We arrived at Pella later in the day than we had hoped. I would love to return to that place and stay in the bed-and-breakfast on whose patio we lingered in the late afternoon viewing below us the ancient ruins of another city of the Decapolis. We didn’t have time to wander down among the ruins, but I could see a family of locals sitting there, enjoying the cool of the evening.  What’s so special about Pella? Besides being one of the towns that Jesus likely visited while in the region of the Decapolis (Mark 7:31), Eusebius, the fourth century church historian, reported that Jesus’ followers did as he told them, escaping “to the mountains” as they saw Jerusalem surrounded by her enemies (Luke 21:20-21). He reports that they fled to Pella for their safety while Rome attacked and destroyed Jerusalem.

Looking down on ruins at Pella dating back to the Roman era. Eusebius reported that Jewish Christians fled to this area ahead of the invading Roman army that destroyed Jerusalem in AD 70.

Looking down on ruins at Pella dating back to the Roman era. Eusebius reported that Jewish Christians fled to this area ahead of the invading Roman army that destroyed Jerusalem in AD 70.

 

Petra: One of the Seven New Wonders of the World

Then, of course, Petra—what words can describe it? We spent an afternoon at one of the Seven New Wonders of the World; we would have needed a whole day to take it all in. “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” made the centerpiece of this site, The Treasury, familiar to a younger generation. But while the most famous of the structures, The Treasury is but a small part of many square miles of tombs—yes, tombs. Despite rumors to the contrary, The Treasury never was a repository for untold wealth. For me, the connection to the Bible was not that it was the home to the Nabataean King Aretas IV (2 Cor. 11:32), nor that it lie in the region of ancient Edom, but that its monuments sharply contrasted with my view of death as a temporary state from which we will be delivered by the resurrection of our bodies. Cemeteries don’t have much interest to me.

This One After

 

These were all tombs—the Nabataeans didn’t have their dwellings here; it was a vast cemetery. I wondered at this as I have wondered about the pyramids of Egypt. The crowning achievements of these ancient cultures, the ones lasting through time, were dwellings for their dead. The skill, time, effort and cost required to carve these tombs out of sheer rock cliffs is beyond my comprehension. I may question the worldview assumptions that would lead a culture to create such lasting monuments to the dead, but I am in awe of the creative genius of mankind, made in the image of God, to accomplish such feats as these.

Ancient Petra is far more than its centerpiece, The Treasury (above). It is a wide open area featuring high cliffs whose vertical faces have been carved, like The Treasury and the cliff here, to house the dead.

Ancient Petra is far more than its centerpiece, The Treasury (above). It is a wide open area featuring high cliffs whose vertical faces have been carved, like The Treasury and the cliff here, to house the dead.

 

A Magical Night in Bedouin Country

Our tour guide knew what he was doing. You visit Petra mid-day so you can catch the sun’s rays on the façade of The Treasury. You go from there to Wadi Rum so you can be there when the sun sets. What is Wadi Rum? For movie aficionados, it’s the location for the filming of Lawrence of Arabia. For the rest of us, it is unspoiled Bedouin country, a vast area that borders Saudia Arabia and whose landscape is similar to pictures that I have seen of Monument Valley in the Four Corners area of the southwest. Vast red-rock crags and plateaus rise hundreds, some thousands, of feet up from the sandy floor–four-wheeled desert vehicle country.

The beautiful landscape and rock formations of Wadi Rum, a vast area in the south of Jordan that borders Saudia Arabia. The movie Lawrence of Arabia was filmed at this site.

The beautiful landscape and rock formations of Wadi Rum, a vast area in the south of Jordan that borders Saudia Arabia. The movie Lawrence of Arabia was filmed at this site.

Pre-Eve

The Magical Night began with the setting sun casting a reddish glow on already crimson-colored rock. We had left the bus back at the visitor center and traveled out miles into the vast expanse, sitting in the back of four-wheeled “jeeps” (converted Toyota pickups). We climbed around on the rocks where we could and waited for sun to touch the horizon. Camera shutters sprang into action, capturing the unparalleled beauty of the landscape.

The Magical Night climaxed at a made-for-tourists Bedouin camp, complete with in-the-sand baking of tender meat dishes, and that after the all-you-can-eat, first-course buffet of vegetable dishes and bread typical of all our meals while in Jordan. Our gracious Bedouin hosts entertained us with music and dancing—Arab style—with the more adventurous tourists joining the celebration. Before we left, we were shown the tents on the perimeter of the camp designed for overnight guests. It was 10:00 at night, the Milky Way was on full display, the air was warm, and I was tired; how I wished we had planned to spend our night there instead of at our hotel.

 

A Glorious Day of Rest at the Bottom of the Earth

Not once during the hectic week had we stayed in just one place for a full day. The last day was the exception, planned as a time of rest before the journey back home. We spent the day at a resort on the shore of the Dead Sea. I would have loved to have spent a week there, with my wife, of course: world-class accommodations, including an outdoor spa, an infinity pool, first-class meals, and of course, direct access to the lowest point on earth, the Dead Sea. If you have never floated in this sea or in the Great Salt Lake, it’s hard to comprehend how difficult it is to hold yourself upright in the water, feet pointing down, as you would in a swimming pool. You just can’t do it; you immediately bob to the surface and stay there. One of my favorite images of the Dead Sea is a man floating with an umbrella in one hand (the sun will blister you!) and a book in the other.

Infinity Pool at the luxurious Moevenpick Dead Sea Hotel and Resort

Infinity Pool at the luxurious Moevenpick Dead Sea Hotel and Resort

 

You don’t swim in the Dead Sea; you float. Don’t get the water in your eyes, ears or mouth; even the slightest scratch on your skin will sting. Enjoy a mud bath on the shore while you’re at it!

You don’t swim in the Dead Sea; you float. Don’t get the water in your eyes, ears or mouth; even the slightest scratch on your skin will sting. Enjoy a mud bath on the shore while you’re at it!

 

My fondest memory—the gracious Jordanian people

Jordan has its arms wide open to American tourists. I have a deep appreciation for the Jordan Board of Tourism for making this trip possible for me and ten other evangelical Christian journalists. Everywhere we went we were warmly welcomed, and this included out-of-the way areas in the cities and towns that we visited, not just the usual tourist-visited areas. Christians, by the way, are not merely tolerated in this predominantly Islamic nation; their presence is valued. Jordan remains one of the closest allies to the United States in the region.

I will not forget the gracious help of those sitting on the street outside their business enjoying a cool evening during our struggle to get Behemoth (Bus of Biblical Proportions) maneuvered around a tight corner on a narrow street in Amman. This turned into a Community Project before it was done, and not once did I hear an impatient horn blare from motorists backed up for blocks.

I will always appreciate the kind, thoughtful, of-course-I-understand response of the parking attendant out in front of the Dead Sea resort when I asked him where the Dead Sea was. (Alright, it was night when we pulled in and I was turned around in my directions.)

I am thankful for the cheerful young man who was patient enough to explain to a couple of American tourists  lost in Amman’s labyrinth of side-streets, that the hotel we couldn’t find was just up the street.

I will remember the graciousness of the President of the Jordan Evangelical Theological Seminary, who set apart an entire afternoon to entertain a couple of tourists and answer questions about his ministry of training Arab-speaking believers for the work of the Gospel ministry.

One of two similarly sized buildings that will house JETS—Jordan Evangelical Theological Seminary, led by Dallas Seminary grad Dr. Imad N. Shedaheh. The seminary outrew its former rented location in Amman and is currently moving into this new, multi-million dollar facility.

One of two similarly sized buildings that will house JETS—Jordan Evangelical Theological Seminary, led by Dallas Seminary grad Dr. Imad N. Shedaheh. The seminary outrew its former rented location in Amman and is currently moving into this new, multi-million dollar facility.

Finally, I cannot express enough my gratitude for the Jordan Tourism Board and its American representative, Christine Moore, whose assistance from beginning to end made this an unforgettable journey.

I think if I dream hard enough, I’ll find my way back to Jordan!

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Starting Right

One degree. Seems so little. Yet, as many small plane pilots can tell you, one degree can make all the difference. For every sixty miles pilots fly off one degree, they miss their destination by a mile. If you left Seattle for our Salem campus, one degree would mean you’d miss our campus by four miles. If you left Seattle for your dream vacation in Tokyo, but the pilot was just one degree off, you would vacation in Pyongyang, capitol of North Korea. Big difference.

So beginning on track is crucial in travel, but even more so in our theology. This special issue of Dedicated concentrates on the beginning, creation. Each year Corban faculty gather for reading and discussion groups around a key theme in biblical integration. This year, we’re sharing some of our faculty thinking on our current theme.

This issue contains considerations of foundational issues such as the creation account itself and the biblical theme of imago Dei. Dr. Gary Derickson evaluates the biblical interpretation issues within the major views on creation. Dr. Mark Jacobson offers a challenging consideration of what the creation account does and doesn’t say. Dr. Jim Dyer reflects on the worldviews and science behind creation and evolution views. Dr. Tim Anderson uncovers key implications of what it means that we have been made in God’s image. This issue also contains creative reflections on God’s work by Dr. Collette Tennant and Writer-in-Residence Gina Ochsner. Two of our business faculty, Drs. Shawn Hussey and Erik Straw, discuss how our view of creation impacts work. Dr. Hussey considers human resource management in light of imago Dei theology. Dr. Straw contemplates how technology serves to mediate one of God’s creation purposes. Finally, two of our faculty offer helpful reviews of creation resources. Dr. Christie Petersen reviews the excellent teaching resource God’s Amazing Creation by Kay Arthur and Janna Arndt. Dr. Kent Kersey shares an audio interview with Christopher Roberts, author of Creation and Covenant.

The direction we start journey says a lot about our destination.

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Hermeneutical Issues of Views on Creation

The debate over how the first two chapters of Genesis should be interpreted continues to rage within evangelicalism to this day, and will likely continue until Jesus snatches us into His presence and settles the argument. This debate is essentially two centuries old. It appears to have begun around 1814 when Thomas Chalmers proposed a gap in time between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2. He proposed this 45 years before the theory of evolution swept the scientific community, and subsequently the theological community. So, in his case he was not trying to harmonize Scripture with science, but Scripture with Scripture. Today the issue concerns how these first chapters of the Bible should be understood by those who believe it is the word of God. How much should science, ancient Near East (ANE) cosmologies, or literary conventions influence our understanding of the creation account in Genesis 1-2? The approaches to the text vary greatly, as well as the conclusions drawn from it. How can this be? What drives the different positions? And, can we at least understand and appreciate each other as we continue to defend our own views?

In the last century and a half the debate has developed in response to the claims of science as theologians and churchmen have struggled with the question of how to relate the biblical text to the claims of science. To date no consensus has been reached within the Christian community. In just recent months another work has been published encouraging interaction with the various views of creation.[1] Books and articles continue to be published. The interest and controversy has not died down.

It is not the purpose of this paper to delve into the intricacies of each view and develop those arguments for and against them. Rather, the focus is to be on the hermeneutical issues that must be addressed by all if consensus is ever to be reached. Arguments for and against given views will be surveyed rather than developed. They are given solely to enlighten us to each view’s hermeneutics rather than defend or repudiate any given view.[2]

Theories on the Days of Creation 

One of the challenges we face is the task of sorting through the various theories. At one time they could be placed into four main groups (Literal Six-day, Day-Age, Literal Days with Ages Between, and Revelatory Days) besides theistic evolution in its several expressions.[3] Today a plethora of views exists and even the traditional ones are nuanced by various proponents. The issue that has developed in recent years principally revolves around the age of the earth. The Literal Six-Day view of Genesis 1-2 falls into the “young earth” model while all others would fit the “old earth” model. This brief survey will attempt to describe some of the present views but not be exhaustive.

Young Earth (24-Hour Day) Theory

The Young Earth Theory sees creation occurring in six consecutive 24-hour periods of time (also known as the Literal 24-Hour Day Theory). The world was created in the order given in the text. The author’s use of “evening and morning” communicates a 24-hour time frame. God created directly and instantaneously. Geological formations can be explained through the Noahic flood.[4]

This view sees itself being consistent with a normal hermeneutic and argues that Genesis1-11 should be read with the same hermeneutic as Gen 12-50.[5] Whenever “day” (yom, יוֹם) is used with a numeral elsewhere in the Old Testament, it normally refers to a 24-hour period and so should be understood that way here.[6] God’s statement to Moses in Exodus 20:11 should be understood literally, and thereby informs the meaning of Genesis 1.[7] Scripture is more authoritative than scientific theory. Genesis 1:1-2:3 should not be seen as poetical in nature, especially when compared to Psalm 104’s description of creation.[8] Rather than seeing Genesis 1-2 reflecting the ANE cosmology, or being a polemic against it, it should be seen as unique revelation reflecting a completely different worldview.[9] The New Testament record affirms the literal interpretation of the creation events.[10] This view does not necessarily hold to a 4004 b.c. date for creation, though it sees the age of the earth between 4,000 and 10,000 years.[11]

Proponents of the Literal 24-Hour Day Theory affirm that there is no gap in time between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2 (No Gap Theory). Two versions of the view have been proposed. First, some proponents speak of “Chaos when Creation.” They see 1:1 as a topic sentence for the whole chapter and not the first day of creation. Verse 2 describes the universe at the point in time that God was in the process of creation (i.e., a part of the creation process involved God creating a formless mass from which He then made the stars and planets, etc.). For them, Genesis 1:1 focuses upon the “fact” of creation. Second, other proponents speak of “Chaos before Creation.” Verse 1 is a general statement which applies to the first day of creation and describes what God created on the first day. Verse 2 tells of the condition of the universe before God began creating with verse 3 continuing to describe God’s process of creation.

Old Earth Theories

Old earth creationists affirm God as creator.[12] However, in contrast to young earth creationists, they see the earth as billions of years old and the universe as even older.[13] For them the findings of geology and astronomy and the Genesis account of creation refer to the same events and so one can affirm the truthfulness of Scripture while accepting the present scientific theories on origins.[14] This view can include theistic evolutionists, but not necessarily. Those holding to an old earth model normally also argue for some version of the Gap Theory and so see the Genesis account describing the re-creation of the earth following its destruction consequent to Satan’s rebellion and fall.

