Looking for answers…and not from Ken Ham

There have been countless times since Jesus walked the Earth when Scripture has been challenged by people of pragmatic and “scientific” bent. The argument over so-called “creation science” and “evolutionism” is no different. Jesus in John chapter 6 encountered skeptics to what He was teaching (John 6:60-63). In response to their complaint that His sayings (Scripture) were hard to accept, He said that His words are “spirit and life” and that “the flesh profits nothing.” So it is that the words of flesh (science of the flesh) do not counteract the words of the Spirit of God.
In my response to Chris Falter (see above and below in this string) are as follows.
Chris, I also, read a lot of the early “scientific creationist” literature and found it useful for poking holes in biologic evolution, but not convincing that the earth was young or that creation science was believable. However, I think they are correct in their straightforward reading of Genesis, contrary to Hugh Ross’ calling days “eras.” I have read most of Ross’ publications, and do not think he is convincing. Have also attended his seminars and conversed personally with him. I appreciate his science, but do not share his modifications of Scripture to fit his scientific persuasion.
My own view is a hybrid one that remains based in straightforward literal reading: Ancient Earth (billions of years)–Youthful humanity (thousands of years). Our confusion today lies in the common assumption of everyone involved in the debate that the earth we currently inhabit is the creation that Genesis 1 describes. I think I can demonstrate from Scripture an alternative to this common assumption. I think both the earth and humanity are special creations of God, not some meandering unguided process of evolution by natural selection, which cannot, and never has been, demonstrated.
How can I believe this? That is the answer I provide in my book referenced earlier in this chain of posts. I would be happy to discuss this personally with anyone who is interested, but the topic deserves, I think, a focus and concentration that is too distracted and diluted in this forum format. I just can’t keep up with all the diverse posts and focus clearly. If anyone wishes to contact me personally, my email address is found on my blogsite: https://sowhatistruth.com. I’m not too adept at negotiating this sort of communication, so everyone please forgive my errors or faux pas.

I’m curious Ralph what I’m genesis 1-11, or even just 1-3 , makes you believe that the literary style is biographical or historical in its narrative? What other chapters in the Bible covers thousands of years and dozens of people with stories in just a few chapters? It’s not written the same as the story of Moses and so on.

So placing all science aside what in the narrative demands a literal interpretation?

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In the end of the day, figuring out the age of the Earth, the ages of fossils found in it, and how those fossils relate to each other, is all basically measurement.

As for people of pragmatic and “scientific” bent – for many of us, we have to be because that is our jobs. We work in careers where we have to approach science, in one form or another, professionally and responsibly. As such we are taught rules that we have to obey and standards that we have to maintain. In fact, if we didn’t obey those rules and maintain those standards, we would drive our employers out of business and in some cases possibly even kill people in the process. If, that is, we weren’t fired for gross professional misconduct and sued out of our insurances first.

For those of us who are Christians, it’s just that we expect to see the same rules obeyed and the same standards maintained in our apologetics teaching materials as we have to maintain in our jobs. In fact, that’s what the Bible itself demands:

¹³Do not have two differing weights in your bag — one heavy, one light. ¹⁴Do not have two differing measures in your house — one large, one small. ¹⁵You must have accurate and honest weights and measures, so that you may live long in the land the Lᴏʀᴅ your God is giving you. ¹⁶For the Lᴏʀᴅ your God detests anyone who does these things, anyone who deals dishonestly. – Deuteronomy 25:13-16

Now if you’ll just excuse me, I have a whole bunch of failing unit tests to fix.

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I don’t feel like I’m challenging scripture….I think I’m challenging my laziness in accepting Ken Hams view of Genesis and science because it has always felt to me like the loudest voice in the Evangelical room.

And the way Genesis is written….to me personally it feels like allegory…as do many other mythical stories from around the time. So I am challenging my PERSONAL closed mindedness and am trying to remain or become more teachable.

So many times I have heard main stream science or evolutionists compared to the serpent in the garden saying “did God really say?” And I guess the demonizing just bores me. The Bereans essentially were saying “did God really say?” When they were searching the scriptures.and that was commended. I think any responsible person should ask the same words the serpent said to Eve…did God REALLY say?

