Does Modern Science Make Jesus a Liar?


(system) #1

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://biologos.org/blogs/ted-davis-reading-the-book-of-nature/does-modern-science-make-jesus-a-liar

(Dr. Ted Davis) #4

Questions and comments are invited.


(Colin Eakin) #5

Ted,

Your comments don’t address the fact that Jesus uses the completed verb form “made,” and He was a stickler for using the correct verb tense (see Matt. 22:31-33). If OEC were correct, Jesus’ comment should have used the imperfect, or past continuous, form–e.g. “But from the beginning of creation, He “was making” them male and female.” The preterit, or completed past tense, form Christ uses only belongs to a completed event–an impossibility if evolution is driving the process.

The bigger issue is this: When one takes Jesus simply and literally for what He says, one understands on first reading that humans were a completed creation at their outset, that the sixth day of their creation was so close in time to the first (“from the beginning…”) as to be insignificant against the time course of history, and that they started as sexually reproducing beings. All this fits with YEC. To make it fit with OEC, one must use elaborate devices such as yours, with the unspoken implication that God could have chosen His words more carefully to avoid a lot of confusion. Why go to all the trouble, and potentially slander God’s use of language? Why not assume that what God seemed to write on first blush is exactly what He intended, when to believe otherwise is not required to be a good scientist, and inevitably (in my opinion) involves very contrived (and hence problematic) hermeneutics.

God never intended humans to discover how He created the world, including humans, from nature, which is why He told us what we needed to know in Scripture. He knows that creation was a miracle and that miracles are not subject to scientific inquiry. The YEC position of Catastrophism (as opposed to Uniformitarianism) challenges the presuppositional position that the constants we elucidate in this period of uniformity are applicable at the bookends of time, and 2 Peter 3:1-10 supports this position (I did go and look at how Calvin exegetes this text, and could not see any contradiction with the position I expressed to you previously).

Thank you for the opportunity to dialogue. I would be very interested in seeing a Biologos position on the gospel somewhere on its site. After all, the gospel is the basis for all other Scriptural discussion, and might go a long way to see where real differences lie.

Colin Eakin, M.D.


(George Brooks) #6

Nice work, @TedDavis! Great concluding paragraph:

“On one hand, the language in Jesus’ teaching on divorce is taken entirely out of context and made to imply that he denied the great antiquity of the Earth, when he actually said nothing about it. In effect, AiG is putting unspoken words in Jesus’ mouth, while claiming to take him literally.”

"On the other hand, "

“…Jesus’ language in the parable of the mustard seed is said to be scientifically accurate when properly understood, even though he was just using a popular expression whose literal sense is not scientifically accurate. In effect, AiG is putting different words in Jesus’ mouth, while claiming to take him literally.”

“So, if I take Jesus literally in both instances, am I making him a liar?”

If AiG is “splaining” how we should really understand the words of Jesus, even though that’s not what Jesus actually said … they are interpreting what is written - - just like researchers of BioLogos do when they explain how to actually interpret the Genesis creation story.

Wow… I had no idea that AiG was so similar in their approach as BioLogos.

I don’t think the “lying part” has anything to do with Jesus - - it seems to be more closely associated with a much more modern source!


(David Heddle) #7

I appreciate Ted Davis’ blog post. I believe that we sometimes forget that Jesus, like any other “person”, is not required to be literally scientifically correct if he is not espousing on science. He is entitled to speak with all figures of speech often which, taken literally, are not scientifically, mathematically or even historically correct. He is not prohibited from using hyperbole which by its very definition is never literally true. So blindly taking Jesus “literally and simply” (or rather, when it’s convenient) is to literally tell Jesus that unlike every other speaker, every sentence he utters must hold up under miscroscopic parsing independent of the context and intent.

Even in modern peer-reviewed scientific literature (let alone everyday non-scientific speech) you can find figures of speech that are literally not true scientifically, but the readers, assumed to be intelligent (and the most neglected biblical hermeneutic is that the bible is meant to be read intelligently) do not conclude that this makes liars of the writers. It is not hard to find sentences in physics literature such as “at this point the electron knows to do X” where “knows to” summarizes the fact that the detailed scientific explanation of the electron doing X is not the point of the present discussion, and it would only obfuscate the main point to litter the text with verbiage just to make the sentence scientifically air tight. Nobody speaks that way, and Jesus isn’t required to.

