"Is Genesis History?" corrected by creationists

(Peaceful Science) #1

The natural instinct of the BioLogos crowd is to dispute this movie for the science it gets wrong. There is something far more interesting going on, that I hope is not missed.

This movie gets creationism wrong, and is getting some very thoughtful criticism from both Jeff Zeerwink at RTB and even @Paul_Nelson, one of the YEC experts they have in the movie. Both of their critiques are really good reads.

From Jeff…

The film closed with Del Tackett (creator of The Truth Project) looking out on a spectacular mountain vista. He comments how God’s judgement in the flood (a worldwide cataclysm in the movie’s view) formed all this scenery. Something about this statement sounds off to me. It seems to me that if the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, and Yosemite were a result of God’s judgement, my first response should be a recognition of my sin. But far more often I find myself in awe of God’s vast power, profound creativity, incredible beauty, and amazing concern for me. http://www.reasons.org/blogs/impact-events/thoughts-on-is-genesis-history

That a thoughtful and insightful comment. Also the tone at RTB, as always, is exemplary. It really is worthy of being emulated by all of us.

From @Paul_Nelson at ENV…

in every case, and in my public lectures, I have argued that multiple viewpoints exist within Christianity,

Today a broad spectrum of opinion about time scales and intelligent design exists. Scholars and scientists such as William Lane Craig, Alvin Plantinga, Michael Behe, Hugh Ross, John Bloom, Fuz Rana, Phillip Johnson, Jonathan Wells, Stephen Meyer, Guillermo Gonzalez, John Lennox, and many thousands of others see unmistakable evidence of design in biology and the universe – but also accept the standard 13.7 billion year time scale. These persons would vigorously deny that their positions are accurately represented by either the “conventional paradigm” or “historical Genesis paradigm” as defined by IGH.

This reading of the debate reflects what I had earlier published (in 1999 and 2002) about the question. Acceptance of methodological naturalism (MN) – namely, the philosophical rule that "the statements of science must invoke only natural things and processes"2 – separates, on the one hand, the intelligent design community, young-Earth and old-Earth creation, and those forms of theistic evolution where design is empirically detectable, from, on the other hand, textbook neo-Darwinism, all alternative theories of evolution, and theistic evolution where design cannot in principle be detected. (See Figure 1.) I struggled to make this distinction while being interviewed for IGH, but my answers didn’t survive editing. http://www.evolutionnews.org/2017/02/new_film_is_gen103510.html

With a couple minor quibbles (which I will point out in a moment), this is a remarkably irenic post that goes to great lengths to defend the legitimacy of those outside @Paul_Nelson’s personal viewpoint (YEC). I have great respect for this. In particular, @Paul_Nelson really does represent us fairly as theistic evolutionists. He even recognizes that some TE’s (or ECs) fall in his camp on the MN debate and some do not.

I only have two minor quibbles…

  1. As a TE or EC, I think that design (by God) is detectable and there is tons of evidence for it, it is just that science (unaided) cannot detect divine design because of MN. I’m fine with that limitation of science, because I do not look to science to bring us to God. We have Jesus and the Resurrection for that.

  2. The claim that ID rejects MN is somewhat revisionist. The whole point of ID vs creationism is to talk about evidence for design without violating MN. If this wasn’t the case, why not just talk about God from the get go? I think the real history is that ID initially accepted MN. If Phil Johnson is to be believed, this was even the reason for moving to the term “ID”. When that strategy didn’t work, and ID was equated with “God”, then effort was made to remove MN. With that history in view, it is really interesting that @Paul_Nelson’s new categorization does not even recognize the existence of forms of ID that do not violate MN (which is what Johnson thought he was doing).

Still, these are just minor critiques.

I commend both Zeerwink and @Paul_Nelson in their irenic tone and effort here. If you ever come across this post, please receive my whole hearted “Thank You.”

What is everyone else’s thoughts?

EDIT: March 6th, Todd Wood’s gives his response to this thread and it is worth reading! http://toddcwood.blogspot.com/2017/03/the-false-dichotomy.html

Why Whales are not understood by Creationists (Testable)
(Peaceful Science) #2

@Paul_Nelson, if you are listening, I’m really curious your thoughts here.