I know that a lot of my evangelical friends and some fundamentalist Christian high school science teachers I listen to say that if we don’t take Genesis in an extreme literal sense, then people will just go about determining the rest of scripture any way they want. While I agree some might do that, I feel like any fear that forces us to react with over simplistic ideas to keep things under control isn’t trusting that God can very well get his point across any way he pleases. So I also am challenging that idea. I feel like out of fear the Pharisees had added so many rules to protect the law because they didn’t trust God to do what needed to be done. In the same way I don’t want fear and control to force me into over simplifying things to make things easier to manage.

My whole goal is to hear what God may have to say through the Scriptures, science, other believers, etc. and if he’s as great as I hope and believe he is, then this may be a far more exciting and unlimited journey than I had hoped at the start.

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I refer to that accusation as “quote mining the voice of the serpent.” They’re taking four words of Genesis 3:1 out of context and twisting it to mean something that flatly contradicts clear instructions elsewhere in Scripture. The Bible tells us clearly that we are not to believe every spirit but that we are to test the spirits to see which are from God. (1 John 4:1.) There is no end to the number of cults and heresies you could introduce by attempting to shut down critique in that way.

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Hello Dr. Rohr,

It seems that you regard the publications of biologists and paleontologists as “science of the flesh” that must be discarded if they run counter to the Scripture.

I suggest an alternative approach that has stood the test of time in the Church: The Doctrine of the Two Books.

This doctrine has its Scriptural foundation in Psalm 19. The first stanza describes the first of the two books, the Book of Nature:

The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours out speech,
and night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words,
whose voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out through all the earth,
and their words to the end of the world. (vv 1 - 4, ESV)

The second stanza describes the second book, the Book of Scripture:

The law of the Lord is perfect,
reviving the soul;
the testimony of the Lord is sure,
making wise the simple (v 7, ESV)

Tertullian was the first church father to describe this doctrine:

“We conclude that God is known first through Nature, and then again, more particularly, by doctrine; by Nature in His works, and by doctrine in His revealed word.” [Adversus Marcionem, I, 18]

It is quite significant that Galileo quoted this very passage when he contended that the doctrine of geocentrism, so plainly taught by literal reading of Scripture, must be reconsidered when confronted with strong scientific evidence.

Tertullian was not alone in teaching the doctrine of the Two Books. Other proponents included:

  • Justin Martyr, Irenaeus (source)
  • Clement, Origen (source)
  • Basil, Gregory of Nyssa, Augustine, John Cassian, John Chrysostom, Ephrem the Syrian, Maximus the Confessor (source)
  • John Scottus Eriugena, Hugh of Saint Victor, Saint Bonaventure, Thomas Aquinas (source)
  • Francis Bacon (source)
  • Martin Luther, John Calvin (source)

This is a veritable Hall of Fame in Christian thought!

The doctrine of the Two Books took on great importance in the Reformation because scientific discoveries created upheaval in what had been previously thought established by Scripture. Rusbult explains:

We should agree that in holy scripture the main purpose is to help us understand spiritual realities, but is this the only purpose? Do any passages in the Bible contain scientific information that should be used in our scientific theories? Or should we use information from nature to help us interpret the passages? When thinking about these questions, one useful principle is illustrated by changes in our theories about the solar system:

In 1500, we had a coherent system of false beliefs. Everyone thought that planetary motions were earth-centered, and that the Bible taught this science. Our interpretations of nature and scripture were both wrong, but they agreed with each other and were thus in harmony.

In 1620, there were debates among scientists, who didn’t agree with each other about how to interpret nature. And there were debates about how to interpret scripture; some theologians, but not others, agreed with Galileo’s interpretation of biblical passages that seem to indicate a moving sun and stable earth, when he said “the intention of the Holy Spirit is to show us how to go to heaven, not how the heavens go.” At this time, some interpretations of nature conflicted with some interpretations of scripture. { In addition, scientists and theologians were influenced by other factors, including personal interests and Aristotelian philosophy. }

In 1700, science and theology were again in harmony, with both agreeing that planetary motions are sun-centered. But unlike 200 years earlier, now both interpretations corresponded to the reality in nature and scripture, and were therefore true.

