Aug 15

Brother Dennis opened up some thought processes when he made some comments regarding a book that I reviewed by Dempski called The End of Christianity. In particular, he comments on God sticking His fingers into the process of Creation/Evolution by saying “This is a key issue between intelligent-design theorists and evolutionary creationists. Why God should have to tinker with the creation after he establishes the laws of the universe along with initial conditions is unclear. Has he not gotten it right from the start?”.

Simultaneous with Dennis’ comments, I receive an e-mail from NH, a physician and Christian thinker whom I respect dearly. His note is as follows…

“I would commend to you a careful reading of these two items:

http://www.modernreformation.org/default.php?page=articledisplay&var1=ArtRead&var2=1137&var3=issuedisplay&var4=IssRead&var5=112

in which 8 geologists appeal to the PCA to accept the “old earth view.”  It is a pitiful piece when looked at from a theological perspective, and actually quite poor from a scientific perspective (the analogies in particular are often invalid). Hopefully when you read it you will anticipate the arguments made in this point-by-point rebuttal by another geologist:

http://www.reasonablehope.com/node/117

Both the links are worth reading, the second article being a rebuttal of the first. You may determine for yourself the strength of his rebuttal, though I consider it as standard classical argument of young-earthers.  Clearly, NH is a 7-literal day creationist. I am very reluctant to trash either Dennis’ or NH’s comments, yet offer a slightly different approach.  The first difficulty is in creating a discussion. The 7-day creationist (if you wish, young-earth folk) consider their stand as a litmus-test of orthodoxy, and any disagreement is considered either an inability of believe the Scriptures or inability to hold Scripture as the infallible word of God. The old-earthers look at disdain at young-earthers as somewhat scientifically naive and guilty of the sins that possesses many medieval theologians that fought against Kepler and Galileo. Neither side is right.

I proffer several foundational statements.

1. The word “day” in Genesis 1-3 does not necessarily denote 24 hour spans. This argument is ably developed by both Hebrew scholars and biblical scholars that look at the use of the word “day” throughout Scripture.

2. The genre of Genesis 1-3 is neither strictly poetic nor strictly literal-historical. Those who develop the construct of Genesis 1 as simply being an apologetic against the Egyptian gods are wrong, though an apologetic is implied by the structure of how Moses constructs Gen. 1. Nor does it utilize language and terms that suggest an accurate detailed historical approach to creation.

3. The implication that God commands events to happen in each of the days of creation suggest a divine interference on a “daily” basis. Dennis’ comments, of which I’ve heard many times before, suggests that there is a “anthropomorphism” in the very substance of the atomic structure of the universe, that demanded that this is the sort of universe only that could have come out of the “big bang”. This seems to lean dangerously to Deism, if not Animism, whereby Nature itself is offered the source of personality, and that the universe, once wound up, can take care of itself.

Thus, there remain a few questions of relevance…

1. What is the level of involvement of God in the process of creation/evolution? At what stage, or, at what time in history, did God decide to cease active interventional work in the universe outside of the laws of nature, and thus work through the “laws of the universe” in his actions in the world, including his miracles as described in Scripture? This is simply an unanswerable question. Scriptures give us no clues, and science could never answer such questions.

2. Is it morally deceptive of God to create things that are aged? To what extent would he have done that? In my opinion, it is neither right nor proper to ask such questions.

3. Do the questions of creation/evolution really need to recruit discussions of a universal flood? Are these not ultimately separate questions?

4. Can we ultimately claim an exegetical basis for establishing the genre-type of Gen 1-3? I bring this up, because young earthers wail long and hard about the abandonment of a strictly literal interpretation of the Scripture. Yet, John Gerstner, in Wrongly Dividing the Word of Truth, waxes long and hard against dispensationalists who force literal interpretations when the genre doesn’t permit a literal interpretation.

My own personal stance leaves me neither a strictly young nor old earth creationist. I feel that we assume too much when we attempt to engage in the creation argument. I feel that discussions have not allowed for a plastic middle position, and focused on how far from that middle one needs to go before one falls off the edge. It could happen both ways. I feel that Dempski falls off the edge, when he removes God from the much of the processes of creation. Morris from the Creation Research Institute falls off the other edge by pushing his agenda so hard he simply does poor science. It would be better for Morris to simply be a fideist than an apologist. Yet, I also accept that much of science will eventually be proven wrong, that our standard tools such as carbon dating will be replaced, and that new paradigms will replace old. Like Hugh Ross, and others of the conservative old-earth school, I see how we may use science as an apologetic for a Christian worldview, even though the science may evolve with time. As an example, the red-shift observation in the stars led to the “big-bang” theory, which is entirely consistent with Christian thinking that there was a time when the universe was not, and then came instantly (almost) into being. The intelligent design argument wonderfully argues against a laissez-faire universe explained entirely by random events. God clearly interfered with natural processes at all stages throughout the development of this world, though we will never know the balance of interference/natural process nor the speed/acceleration by which he had natural processes occur. To me, the arguments sit around trying to tell God how He did things. I’m sure He’s not so amused at our undertakings.

Since we are on the topic of God interfering with nature, there is one more thing that bothers me. I just wish to know why Jesus didn’t turn the water into beer rather than wine.

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5 Responses to “Telling God how He did it”

  1. Stephen Chambers says:

    How old was Adam when God created him? Was he a new infant or a mature man? Did both Adam & Eve have belly buttons? An excellent aged wine is more of a miracle to create instantly than beer! Be careful that you don’t go down the long slippery slope of anti-supernaturalism. The courageous theologian in this day and age will interpret the creation account literally, the authority of the rest of the Bible depends on it.