Don’t you think that some ID proponents even know accept MN? For example, I am fairly certain that Behe falls in this category. Certainly Philip Johnson did too.

(Joel Duff) #3

I noted the same thing that the RTB review does and Gregg Davidson independently sent me the same thoughts so it seems that it struck a number of us as odd But after I thought about it for a moment it made perfect sense. This is a natural conclusion of the YEC understanding of scripture. I’m including a portion of a review that I have been working on which may include a furhter discussion of this point;

A strange reaction to the beauty of creation

It’s a bit odd to think in the young-earth paradigm had Adam not sinned, there would be no Grand Canyon, no Niagara Falls, no Yosemite, No Mt. Kilimanjaro, no Mt. Everest, and no mountains at all. But the radical reconstruction of the world via Adam’s sin touches much more than geological formations. Adam’s sin presumably was responsible for massive climate change and without that sin there would a consistent climatic pattern would have been pervasive not 100% constant. There would have been no deserts, no snow, no ice caps, no alpine valleys, etc…

We can’t stop there though, when we look at the world today we are amazed by the incredible diversity of life. Millions upon millions of species each with unmeasurable amounts of variation themselves. But without death and reproduction of all individuals the process of natural selection would have to have been suppressed lest anyone individual have an advantage over another. They would not need to adapt to variations in conditions such as dryer or wetter, colder or hotter and so forth. Without natural selection there could be no change in organisms over time including speciation. In other words, in the young-earth narrative all the amazing diversity of species we have today is the direct result of Adam’s sin. You could say that Adam’s sin unleashed the variation we see in the world today. A world without Adam’s sin would have no polar bears, grizzly bears or even sea lions or walruses. It would have no African wild dogs, wolves or arctic foxes.

The problem is that this image, and the image presented in the last frames of the film, is inconstant with words and message of the scriptures. Mountains, weather, biological diversity are all described as being authored by God. In almost all contexts these are viewed with awe. We don’t find the psalmist extolling the sins of Adam as causing the mountains to form. We don’t find Abraham and Lot looking down in the valley of Dead Sea Valley and regaling man for how his sin has caused this great rift to open up creating the Dead Sea. No they look down and see a place that seemed to be as the “Garden of Eden” even though the plants, animals, climate, and rocks of the valley are nothing like like the Garden of Eden as the young-earth interpretation imagines the prelapsarian world.

(Jay Nelsestuen) #4

That is wonderfully profound. Thank you for sharing.

(Brad Kramer) #5

For those curious: Yes, BioLogos is covering the film. We are working on a multi-faceted response.

(Jay Nelsestuen) #6

I look forward to it.

(George Brooks) #7

Excellent points !!!


Quite true. But we do see some people blessing the time Adam succumbed to temptation, because it led to the Virgin Mary becoming our heavenly queen! LOL! (Where did Jesus go?) Anyway, consider the 15th century anonymous poem “Adam lay ybounden.” (It’s in Middle English.)

Adam lay ybounden,
Bounden in a bond;
Four thousand winter,
Thought he not too long.

And all was for an apple,
An apple that he took.
As clerkes finden,
Written in their book.

Ne had the apple taken been,
The apple taken been,
Ne had never our ladie,
Abeen heav’ne queen.

Blessed be the time
That apple taken was,
Therefore we moun singen.
Deo gratias!

It’s a popular text for composers to set to music, most notably the English composer Benjamin Britten in his gorgeous Ceremony of Carols.

Here’s a performance: Adam lay ybounden

(Jay Nelsestuen) #9

Yikes. The “cult of Mary” seems to have been alive and well in the 15th century.

(George Brooks) #10

If I correctly understand Paul Nelson’s list of 11 names, these are prominent I.D. folks who believe in a very, very old Earth!

We need to keep this list handy when some of the more ardent I.D. proponents arrive here, all dressed up, and quite insistent that the Earth is too young to have had time for Common Descent to have had a role.

This is important in and of itself.