What was the change in theology? In 1500, people claimed that the Bible teaches an earth-centered universe when it says “the sun rises and the sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises,” when it describes a mobile sun that “rises at one end of the heavens and makes its circuit to the other” and a stationary earth: “the world is firmly established; it cannot be moved.” (Ecclesiastes 1:5, Psalm 19:6, Psalm 93:1) In 1700, almost everyone agreed that the Bible authors were simply describing what seems to be happening when we observe the sun, just as we now talk about a sunrise or sunset.

What caused this change? Our interpretation of the Bible was influenced by information from nature, interpreted using science. This influence was beneficial, since it helped us recognize that in these passages the Bible was not making a scientific statement teaching us “how the heavens go.”

I respectfully disagree, @Anyman, that we are dealing with a conflict between science and Scripture here. I find myself agreeing with Rusbult that the issue we face is a conflict is between differing interpretations of Scripture.

What we learn from the Book of Nature can help us interpret the Book of Scripture more faithfully. In the same way that scientific observations helped early Reformers like Kepler and Galileo to more faithfully interpret Ecclesiastes 1:5, Psalm 19:6, and Psalm 93:1, the observations of paleontology and biology can help us more faithfully interpret the early chapters of Genesis today.

@SonsofThunder - I hope that you, along with Dr. Rohr, find this doctrine of the Two Books to be helpful!

Grace and peace,
Chris Falter

Edits: Some formatting; link to Rusbult essay

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Indeed. And I think it is a conflict of where we have placed our faith, whether our faith is in our OWN knowledge and our OWN reading of scripture or in the understanding of God and what HE continues to teach us in the earth and sky!

But that requires us to be open to God teaching us how to interpret the scriptures rather than making our doctrines and our understanding of scripture into the god we follow. John 5:39 “You search the scriptures, because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness to me.” So Jesus tells us that the scriptures are a poor replacement for God Himself.

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Here are a couple of articles that describe the geologic history of Mars. Basically, based on what is known of earth’s features, Mars’s history has been divided into three time periods, in which the craters have been compared to those patterns found on the moon and verified by dating moon rocks.

https://www.msss.com/http/ps/age2.html

https://sci.esa.int/web/mars-express/-/55481-the-ages-of-mars

I’d also suggest this documentary:

Meanwhile, AiG says this:

In the case of Mars, we have no eyewitness record of events there other than the fact that God created it about 6,000 years ago along with everything else. Conclusions about the age of Mars rocks or the duration of water flow require assumptions about conditions and events long past and not amenable to controlled scientific testing. Such long age estimates should not be considered reliable.
…in this article- Running Water in Martian Past | Answers in Genesis

AiG hasn’t offered a better model of Mars’s geologic past that I know of.

I’m just an enthusiast, so if there are any geologists or astronomers here that specialize, I’d love to learn more too :slight_smile:

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I am not an expert on Mars, but any claim along the lines of “descriptions of events in the geologic past cannot be replicated, therefore any scientific statements about them are unreliable” is completely untenable, as it invalidates all statements about events in the past.

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To be fair, I think the AiG line of reasoning goes something like this:

  • Without eyewitness testimony we cannot know for sure what happened in the ancient past.
  • Therefore, examining rock layers and fossils can tell us about how those things appear now, but not how they appeared or came to be in the past.
  • Additionally, humans and, by extension our senses and minds, are fallible, fallen, and prone to error.
  • Genesis 1-2 provides an eye witness of how the universe came into existence
  • since God is perfect and does not lie or make mistakes, his account (Gen 1-2) is more trustworthy than the fallible human science.

I hope that is a fair thumbnail sketch. Certainly don’t want to strawman the beliefs of any AiG supporting brothers and sisters, so welcome and encourage corrections/clarifications.