The Gap Theory (Ruin-Reconstruction Theory; Restitution Theory) predated the theory of evolution. Even so, in response to the claims of science, many interpreters of Genesis 1 began to propose that there was an indefinite time gap between 1:1 and 1:2. God created a perfect heaven and earth. Earth was inhabited by a pre-Adamic race of humans ruled over by Satan in the Garden of Eden. Satan rebelled and sin entered the universe (Isa 14). Because of Satan’s rebellion, God punished the earth with a flood and a global ice age (this accounts for the fossils). Many geologists like this theory because it seems to answer questions about fossils.

This view addresses the question of the language of Genesis 1-2. For this view the term “was” (hayah, הָיָה) in verse 2 can be translated “became.” “Formless and void” (tohu wa bohu, תֹ֙הוּ֙ וָבֹ֔הוּ) describes an evil condition, as seen in Isaiah 24:1; 45:18; and Jeremiah 4:23. Two different terms for “create” are used in 1:1 (bara, בָּרָ֣א) and 1:25 (asah, עָשָׂה) and refer to two different types of creation. Bara normally refers to God’s “primary” creative activity (ex-nihilo). Asah always refers to reforming previously existing materials. Since bara is used in 1:1, it cannot be a “topic sentence,” introducing the section which follows (and so being a general description of what follows), but must refer to an original creation. Darkness symbolizes evil in Scripture. God’s command to Adam to “replenish” the earth implies a previous race. Finally, the distance of stars from earth and the amount of time it takes for their light to reach our planet indicates a much older universe and planet. For example, Newman says, “As most of the universe is more than ten thousand light-years away, most of the events revealed by light coming from space would be fictional. Since the Bible tells us that God cannot lie, I prefer to interpret nature so as to avoid having God give us fictitious information.”[15]

The Day-Age Theory (Geologic Day Theory, Progressive Creationism) attempts to correlate the geologic ages with the 7-day period.[16] Each day represents a period of geologic history. The terminology, such as “day,” is metaphorical and so should not be interpreted literally.[17] It seems to take more than 24 hours to accomplish all that is described, especially with regard to Adam’s naming of the animals (1:12). Solar days did not begin until the fourth day and so time could not be measured before then and so at least the first 3 “days” could have been longer than 24 hours. Further, support for this can be seen in the use of “day” in Genesis 2:4 to refer to the entire creation process. Hebrews 4:1-11 is interpreted by this view to also affirm an indefinite period in creation.[18]

The Literal Day with Ages Between Theory (Creative Intervention View) regards each day as a time of completion of creation only (i.e., creation was culminated on that day).[19] “At strategic points in the natural development of the earth the Creator intervened. Thus the days were ordinary days, but between these creative interventions long eons of time may have elapsed.”[20] It has very few adherents. [21]

The Analogical Days Theory (C. John Collins) does not see the Genesis 1 days as the beginning of the universe. Accepting the Gap Theory, he affirms “the six ‘creation days’ are not necessarily the first actual days of the universe; they are not even necessarily the first days of the earth itself. They are the days during which God set up the earth as the ideal place for human being to live…”[22] The first 11 chapters of Genesis should not be taken literally but seen as a “very broad stroke and suggestive rather than detailed” description of the earth’s history before Abraham came on the scene.[23] Genesis 1-2 is “exalted prose” rather than historical narrative and so should be understood “liturgically” rather than literally.[24]

The Literary Day Theory (Richard E. Averbeck) identifies the six days as a literary device used to communicate God’s sovereignty over creation.[25]This literary device, six followed by a seventh pattern, is said to be common to the ANE and with biblical writers as well. Therefore the author of Genesis would not expect his readers to understand the six days as literal, but symbolic.[26] “The ‘days’ here are snapshots of the world as they observed it in that ancient day.”[27] At the same time, the historical reality of Adam and Eve is affirmed. [28] Verse 1 introduces the subject of the following chapter, “not the actual beginning of God’s creation work in the chapter.”[29] Averbeck connects the three-tiered cosmology of the ANE to the biblical account, seeing it (biblical account) using the same pattern, not because it was following ANE cosmologies, but because both the biblical and ANE cosmologies reflect how the world appears to be (phenotype, language of appearance). [30] Further, its purpose is to serve as “an analogy that derives from and reinforces the regular pattern of the work week that God was so concerned the Israelites adhere to: work six days and rest on the seventh… The chapter is schematized, not meant to be read in a literalistic way even by the ancient Israelites, and they would have known that. … Although the seven days are not to be taken literally and are not intended to tell us how long God took in actually creating the cosmos or how old the earth is, nevertheless there is a necessary structure and sequence through the six days.”[31] God could not have given them a scientifically accurate description of creation because they could not understand the science, which continues to be true for us today. He further acknowledges and reminds us all, “There is mystery here for everyone past, present, and future. Whether we look at it biblically or scientifically today, we do not have it all figured out, and we never will.”[32]

The Ancient Cosmology View (John H. Walton) holds that God has “accommodated” His revelation about creation through the use of ANE cosmology to speak to the “cognitive environment” of ancient Israel.[33] Rather than describing creation ex nihilo in Genesis 1:1 or in what follows, the creation account describes God’s reshaping of material from a non-functional state to a “functional” state[34] with a view to building a “temple” in which “divine rest takes place.” [35] This view does not deny creation ex nihilo, but would affirm a gap between that event and the events of Genesis 1:2-2:3. It also does not attempt any correlation with scientific theories since it was not the intention of the author to address issues of science.[36]

Theistic Evolution proponents trust science and “embrace the Darwinian ‘mechanism’ (natural selection) by ‘the eye of faith,’ proclaiming it to be the method instituted by God to achieve creation.”[37] This is “the belief that a theistic God used an evolutionary process he had created to produce all living species of life. In addition, ‘theistic’ means that God performed at least one miracle after his original creation of the universe ex nihilo.” Generally theistic evolutionists will affirm 2 or 3 supernatural interventions of God followed by the remainder of life developing naturally through Darwinian evolution.[38] As a result, Adam need not be a historical person.[39]

The purpose of the Genesis account is to affirm that God was “the creator of everything and everyone. However, the biblical text is not at all interested in telling us how God created the world and humanity, it is perfectly acceptable and even reasonable to turn to the sciences to explore that question.”[40] Figurative language in the Genesis account indicates that it should not be taken literally. Though the author intended the readers to think of literal 24-hour days, “the absence of the sun, moon, and stars until the fourth day means that this pictorial description of creation as taking place during a week is not describing what actually happened.”[41] Longman affirms further that “the Bible is true in what it intends to teach. Genesis 1-2 intends to teach us that God created everything. It intends to teach us much about the nature of God, humanity, and the world, but not about how God created creation, including the sequence of creation.”[42]

Hermeneutical Positions

In this next section we shall address the question of hermeneutics as it may contribute to the debate. One’s hermeneutic has more to do with one’s interpretation than the data of Scripture or science. By understanding each other’s hermeneutic, we can appreciate one another better, though we may not be convinced by the other’s argument. For example, either model (young earth, old earth) can be supported from the Hebrew grammar, or so each side says, though one’s choice seems dependent primarily on how one sees Genesis 1:1 in light of Hebrews 11:3.[43] The same can be said of the various views within the old earth model. Their basic hermeneutical approaches have some measure of validity and usefulness. But are they legitimate determiners of Moses’ intended meaning? We will begin by examining some of the hermeneutical arguments for these views.

Science and Scripture: The first issue to address is the role modern science should play in the interpretation of Scripture.[44] The place of scientific theories and discoveries in the interpretation of Scripture is a hermeneutical issue, not a philosophical one. That science discovers truths about creation is unquestioned by all. The question is whether science has correctly interpreted its data and how much influence its conclusions should have when discerning the meaning of the biblical text.

Hugh Ross is an example of this approach. He says, “God’s revelation is not limited exclusively to the Bible’s words. The facts of nature may be likened to a sixty-seventh book of the Bible. Just as we rightfully expect interpretations of Isaiah to be consistent with those of Mark, so too we can expect interpretations of the facts of nature to be consistent with the message of Genesis and the rest of the canon.”[45]

What has motivated committed Christians with a high view of Scripture to reject a literal interpretation of the text in order to find concordance with scientific theories? It seems two factors have influenced them. In earlier years it was their confidence in science that led to accommodating theories. Since all truth is God’s truth, the truths of science necessarily had to correlate with those of Scripture. In those days there was a high confidence in both science and the sincerity of the scientific community. In recent years, the motive seems to be both that and a desire to gain a hearing from the non-believing community, to make Christianity seem more reasonable and so the gospel more acceptable. Again, Hugh Ross is a good example of this mindset. He says, “Few Christians comprehend just how destructive the age issue has become. The sad irony is that age need not even be an issue. But because it is, numbers of non-Christians turn away from the Christian message.”[46] So, for some, it is an attempt to remove a “stumbling block” that keeps people from accepting the gospel.

Author’s Purpose: A second approach is to determine how literally or figuratively the author intended his work to be understood. The author’s purpose should inform our interpretation of Genesis 1-2. Based on this approach, Tremper Longman III affirmed earlier that it was not the purpose of Genesis 1-2 to tell “us how God created the world and humanity” and this gave him the option of accepting evolution without denying the inspiration of Scripture.[47] If Moses did not intend to communicate an accurate cosmology, but was simply using an allegory or pictorial language, then it is legitimate to interpret it non-literally. The question is not whether the text is inspired or truthful in terms of what it intended to communicate. The question is what it intended to communicate (God created) and how (through a non-literal “pictorial description”).

Ancient Near Eastern Culture:  A third approach is to see the passage reflecting the ANE culture from which is arose. This approach is seeking to discern the meaning intended by the author and understood by his audience. It understands that they were people of their day and thought in the categories of their day. Thus what is known of those ANE cultures around them must bear on our understanding of the text.[48] Again, this is not a denial of the inspiration of the text. It is also not a denial that the author’s intended message is true. It is an approach to interpreting Scripture that says its meaning is connected to its world and anything known of that world may be brought to bear in our understanding of the passage.

Literary Genre: All literature is expressed within some understood literary convention which the French called its “genre.” This form, mold, or pattern impacts on how the author intends his words to be understood (how literally, figuratively, seriously, etc). The meaning of a passage is indeed impacted by its genre, though not always determined. The three kinds of literary genre which must be recognized in Scripture include figures of speech, larger figurative units such as parables and allegories, and broad prose categories wherein books may fit such as historical, drama, poetry, apocalyptic, wisdom, didactic, and legal literature, among others. So, what literary genre does Genesis 1-2 represent and how should that affect interpretation? Most old earth proponents identify the first chapters of Genesis as something other than historical narrative, calling it such things as poetry or exalted prose. Young earth proponents argue for historical narrative. If it is poetry or something other than normal prose, then interpreters could legitimately argue against a literal understanding of the affirmations of the text.

Assessment of the Hermeneutical Positions

Having surveyed various views on Genesis 1-2 and identified the hermeneutical approaches leading to these views, it seems appropriate to evaluate these approaches and address their strengths and weaknesses. Again, this cannot be an extensive evaluation or response, but seeks to highlight certain issues and raise questions for further discussion within the body of Christ. Following this evaluation, a proposal will be made that this author feels is the solution to the issue. So, to begin, we should address the question of figurative language within the passage.

Literal versus Figurative Language: Whether one identifies the passage as fitting within historical narrative or some other genre, the presence of figurative language still raises further issues. How literally or figuratively should the language of Genesis 1-2 be understood? And, does the presence of figures of speech necessarily make a passage figurative? There are figures of speech employed in the passage. However, this need not make the assertions of the passage non-literal. In other words, the presence of figurative language in a passage does not necessarily make the passage itself figurative, otherwise what Paul says in Romans should not be taken literally. Further, the principle with figures of speech is that they are literary conventions used by an author to communicate concrete ideas. And, a literal interpretation of a figure involves, then, understanding it is a figure of speech and then discerning its intended meaning. For Moses to say with regard to Adam’s creation that God “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life” (an anthropomorphism) does not require God to place His mouth on Adam’s nose and exhale air into his lungs. It is clearly a figure of speech that indicates that God caused Adam to begin breathing and animated the inanimate body He had just formed out of the soil (dust of the ground) just as He had done with all the animals. When the author of Joshua asserts that at the battle of Gibeon “the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and did not hasten to go down for about a whole day” (NKJV), his use of “stood still in the midst of heaven” is figurative language, that of appearance. Being figurative, it does not change the historical narrative genre of the passage it was stated in. Theologians, exegetes, and scientists may discuss how God did it and present various theories. However, if any of us had been standing there beside Joshua on that day, we would have seen what he described and said it much the same way since his figurative language spoke in terms of language of appearance and not exact science.

Scripture interprets Scripture:  A key hermeneutical principle that would help this debate is that we interpret less clear texts by those whose interpretations are more certain. In biblical interpretation “what is obscure in one passage may be illuminated by another. No single statement or obscure passage of one book can be allowed to set aside a doctrine which is clearly established by many passages.”[49] Thus, “the canon of Scripture is the context of every passage of Scripture. This is the theological version of ‘Scripture interprets Scripture.’ The exegete brings all the other materials that are similar to the text to bear upon the text.” [50] Thus, God’s own words in Exodus 20:11 must bear on our understanding of the text. Similarly, Jesus’ statement should serve as a determiner of the meaning. Jesus uses the Genesis account to support His view on divorce and says, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?” (Matt 19:4-5). He clearly sees Adam and Eve as historical persons and their creation as historical fact. He is interpreting at least this part of the Genesis account literally and sees the statement as God’s statement, not Moses’. To say He was accommodating His audience by treating what He knew to be figurative language as literal history is to accuse God of deception. This is especially true when we see the pattern exhibited by Jesus is to say what is true regardless of the views of His listeners and regardless of how offended they might be by what He said.[51]

Arguments are advanced on both sides concerning Moses’ use of bara (create) and (form) assah. Granted, John’s use of “become” (ginomai, γίνομαι) John 1:1-3 and the use of “made” (poieō, ποιέω)  in Hebrews 1:1-4 are both ambiguous and would allow either creation ex nihilo or from previously formed material. However, in Matthew 19:4 Jesus identifies God as the “Creator” (ho ktisas, ὁ κτίσας) who “made” (poieō, ποιέω) them. The verb, “create” (ktizō, κτίζω) and noun, “Creator” are used only of God throughout the New Testament and reflect the sense of creation ex nihilo and not the reshaping of material.[52] “Made” (poieō) is connected with “create” (ktizō) as a synonym and so its use in the New Testament may rightly be understood as original creation and not reshaping of previously created matter. Paul’s view of creation is clarified by his statement in Romans 4:17 that “those things which do not exist” were called into existence by God, thus creation ex nihilo.

