Examining the Assumptions of Mosaic Creationism vis-a-vis the Assumptions of Evolutionary Creationism

I appreciate this summary statement, Mike. It may be a little longer than the usual post, but it sure beats reading through 1000+ posts to try to form a synthesis of what you are arguing! Two thoughts occur to me regarding this Mosaic Creationism.

  1. I still maintain that it is entirely plausible for God’s instructions to His people to be symbolic of the “six days” of creation that actually consisted of an indeterminate (but lengthy) period of time.
  2. I don’t believe Jesus ever explicitly confirmed a six 24-hour creation period. Not even AiG went any further than “These passages taken together strongly imply that Jesus took Genesis 1 as literal history describing creation in six 24-hour days.”

It is also worth considering that Jesus also taught that the mustard seed was the smallest of all seeds. Either He did not know, or He was speaking in the context of His audience (my personal interpretation). Either way, the same principle can be applied to Jesus’s references to creation.

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How does MC account for this information in the text?

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However the description of the supernatural events is completely unlike the Gospel writers in terms of its history recording, because the Gospel writers all relied on multiple human eye-witness accounts to compile their histories. This is huge and essential in my mind. Saying they are both communicating histories is one thing. Saying they are the same kind of histories is fundamentally inaccurate.

If it is a conflict it is between scientifically generated history and supernaturally generated history, though, not human generated history. Human history as we generally understand it (ignoring the history we infer from archaeology and the history of the natural world uncovered by science) is always recorded by human eye-witnesses or those who carefully interviewed eye-witnesses. There were no eye-witnesses to creation. Going along for a moment with the Moses wrote Genesis idea, whatever Moses had, it was communication from God, it wasn’t a human eye-witness account. The Bible records human-generated history. Not in Genesis 1-2 though.

If you were trying to make some kind of distinction you failed. If you think the earth is thousands of years old, you don’t think it’s an ancient earth and you are only muddying the waters. We all know “young earth” is relative. What is it relative to? It’s relative to the claim that the earth is 4.3 billion years old, not relative to everyone’s personal innate sense of youngness.

Which in a real way makes it most relevant to those who are ignorant of modern science (i.e. Moses and his contemporaries and many centuries of pre-scientific people) and significantly less relevant to members of a scientific society who are not ignorant of modern science. At least YEC is trying to be relevant in a scientific society by acknowledging the scientific concerns of the culture and the role expertise and learning play in our granting of authority. Furthermore, any “appearance of age” argument is a scientific component, if you ask me. It is an attempt to give the why behind a (extra-biblical) scientific observation.

I personally don’t share this assumption and don’t think it squares with things scholars know about how orality and literacy worked in the ancient world. I know you aren’t a fan of Walton, but The Lost World of Scripture delves into the scholarship on these issues.

You don’t seem to be acknowledging your hemeneutics here. Your “biblical conclusion” is your interpretation. Have you ever justified your interpretation of Genesis 1 as literal history somewhere? I too think yom means normal day and Genesis 1 describes a normal week. Just pointing that out does not get you anywhere near “ergo, the earth is several thousand years old.” That requires explaining why reading Genesis 1 as a historical account is justified. Saying Moses wrote it doesn’t make it history. If Genesis was a collaborative effort of multiple authors and was redacted through time, that doesn’t make it “not history.” Authorship is not genre analysis.

By this do you mean “affirm Moses was writing an objective historical account?” Jesus quotes David’s poems as reliable prophesy. That doesn’t mean we should insist that all of David’s writing be re-categorized as prophesy instead of poetry. I feel like there is some kind of unjustified logical leap when we go from “Jesus quoted Moses” to “therefore Genesis 1 is a reliable objective historical account.” Maybe you could spell out what you think the missing logical steps are, because I don’t see the conclusion following from the premise at all. [quote=“Mike_Gantt, post:1, topic:36410”]
For it cannot be that anyone is an assumption-less reader of the Bible.
[/quote]

Totally agree. The act of interpretation is always an act of cultural contextualization. No one has access to some pure and abstracted de-contextualized truth.

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@Mike_Gantt

Your persistence is admirable and has motivated me to examine biblical passages that deal with creation and God as Creator.