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For a different perspective on creation and a young earth look here Gets more into earth history than biology.
The author delves into the possibility that water on Mars actually came from earth. The bottom third of this page deals with water on Mars.

Different describes it well. I can see a few obvious hurdles as far as basic physics. Regarding water on Mars, there are some good articles on the Natural Historian about erosion and such when Mars still had a lot of water.

Yes, I have seen reasoning along the lines of both what I described (e.g., [the Big Bang, abiogenesis, mass extinctions, star formation, etc.] can’t be replicated, therefore it can’t be real) and reasoning more toward what you describe. The latter still commits a proving-too-much fallacy by considering eyewitness testimony the only valid form of evidence for events in the past: that makes both non-textual archaeology, and claims about layers being deposited by the flood inherently impossible.

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Let’s us go through the arguments shall we:

  1. The first is an argument from ignorance to try to say that Science can’t model something effectively from the past. However, when and how exactly could we base any Science on from this line of reasoning? Yesterday? It is from the past. Or maybe 10 years? 100 years? Obviously, if there is no other way to validate something from the past and it is a one off then we have a severe problem. However, this is not necessarily the case. We can study stellar evolution and see birth and evolution of stars and have a lot of knowledge of these things. It may be possible some day to travel to M-Class planets and see them undergoing abiogenesis to show that chemical evolution is not just a possible explanation but a reality. So in principle many things now not possible may be possible.
  2. Same reasoning as above. If in the future we can chart thousands or millions of planets undergoing similar fossilization as on earth we can be pretty certain that that is what happened here even not going back (and perhaps time travel is possible, which would be another way to validate or discredit the current understanding)
  3. This can be said of both the Scientist and Religionist. Religionist have been prone to error in the past within all religious groups. It is more likely that Science is correct because past understanding of Science has changed with new information and new experiments. The self-correcting nature of science helps to constantly improve and eliminate error. What has happened to religion? Most have gone extinct because their ideas have been shown to poorly fit the data. The majority of Scientists who have studied these types of things that this is the case with the Bible as well
  4. Eyewitness account from god has to be demonstrated otherwise it has no validity - since a piece of writing can make any claim but is it likely to be true or accurate?. The best current empirical Science disagrees with the Bible from many different areas relating to Genesis 1-2. The best Biblical scholarship today seems to view the passage as not being a scientific explanation but some type of National Hebrew Creation Myth or Creation Story probably adapted when in exile in Babylon from ancient Babylonian and Sumerian myths - as the stories are very similar. I’m not aware of any validated Hebrew writings predating the exile that would support an early writing of these stories. No information does not prove the Biblical writing didn’t exist early. However, when much of what is recorded does not show up in any form (Hebrew writing, archeology, the records of other nations etc.). Then doubt grows as to whether the writing actually records any ancient history of the Hebrews including early Genesis.
  5. Assumes existence of god which first needs to be shown. This seems impossible or at the least extremely difficult because there is not a generally acceptable definition of god that could ever be empirically tested for. World View (WV) framework arguments (using god as a framework) can just as easily be framed within Natural Science without involving metaphysical explanations such as god. Unless the religionist can establish the existence of god by specifying some type of set of tests, natural explanations seem much less problematic and preferable.

In conclusion, YEC must provide actual evidence and empirical data for their claims. It is fine to use the Bible to support claims as long as the Biblical material is generally accepted and shown to be valid. Since gods, early Genesis, and much of the early history of Israel is not generally accepted as historical, significant arguments and empirical evidence must be mounted to overcome these objections. Since this is not done, most Scientists rightly dismiss AIG and YEC type thinking.

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Yes indeed. It is also not borne out in daily human experience.

For example, earlier this evening I came into the dining room to find orange play-doh squashed into the carpet. Despite their denials I knew my boys were to blame and so they received a consequence for their actions.

However, under the logic of AiG I acted incorrectly, perhaps even unjustly. After all I did not see them squash the play-doh into the carpet and have neither an eyewitness nor a confession to explain which process caused the play-doh to move from the table to the floor.

A purposefully silly and purely illustrative example.