As Beale notes, “At least twenty-five NT passages refer to Gen 1-11, and all take the accounts literally.”[53] It would seem that our interpretation of Genesis 1-2 should be based on this pattern of New Testament teaching, by both Jesus and the inspired authors.

The place of science with respect to the interpretation of Scripture:  Hugh Ross is correct in stating that God has revealed Himself in the created universe and all men are held accountable for what they learn through general revelation (Rom 1:20). However, the natural response of fallen man is to reject those truths rather than respond to God’s revelation (Rom 1:21-23). As a result, we can know that science is capable of finding facts about creation, but should not expect the unbelieving scientific community to interpret those facts in a manner that acknowledges or glorifies the God whose existence they deny.[54] Science is not omniscient. Science is not unbiased. Modern secular, naturalist scientists, in their rejection of God, will naturally suppress the truth (Rom 1). They may be able to find the data, but may not always be able to interpret it correctly.[55] This would explain why biologists, who understand the principle of irreducible complexity, refuse to abandon the dogma that organic life arose from an inorganic soup. Even the simplest viruses are far too complex for one to form, even over billions of years.[56] Granted, there are scientists who are sincerely attempting to interpret the data honestly. However, that does not guarantee they will not be influenced in the assessment by the dominant theories of the day and the preponderance of literature supporting one view over the other. That being said, those holding to a literal six-day creation should also be circumspect about using scientific data to support their view. Its best role is illustrative, not interpretive.

A further question must be asked. Why should we limit God to what science says is possible or reasonable? When God acts, His will shapes history and the natural order. Why not accept that God can create things in whatever order He desires and nature will accede to His will? Since God is not limited by time, why should the amount that He can accomplish in any 12 or 24 hour time period be determined by our human limitations? Moses lived 40 days on Mount Sinai without food or water because God wanted to meet with him there. Why couldn’t Adam name every creature in an hour or two if it were God’s will for him to accomplish that task on the sixth day? God is not bound by any of the “laws of nature” that science has discovered or decided on (may yet disprove or revise them with future discoveries). Nature obeys Him, not He nature.

Authorial Intent’s Place in the Interpretive Process: Interpreting a passage on the basis of an unstated author’s intention does not necessarily lead to legitimate results. If we misunderstand or misstate the author’s purpose, and use that mistaken purpose as our interpretive guide, we will end up with eisegesis rather than exegesis. Norman L. Geisler provides an excellent discussion of this issue. [57] He summarizes his points as follows.

1. Purpose is not hermeneutically determinative of meaning. Why something is said never determines the meaning of what is said.

2. Purpose is formally independent of meaning. One can understand what is meant, even if he does not understand why it was said.

3. Using purpose to determine meaning leads to a distortion of the true meaning by reshaping the meaning to fit the purpose.

4. Using purpose to determine meaning confuses application (why) with interpretation (what). It confuses the content of the message with the behavioral change in the lives of the readers envisioned by the author.

5. Using purpose to determine meaning is a hermeneutical form of “the end (purpose) justifies (validates) the means (meaning)” principle. It is hermeneutical utilitarianism.

This is not to deny that understanding purpose is often interesting and even illuminating. For how a passage is applied or why an author wrote it (that is, what changes he purposed in the readers) can be helpful in understanding the significance of the passage. However, to limit the application of the passage to our conjectures about the author’s purpose, or to eliminate certain aspects of truth in the passage because they are not believed to be necessary to the central purpose, is hermeneutically illegitimate. It in fact may lead to a denial of the full inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture, as well as other teachings.[58]

In that light, Longman’s commitment to the truth of God’s word should never be questioned. However, his hermeneutical approach to this passage may.

The Place of Extra-biblical Data in the Interpretive Process:  What should be the role of ANE and extrabiblical data in determining the meaning of the text? William Larkin provides an excellent guide. “Though extra biblical cultural information may be used to illumine meaning, it must never be employed to limit or undercut the authoritative claims of Scripture.”[59] The problem with using extra-biblical data to give meaning to the biblical text is similar to using scientific data. Our knowledge is incomplete. Further, we cannot demonstrate conclusively that the author had that piece of data in mind when he wrote. For example, most arguments for reading ANE cosmology into the Genesis account attempt to point to parallels with their creation myths.[60] Gordon Wenham notes that “we often fail to recognize the striking originality of the message of Gen 1–11 and concentrate on subsidiary points that may well be of less moment.”[61]Additionally, to say that the Genesis account is a polemic against any or all of these is speculative.[62] Moses does not say such in Genesis, nor does the evidence of the text require such a thing. Rather, there are so few connections with ancient cosmologies, it seems better to see him ignoring them all as he communicates God’s revelation of how He did it. Rather than seeing Genesis 1-2 as a corrective, we should see it as a positive foundational statement that describes the beginning of creation as concretely as Revelation 21-22 describes its culmination.

Genre’s Role in Biblical Interpretation: The use of genre as an interpretive guide has proven useful. However, its usefulness lies within the limits of what it can contribute. Genre does not determine meaning. Genre guides the interpreter to search for certain kinds of textual clues to the meaning intended by the author. No genre is mono-faceted. Each has a set of rules or principle by which it functions, and so is to be interpreted. However, when using genre as a guide, it is imperative that an interpreter can demonstrate that his or her choice of genre is legitimate. That is the problem in this passage. The weight of evidence, especially its structure, grammar, and connection with the remainder of Genesis through the author’s use of toledoth, argues for it being the same genre as the rest of Genesis, historical narrative.[63] However, even if one were to demonstrate it is not of the same genre as the rest of Genesis, it need not lead to a denial of the historicity of its affirmations.[64] Factual statements can be made through the figurative language of poetry just as factual statements are made through prose. Proper hermeneutics finds the facts behind the figures in poetic literature as much as they should in prose. And, in the case of Genesis 1-2, since the New Testament authors understood its affirmations in a literal manner, it seems best to accept them as literal and not beg the question with an appeal to some special genre.

The Revelatory Nature of Biblical Assertions

It seems that the real issue behind this debate is the role that Scripture plays in the communication of God’s truth. The church needs to view Scripture as revelatory. It is God’s revelation of reality, including not just His will (faith and practice), but His work as well (science and history). If He inspired the authors of Scripture to write it, He meant it to be understood. Granted, He used their personalities, spoke to their cultures and times, used various genres of literature to communicate through, and filled His revelation with mysteries we will not discover till we are in heaven. However, when we find something in Scripture that seems to contradict what our scientists, historians, archaeologists, or any other discipline, think is true, we should trust God to know what He is talking about. God is the God of all truth and does not lie. As the Holy Spirit superintended the writing of Scripture, He insured its authors wrote truth. So what if what they say proves to be a stumbling block to some (or foolishness)? Like Paul in Athens, we don’t back down from the truth of God’s revelation even when we know that some will scoff. If we see the Scriptures as revelatory truth from our God, we should trust and obey it, not adjust its meaning to accommodate either our own views or those of a lost and dying world.

Concluding Thoughts

My hope is that what I have written may be seen in its irenic sense. I do not question the salvation or commitment of anyone holding to any of these views. All of us serve the same risen Savior. All of us will spend an eternity in heaven together, worshipping the God who created this universe and continues to amaze us with its grandeur. That being said, a statement that I found troubling comes from Tremper Longman III in his response to Todd Beal: “While his view is widely held by many laypeople, for some reason the scholars who argue for this view rarely interact with those of us who hold a different viewpoint, and often when they do, the conversation becomes acrid.”[65] First, the invocation of “many laypeople” does not invalidate a scholar’s view. This is a pejorative statement that evidences a low opinion of the vast majority of the body of Christ when attempting to denigrate one particular view.

Let us debate our differences, but in a manner that respects each other, especially in matters that do not affect one’s salvation or standing with God. We need perspective. Jesus said the world will know us by our love for one another (John 13:35), and that involves how we speak to each other when we disagree as much as when we agree. I am a six-day creationist. With any brother or sister who holds any of these other views, I will gladly stand with them and die for Jesus if that day ever comes.

A final note. Do you know what the favorite game will be in heaven among theologians? Hide and Seek. Those who turned out to be wrong will be hiding from those who turned out to be right. And when they finally meet, the winner will say, “I told you so. Now, brother, let’s go get some manna.”

 


[1] The most recent is Reading Genesis 1-2: An Evangelical Conversation (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2013), edited by J. Daryl Charles and interacting with the views of Richard E. Averbeck (Literary Days), Todd S. Beall (Literal Days), C. John Collins (Analogical Days), Tremper Longman III (Theistic Evolution), and John H. Walton (Ancient Cosmology).

[2] Because there are so many views, it is difficult to keep this first section brief and do the various views justice. That being said, this writer acknowledges that he is a six-day young earth creationist and practices a literal hermeneutic. At the same time, he respects those who hold differing views and recognizes that they have arrived at their views thoughtfully. Though we may disagree, we remain brothers and sisters in Christ who serve the same risen Savior.

[3] Gerald Rau (Mapping the Origins Debate: Six Models of the Beginning of Everything (Downers Grove, Ill: IVP Academic, 2012) compares and contrasts six “models of origins” which include what he calls Naturalistic Evolution, Nonteleological Evolution, Planned Evolution, Directed Evolution, Old-Earth Creation, and Young-Earth Creation.

[4] Paul P. Enns, The Moody Handbook of Theology (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1989), 303

[5] Todd S. Beall, “Reading Genesis 1-2: A Literal Approach,” in Reading Genesis 1-2: An Evangelical Conversation, J. Daryl Charles ed. (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2013) 46-48. He argues (47), “In addition to the genealogies, there are two other structural indicators that Gen 1-11 is to be understood in a similar way to Gen 12-50. First, Gen 12:1 starts with a waw-consecutive verb, wayyomer (‘and he said’), indicating that what follows is a continuation of Gen 11, not a major break in the narrative. Second, the structure of the entire book is based on the phrase ’lelh toledoth (‘these are the generations of’ or ‘this is the history of’) that occurs ten times in Genesis.”

[6] Robert V. McCabe (“A Defense of Literal Days In the Creation Week,” Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal 5 (2000): 100-112) provides an excellent discussion of the significance of yom (יוֹם) in Genesis 1, as well as Jim Stambaugh (“The Days of Creation: A Semantic Approach,” Journal of Ministry and Theology, 7:2 (2003) 41-68; and “The Days of Creation: A Semantic Approach, Part II,” Journal of Ministry and Theology, 8:1 (2004) 37-54).

[7] “For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” (NKJV)

[8] Todd S. Beall, “Reading Genesis 1-2: A Literal Approach,” in Reading Genesis 1-2: An Evangelical Conversation, J. Daryl Charles ed. (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2013) 48.

[9] Todd S. Beall, “Reading Genesis 1-2: A Literal Approach,” in Reading Genesis 1-2: An Evangelical Conversation, J. Daryl Charles ed. (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2013) 51. “To argue that Moses or whoever wrote Gen 1-11 was so immersed in the ANE world that it caused him to write in the way of other ANE literature is to deny the uniqueness of the biblical record.” He says further (52) that “…the biblical account in Genesis is so unlike other ANE literature that many scholars hold that the creation account is a polemic against the ANE creation myths. If the perspective of Gen 1-11 is so contrary to the ANE worldview, then why should one assume that it was written according to that same worldview? It stands apart from the ANE worldview in every respect, beginning with the most obvious difference: there is only one God, not many, he is eternal, not a created; and he created the rest of the world in an orderly, purposeful way.”

[10] Todd S. Beall, “Reading Genesis 1-2: A Literal Approach,” in Reading Genesis 1-2: An Evangelical Conversation, J. Daryl Charles ed. (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2013) 53. He notes that 25 references to creation in the NT all interpret the Genesis account literally and historically. Examples include Jesus in Matt 19:4-6 and Paul in Eph 5:31; 1 Cor 6:16; 11:7-12.

[11] Gary C. Cohen, “Hermeneutical Principles and Creation Theories,” Grace Journal 5:3 (1964): 26. He says, “It should be noted here that the dating of Archbishop Ussher (1581–1656) which placed the beginning of creation in the year 4004 B.C. is not an inherent part of this theory. In fact, the 4004 B.C. date has now generally been abandoned.”

[12] Representative of this movement are C. John Collins (“Reading Genesis 1-2: Analogical Days,” in Reading Genesis 1-2: An Evangelical Conversation; Robert C. Newman and Herman J. Eckelmann, Jr. in their book Genesis One and the Origin of the Earth (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1977; reprint, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1981), Daniel E. Wonderly in Gods Time-Records in Ancient Sediments: Evidences of Long Time Spans in Earth’s History (Flint, MI: Crystal Press, 1977) and Davis A. Young in Creation and the Flood: An Alternative to Flood Geology and Theistic Evolution (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1977), Christianity and the Age of the Earth (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1982) and The Bible, Rocks and Time: Geological Evidence for the Age of the Earth (Downers Grove, Ill: IVP Academic, 2008). Early proponents include G. H. Pember, (The Earliest Ages) the Scholfield reference Bible, and Arthur Custance (Without Form and Void). This view is not recent, though. It was held by Augustine (Augustine, Confessions, 12:8).

[13] Robert C. Newman, “Progressive Creationism” in Three Views on Creation and Evolution, ed. J. P. Moreland and John Mark Reynolds (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1999) 105.