  2. Stephen Chambers says:

    John MacArthur vigorously opposes Theistic Evolution in his blog –
    http://www.gty.org/Blog/7/2010.
    It’s worth reading. By the way, MacArthur is a strong reformed thinker … and highly respected by R.C. Sproul.

  3. Stephen;
    1. McArthur has reformed elements to his thinking. R.C. Sproul respects many people, like me, who do not exactly concur in all points with their own personal thinking. MacArthur is a dispensationalist, not Reformed, though he has stood with the Reformed thinkers on many issues, such as Lordship Salvation.
    2. I never said I was for theistic evolution. I may occasionally use the word “evolution” in a broader sense to speak of the generic development of an entity, not necessarily related to random processes. Whether God did that in exactly 6 days of 24 hours our time, or quicker, or slower, I don’t think I can exactly say.
    3. If you read the blog, I thought I made clear that I have serious problems with those who propose a slow evolution of man from monkey. It doesn’t fit theologically.
    4. Yes, RC takes a literal 6 day stance, as do many Reformed and non-Reformed theologians. My blog was intended to suggest that I take a non-stance. I don’t think that the Scripture is perfectly clear. Still, I reject allegorical stances to the reading of Gen 1-3. It is written as a historical document and must be interpreted as such. A literal 6 day interpretation does not necessarily reflect courage, nor drift down a slippery slope. Doctrinal interpretation is often a fine line, or simply admitting that there are some things that we cannot know because the Scripture doesn’t give us enough information to know.

  4. Stephen Chambers says:

    Kenny, thank you for your clarifications, I really appreciate it

  5. Uncle Dennis says:

    A few comments in response –

    “Dennis’ comments, of which I’ve heard many times before, suggests that there is a “anthropomorphism” in the very substance of the atomic structure of the universe, that demanded that this is the sort of universe only that could have come out of the “big bang”.”

    This is probably a reference to the anthropic cosmological principle of Barrow and Tipler. It is not my idea. (I picked it up from them.) It is a rather convincing argument, that the universe, from the standpoint of revelation through the creation alone, is JUST SO for us to be here. There are so many conditions, all not highly probable, that Barrow and Tipler conclude that it is likely that we are the only intelligent beings in the universe. The cosmologists have been so influenced by the anthropic arguments that the particle physicists – some of them – slightly resent it.

    I suspect that the argument is more correct than not, but not entirely so. Throughout human history we have been visited by ETs. The Bible refers to them as messengers (angels). They are humanoid, even to the point of near indistinguishability, yet they are not Adamites. Their existence (which I accept) would require some modification of the Barrow, Tipler theory.

    “Those who develop the construct of Genesis 1 as simply being an apologetic against the Egyptian gods are wrong, ”

    “Simply” is not the same as “primarily.” And it is not the Egyptian gods in particular who are dispensed with but the generic pagan pantheon (Egypt included) whose source was Mystery Babylon. See Alex Hislop’s book, The Two Babylons, for more on this.

    “The implication that God commands events to happen in each of the days of creation suggest a divine interference on a “daily” basis. ”

    What most Genesis readers fail to do is to actually read the text. On the third day,

    “Genesis 1:11-12 (ESV)
    God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind, on the earth.” And it was so. [12] The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed according to their own kinds, and trees bearing fruit in which is their seed, each according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.

    Note the nature of God’s commands: “Let … [occur].” Sounds like some kind of physical development (evolution?) to me. Verse 12 in most readers’ minds reads: “And God brought forth upon the earth (through a magic wand) vegetation, plants …” but that is not what it says. God says instead to let it happen. Is God thus uninvolved? No, but his involvement is not well described by resorting to what are in essence pagan notions about God and the creation.

    “Do the questions of creation/evolution really need to recruit discussions of a universal flood? Are these not ultimately separate questions?”

    Of course, though for many (not all) YECs, it is a package deal. You are either with them or against them. No compromise of the truth, you know!

    “I feel that we assume too much when we attempt to engage in the creation argument.”

    I’m with you. The creation-evolution controversy has been one of the devil’s most successful ways of diverting huge amounts of church resources – of time and effort for over a century – into a cul de sac, a bottomless pit, leaving the church ignorant of much that is instead far more important to know and is not known.

    “… a plastic middle position” is irrational. There is none. The truth is pro tertium quid. (Are we allowed to use Latin on a largely Germanic website?)

    “Dempski falls off the edge, when he removes God from the much of the processes of creation.”

    Hah! Dembski is one of the Intelligent Design people and they are the interventionists. You need to read Howard van Till for a God-wound-it-up-at-the-beginning viewpoint.

    “It would be better for Morris to simply be a fideist than an apologist. ”

    I thought that’s what he was, a kind of blind fideist. Morris was an engineer and he did try to apply his knowledge of hydraulic engineering to the flood, for instance. But He and Gish and the others were simply in the minor leagues in trying to defend what they were claiming when it came to what they needed to know about science. They tried to reason about the creation (like the medieval rationalists) from scripture without bothering to look and see if it is so. They abused science rather than use it. Some of the subsequent YECs are more honest (and better) about this, but even the most honest of them readily admit that establishing “creation science” (as they term it) is a Promethian challenge. None have yet succeeded at it.

    “… the “big-bang” theory, which is entirely consistent with Christian thinking that there was a time when the universe was not, and then came instantly (almost) into being.”

    You would think so, yet Stephen Hawking has been working hard on a let’s-get-rid-of-the beginning of the universe with his asymptotic beginning theory. So a determined atheist can also conjure up rationalistic tricks like the best YECs.

    “God clearly interfered with natural processes at all stages throughout the development of this world, …”

    This is a sentence-full. Are you really comfortable saying that God was INTERFERING in his own activity? I would balk at the very words. They do not seem to fit the theology of creation or of the nature of God at all.

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