Jesus is not talking about science or the details of the creation in Mark 10:6. He is saying nothing more than “ever since there were men and women, they were meant to bond together in marriage.”

When you look at the AiG “exegesis” of this passage, it is painful to read how they contort to allow the beginning of creation to refer to the end of the six days. It amounts to the computational trick of a slop “fudge factor” that they grant to Jesus of exactly six days.


(Dr. Ted Davis) #8

Thank you for offering your opinion, Colin. Jesus certainly didn’t say most of this, and I don’t think he even implied it. Interpreting this passage in context, I would say this: “When one takes Jesus simply and literally for what He says, one understands on first reading that humans started as sexually reproducing beings and that God intended marriage to be permanent.” That’s it. The rest of what you say in this quote is based on conclusions you have in your own mind, not on what Jesus actually said. I contend that no one in his audience was concerned about OEC/YEC/EC/ID when he spoke those words, and neither was he.

If you want to read the passage that way, you are free to argue for such an interpretation, based on inferences from the text that are unrelated to its context, as you did here. But, for you or AiG to insist on it as the only proper reading is simply inappropriate. That dog won’t hunt.


(Dr. Ted Davis) #9

Here we agree: the verb tense is crucial to what Jesus was doing in the context of that story in Matt 22:31-33. And, his hearers fully understood what he was doing by choosing that tense, which is why “they were astonished.” The Sadducees denied the bodily resurrection in the last days, and Jesus was showing them that they should know better by stressing the present tense in his own reading of that verse in Exodus, by adding to the original the further truth (not directly stated in Exodus) that “God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.”


(Dr. Ted Davis) #10

A very good question, if pertinent, but I’ve explained why it isn’t pertinent.

What do you think, Colin, of Jesus’ words in the parable of the mustard seed? Do I slander God’s use of language, if I don’t think it’s intended to be scientifically accurate?


#11

God never intended humans to discover how He created the world, including humans, from scripture, which is why He told us what we need to know in Scripture. See 2 Timothy 3:15, “And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.”


(Christy Hemphill) #12

I’m confused about how Matt 22:31-33 is a commentary on grammar.

Matthew 10:6 doesn’t have a preterit, because Greek doesn’t have a preterit. Aorist isn’t preterit. It’s used for summary and simple occurrence, not to emphasize completedness. Focus on completed actions are done with the perfect. You can’t make an argument for completedness via use of the aorist. Check out the aorist section of any intermediate NT Greek text.


(Andrew M. Wolfe) #13

Hi Colin, and welcome to the Forum.

I agree with @Christy, but beyond that, I’m not even sure I understand what it is you’re trying to say…

  1. According to the Bible, God created humans on the sixth day. So… We’re already not at the beginning beginning of creation, which was on the first day. Do you think Jesus was wrong, then, when he referenced the beginning of the creation in this verse? Because, I mean, you do believe he didn’t create humans till the sixth day. The way I see it, there are no problems for evolution here that aren’t problems for YEC.

  2. According to evolution, there was never a time when humans were not male and female. Two sexes have been present since the very earliest days of God creating animals through evolution.

  3. Your “was making” point seems to be just as valid today, since God is still creating individual humans. Or were we not knit together by God in our mothers’ wombs? Or maybe I’ve missed your point. In which case, please forgive me, and I welcome your clarifications.

Thanks again for joining the discussion. It’s great to have diverse viewpoints here.


(Colin Eakin) #14

Hi Christy,

Thank you for your comments.

The following footnote from my book “God’s Glorious Story” (GBF Press, 2017) addresses your confusion re: Matt. 22:31-33

The importance of verb tense in understanding key theological concepts is emphasized by none other than Jesus, in His rebuke to the Sadducees in Matthew 22:31. The Sadducees were a group of the ruling Jewish elites who denied resurrection and the afterlife. Jesus debunked their error, and He did so in a most skillful manner. How? By highlighting the verb tense God used in speaking with Moses from a burning bush. Quoting Exodus 3:6, Jesus pointed to God’s emphatic use of the present tense (and not the past tense) in describing His contemporaneous relationship to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (“And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God: ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? He is not God of the dead, but of the living’.”). He did this to prove that, indeed, these three men still existed. By resting His entire argument upon God’s precise use of a particular verb’s tense in a single verse, Jesus showcases the importance of heeding this feature in discerning His truth.