[14] For example, Robert C. Newman (“Progressive Creationism” in Three Views on Creation and Evolution, ed. J. P. Moreland and John Mark Reynolds (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1999) 119) affirms that “the data of Scripture and the data of nature are fully trustworthy, and that some sort of harmonization exists between the proper interpretation of each.”

[15] Robert C. Newman, “Progressive Creationism” in Three Views on Creation and Evolution, ed. J. P. Moreland and John Mark Reynolds (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1999) 109.

[16] Examples of proponents include: Hugh Ross (Creation and Time: A Biblical and Scientific Perspective on the Creation-Date Controversy (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1994), and The Genesis Question: Scientific Advances and the Accuracy of Genesis (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1998)), Robert Newman (Genesis One and the Origin of the Earth (Hatfield, PA: Interdisciplinary Biblical Research Institute, 1989).

[17] Paul P. Enns, The Moody Handbook of Theology (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1989), 302.

[18] David G. Hansen, “יוֹם YOM: A Study of the Hebrew Word Yom in the Creation Narrative (Genesis 1, 2),” Bible and Spade (1998) 11 (1998): 39.

[19] P. J. Wiseman, Creation Revealed in Six Days (1949); Robert C. Newman is identified as an advocate by James E. Smith (The Pentateuch).

[20] James E. Smith, The Pentateuch, 2nd ed., Old Testament Survey Series (Joplin, MO: College Press Pub. Co., 1993).

[21] Likewise, the Revelatory Day Theory (Pictoral Day Theory) has passed from serious consideration in recent years. It is mentioned or proposed by, among others, A. H. Strong (Systematic Theology (Philadelphia: Judson Press, 1956), Vol. II, pp. 393–397); H. Kurtz, Bible and Astronomy (third German edition, 1857); P. J. Wiseman, Creation Revealed in Six Days (1949); E. K. Gedney, “Geology and the Bible,” The American Scientific Affiliation, Modern Science and Christian Faith (Wheaton, IL: Van Kampen Press, 1950), pp. 23-57; Bernard Ramm, The Christian View of Science and Scripture (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1954.

[22] C. John Collins, “Reading Genesis 1-2: Analogical Days,” in Reading Genesis 1-2: An Evangelical Conversation, J. Daryl Charles ed. (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2013) 85.

[23] C. John Collins, “Reading Genesis 1-2: Analogical Days,” in Reading Genesis 1-2: An Evangelical Conversation, J. Daryl Charles ed. (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2013) 85.

[24] C. John Collins, “Reading Genesis 1-2: Analogical Days,” in Reading Genesis 1-2: An Evangelical Conversation, J. Daryl Charles ed. (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2013) 86. He says that what makes it exalted prose are “the quasi-liturgical recounting of God’s achievements in creation; the highly patterned presentation of the days, beginning with ‘and God said’ and ending with evening followed by morning; the lack of ‘normal’ names for the things mentioned, together with the rhetorically high ‘expanse’ and allusive reference to the sun and moon; the very broad taxonomies for plants and animals—combine with the unique events, and with God’s own appreciation for his work and his ‘rest’ on his Sabbath, to give the narrative a high and exalted feel, something we do not encounter in other narrative passages in the Bible.”

[25] K. A. Mathews (Genesis 1-11:26, vol. 1A, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996), 110) could fit into this category. He sees the chapter arranged topically rather than chronologically. Also this is similar to the Framework Theory described by Robert V. McCabe (“A Critique of the Framework Interpretation of the Creation Account,” Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal 11 (2006): 61). “In essence, the framework interpretation argues that the creation ‘week’ itself is a figure, a literary framework, designed to present God’s creative work in a topical, nonsequential manner, as opposed to a literal week comprised of sequential, literal days. As noted in the previous article, the framework interpretation is supported by four theses: the figurative nature of the creation account, the creation account controlled by ordinary providence, the unending nature of the seventh day, and the two-register cosmology.” Meredith G. Kline “Because It Had Not Rained,” Westminster Theological Journal 20 (May 1958): 145–57. Others who follow Kline include: Henri Blocher, In the Beginning, trans. David G. Preston (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1984), pp. 53, 56; Mark D. Futato, “Because It Had Rained: A Study of Gen 2:5–7 with Implications for Gen 2:4–25 and Gen 1:1–2:3, ” Westminster Theological Journal 60 (Spring 1998): 2–10, 13–17; Mark Ross, “The Framework Hypothesis: An Interpretation of Genesis 1:1–2:3, ” in Did God Create in Six Days? ed. Joseph A. Pipa, Jr., and David W. Hall (Taylors, SC: Southern Presbyterian Press, 1999), pp. 122–28; Lee Irons with Meredith G. Kline, “The Framework View,” in The Genesis Debate: Three Views on the Days of Creation, ed. David G. Hagopian (Mission Viejo, CA: Crux Press, 2001), p. 230; W. Robert Godfrey, God’s Pattern for Creation (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian & Reformed, 2003), pp. 52–53.

[26] Richard E. Averbeck, “A Literary Day, Inter-Textual, and Contextual Reading of Genesis 1-2,” in Reading Genesis 1-2: An Evangelical Conversation, J. Daryl Charles ed. (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2013) 7.

[27] Richard E. Averbeck, “A Literary Day, Inter-Textual, and Contextual Reading of Genesis 1-2,” in Reading Genesis 1-2: An Evangelical Conversation, J. Daryl Charles ed. (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2013) 8. He balances what he says by noting (Reading Genesis 1-2, 9): “Unfortunately, since the beginning of the twentieth century there has been a long history of scholars illegitimately imposing ANE material on the biblical text. … Scholars, including evangelical scholars, disagree over the sort of relationship Genesis and extrabiblical sources have to each other. Yes, God spoke his revelation into this ANE context, but he also spoke against it.” In response to those who attempt to connect Psalm 104 and Gen 1, he acknowledges that neither borrowed from the other, just that “they reflect the same underlying observational reality. … Psalm 104 follows a pattern that corresponds closely to that of the six days in Gen 1, but without the rigid divisions between the days” (Reading Genesis 1-2, 17).

[28] Richard E. Averbeck, “A Literary Day, Inter-Textual, and Contextual Reading of Genesis 1-2,” in Reading Genesis 1-2: An Evangelical Conversation, J. Daryl Charles ed. (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2013) 8.

[29] Richard E. Averbeck, “A Literary Day, Inter-Textual, and Contextual Reading of Genesis 1-2,” in Reading Genesis 1-2: An Evangelical Conversation, J. Daryl Charles ed. (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2013) 10.

[30] Richard E. Averbeck, “A Literary Day, Inter-Textual, and Contextual Reading of Genesis 1-2,” in Reading Genesis 1-2: An Evangelical Conversation, J. Daryl Charles ed. (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2013) 12-17.

[31] Richard E. Averbeck, “A Literary Day, Inter-Textual, and Contextual Reading of Genesis 1-2,” in Reading Genesis 1-2: An Evangelical Conversation, J. Daryl Charles ed. (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2013) 31.

[32] Richard E. Averbeck, “A Literary Day, Inter-Textual, and Contextual Reading of Genesis 1-2,” in Reading Genesis 1-2: An Evangelical Conversation, J. Daryl Charles ed. (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2013) 32.

[33] John H. Walton, “Reading Genesis 1 as Ancient Cosmology,” in Reading Genesis 1-2: An Evangelical Conversation, J. Daryl Charles ed. (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2013) 143.

[34] John H. Walton, “Reading Genesis 1 as Ancient Cosmology,” in Reading Genesis 1-2: An Evangelical Conversation, J. Daryl Charles ed. (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2013) 147.

[35] John H. Walton, “Reading Genesis 1 as Ancient Cosmology,” in Reading Genesis 1-2: An Evangelical Conversation, J. Daryl Charles ed. (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2013) 158.

[36] John H. Walton, “Reading Genesis 1 as Ancient Cosmology,” in Reading Genesis 1-2: An Evangelical Conversation, J. Daryl Charles ed. (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2013) 162. For example, he says, “The hermeneutical commitment to read the text at face value elevates this interpretation, because it makes an attempt to understand the text as the author and audience would have understood it. It does not reduce the text to a symbolic, figurative, theological, or literary reading, as is often done in the attempt to correlate the text to modern science. As an account of functional origins of the cosmos as a temple, it has no correlation with the material interests of modern science and does not offer a biblical view of material questions. Concordism applies scientific meanings to words and phrases in the text that are modern in ways.”

[37] David H. Lane, “Theological Problems with Theistic Evolution,” Bibliotheca Sacra 151, no. 602 (1994): 156. Other representatives of this view include A. H. Strong (Systematic Theology (Philadelphia: American Baptist Publication Society, 1907), 465-66), and Tremper Longman III. J. Barton Payne (“Theistic Evolution and the Hebrew of Genesis 1–2,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 8:2 (1965): 75-89) provides an excellent response to their arguments from the terminology of the text.

[38] Norman L. Geisler, Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics, Baker Reference Library (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1999), 233. This is opposed to deistic evolutionists who see God only creating the matter from which life eventually evolved on its own.

[39] Tremper Longman III, “What Genesis 1-2 Teaches (and What It Doesn’t),” in Reading Genesis 1-2: An Evangelical Conversation, J. Daryl Charles ed. (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2013) 122. “My understanding of Gen 1-2 as high style literary prose narrative leads me to conclude that it is not necessary that Adam be a historical individual for this text to be without error in what it intends to teach.”

[40] Tremper Longman III, “What Genesis 1-2 Teaches (and What It Doesn’t),” in Reading Genesis 1-2: An Evangelical Conversation, J. Daryl Charles ed. (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2013) 103.

[41] Tremper Longman III, “What Genesis 1-2 Teaches (and What It Doesn’t),” in Reading Genesis 1-2: An Evangelical Conversation, J. Daryl Charles ed. (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2013) 105.

[42] Tremper Longman III, “What Genesis 1-2 Teaches (and What It Doesn’t),” in Reading Genesis 1-2: An Evangelical Conversation, J. Daryl Charles ed. (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2013) 108.

[43] “By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.” (NKJV)

[44] Though the question of the language of appearance will not be discussed at length in this paper Gary C. Cohen (“Hermeneutical Principles and Creation Theories,” Grace Journal 5:3 (1964): 19) provides a helpful reminder that phenomenological language must be recognized. “Interpreters must remember that the Bible describes natural phenomena geocentrically, anthropocentrically, and in the language of appearance.”

[45] Hugh Ross, Creation and Time (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1994) 56-57.

[46] Hugh Ross, Creation and Time (Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 1994) 10.

[47] Tremper Longman III, “What Genesis 1-2 Teaches (and What It Doesn’t),” in Reading Genesis 1-2: An Evangelical Conversation, J. Daryl Charles ed. (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2013) 103.

[48] Victor Harold Matthews, Mark W. Chavalas, and John H. Walton, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: Old Testament, electronic ed. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2000). “The background material most helpful for understanding the first section is the mythological literature of the ancient Near East. Both Mesopotamian and Egyptian mythology provide a wealth of materials concerning contemporary perspectives on the creation of the world and of human beings.”

[49] Milton S. Terry, Biblical Hermeneutics (Reprint. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1974) 579.

[50] Bernard L. Ramm, “Biblical Interpretation,” ed. Ralph G. Turnbull, Baker’s Dictionary of Practical Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1967), 107. Gary C. Cohen (“Hermeneutical Principles and Creation Theories,” Grace Journal 5:3 (1964): 19) says well, “No interpretation is really complete until it has considered parallel passages and related references. … Two sub-principles further guide the rule that Scripture interprets Scripture. They are: (a) the clear governs the obscure; and (b) the specific governs the general.”

[51] For example, Jesus does not hesitate to reject the Samaritan woman’s worship as illegitimate in John 4:22. He said the opposite of what any Samaritan would wish to hear. He was just as blunt with the Jewish leaders (Matt 9:1-7; John 5:17-18; 10:30).

[52] Werner Foerster, “κτίζω, κτίσις,” TDNT, 1025-1029.

[53] Todd S. Beall, “Reading Genesis 1-2: A Literal Approach,” in Reading Genesis 1-2: An Evangelical Conversation, J. Daryl Charles ed. (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2013) 53. Also, Russell T. Fuller, “Interpreting Genesis 1-11,” Southern Baptist Journal of Theology Volume 5” 5: 3 (2001): 19. Bob Goette (“Why Talk About Creation?” Bible and Spade 3:2 (1990): 46) affirms, “There are 200 quotations or allusions in the New Testament to Genesis, and 107 of these are to the first eleven chapters of Genesis. Sixty-three of the allusions are to the first three chapters of Genesis and 25 of those are from Christ himself.”

[54] I am speaking as one who has trained in the sciences and conducted scientific research (B.S. and M.S. degrees in Horticulture, a division of plant sciences) as well as being trained in biblical exegesis and theology. Todd Beal correctly observes (“Reading Genesis 1-2: A Literal Approach,” 56) that “many scholars propose nonliteral interpretations of Gen 1-2 in order to harmonize the biblical text with current scientific theory. They have little to do with the exegesis of Gen 1, since the simplest, most direct reading of the text indicates that God created the world in six twenty-four-hour days, as many of the same evangelical scholars acknowledge.”

[55] Noel Weeks, “The Hermeneutical Problem of Genesis,” Themelios: Volume 4, No. 1, January/September 1978 (1978): 14. He warns, “In order to conclude that a scientific theory is a correct interpretation of general revelation one must be certain that the method by which it was established was not in any way contrary to biblical teaching.”

[56] Michael Behe (Darwin’s Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution (New York: Free Press, 1996)) provides an excellent discussion of this problem.

[57] Norman L. Geisler, “The Relation of Purpose and Meaning in Interpreting Scripture,” Grace Theological Journal 5 (1984): 229-45.

[58] Ibid., 244-45.

[59] William J. Larkin, Jr., Culture and Biblical Hermeneutics (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), 261.

[60] K. A. Mathews (Genesis 1-11:26, vol. 1A, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996), 90–95) provides an excellent discussion of the points of similarity and difference between the various cultures surrounding Israel at the time of the Exodus, including Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Canaan.