But I think it is important to dwell even longer on one more basic item: how many of these 11 people think there is evidence for “Intelligent Design” and (< I repeat, and) think there is evidence for natural speciation as well ?!?!

(Peaceful Science) #11

Todd Woods (a YEC) gives an interesting take on this. I think it is worth reading…

(Peaceful Science) #12

You do not understand @Paul_Nelson correctly. Many of these people are NOT ID proponents. For example, Hugh Ross goes to great lengths to make this clear.

Moreover, I find it sad that he did not include theistic evolutionists from the BioLogos camp here.For example, @DennisVenema, Francis Collins, and myself (@swamidass) all see “unmistakable evidence of design in biology and the universe”. I should be on that list too, and I do not know why @Paul_Nelson excluded us.

Of course, we do not agree with most ID arguments. Speaking for myself, we do not think think modern science has the capacity correctly interpret this evidence, with our without methodological naturalism. Nonetheless, I entirely affirm the evidence for design in the universe. My biggest divergence with @Paul_Nelson is that he seems to think we deny this evidence, when we clearly do not.

(Jay Nelsestuen) #13

Good article. It is true that we all dichotomize. The question then becomes, whose dichotomy is the right one? I don’t think the classic YEC dichotomy of “Genesis as history” and “Genesis as myth” is correct.

(Paul Allen) #14

Both Abraham and David may have been subject to lesser revelation under the old covenant in relation to the affects of Adam’s sin.

But Christ and in particular the Apostle Paul explained greater revelation under the new covenant;and in particular the effects of Adamas fall.

The fallen world is sustained by the word of Christ and not one molecule, atom is outside of that sovereign control.


That’s why I’ve never understood why so many Young Earth Creationists are so fearful of “random chance”. Why do many people think that the role of “chance” in evolutionary processes somehow poses a problem for God’s sovereignty? We see God using “randomness” throughout creation in countless ways. Much of it is even incredibly predictable and so reliable that it makes for very accurate measurements of age, for example, in radiometric dating.

(Paul Allen) #16

Under the sovereignty of God, there is no such thing as random chance. There is nothing independent of God.

(Ryan) #17

I had this same discussion with a woman in my Bible study. I don’t really get it either, maybe it’s more of a clockwork and direct cause/effect mindset?

Maybe it’s the same struggle people have with going from classical mechanics to quantum mechanics. You have to develop a new kind of intuition because your mind is used to very strict if -> then scenarios.

(Ryan) #18

Both yes and no. Random chance and the sovereignty of God are not mutually exclusive. Something can be based on random probabilistic chance (like flipping a coin, or the spin of an electron) and still be governed by the sovereignty of God. He is the creator and upholder of all natural laws after all.


Of course, I didn’t say that there is anything independent of God. And if you don’t like the term “random chance”, then we can always call it something else. Would that be helpful? (Do you prefer a term like “stochastic”, perhaps?) The fact remains that lots of Christians and non-Christians use the phrase quite often. And many Young Earth Creationist object to the Theory of Evolution because they claim that it requires a bad thing: random chance. (Whether or not their characterization is correct is yet another question.)

God knows which atom of a radioisotope sample is going to decay next. But you and I don’t. So we humans tend to call it “randomness” or “random chance”. Do you prefer some other terminology?

I once dealt with a mainframe computer experiment where a Geiger counter was used as a source of “random chance”. Computers have usually relied upon pseudo-random number generators, so this was a situation where the experiment could deal in “truly” random numbers—or so said the experiment prospectus.

In my original statement, I was noting that many Young Earth Creationists object to evolution because they claim that God would never utilize “random chance”.in his creation to bring about a diversity of life. Many will say that “random chance” implies that something is outside of God’s control. But Bible-affirming Christians disagree. The Bible says that God is sovereign over the casting of lots. God knows the outcome. And that is why evolutionary processes are just as subject to God’s sovereignty as every other biological process.

It sounds like you are basically agreeing with me in my original statement: No Christian should fear “random chance” because God is sovereign over all. We are limited. God is not.

(Chris Falter) #20

It may be worth pointing out here that the random motion of air particles enables us to breathe. “Randomness” can be put to good use!