Every reference to the Creation account in Scripture is in the completed past tense verb form. There is no reference to Creation other than as a past, completed event. This is why the writer of Hebrews can be so definitive when he writes that God’s “works were finished from the foundation of the world” (Hebrews 4:3). There it is in plain and unassailable language: God’s project of creation was finalized at its outset. In verse 10, the writer adds, “For whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from His.” The writer is definitive—God rested from His work of creation upon its completion (cf. Genesis 2:1-3) because it was, in fact, complete.

Regarding your comments about Jesus’ use of the aorist, I am checking with my NT grammar expert Dr. Cliff McManis.

Colin


(Christy Hemphill) #15

I just find the argument curious because Hebrew doesn’t have a tense-dominant verb system, it has an aspect-dominant verb system. Most linguists would say so does NT Greek. So to impose our English (tense-dominant) understanding of verbs on an aspect system causes problems. I agree that Jesus was addressing the Sadducees’ wrong beliefs about the Resurrection and presenting God as the God of the living, but you can make that argument based on the content of what he said without reference to verb tense.


(Colin Eakin) #16

Hi A. M.

The following is an excerpt from my book “God’s Glorious Story” and is meant to address your first two points:

“Jesus Himself refers to the creation of Adam and Eve as a historical event in Mark 10:6 (cf. Matthew 19:4). Here, He quotes from both Genesis 1:27 and Genesis 5:2 as He explains, “But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.’ ”
This last example is an extraordinarily consequential quote from the Lord, for in three deft blows He undeniably positions Himself opposite the nonsense of evolution. First, Jesus uses the past tense—“made”—to confirm the creation of the first humans as a finished product. In other words, the process was immediate and complete, not developmental and ongoing.
Second, Jesus states that this male and female were created “from the beginning of creation,” not billions of years after the world was formed. And since, according to Jesus, humans were created “from the beginning of creation,” the sixth day on which they were created must have been so close in time to the first as to be nearly indistinguishable in the whole of creation.
Third, by claiming that, “from the beginning of creation, God made them male and female,” Jesus is here establishing human sexual reproduction as the means by which the species has procreated from its inception. This statement of Jesus invalidates the possibility that humans could have ever derived from single cell organisms via asexual reproduction. In one momentous statement, Jesus completely invalidates the underpinnings of evolutionary theory.
How do we know Jesus was referring to a specific Adam and Eve in His reference to male and female originating at the beginning of creation? We know from the context of Jesus’ statement. In Mark 10, Jesus is explaining God’s perspective on marriage and divorce. As He proceeds, Jesus references Genesis 2:24: “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh” (Mark 10:7-8). To what reason is Jesus referring? He is referencing the prior verse in Genesis 2:23: “Then the man said, ‘This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man’.” What man? The only man referenced in Genesis 2, and actually named in verse 20: Adam. Thus, Jesus is here specifically describing the instantaneous and mature creation of woman from Adam.
In fact, the only man and the only woman in the Bible up until this point were the first man and woman, Adam and Eve. So, by referencing Genesis 2, Jesus clearly affirms His belief in the creation of a literal Adam and Eve on the sixth day of the earth’s existence. For all these reasons, then, Jesus cannot be counted among those holding to an evolutionary perspective.”

Ted has already noted to me his opinion that Jesus was specifically referring to divorce here and so His comments cannot be extended to His perspective about the age of the universe. I disagree. Jesus always chose His words so that they would conform perfectly to His claim that the Scripture can never be broken (John 10:35), no matter the specific context of His reply. One of the main contentions of “God’s Glorious Story” is that the Bible is written in a cognitive-propositional manner, such that the way we read any informational text applies with Scripture as well. In other words, everything fits–just like a perfect Sudoku puzzle–when you just take the text and its implications as it is written.

I have written to Ted and will restate here that one does not need the complex textual hermaneutics I read at Biologos again and again, that (to me) are designed as devices to get God off the hook from His Bible writers because what they have written doesn’t reconcile with what we see in a uniformitarian framework. When you disengage from the idea that the constants we see now apply to the bookends of time–in other words, uniformity must apply throughout created history–there is no need to manipulate the text to come up with God’s intent.