[61] Gordon J. Wenham, Genesis 1–15, vol. 1, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1998), l.

[62] K. A. Mathews, Genesis 1-11:26, vol. 1A, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996), 119–120. “The author was not a mimic who historicized a pagan version in order to satisfy a developed Yahwism. Although it is too strong to claim that the biblical account is a direct polemic, it is clear that the author had no use for pagan ideology and carefully distinguished biblical cosmology from pagan misconceptions. The author chose the conventional language of his times, but he was not a conventional thinker.”

[63] K. A. Mathews, Genesis 1-11:26, vol. 1A, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996), 114.

[64] K. A. Mathews (Genesis 1-11:26, vol. 1A, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996), 111) notes that the passage “claims historicity” and so should be interpreted that way regardless of its literary design.

[65] Tremper Longman III, “Four Responses to Chapter Two,” in Reading Genesis 1-2: An Evangelical Conversation, J. Daryl Charles ed. (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2013) 65.

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Creation Poems

Wild Angels

Sometimes fly to Eden,
rest their wings on the ground,
lay their faces on the soil,
rich and sweet as
milky baby’s breath.

They throw handfuls of gold rings,
into rivers, watch the light
flicker and shine, and yell
kindness, kindness, kindness.

In empty sanctuaries,
they help the tall shepherd,
blue Mary, and old angels
down out of the stained glass.
They massage their backs,
warm cold feet with their big hands.
When church begins,
they hide in organ pipes,
sing the alto part too loud,
peek out at the congregation,
wink at children.

They teach old preachers
how to juggle
between sermons –
filling the air with
bananas and zucchinis
and red chili peppers.

Wild angels believe
every lit candle
is a prayer – on fire and
rising, rising, rising.

They grow bored
playing the four-stringed lute –
one string for earth,
two for fire, three for water,
four for wind.

Wild angels
add the fifth string
for the heart.

 

Timeos

Do you remember the day
your body turned precious?

Your aqueous humor
rivers of Zion.

Your vulnerable wrists
birches in Eden.

Your shoulders wondrous
as the far side of the moon.

Your throat
powerful as sea tides.

Your ankles shining
like secrets in the wind.

Your foot soles
mythic as Atlantis.

Your bones lapis lazuli
and gold-flecked turquoise.

Your hands something like
libraries filled with dictionaries.

Your fingers – the ten songs
every sparrow knows.

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Must All Evangelicals be Young-earth Creationists?

As a boy growing up in a fundamentalist church, I was taught that God created the heavens and earth some six thousand years ago. I took at face value the “B.C. 4004” marginal heading to Genesis 1:1 in my Scofield Reference Bible. At Bible college, Whitcomb and Morris’s The Genesis Flood was still considered to be the final word on the matter. For most of my life, then, I assumed that to be opposed to Darwinian evolution required one to embrace young-earth creation. That assumption was challenged, however, as I studied the Hebrew text of the creation account in its historic, literary and cultural context. As I did, I realized the author’s primary purpose for this account was not to date the universe and the earth. The text, while leaving absolutely no room for Darwinian evolutionary theory, did not rule out either view on the age of the universe—young-earth or old-earth. For me this was a turning-point in my thinking about the Genesis account.

As evangelicals, it is imperative that we give careful thought to these issues. A growing number of academics in the evangelical camp are comfortable with some degree of Darwinian evolutionary theory. On the other end of the continuum are conservative evangelicals who act like young-earth creationism is the sine qua non of orthodox faith. Neither of these positions is helpful, since they both fail the science and Scripture test. In the former, Darwinian evolutionary theory is scientism not science, while scriptural testimony is not given its due weight. In the latter, the creation account is read in a way that supports only recent creationism while scientists continue to corroborate the age of the universe as somewhere around 14 billion years and the earth 4.5 billion years. We evangelicals can do better; we must do better. Corban is thus to be commended for drawing attention to the creation motif in this current edition of its online journal.

This article is a study of the creation account itself (Genesis 1-2). This study does not concern itself with the origin of mankind; it deals only with the question of the age of the universe and the earth. These are separate issues and should not be confused. The text of Scripture in no way allows for any theory of evolution, including theistic evolution; the same however, cannot be said of the age of the universe and earth.

As I approach this subject, I do so with the highest regard for the text of the creation account. The fact that I no longer advocate young-earth creationism is due primarily to my conviction that the focus of the creation account lies elsewhere and thus leaves the age of the universe an open question. Because it is an open question, I welcome the input of science. My goal is to encourage evangelicals toward a more accurate understanding of the creation account as well as to encourage them to be open to objective scientific findings with respect to the age of the cosmos. Scripture and science should not be viewed as adversaries in the pursuit of truth, but rather as partners working in separate, but related fields of study. The ideal, in the case of the origin of the universe and the earth, would be an interpretation of the creation account that would allow for, not contradict, objective, reasonable scientific findings since God is the source of Word and world. Nelson and Reynolds, in the Counterpoints series book, Three Views on Creation and Evolution, write the article in defense of Young Earth Creationism. In their lead essay they aim at this ideal of finding common ground between biblical knowledge and scientific knowledge.[1]

Nelson and Reynolds discuss the tension they feel between what they consider to be a reasonable interpretation of the age of the universe by modern science and a proper reading of the creation account. They admit that current estimates of the age of the universe present “a very plausible scientific picture of an ‘old’ cosmos.” [2] However, while believing that an old cosmos is “very plausible” from a scientific viewpoint, they nevertheless hold to the young-earth viewpoint because old-earth creationism is, in their judgment, based on a “less natural reading [of the text].” My contention is that young-earth creationists such as Nelson and Reynolds have erred in their judgment of what constitutes a “less natural reading” of the text and as a result have needlessly, and tragically, dismissed a “very plausible” proposal for the age of the cosmos. In this article I will attempt a reading of the text that allows for, rather than excludes, the current consensus among scientists on the age of the universe and earth. I will begin by pointing out that the message for the original audience was not how old the universe was; rather, it was worship resulting from a proper understanding and application of the principle of divine rest imbedded in the seventh day, the Sabbath. I will then point out that a “natural reading” of the text need not necessarily eliminate the possibility of an ancient cosmos.

Genesis 1 as Background for the Sabbath Command

The relationship of Genesis 1 to the command to Israel to observe the Sabbath cannot be overemphasized. From a strictly literary viewpoint, the seventh day stands out as the most important of all the days of creation. Genesis 2:1-3 closes the first pericope of the creation account and climaxes it. The emphasis upon the seventh day is unmistakable: “Thus the heavens and the earth were completed, and all their hosts. And by the seventh day God completed His work which He had done; and he rested on the seventh day from all His work which he had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.”

If we want to discover from the text itself a clue as to why the creation account is recorded as it is, we need look no further for at least one major purpose revealed in it—to show Israel the origin of the Sabbath command and to introduce the theology behind it. John H. Walton develops the theme of the Sabbath in connection with his larger theme of Yahweh preparing Eden (and the cosmos) to be his temple.

Given the view of Genesis 1 presented in this book, we get a new way to think about the Sabbath.  If God’s rest on the seventh day involved him taking up his presence in the cosmic temple which has been ordered and made functional so that he is now ready to run the cosmos, our Sabbath rest can be seen in a different light. Obviously, God is not asking us to imitate his Sabbath rest by taking the functional controls. I would suggest that instead he is asking us to recognize that he is at the controls, not us.  When we “rest” on the Sabbath, we recognize him as the author of order and the one who brings rest (stability) to our lives and world.[3]

Walton and others have recognized in the Genesis creation account what can easily be missed if the account is examined primarily for evidence supporting one or another proposal for the material origin of the universe and mankind.

The theology of rest spans the entire biblical record, from Genesis, where the concept of divine rest is first introduced, through the time of Moses, in which the Sabbath rest becomes institutionalized, then through the time of Joshua, in which Yahweh promised to bring the nation to a resting place, through the time of the prophets, who connected the theme to the messianic age, and finally, to the consummation of history in which God’s people finally experience salvation rest. The author of Hebrews takes advantage of this eschatological, all-encompassing theology of rest and uses it to encourage his readers to stay faithful to their commitment to Christ (Heb. 4:1-11). In Christ, humanity already (the already/not yet scheme) has come to experience the Sabbath rest that God has provided (vv. 9-11). God’s final rest for his people will be consummated in the re-creation of the heavens and earth, when sin and death will forever be banished and God’s people experience the rest that is God himself.

The main theme that Walton develops is that the creation account should be understood in a way similar to other ancient Near East creation accounts, that of deity taking up residence in a temple. Key to developing that theme is his emphasis that Genesis 1 is about functionality, not material origins. The creation account is about Yahweh preparing a place—a temple—in which he can dwell, a place of worship and rest for his people. If Genesis 1 is primarily (exclusively, for Walton) concerned with how things already in existence become functional, then we should be less inclined to come to the text hoping to find evidence supporting either the young-earth or old-earth model. Where do we see this principle of functionality expressed in the record of the six days? Walton uses the record of the third day as an example of the functionality motif. The third day records gathering of waters into one place and the earth producing vegetation.

It is amazing to notice as this point that some interpreters are troubled by their observation that God doesn’t make anything on day three. We can imagine their quandary—how can this be included in a creation account if God doesn’t make anything on this day? By this point in the book, the reader can see the solution easily. Day three is only a problem if this is an account of material origins. If it is understood as an account of functional origins, there is no need for God to make something. Instead, we ask what function(s) were set up, and to that question we find ready answers.[4]

The emphasis on the functional nature of day four—the luminaries—is obvious (“signs, seasons, days and years” are pertinent to humans), and realizing this should help, in Walton’s view, to ease the frustration experienced by those expecting to find some clarification on the problem of having light created in the first day, with the luminaries created on the fourth.

The text offers no indication of the material nature of the celestial bodies, and all it says of their material placement is that they are in the firmament/expanse.  This is, of course, problematic if one is trying to understand the text scientifically. On the functional side of the equation, we find that they separate day and night (thus the link to day one), that they provide light and that they serve for “signs, seasons, days and years.” Finally we are told that their function is to govern the day and night—the closest the text comes to personification.[5]

Generally speaking, Walton’s thesis that Genesis 1 has to do with function rather than origin makes good sense, although one does not necessarily rule out the other.[6] But to his point, the Israelites, as any other people group in the ancient Near East, would never have questioned the idea that the universe was created; a statement on the origin of things might not have been deemed necessary. Of course the universe was created and, of course, a divine being (in their case, the one true God) created it. What other possibility could there be? If Walton goes too far in denying any reference to material origins in the creation account, he correctly asserts that the author’s main intent is to describe how an already-existing earth (1:2; how long it had been is a question not addressed in the text) was made habitable for mankind by Yahweh, thus becoming a place in which humans could worship and serve their God.

Walton merges the idea of Yahweh entering his temple with the emphasis on the seventh day in the creation account, in which God comes to rest in his creation.

This is what makes day seven so significant, because without God taking up his dwelling in its midst, the (cosmic) temple does not exist. The most central truth to the creation account is that this world is a place for God’s presence. Though all of the functions are anthropocentric, meeting the needs of humanity, the cosmic temple is theocentric, with God’s presence serving as the defining element of existence.[7]

Temple and worship are themes that have often been noted in the creation account by Old Testament scholars. God’s command to Adam that he “cultivate and keep” the garden (1:27) has been seen as an implied reference to the tabernacle, both terms used regularly to describe the work of the Levites and priests. Sailhamer makes this observation, as do Wenham[8] and Mathews[9] in their commentaries on Genesis. Sailhamer feels that it is justified to translate “cultivate and keep” by “worship and obey.”  While this may push the point too far, it highlights the larger idea that “Man’s life in the garden was to be characterized by worship and obedience.  He was to be a priest, not merely a worker and keeper of the garden.”[10]  For a fuller discussion and defense of this position, see Walton’s more detailed treatment of this in his commentary on Genesis.[11]

Also highlighting the seventh day is a literary feature of the text that has been the subject of much study and controversy, the so-called “framework hypothesis.”

The Parallel Arrangement of the Framework Hypothesis[12]

 

Hamilton begins his commentary on Genesis 1-2 by observing, “It is obvious that the first six days fall into two groups of threes. Each day in the second column is an extension of its counterpart in the first column. The days in the first column are about the creation (or preparation) of environment or habitat.”[13] He includes the following table that serves to highlight the seventh day.

 Day                                       Day
1 light                                  4 luminaries
2 heavens                           5 fish, birds
3 earth, vegetation            6 land animals, man
                                             Day 7 the Sabbath

 

For a fuller discussion of this literary feature, see Mathews[14] and Wenham, who notes in days three and six “a double pronouncement of the divine word ‘And God said’ (vv 9, 11, 24, 26) and the approval formula twice (vv 10, 12, 25, 31), so that they correspond to each other formally.”[15] For the idea of the second set of three filling the first set with inhabitants, see especially Hughes.[16] See also Collins’s discussion of this literary feature[17] as well as a brief summary of it by Lennox.[18]

The “framework hypothesis” (see footnote 13) continues to be examined and evaluated without a consensus on what precisely the author intended to convey by it. One need not, as do Walton, Collins and others, dismiss the possibility of six normal 24-hour days, but it cannot reasonably be denied that the six days were intentionally arranged in this fashion. However, if uncertainty exists (it does!) about the significance of the parallel structure of the six days, one thing is abundantly clear—in structuring the six days in this way, the Sabbath is given the pride of place that the author intended it to have. This is the heart of the creation account.

Having identified what the main point of the creation account is, we must now consider what the text does not say. The text does not intend to inform us as to the age of the universe and planet Earth. The text is thus not necessarily opposed to any scientific view on the age of the universe, nor does it necessarily support any view of the age of the universe. This, then, is an important admission to make for those who see young-earth creationism as an essential tenet of evangelical faith: the Genesis account of creation does not necessarily preclude an old-universe model.