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Abiogenesis and perhaps other of these items is in principle possible to observe (although not with current technology). If planets were charted and a significant number of earthlike planets were undergoing abiogenesis than we could make the inference that it is not just possible but highly probable that is what happened on earth. This could extend all the way up to intelligent beings like humans and beyond - if the same were observed evolving. The converse could also be true, if some other mechanism was seen operating or none were found after surveying a significant number of stars - some other explanation might be appropriate (intelligent designer? god? other?)

We have nothing that proves they were written then, but they fit with a much earlier writing.

I recommended On the reliability of the Old Testament by K. A. Kitchen. The author is a Near-East archaeologist, and is assessing how well the statements found within fit with archaeology. His conclusions include the following: early Genesis-like accounts are only known to have been composed before c. 1800 BC; the form of the law codes in the Pentateuch was only used in the 1300-1150 BC range; and other such results which put most of the Old Testament (and the traditional dates of writing) in the “equally plausible as most (if not more plausible than many) other historical writings from the ancient near-east” category.

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I’m aware of this line of argument (“similar to” type arguments) and have studied books like Kitchen’s before. However, this writing all seems to be borrowed - adapted for their own purposes. If it were adapted from earlier Babylonian and Sumerian writings it would display all of the accurate references, structure and even wording. However, it would only be an adaptation. There seems to be no actual evidence the Hebrews existed early or wrote it. I studied an in-depth course on the Ancient Near East and the early cultures of the ANE say nothing of Hebrews. One would think that there would at least be some reference to David’s and Solomon’s empire and trade with (as with other groups throughout Egyptian history) if it existed by the Egyptians. Also, if this information and evidence were readily available, people would bring it up no matter how sparse. There is nothing.

On this point, I would point out that eye witness testimony is only relevant if one interprets early Genesis as literal history. One must consider the genre of the text in order to interpret it correctly, and it certainly does not real like history. Even in the later chapters and other books in the OT, they are not written for the purpose of history. I told someone that they are like a chicken sandwich. A sandwich has chicken in it, and the chicken may be real chicken (and often may be multiple chickens, ground and pressed into a patty) but a sandwich is not a chicken. And a theological story is not a historical document.

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Re “And last, any good book recommendations for theistic evolution? I know literally nothing”, I can recommend any or all of the following books:
• “Evolutionary Creation: A Christian Approach to Evolution” or “I Love Jesus & I Accept Evolution” (the Reader’s Digest version) by Denis O. Lamoureux
• “Perspectives on an Evolving Creation” edited by Keith B. Miller
• “Reformed Theology and Evolutionary Theory” by Gijsbert van den Brink
• “The Nature of Creation: Examining the Bible and Science” by Mark Harris
• “The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief” by Francis S. Collins
• “The Language of Science and Faith: Straight Answers to Genuine Questions” by Karl W. Giberson & Francis S. Collins
• “Evolution: Scripture and Nature Say Yes!” by Denis O. Lamoureux
• “Embracing Evolution: How Understanding Science Can Strengthen Your Christian Life” by Matthew Nelson Hill
• “Understanding Scientific Theories of Origins: Cosmology, Geology, and Biology in Christian Perspective” by Bishop, Funck, Lewis, Moshier, and Walton
• “Is There Purpose in Biology? The Cost of Existence and the God of Love" by Denis Alexander
• “Finding Darwin’s God: A Scientist’s Search for Common Ground Between God and Evolution” by Kenneth R. Miller
• “Old Earth or Evolutionary Creation?: Discussing Origins with Reasons to Believe and BioLogos” edited by Kenneth Keathley et al
• “Origins: A Reformed Look at Creation, Design, & Evolution” by Deborah B. Haarsma & Loren D. Haarsma
• “Saving Darwin: How to Be a Christian and Believe in Evolution” by Karl W. Giberson
• “Theology After Darwin” edited by R. J. Berry
• “Darwin, Creation and the Fall: Theological Challenges” edited by R. J. Berry
• “Reading Genesis after Darwin” edited by Stephen C Barton
• “Creation or Evolution: Do We Have to Choose” by Denis Alexander

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“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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