With regard to your third point, evolution contends that the human species, as with all species, is still developing via adaptation to a higher, more complex form. In other words, Survival of the Fittest does not wane and has no end point. Creationism contends the form of humans you see now is the form that has always been and will always be, until humans are given their eternal resurrection bodies at the end of the age.

Thank you for your kind welcome.

Colin


(Colin Eakin) #18

Jesus’ point completely centers on Moses’ use of verb tense. He says God is (still) the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, implying that this must mean they are still living. If they were dead, per Jesus, the text would say God was (in the past) the God of Abraham, etc. He is telling the Saduccees that they are mistaken because of the verb tense used in Scripture.


(Colin Eakin) #19

Jesus uses analogies, common expressions and cultural generalizations to impart truth, as we do now. This is especially true in His parables. His language is always sufficiently precise for the situation. The mustard seed was a generally understood as the smallest among those which were commonly sown.

But in Mark 10:6 He is not giving a parable and is not using an analogy, but rather is offering an expository lesson with direct and indirect implications. His statement can be trusted and applied in its plain rendering: from the beginning of creation, God created humans as male and female–i.e. at the outset, two mature genders, as we see today.


(George Brooks) #20

@Colin

I think we might also benefit if we assess the context of those conclusions regarding the propriety of divorce.

For example, people are prone to look at the views of the Pharisees as a “monolithic unity” on views. But I once read that there were two major schools of the Pharisees… each with a few distinguishing views, one of which was that one school said divorce is a tolerable thing, and the other said that divorce is not tolerable.

Since this was quite some time ago, I don’t remember exactly what the exact quotes from each school were… but I came away with the impression that the anti-divorce Pharisee school opposed it because of the social mayhem it caused for women who were no longer receiving the financial support of their spouses and/or the families of the spouse.

This is a social analysis … and not a metaphysical one. Did any of the rabbinical schools oppose divorce on metaphysical reasons? An analysis based on what would happen if the “quasi-legal union” of two people was more important than the havoc caused by two people who were forced to share a residence with someone they despised?

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
Divorce is like Ghost-Busting!

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^


(Marshall Janzen) #21

Hi Colin,

I’d like to look at two things you said. First:

Every reference to the Creation account in Scripture is in the completed past tense verb form. There is no reference to Creation other than as a past, completed event.

So, “creation” in Scripture is a reference to a past, completed event, and I believe you hold that it is an event that took six literal days, correct?

Second, Jesus states that this male and female were created “from the beginning of creation,” not billions of years after the world was formed. And since, according to Jesus, humans were created “from the beginning of creation,” the sixth day on which they were created must have been so close in time to the first as to be nearly indistinguishable in the whole of creation.

I’m not sure how this follows, given your statement above. While six days out of thousands of years (or billions of years) is insignificant, the sixth of six days is hardly the beginning. Given your definition of creation as a completed event, I don’t see how you can switch to now speak of creation as meaning the universe itself, which I assume you believe is some thousands of years old.

I don’t think Jesus meant to claim that humans (male and female) were made at the beginning of the creation event. If one allows the context to tell us what we are likely to get out of a text, rather than expecting it to answer our own questions, Jesus seems to be referring to humanity in Mark 10:6. If it’s read as a reference to humanity’s creation and humanity’s sexual differentiation, then it neither rules out asexual creatures made by God nor a long period of time between the universe’s beginning and humanity’s birth. Jesus simply isn’t speaking to such issues.

To claim more precision seems as wrongheaded as insisting the disciples all gathered round Jesus’ manger because he told them, “You also are to testify because you have been with me from the beginning” (John 15:27).


(Richard Wright) #22

Hello Colin, I’m Richard. Good to meet you!

If God initiated a physical creation to unfold over long periods of time, then that creation is subject to scientific inquiry. But either way creation is a miracle, no matter how God accomplished it. I like to think that through evolution, God is still accomplishing miracles continuously.


(Albert Leo) #23

I certainly hope that this view permeates all Christian thought in the future. For me at least, it is the most effective way of worshiping my Creator.
Al Leo