The Creation Account does not Preclude an Ancient Universe

The young-earth creationist view is based in part on the determination that nothing precedes the six days of creation in Genesis 1. Thus, “In the beginning” signals the beginning of day one. But this is not necessitated by the text itself for a number of reasons, which can only be summarized here. First, it is clear that the six days do not begin with verses 1, 2 but with verse 3. The days are clearly delineated by the formula beginning with “And God said” and ending with “And there was evening and morning, a — day.” None of this appears in vv. 1, 2. This begins only with verse 3, not with verse 1. We find, then, the record of an initial act of creation followed by the six days of making the earth habitable for mankind. Some amount of time (how much is not stated) elapsed between verses 1, 2 and verse 3.[19]

Secondly, the account of the six days concerns the earth and only the earth, not the universe: “The earth was formless and void” begins verse 2, which serves as a transition to the account of the six days. Stars are mentioned in the fourth day, but only in the context of the sun and moon being sources of light for the earth. So when did God create the myriad of galaxies that make up the universe? When did he create the Milky Way, which had to be in place for our sun’s Earth and its moon to have their place? A natural reading of the text would place the record of God creating the galaxies, including our own solar system, in the opening statement: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (1:1). With this reading, the galaxies and the earth could have been around for billions of years before God began his work of making the earth habitable for mankind.

Thirdly, the Hebrew word translated “beginning” in 1:1 (רֵאשִׁית, rēshīt) is quite imprecise.[20] It does not help us to determine when the heavens and earth were created. It tells us nothing about how long ago that beginning was, or, more to the point, how long the beginning extended. It only does if we assume that “beginning,” is contemporaneous with the first day of creation. This connection of רֵאשִׁית with the first day, however, is not necessitated by the text.

These observations about the text do not rule out the possibility that the universe, including the earth and its solar system, could have existed for billions of years before God moved to make it habitable for mankind. But even if Genesis 1:1 is not interpreted as a separate act of creation, viewing it instead as a summary of the six days, the opening phrase “in the beginning,” because it does not necessarily refer to a point in time, could still allow for the possibility that the universe and earth existed for billions of years before the six days of creation. This is not to say that the six days of creation took billions of years, but that “in the beginning” could include billions of years before the six days of “creation” (making the existing earth habitable) take place.

We return to Nelson and Reynolds’s epistemological goal of concordance between biblical knowledge on one hand and scientific knowledge on the other. Their rejection of an old-earth cosmology was based not on a lack of scientific evidence—they believe that science has provided a  “very plausible” case for an old universe—but rather on their conviction that such a view entailed “a less natural reading” of the text. I have purposely avoided discussion of the scientific evidence in support of an old earth, assuming as I have that Nelson and Reynolds’s assessment is correct that science has made a “very plausible” case for an old universe. Indeed, it has.[21]  I have attempted only to show that a “natural reading” of the text does not necessarily rule out an old-universe view. This should resonate with all evangelicals. We should all want to be spared the embarrassment of discovering that we have painted ourselves into a “Copernican” corner by having dismissed verifiable, objective lines of scientific evidence because we have made the Genesis creation account to say something that it does not say.

In conclusion, two benefits surface for evangelicals in this approach to Genesis 1-2. The first is to recognize that the primary function of the creation account relates to the Sinaitic Covenant in general, and the Sabbath command in particular. God has entered his temple-rest and He invites His people to enter into His rest, experiencing the joy and fulfillment of worshiping the creator of all. The account serves as an invitation, but also as a warning to the Israelites assembled at the foot of Sinai—God’s rest is to be enjoyed only by repentance and faith in him. If we miss this, we miss it all.

The second benefit of understanding the creation account in this manner is the freedom that results from it. We will be freed from the insistence that young-earth creationism enjoy “absolute” status in our statements of faith, dictating thereby who is faithful to God and his Word and who is not. We will be freed from this becoming a test of fellowship among believers. This continues to be a divisive issue among sincere, faithful Christians; this ought not to be. Understanding the creation account in this way will also free us to continue searching for evidences of the age of the earth and the universe, without fear of where the evidence may lead us.

 


[1] Nelson, Paul and Reynolds, John Mark. “Young Earth Creationism.” Three Views on Creation and Evolution. J. P. Moreland and John Mark Reynolds, eds. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1999, 72.

[2] Ibid., 73.

[3] Walton, John H. The Lost World of Genesis One—Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate. Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 2009, 145-46.

[4] Walton, Lost World, 57.

[5] Walton, Lost World, 62-63.

[6] Lennox, John C. Seven Days That Divide the World. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2011. See “Appendix B: The Cosmic Temple View,” an analysis of Walton’s view, 130-49.

[7] Walton, Lost World, 83-84.

[8] Wenham, Gordon J. Genesis 1-15. Word Biblical Commentary. David A. Hubbard and Glenn W. Barker, General Editors. Vol. 1. Waco, Texas: Word Books, Publisher, 1987, 67.

[9] Mathews, Kenneth A. Genesis 1-11:26. The New American Commentary. E. Ray Clendenen, General Editor, Vol. 1A. Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996, 209-10.

[10] Sailhamer, John. Genesis Unbound—A Provocative New Look at the Creation Account. Sisters, Oregon: Multnomah Books, 1996, 76.

[11] Walton, John H. Genesis. The NIV Application Commentary. Terry Muck, General Editor. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 2001, 172-4.

[12] I use the term “framework hypothesis” because I know of no other term to describe the parallelism of the days. Some see this literary device as evidence that the six days are not literal days, or that there are only three days, not six. I do not.

[13] Hamilton, Victor P. Handbook on the Pentateuch. Second Edition. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2005, 21.

[14] Mathews, 144.

[15] Wenham, 6.

[16] Hughes, R. Kent. Genesis—Beginning and Blessing. Preaching the Word Series. Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books (Good News Publishers, 2004, 24-25.

[17] Collins, C. John. Genesis 1-4. New Jersey: P&R Publishing Company, 2006 73-74.

[18] Seven Days, 52-53.

[19] See, for example, the reasoning by Lennox in Seven Days,171-72.

[20] For typical uses of this term, see Gen. 10:10: “the b. of [Nimrod’s] kingdom was Babel and Erech and Accad and Calneh, in the land of Shinar;” Deut. 11:12: “the b. of the year;” Job 8:7; 42:12: Job’s b. = the first part of his life as compared to the latter part of his life; Prov. 17:14: “the b. of strife is like letting out water;” Eccl. 7:8: the end is better than the b.; Isa. 46:10: Yahweh “declaring the end from the b;” Jer. 28:1: “in the b. of the reign of Zedekiah king of Judah, in the fourth year;” Hos. 9:10: “I saw your forefathers as the earliest fruit on the fig tree in its b;” Mic. 1:13: “Lachish was the b. of sin for Judah.”

[21] For reading in this area, I would recommend as a starting place Portraits of Creation, edited by Howard J. Van Til (Eerdmans, 1990), for studies from a Christian and scientific viewpoint on various geological formations supporting old earth chronology (chapter 3, “The Discovery of Terrestrial History,” 26-81), astronomical observations supporting the current thinking that the universe is around 14 billion years old (chapter 4, “The Scientific Investigation of Cosmic History,” 82-125), and responses to popular claims of creation scientists supporting a young earth, such as the shrinking sun, footsteps of dinosaurs and humans in the same track, etc. (chapter 6, “A Critique of the Creation Science Movement,” 166-202).  See also Christianity and the Age of the Earth by Christian geologist Davis A. Young (Zondervan, 1982) for more on geological support for an old earth (chapters 2-6) and a not-too-technical discussion of radiometric dating (chapter 7), a refutation of creation scientists’ argument related to the earth’s magnetic field (chapter 8) and geochemical arguments that support an old earth (chapter 9). For a briefer summary of the cosmic (astronomical) arguments in support of an old universe, I recommend Genesis One and the Origin of the Earth by Newman and Eckelmann, Jr. (Hatfield, PA. Interdisciplinary Biblical Research Institute, 1977), 15-53 and two appendices, Appendix 2: Primeval Chronology (105-24); and Appendix 3: How Long is the Sixth Day? (125-35). Hugh Ross, in his Creation and Time (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1994), has two short but helpful chapters, chapter 9, “Scientific Evidences for the Universe’s Age” (91-102) and chapter 10, “Is There Scientific Evidence for a Young Universe?” (103-18), in which he evaluates a number of oft-heard evidences for a young earth.

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A Discussion of Creation for Christian Learners of Science

I did not want to write this article.  Rather, I wish the need for me to write this article did not exist.  As far as I am concerned, my life was going on just fine, albeit extremely busy.  Having said that, let me admit that I believe that I needed to write this article, to help lift a growing burden off my heart.  Hopefully, there is at least one other person out there who benefits besides me, and I pray ultimately that God receives greater glory for it.

Though the target audience is explicitly Christian learners of science, the desired audience is all who may be curious about how the Christian faith intersects with science.  Ever since Christ died, and rose again, there have been many who have tried to force God’s truths into a faulty worldview.  This is especially true in this modern age of science.  So, let this essay be at least a small step toward bringing the dialogue to its proper place, under the authority of God.

What this Article Isn’t / What It Is

My approach in this article may be different than expected.  Some of the arguments may be familiar due to the nature of the topics addressed.  However, much is likely to seem out of place, perhaps odd and maybe even unscientific.  That, in part, is due to my background.  I am a chemist and educator by trade and by calling; I am not a licensed theologian, apologist, or biologist.

In an effort to “make a difference in this world for Jesus Christ” (Corban University’s mission), this undertaking is intended to be bold.  It has challenged me because it opens me up to criticism.  However, it is God I am to serve, not man (Eph. 6:7).  I wish to hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matt. 25:23).  So, while I do not wish to experience negative backlash typically experienced by those who venture into this realm, I am called to be courageous.  I will endeavor to speak “the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15) as best as this imperfect creation can.

This article could be considered a brief treatise.  As such, some groundwork needs to be laid. First I will address my own premises, assumptions, and approach.  Next I will explore the foundational context in which the arguments regarding creation and evolution are either encouraged or dismissed.  The context includes worldviews, faith, and social pressures.  After that I will present some of the arguments regarding evolution vs. creation, including arguments from both sides, looking at some strengths and weaknesses of each.  The discussion is then extended to consider the conflict of these two worldviews and the ramifications of each side’s stance. In addition,  Appendix A includes information about the origin of the universe, and Appendix B contains information about radiometric dating.Premise, Assumptions, and Approach

The following premises, assumptions and approach are fairly fundamental and conservative. This is intentional.  Reminder: This is not so much a debate as it is a treatise.  It is not my job to persuade you.  It is the work of the Holy Spirit on your heart that does the persuading.  I am simply presenting the truth as best I understand it, sowing seeds if you will.  This is my act of obedience to a Divine Creator.

Some points of discussion and debate on the topic of evolution versus creation are more fundamental than others.  Instead of beginning with what I think are common stances and arguments, I would like to enter the discussion with the thought process I share with my students. I start with a broad brush statement under which everything else I say exists.  I start with Paul. “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2 ESV).  I believe the context behind this statement is that prior to this Paul had been debating and stating his case to the Athenians with minimal effectiveness.  After that, he decided not to try to debate his way to converting people to Christ.  In similar form, then, I say the same.  I state this truth and the reader can accept it or not.  I may sow the seed, but I trust the Holy Spirit to work the field of the heart of the reader, to soften it, make it receptive to the truth.

I have a relatively short set of “truth statements” against which every piece of evidence is tested.  If it goes against the statement, then either the evidence is in error, or the interpretation of what the evidence means is in error.  The statements go something like this:  As Christians, we believe that Christ rose from death for the purpose of restoring people to proper relationship to God.  The relationship was broken when Adam sinned against God by disobeying Him.  God created mankind through Adam and Eve, to live in perfect harmony with Him in Paradise.  So, as it relates to the evolution/creation discussion, if there is no creation, there is no fall and thus no need for restoration through the death and resurrection of Jesus; ergo, there is no basis for Christianity.   To expand on these truth statements a bit, I offer the following list of assumptions from which I am working.

1)      Truth exists and it is knowable
2)      The mentioning of God refers to the God of the Bible
3)      The Bible is God’s divine word to mankind, His creation
4)      The Bible is true and inerrant.  It speaks directly to many issues, and to many issues what it says and means is clear (e.g. murder).  There are many issues to which the Bible does not speak as directly or clearly (e.g., computer technology).  On these issues, people are left to try to interpret the meaning.  Since people make mistakes, it is important to acknowledge this and provide interpretations with appropriate humility.
5)      God has provided evidence that He is the Creator throughout His creation, explicitly through His word and implicitly through His creation, (e.g., plants, animals, mountains).
6)      God created all that exists for His good pleasure, His glory, and called it good.
7)      Man, whom he created to share life with, to walk with, disobeyed God and mankind thereafter suffered pain and death.  However, even before man’s betrayal, God made a plan to restore this relationship.  That plan was through Jesus Christ.
8)      There exists an enemy to God.  His name is Satan.  He desires to destroy man and man’s relationship with God.  He is waging a war against God; this battle is a spiritual battle, but it affects every life in the physical world.
9)      Jesus a real person, the person referred to in the Bible as God’s only Son, who lived a blameless life, who died a sinner’s death on a cross, who rose from the dead, who now sits at the right hand of God, who came to restore all people into proper relationship with God the Father.

  1. Without Jesus being who the Bible says He is, this whole treatise falls apart.  Actually, according to Scripture, the whole of the universe falls apart (Col. 1:17).
  2. Jesus did speak on matters related to creation.  However, they might be considered indirect, and have led to differences in interpretation which make it challenging to argue definitively.

None of us have perfect knowledge.  Only God knows it all.  However, I have chosen to assume that God is correct and that any errors must be on the side of man.  Someday we may understand these mysteries.

I have tried to set out the premises and assumptions that influence my approach to the topic of evolution and creation.  I understand that to non-believers, pretty much everything presented so far would be considered “foolishness” (1 Cor. 2:14).  I understand that, and if I were them, I would have the same logic and come to the same conclusion.  I get that.  I do not fault them for that.  I am simply sharing the good news of creation to open eyes and hearts to the Creator… to show that without God (which is the premise of evolution), there is no purpose in life and that with God, a loving God, every person is loved, yea even cherished and for whom He has a specific purpose.

Before we look at specific creation versus evolution questions, I want to explore the importance of a person’s worldview and how worldview impacts our interpretation of data.