I feel we can agree on a number of points - that God created the heavens and the earth, that this was done by the power of His Word, and that it was all created in the beginning, before which nothing existed but God.

I agree that Moses is the author (or authority) regarding the Torah.

So, the points of contention.

I think these can be distilled to two: (a) are the days of creation the same as the days Adam, and the rest of us experience? and (2) is it a valid exercise to calculate a historic age of the earth from genealogies found in the bible, starting with Adam?

I feel these points will be contentious no matter how I or you argue, simply because we cannot find an explicit statement in the bible that would give a clear and unambiguous answer to these two questions. I can argue that the seven days are declarations, to signify how we are to practice our life, our religion, and Moses made sure Israel understood this. You can just as emphatically state the words are days, and the only meaning we may ascribe to this is a 24hr day. I can reply that iit would be impossible for a human being to experience six days as the cosmos came into existence. You can rebut this with the fact the bible is written as days, and so on.

On genealogies I feel you are on shaky ground - this matter has been discussed from the beginnings of Christianity (eg the Gospel genealogies) and there has been agreement these are written for a specific purpose and not as a way to calculate historical ages.

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@Mike_Gantt,

I think your stipulations are not the kind of stipulations that the average pro-Evolution Presbyterian or Congregationalist is going to tolerate very well. Or perhaps I am misunderstanding what you mean by the term “stipulations”. For example, I certainly do agree that your first stipulation will trigger failure. And it is logical for it to do so. So what exactly are you trying to do?

But let’s try to be flexible in your terminology - - your first stipulation is already at work. Your first stipulation touches on the very reason we have pro-Evolution Christians who think Genesis is not to be relied upon:

  • the firmament? come on.
  • a global flood? just another story from Sumeria.
  • 6 days of creation where half the days are “made up” because there is no Sun to tell anyone what a day is.
  • and besides, you want modern Christians to think the Earth was created before the Sun was?

There are millions of Christians who are not going to overturn “obvious reality” in order to protect the inerrancy of Genesis.

[B] Moses teaches killing those who work on the Sabbath. This is not an inspirational message to modern Christians. And we haven’t even got to the all the Kosher rules yet …

[C] If Jesus is bound within a body of flesh, and so accepts the cultural norms of those around him, how does Jesus provide a litmus test of ultimate reality? He is the Master of divinity … and of salvation. How does this make him the master of how Creation really happened?

[D] There are lots of parts of the Bible that even Evangelicals can’t agree on: Are we Gods? Jesus says the Bible says we are. Do we stone adulterers? Jesus says the Old Testament is wrong about that. During communion, do we eat and drink the body and blood of Jesus? Jesus drove away hundreds of his Jewish followers saying this was so. But mostly modern Evangelicals say: “ahhhh… not so much”.

Mike, you are at the end of your rope. But you tried. You are unwilling to go the final steps of your analysis that would make you convincing to Christian pro-Evolutionists. So, you have lost them. And they have lost you.

Nobody wins. But I really can’t see any way for you to salvage the situation.

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A real world case for how Genesis almost ruined a Christian!.. but preserved by BioLogos…

SGH - Where do you draw the line?

@Mike_Gantt which of the following scientific determinations of dates would you call SGH? Which would you accept and which would you reject?

A medical examiner establishes time of death to be 24 hours ago.

A medical examiner establishes time of death to be 7 days ago.

A botanist counts tree rings in a living tree and establishes the tree is 5,000 years old.

A botanist matches the tree ring patterns in a living bristlecone pine and a dead bristlecone pine and determines the dead tree is 10,000 years old.

A anthropologist establishes the time of death of mummified remains to be 10,000 years ago.

A paleontologist uses C-14 to establish the age of charcoal in a cave site to be 20,000 years old.

A geologist uses radio isotopes to date a rock to be 5 million years old.

To me they all have to be correct if science is to be believed.

I think of history as “what happened, according to the historian.” I don’t think my definition is unusual, and a quick perusal of Google results confirms this. This more elaborate definition - Wikipedia’s opening paragraph on the subject - also suits me:

History (from Greek ἱστορία, historia, meaning “inquiry, knowledge acquired by investigation”) is the study of the past as it is described in written documents. Events occurring before written record are considered prehistory. It is an umbrella term that relates to past events as well as the memory, discovery, collection, organization, presentation, and interpretation of information about these events. Scholars who write about history are called historians. - “History” at Wikipedia

In other words, Mosaic Creationism (MC) does not employ an ad hoc definition of “history.”