Foundation and Context – Worldviews

Worldview drives the interpretation of the information and data below.  One’s worldview (or Weltanschauungen),[1] the way one sees and understands the world, is the filter through which all new information is interpreted and brought into alignment.  Worldview as a concept speaks to the values, beliefs and faith upon which people make sense of their lives and their role in the world.  As a result, at one level, one can say every person has his or her own belief system.  Though each person may have a unique set of beliefs, it is also true that people tend to group together with those of similar worldviews.  The worldviews of two groups can be diametrically opposite each other, explaining how two people can see the same set of data, yet interpret it differently.

It is vital to understand that at the core of each person’s worldview, no matter what worldview they may hold, is faith–a trust based on something beyond the senses.  In this regard atheism and agnosticism are belief systems just as Christianity.  They, too, have assumptions and a faith-dependent nature at their core.  It is also helpful to understand that an individual’s worldview is constantly being tested and possibly refined, especially in matters regarding self-identity.

People are curious creations.  It is normal for people to be curious about their world and their role in it.  “Who am I?  Where did I come from?  What is my purpose in life?”  These are questions that one’s worldview helps to answer.  People’s faith therein serves to provide understanding, stability, and hopefully peace in their lives.  It is no wonder that heated and emotional discussions and debates occur between people of significantly different worldviews, as these may challenge the foundation of their understanding of their world and existence, thus unsettling their sense of identity.  More often than not, when people’s worldviews are threatened, they will do what they need to do to protect themselves.  They may attack the opposing view or they may retreat from further discourse.  Sometimes, they may carefully listen and consider changing or adjusting their own worldview.  However, this is more easily accomplished if they are not feeling threatened.

Many worldviews can coexist with each other quite well.  Some like to think they can, but cannot.  So, keeping the importance of worldview in mind, let’s look at some of the specific issues involved in the evolution versus creation debate.

Origins: Evolution vs. Creation

The fundamental premise behind the theory of evolution is that ultimately the origin of life arose from random events and is therefore devoid of a Creator and subsequently purposeless, except perhaps to simply pass on genetic information.  It is perfectly logical for those who hold to an evolutionary belief to think that those who are Christian (or have faith in any religion) are basically just trying to make themselves feel better.  Well, I admit, I do feel better having Christ as my Savior, but that does not mean it is not true.

Some non-Creator evolutionists might say, “Prove to me that God exists!”  While that may seem to be an attack–in fact it might actually be an attack–it is, on another level, a perfectly reasonable and logical challenge.  People are curious and desire to understand who they are, where they come from and why they exist.  Ironically, if the question is turned around, they would not be able to provide the answer.  For example, “Prove to me that life spontaneously generated randomly.”  Though scientists have tried, it has never been done.  The standard response is, “All you need is time.”  Their premise is that the universe is billions of years old.  To which I would say, there simply is not and never will be enough time for life to randomly and spontaneously generate.  It is statistically a non-self-starter.  The odds are simply stacked too much against it, even under the most ideal set of conditions of temperature, pressure, and ingredients.  It would be even more difficult for life to spontaneously generate under the high energy, radiation, and chaotic environment of most of the universe.

The laws of the universe are against it too.  The trend in the universe is toward entropy.  Even the odds of a very simple hypothetical case of the molecules of sugar dissolved in a cup of tea coalescing into a sugar cube are essentially zero. The odds quickly become less likely the more complicated the system.   Even if there is a local decrease in entropy, it cannot last long.  Life is a constant struggle against entropy.  When life is over, entropy quickly takes over.  So, if entropy dominates, how could life start itself?  The answer is simple: it cannot.

In some sense, if life cannot get started randomly, then the argument is already over.  However, let’s say that some self-replicating molecules got started.  Some use self-replicating RNA as a foundation from which the rest of evolution progressed.  Even at this point, however, the arguments provided before–odds and entropy–make it impossible.  There are too many steps and the environment is too hazardous.

Let’s look at this from another vantage—the concept of irreducible complexity.   There are some organisms that have components that even in their simplest state are quite complex and could not have come about randomly.  The human eye has been used as an example of an irreducibly complex structure.[2]  In order to see, there must be a lens, a retina, a cornea, etc. These must all come into being at the same time to function properly.  The eye will not work if any single component is missing.  The odds against the random assembly of the critical components are once again nigh impossible.  The implication is that eyes must have been “designed,” which necessarily points to a creator.  Of course, I am not using this particular example as an argument for a Creator.  I have already stated that my premise is that there is a Creator.  I am, however, using this as example against random generation of life, aka evolution.

There are many other subtopics and points argued and debated.  Again, the reader is encouraged to research those as compelled to do so.  For more irreducible complexity, investigate rotary motors in the bacterium flagellum,[3] or a brief article on the probability of life.[4]  I, however, would like to bring worldview philosophy back into this discussion to demonstrate how worldview is so foundational.

One who believes in evolution might bring in data and statistics to support evolutionary relationships.  For example, humans are genetically more similar to monkeys than to dolphins; therefore humans are more closely related to monkeys evolutionarily.  Based on this, it could be said, humans come from apes.  This is the logical conclusion derived from the evolutionary worldview lens.  However, the same data, viewed through a creation worldview lens might be explained in a radically different way.  Of course the genetic makeup is very close between apes and humans; it is logical and consistent with creation.  First of all, all organisms are built from the same building blocks, DNA.  Since the physical structure of an ape is quite similar to that of a human, then naturally its DNA (building blocks) will closely match.

The evolutionist might respond as follows: “But the DNA is not just similar; it’s almost identical at a 98.5% match.”  Some creationist might counter with, “The latest data puts it at about 95% match.”  I do not have a problem with either of these numbers.  According to the creation worldview lens I mentioned, a high percent match is perfectly reasonable, even expected.  I would say that there is a lot of critical/fundamental difference in that 1.5-5%.  Let me use an example that may or may not be oversimplified.  If I could make a model of a chimpanzee from 9,500 lego pieces, I could probably make a model of a human with 10,000 of the same pieces.  I just need the right 500 more pieces.

It is the worldview that drives the interpretation of the information and data.  If you know the worldview of a person in this discussion, then you can generally predict where he or she is going to land on any of the topics.  So, it is important to know and understand your own worldview first, and then it is helpful to understand the worldview of the other person in the discussion.

Christian Worldview

On that note, I would like to look at the Christian worldview lens and say a few things that I do not think most Christians say or even think about when they approach this discussion.  If the God of the Bible is true, then He is omnipotent.  He created the universe and everything in it.  His Son, Jesus, rose from the grave, conquering even death!  Then nothing, absolutely nothing is impossible for Him.  Then anything is possible for Him.  This means, in regard to this topic, that if there is something that seems strange, not likely, or impossible to us, that is simply our own limited understanding or beliefs getting in the way.

Perhaps, my mentioning this is more to address fellow Christians than non-believers.   For example, there is a prevailing trend for Christians to accommodate creation models that parallel evolution.  This may include significant concessions, such as viewing Adam and Eve as archetypal representations of man rather than as literal people.  As I admitted up front, I am not smart enough to know the answers to everything.  I was not there at creation.  I was not even around at the birth of my own country, which is a very young country.  I also have not spent countless hours researching and trying to determine whether Adam and Eve were literal people or figurative.  However, I stand by my premises and truth statements.  I also challenge my fellow Christians to open their minds to the possibilities that exist with an omnipotent God.  Even if the evidence appears to support an old age earth or universe, is it not possible that appearances not line up with our interpretation?  Who am I to put constraints on God?

You may notice that I did not measure the success of this discussion using the devices used by evolutionists, for example Occam’s razor.[5]  That in some sense would be playing by their rules.  In so doing, one might be giving too much merit to their strategy.  I do not need to do that.  Actually, I do not have a problem with the tool.  I believe the same tool could be used in support of creation.  As with tools, however, their power comes not from the tools themselves but from the hands that wield them.  Remember, I am not arguing so much as presenting the Good News through this topic both to non-believers and to believers who may have forgotten how big their God is.

Lastly, I would like to address another area that I do not see discussed much–the ramifications of these two worldview positions.  Though on the individual and personal level we may coexist and get along peacefully at this moment, there are distinctly different logical trajectories and termini both individually and societally.  Though this topic is by itself larger than this article, I will attempt to at least introduce it for the reader’s consideration.

A society based on the creation worldview believes that God is good, man has fallen, Jesus has come to restore, God loves all people, all people are valuable, and we are to show love to all people.  Just using these premises, one can predict the nature of this kind of society.  It is the kind of society that can build a country without a king, with citizens that have freedoms never before shared, that prospers to become the envy of the word, where nations are blessed through its generosity and strength.

A society based on an evolutionary worldview believes there is no god, except perhaps that man is God, where man can design society in his image, where laws are used to shape and dictate society, where power is king and God is a threat to that power, where increasing one’s self comes at the expense of others, but that does not matter because other peoples’ lives do not matter (since life is random and purposeless).  Life is controlled cradle to grave.  Abortions and euthanasia are the norm.  Technology keeps up with the pace of greed and power… leading to wars, genocide, and self-inflicted extinction.  One has but to pay attention to recent years and decades to see the trend of this country to see how it correlates to the shift in worldview.

Going Forward

The topic of origins is obviously important for individuals to wrestle with, and come to terms with, in their own faith journey, but we are wise to remember along the way that this is a volatile area of inquiry.  The Enemy is strong in this area.  A quick search for online information and dialogue on this topic may surprise, confuse, and overwhelm the unprepared.  Remember, there is a real and serious spiritual war being waged, and this topic is on the front lines of the battle.  It is best to come ready, and we should remember that we are to speak the truth in love, but sometimes the truth is the hardest thing to say or hear, such as the following: regarding the knowledge of God’s existence, all are without excuse. (Rom. 1:20)

As with all discussions and debates, it takes time and effort to sort through and discard the   irrelevant and distracting information and emerge with the critical material. The field is too broad for me to be an expert in all areas and for me to provide an exhaustive list of where to start, but there is no shortage of material available.  I would suggest starting with a topic that is most compelling for you.  There are many resources whose stance is explicitly and intentionally against the creationist worldview.  So those resources are readily available, and worthy of the time you take to understand their stances, rationale, arguments, etc.  The resources supporting a creationist worldview are also available.  A decent place to start on virtually any creation related topic is answersingenesis.org.[6]

More importantly it is vital to keep immersed in the Bible, strengthening your knowledge and wisdom with its content.  Everything is tested against it.  Some answers may be easy and straight forward, while others may not be directly discernible.  However, nothing should stand that stands in clear conflict with it.

Stand strong.  These times are challenging. “You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved” (Matt. 10:22 NIV). The conservative worldview is under constant and increasing attack in all areas of life.  Take heart.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds,  because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:2-4 NIV)

Be aware that society is drifting away from the moorings of God and His truths.  Be wary of yourself, too, so as not to drift away.  The enemy is cunning, but we are called to be more so.  “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves” (Matt. 10:16 NIV).  Remember that you are not alone.  Though the current battles may be difficult and painful, the victory is already won.  God created the world and called it good.  Let us help Him keep it that way.

Hopefully, readers have been both challenged and blessed by my struggling efforts.  There are certainly many related areas not covered, like micro and macroevolution, natural selection, etc.  I wish I were better versed to offer more.  However, at this moment, I must allow the work to stand on its own merits.  I hope and pray that each reader gets at least one good thing out of reading my arguments and testimony.

 

Appendix A:  Origin of the Universe

  1. Theory: Big Bang: The universe is ~13.8 billion years old.  It was created in a single large explosive event that is the source of all matter and energy.
  2. Creation Stances:
    1. Old Earth/Universe Creation: Accepts scientific premise that universe is old, but states that God was the source of the Big Bang.  Many versions of theory exist, generally varying on the degree to which God has been involved since then.
    2. Young Earth/Universe Creation: Contends that he universe was created much more recently, on the scale of thousands of years.  Though there is variance here, many versions rely on a literal interpretation of the Biblical accounts in the beginning of Genesis.
    3. My thoughts on this topic are consistent with those presented earlier.  I was not there.  My God is big and powerful enough to make the universe however He sees fit.  Any observation that does not fit within the “truth statements” offered before are either erroneous in and of themselves, or the error is in our understanding and/or interpretation.  Having said that, there are origin questions that the Big Bang Theory does not answer that have importance.  A few are, “How did the Big Bang start?  What was before that?  Is time constant?”
    4. Resources: Mapping the Origins Debate: Six Models of the Beginning of Everything, by Gerald Rau,[7] is a nice resource to get an overview of many of the evolution vs. creation topics, including the stances of six positions along the evolution/creation spectrum.

 

Appendix B:  Radiometric Dating

  1. Theory: Radioactive elements can be used to determine the age of an object.  The half-life of an element is unique to that element, ranging from fractions of a second to billions of years. Here are some examples: The half-life of uranium-238 is 4.47 billion years, radium-226 is 1,600 years, bismuth-210 is 5.01 days, polonium-218 is 3.05 minutes, polonium-214 is 0.000164 seconds.[8]
  2. Creation Stances:
    1. Old Earth/Universe Creation: Accepts scientific premise that half-lives are a reliable technique for dating objects.
    2. Young Earth/Universe Creation: Questions the reliability, due to underlying assumptions, for example, that time is constant, that the rates of decay observed today are the same as they have always been.  There is growing evidence in the frontiers of physics that question these assumptions.  For example, researchers from Stanford and Purdue University have noticed cyclical fluctuations in radioactive decay rates and have theorized that they may be related to neutrino emissions from the core of the sun.[9]
    3. My Thoughts: Though humans are smart, and try diligently to understand the universe, our time and physical context of the universe is extremely limited.  Though I believe it is good and correct to pursue and theorize regarding the physical evidence as it relates to origins, I also believe it is wise to acknowledge that the current understanding and theories have underlying assumptions that constantly need to be checked and perhaps modified.  I am not saying that the current decay rates are not what they are.  I am saying that the nature of the universe, no matter which worldview one holds, was likely dramatically different during the formative stages and that it is possible that concepts considered constant today, were far different then.