MC does, however, employ an ad hoc distinction between history as it’s normally understood and “scientifically-generated history” (SGH). I’ll say more about that distinction when I answer your question about SGH below.

I do recall that you believe that the history recorded in Gen 1-11 needs to be distinguished from that in Gen 12 onward. I need to re-fresh my memory of your view and delve further with questions. I am not close-minded about your assumptions, but would need help with some obstacles if I’m to give serious consideration to adopting it. To be completely candid, it seems as if it’s driven by SGH’s conflicts with it. Having confessed that, here are the questions:

  • Do you think that the history recorded in the Bible from Gen 12 onward also needs to be distinguished from history as it’s generally understood or that it fits the definition of history as it’s generally understood?

  • I think you called Gen 1-11 “proto-history” and perhaps by some other term. You, or perhaps someone else holding a similar view, said that there was a difference between the narrative of Gen 1-11 and that which followed which was obvious to anyone reading it in Hebrew. Could you correct and clarify my impressions of these points?

  • I cannot make the distinction you asked for above (“And that needs to be defined for two groups, the ancient Hebrews and us”), but implicitly you can and do. Please give me those two definitions you use so I can have a better idea of how you distinguish the two - and just how easily distinguishable the two are.

  • You may recall that was looking for a biblically-principled, or at least principled, way of accepting the two kinds of history. I don’t recall us reaching that point in our prior discussion. Is there a way you can give me of distinguishing the two kinds of history that works for a non-reader of Hebrew like me?

I appreciate the question, and I appreciate the very fair way it is worded. I also appreciate that it is perfectly normal for a person to think, “If there is no conflict between the Bible and science there should likewise be no conflict between the Bible and the dates that the scientific method generates.” I even agree that “there should likewise be no conflict…” The problem is, there is conflict. And it is conflict impossible to ignore. And I am not the first person to notice it. In fact, the proliferation of biblical interpretations for Gen 1-2 alone (Gap, Day-Age, Revelation Day) right up to and including John Walton’s work are ample testimony to the fact that others have seen those conflicts…and have not found it easy to resolve them. For there would not be so many different interpretations if the first one, and any of the successive ones, were adequate to the task. I’ll say this for Walton’s approach: he doesn’t so much try to resolve the conflicts as he tries to eliminate the possibility of any conflicts. It’s a highly efficient approach…but, alas, he’s encountering his own resistance not only from YEC’s but from OEC’s like William Lane Craig who are those you’d think most likely to welcome a view like his.

When I read Genesis (or any of the Bible, for that matter) it does not take me much time at all to nod my head in agreement that it’s not teaching science. However, I cannot at all say the same thing when asked “Does it teach history?” For this reason I say that I see no conflict between the Bible and science but do see conflict between the Bible and SGH. I am not trying to see this conflict - rather, I can’t help but see it. And the many, many reinterpretations of Genesis over the past 200 years that SGH has been with us bear witness that I am not the only one who has seen it.

Now, you could still ask me: “Mike, even so, why can’t you let go of Genesis history, especially Gen 1-11 history - is what you’re giving up really that important in the light of Jesus’ resurrection?” I am willing to answer that question, but I don’t want to answer it if you’re not asking it, or if you want to word the question differently.

If I’ve not adequately covered everything you asked me in this post, please give me another shot. Otherwise, I look forward to your answers to my questions and any further comments you want to make.

I suppose they could all be categorized as scientifically-generated history (SGH).

I am scientifically ill-equiped to distinguish the relative reliability of such a variety of estimates. However, assuming they’re all valid from a scientific point of view, I would only question the ones that seem to conflict with biblical testimony.

I don’t share that view. I’m more than happy to continue trusting scientific conclusions on other things. For example, you’re well aware of my struggles with SGH and Genesis history, but it doesn’t affect at all my trust in the work of the coroner’s office in my county. Nevertheless, if someone I trust told me that he ate breakfast with his brother the day before yesterday, I would question the coroner’s report if it said the brother died a week ago.