 

 

 

 


[1] Philosophical term representing a comprehensive conception of the world especially from a specific standpoint. quantities (Merriam-Webster online dictionary. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/).

[2] Michael J. Behe, Darwin’s Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution, New York: The Free Press, 1997

[3] Jonathan M, “The Bacterial Flagellum – Truly An Engineering Marvel!,” Uncommon Descent, (Dec. 24, 2010): http://www.uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/the-bacterial-flagellum-truly-an-engineering-marvel/.

[4] Dominic Stratham, “Hawking claims that life can happen by chance,” Creation Magazine, (Oct. 13, 2010): http://creation.com/hawking-aliens-life-by-chance.

[5] A scientific and philosophic rule that entities should not be multiplied unnecessarily which is interpreted as requiring that the simplest of competing theories be preferred to the more complex or that explanations of unknown phenomena be sought first in terms of known quantities (Merriam-Webster online dictionary. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/)

[6] “Article Archives,” Answers in Genesis, accessed September 12, 2013, http://www.answersingenesis.org/get-answers/daily-articles.

[7] Gerald Rau, Mapping the Origins Debate: Six Models of the Beginning of Everything. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2012.

[8] “Radiation and Life” World Nuclear Association, December 2012, http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/Safety-and-Security/Radiation-and-Health/Radiation-and-Life/, Figure in “Half-life” section.

[9] Dan Stober, “The strange case of solar flares and radioactive elements,” Stanford Report, August 23, 2010, http://news.stanford.edu/news/2010/august/sun-082310.html.

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Creation Reflection

In the beginning there was dust:  an ocean of it.  The dust lacked form, lacked life.  This grieved God, who then cried amidst the dust until there was mud below, and mud above: a wobbling firmament of mud.  God brooded over that mud, breathed over it, and then mud became man.

Some time passed.  Men-from-mud began to misbehave.  Egregiously.    Feeling the pain of his hands’ work, God grieved.   It was a larger grief than that first one, the one that poured form into dust.  This grief was shaped by the recollection of specific evils, harm that his creation had worked upon each other and the terrible knowledge that it would continue.  This grief was not of the nutritive sort.  And God knew it.  God cried for his creation that would not be able to withstand his sorrow.  The lives that those lives might have engendered, if given more time—he lamented for them, too.  He cried because sorrow was so often a lop-sided engagement:  people rarely grieve together for the same reasons at the same time and with the exact same measure of sorrow.  Sorrow is unique, and therefore, misunderstood.

Which is why God had sent a series of preemptive rescues:  flotation device experts offering in-home inspections at absolutely no charge to all who said yes.  Samples large and small:  butterfly wings, life jackets, neon colored foam noodles.  Then came the flotilla of canoes, life rafts, inflatable porpoises and plastic crocodiles—also free.

But it had been hotter than blazes, the heat searing the color out of grass, wood, air.  The heat turned streets to rivers of tar.  It had been so hot, that no one could take seriously these gifts of air corralled in tensile materials approved for water sports and nautical adventures everywhere.  These offerings seemed like jokes in poor taste:  especially the admonition   repent!  How insulting—the implication that a sudden climactic change might have anything, anything at all do to with them.  This is what provoked homeowners and renters young and old to draw their blinds, bolt their doors, roll plugs of cotton into their ears.

At the sound of such unified refusal, such willed rejection, God’s sorrow increased exponentially. Neither casements of sky nor wellsprings of deep could contain it.  From above and below water rose and fell.  God, as he had in the beginning, hovered and brooded over the dark and roiling waters.  Days passed. Near Day 27 God brooded his way toward regret.  The floodwaters receded.  On Day 33 God remembered something—another incidence of human harm done purely for recreational purposes, and then he felt sorrow.  The floodwaters rose.  That’s how Godly sorrow works:  it ebbs and flows.  It’s like the breath of the breath of life.  There.  And then, at times, less there.  It’s enough to fool the uninitiated.

Which is the reason for the rainbow:  a reminder for those who would doubt the potency of sorrow.  A promise that should God become grieved in the heart at some later date, he’d not resort to tears.  Other reminders:  in low places, flats and sinks, places like Uzbekistan or, say, Oklahoma, God’s tears dried to salt.  Thirst.  Dust.  From time to time people dig in such places and find evidence of life before the big sorrow:  elongated fishes and fronds of plants stretched by the pressure of so much water.  They hold these   items in their hands, speak of them with wonder and awe.

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Mimicking God Is Beautiful and Dangerous

I was sitting on my couch at home with my earbuds in place watching a YouTube video of Dr. Nord. I had missed Corban’s first chapel of the semester and wanted to hear the message from our new President. Dr. Nord said, “My aim for the next ten minutes or so is to encourage serious…”[1] and then the video cut to a display of Dr. Nord’s words. I paused the video and read the words: “Encourage serious, faithful, humble…” I realized right then that I needed a reminder of Dr. Nord’s words lest I forget them too easily. I imagined a beautiful poster that I could mount on the wall above my desk.

I imagined.

God’s creative acts in Genesis one follow a pattern: “‘Let there be…’ and there was….” My imagination is the closest thing I have to “let there be.” With my imagination I can see a new kitchen for my wife, the finish line of a marathon, or a beautiful poster. Of course I can only see these things. They do not actually come into being just because I imagined them. The big difference between my imagination and God’s creative act is the outcome: “And there was…” My imagination is not followed by the immediate creation of the thing imagined. For that I need to take physical action.  God creates from nothing with a thought.[2] I re-form something with my physical actions. Re-form is an awkward way of saying that my creative act is not equivalent to God’s creative act. God truly creates. I mimic God by forming one thing from another thing. Mimicking God in this way is a necessary component of fulfilling our mandate to rule over the earth (Genesis 1:28).

When I arrived in my office the morning after watching Dr. Nord’s video I was still imagining a beautiful poster.  So I turned on my computer and opened an application. I selected a template and started playing with fonts as well as the sizes and spacing of letters. After several test prints I landed on the final form of my poster. I got some help printing my poster in color on heavy paper as well as in finding a frame. Finally, I hung my poster on the wall above my desk. It was good. I had mimicked God, and it was beautiful.

The technology I used to make my poster included a computer and two printers. This technology extended my physical actions and amplified my re-forming power. We often think of computers when using the word technology. Yet, technology includes more than computers.

One humorous definition divides technology into three categories: the normal stuff that was around before you were born; the really cool stuff that was invented before you turned thirty; and the end of the world stuff that came along after you turned thirty.[3] There is some truth in this humor. We can imagine the response of grandma in her carriage as a youngster drives his new automobile willy-nilly over the countryside. The automobile seemed like the end of the world for grandma. Of course not all technology is rejected by older generations. I doubt the graphite pencil caused much consternation for grandmas. Yet, there was undoubtedly a grandma who grew up without pencils with a granddaughter who enjoyed the convenience of the new pencil technology.

We can apply this deconstruction process to help us recognize all of the technology we use. You may not know when the shovel was invented, but it is fairly easy to imagine someone building the first shovel by attaching a stick to the scapula from an animal carcass. Voila! The new shovel technology was introduced. Buttons, wheels, eye glasses, maps, bags, hair brushes, paper, the list goes on and on. All of these items are technologies that have been introduced within human history. And, all of these technologies extend our physical actions and amplify our re-forming power.

So, my imagination plus my physical actions mimic God’s creative acts. This mimicking is necessary in order to fulfill our mandate to rule over the earth. And, technology helps us in this endeavor by extending our physical actions and amplifying our re-forming power. A fascinating example of this is the construction of the Tabernacle in Exodus 25 through 40. This example is fascinating because God directly participated in technology by specifying both the materials and the design as well as equipping the craftsmen. The materials included items that could be mined, such as gold and sapphire, as well as items that had to be manufactured, such as bronze and purple cloth. God showed Moses the design of the tabernacle (Genesis 25:40; Hebrews 8:5) and instructed him to use skilled craftsmen. God identified two specific craftsmen whom he had especially gifted, Bezalel and Oholiab, and then declared that he had given skill to all the craftsmen (Exodus 31:2, 6). God essentially said, “Use these materials to make this item in this way and employ these craftsmen to do it. I have prepared these craftsmen to do this work.” That is a lot of direct involvement in technology.

The Bible describes a number of other events where God was involved in technology. Old Testament examples include: the first clothing of Adam and Eve; the boat built by Noah; the bronze serpent in Numbers 21; The law requiring railing around the roof of a house (Deuteronomy 22:8); and the temple built by Solomon (1 Chronicles 28:19).

In the New Testament Jesus was directly involved with technology. The Greek word tέktwn (tektón) is used to describe the occupation of both Joseph (Matthew 13:55) and Jesus (Mark 6:3). A tέktwn was a craftsman who used wood. The skill or artisanship possessed by a craftsman was described by the Greek word tέχνη (tekhné). Paul’s tέχνη was tent making (Acts 18:3). Jesus’s tέχνη was tέktwn: Jesus’ skill was carpentry. Our word technology was formed from the word tέχνη and the suffix for the study of. Thus, the etymology of technology is more about the acquisition of a skill rather than the artifacts created. We retain some of this meaning in our use of the word technology. However, we more often use technology to refer to the things made: the artifacts of our labor.

Jesus was directly involved with technology. He was trained to use technology (e.g. perhaps hammers, augers, scribers, etc.) and to make technology (e.g. perhaps furniture, carts, framing, etc.). The technology that Jesus used extended his physical actions and amplified his re-forming power. Jesus was capable of creating an oxbow from nothing, but we have no evidence that he did this type of creating. Instead, the indication from Mark 6:3 is that Jesus was a typical tέktwn. Perhaps we should consider it surprising that his skill and status did not render his wooden creations highly collectable.

A curious example of Jesus and technology is the story of Peter catching a fish to pay a tax (Matthew 17:24-27). Jesus’ instructions were specific. He told Peter to throw in a fish hook, take the first fish, and pull a one shekel coin out of the mouth of the fish in order to pay the tax. Strange. Why use a fish hook in this miracle? Why not have Peter go look for a fish that had beached itself? Why use technology to facilitate the miracle? We have what appears to be a counter example in John 21:9. This verse describes Jesus on the shoreline cooking fish and bread over a fire. This story gives the impression that Jesus provided the fish and bread without using technology.

We know that Jesus had sufficient reasons for using or not using technology. We can even speculate on those reasons with some freedom. However, the point of these examples is to illustrate the positive role of technology in the Bible. God was involved with technology. He used it to fulfill his purpose in a number of situations. In these situations God provided the instructions and allowed technology to extend the physical actions and amplify the re-forming power of humans. In this, these people were mimicking God’s creative acts. This mimicking was commanded by God and facilitated by technology. And, it was deeply beautiful as a reflection of God.

However, not all mimicking of God’s creative acts in the Bible were directly commanded by God. The basket that held Moses, Joseph’s coat, David’s sling, the clay jar continually replenished with oil (1 Kings 17:14), the alabaster vial that held the perfume used to anoint Jesus’ feet (Luke 7:37-38), the garments made by Dorcas (Acts 9:39), and the myriad of common artifacts such as plows, garments, carts, baskets, homes, pottery, and blankets that appear throughout the Bible are all examples of human creativity that mimicked God’s creative acts. Someone, perhaps David himself, imagined his sling and then took physical action to re-form leather into a sling. This leather had already been re-formed from animal skin. Both of these re-formings required a knife, which itself was a re-formed object. All of this re-forming required technology and produced technology that extended the physical actions and amplified the re-forming power of the people involved. It mimicked God’s creative acts. It helped in fulfilling the mandate to rule over the earth. And, it was deeply beautiful as a reflection of God.

Mimicking God is beautiful.

And, dangerous.

Up to this point I have discussed only the beauty of mimicking God’s creative acts and the role of technology in those efforts. My intent is to have you think more deeply about the positive role of technology in the Bible, the positive role of technology in extending our physical actions and amplifying our re-forming power, as well as the positive role of technology in helping us fulfil our mandate to rule over the earth. However, I do not want us to miss the danger.

The obvious examples in the Bible of the dangers of mimicking God include the city and tower of Babel (Genesis 11) as well as the many instances of idols. A more intriguing example is the temple. David desired to build the temple, but God said no (2 Samuel 7). This came as a great blow to David, yet his prayer is a moving account of his submission to God. We know the temple and its artifacts as technology were not evil. After all, God had Solomon build them. The danger was in the possibility of disobeying God in regard to leadership and timing. David could have proceeded to build the temple and in so doing his mimicking of God’s creative acts would have violated God. This violation would not have been because the technology looked or functioned differently than God intended. The potential violation and danger were not in the end result but in the process of getting to the end result. God had sanctioned the end result (1 Chronicles 28:19), and he had sanctioned a process for achieving that result. Of course this is not always the case. The many examples of idols in the Bible illustrate the dangers of the end result: the dangers of technology that violates God.

Mimicking God is beautiful and dangerous. The danger is real. But, so is the beauty. Mimicking God is dangerous if it violates God. Yet, mimicking God is deeply beautiful as a reflection of God. My imagination plus my physical actions mimic God’s creative acts. This mimicking is necessary in order to fulfill our mandate to rule over the earth. Technology helps us in this endeavor by extending our physical actions and amplifying our re-forming power. Technology extends and amplifies the beauty and the danger.[4]

I am including my beautiful poster for your enjoyment and edification.

Poster

 

 

 

 

 


[1] Sheldon Nord, “Corban University Chapel – August 28, 2013.” YouTube video. Location 09:26. Accessed September 12, 2013. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z-WXlwJja88.

[2] Strong’s H559 is translated as thought 17 times in the NASB. I am not proposing that thought would be a better translation of H559 in Genesis one. I am offering a comparison between what God did and what we can do.

[3] Douglas Adams, “How to Stop Worrying and Love the Internet,” The Sunday Times, August 29, 1999. Accessed September 12, 2013. http://www.douglasadams.com/dna/19990901-00-a.html.

[4] I highly recommend John Dyer, From the Garden to the City: The Redeeming and Corrupting Power of Technology (Kregel, 2011) for those interested in further pursuing the study of technology from a biblical perspective.

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