That’s just the way I feel about God and His statements.

@Mike_Gantt

What is unusual is to hear you (or anyone) describe a scientific narrative regarding Cosmology and/or Geology and/or Biology - - and to hear it dismissed as “mere history”.

This is an abuse of the terminology. All sciences that review chains of cause-and-effect (that are not being discussed as a prediction) are - - necessarily - - historical in context. But mere history they certainly are not.

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I sure wish we could use the term “natural history” instead of SGH.

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I can see what you’re driving at with progressive creation, but you might need to either change terminology or be more explicit about what “creation” entails. Right now it’s vague enough that it could be applied to any “new” thing, be it the new life of a human, or a new star being formed.

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Because I am willing to employ a different term, your suggestion prompted me to look up "natural history.’ However, what I found did not fit what I have in view when I say SGH. I am thinking of history produced as a result of scientific inquiry that has no divine testimony to confirm it nor even the possibility of human testimony to confirm it (e.g. apparently no one thinks human beings have been around for billions of years so it would be impossible any of them to testify about that dating).

Thanks. See the revision I made to “The Day of Rest” section of the OP, as well as the notation about it at the end of the OP. Please let me know if it’s still unclear.

I will address your previous questions when I have some more time, but I just have to put in my $0.02 here.

So you wouldn’t accept the testimony of a medical examiner who certainly wasn’t present when the person died? Testimony couldn’t consist of the measurements made and cross checked?

Do you really believe Ken Ham’s “Where you there?” or are you just disallowing the science when it conflicts with your view of the Bible?

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Evidence is here, so we can make inferences as to what happened in the past. It’s how we live our lives, actually. I can infer that birds ate my raspberries and the deer nibbled on my hostas. It’s what detectives do , what we do, and what scientists do.

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[quote=“Mike_Gantt, post:11, topic:36410”]
I suppose they could all be categorized as scientifically-generated history (SGH). [/quote]

Good start!

Then your SGH is just a post hoc contrivance and unconnected to principles.

Then SGH is useless in your quest. You’re starting with a conclusion and trying to rationalize it later, instead of starting from principles.

[quote]That’s just the way I feel about God and His statements.
[/quote]“That’s just the way I feel” is not stringent Biblical analysis, and you’re not-so-subtly moving the goalposts. We’re supposed to be discussing our differing interpretations of God and His statements.

How about Genesis 32:22-30?

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You’re completely disregarding evidence, as well as the fact that scientific hypotheses predict observations that we don’t have yet. It doesn’t matter that the events happened in the past, it’s about whether we have the evidence now or in the future.

Are there any YEC oil exploration companies? Would you invest in one?

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Good to know.

You may be right that this is the course our back-and-forth would take. If so, I agree with you that it’s more useful just to acknowledge this without putting ourselves through the wear-and-tear of actually doing it. That said, allow me to be as precise as I can about my position on each of these subjects to see if it in any way changes how you think our back-and-forth would play out.

My view on this turns almost completely on Ex 20:8-11 and Ex 31:12-7. I say this because I don’t know any other way to interpret the Lord’s “six days” in those passages as something different from our “six days,” and because I don’t know why He would put this rationale in there unless it was important to Him for us to think this way about the days of His creative activity.

I am not sure where we are in disagreement here. I thought you had stated in an earlier post that you agreed that we could use the genealogies to date the human race to thousands of years. If that’s the case, and if Adam is the first human being, and nothing existed before that, then why wouldn’t you be comfortable saying that the age of the earth is thousands of years?

It’s okay with me if neither of my two comments change your thinking. I just thought I should ask.

Perhaps you haven’t had a chance to read what I wrote earlier. I regularly accept the reports of medical examiners and would only question such a report if, for example, it said that my mother’s death was three days ago when my responsible and trustworthy brother tells me he had breakfast with her yesterday.

As I’ve repeatedly said, it has been my lifelong habit to trust scientific findings and I do not expect that to change. I only question them when I have some specific reason to do so - in the case above and in the case of Bible history, when I have testimony from a reliable source that I cannot easily ignore or dismiss.

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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