To avoid any confusion, I should clarify my use of the term “myth”. I could draw an analogy to the word “theory” in how the general public and the academy use a term in two different ways. When the average person hears the word “myth”, they may assume “a story or claim that is false”, but in a great many academic fields, the word “myth” refers to a traditional story which explains the origin or meaning of some phenomenon or practice. Thus, Genesis 1 is viewed as a myth explaining how the world came to exist. In the Dept of Religious Studies, Dept of Folklore, Dept of Ancient Near Eastern Studies, and Dept. of Anthropology, we discuss myths without any focus on whether or not a given myth is true or false. It is a traditional story that explains something, even though some of us consider it much more important and true than various other myths from the same period.
Of course, when I say “true”, I probably don’t mean that it is truthful in exactly the same ways the average Young Earth Creationist would say Genesis 1 is true. For that matter, many YECs would be incensed that I would dare call Genesis 1 myth. Yet, I would reassure them that a myth can be inspired by God to convey truth to us, even if there are many other ancient myths lacking inspiration and the same truth values.
You are correct, and that is what I meant in my statement above. This is how C.S. Lewis would have used the term; therefore, I understand what you are saying. It is always good to hear from you professor. I can imagine your classes are quite interesting. The word “myth” does not always mean what people usually think. The same controversy exists here where I live. I wish to thank you for your concern and your interest. God bless.
You’re welcome. I know that you have the same concern I do: Various terms and their definitions which are familiar to many of us are something quite new to some readers, especially the young people who visit websites like this one. They are often preyed upon by people who will say to them, “Those scholars are the bad guys because they dare to call Genesis 1 a myth!” And to the novice of these topics, it does sound like an outrageous affront to God.
I read an article by Ken Ham where he admits that academics define the word “myth” differently than he does. But he went on to claim that it was, nevertheless, an evil plot to undermine faith in the scriptures. (He didn’t mention that we use the same term in referring to stories in the Qur’an and Haddith, but perhaps he should accuse us of plotting to undermine the faith Muslims have in their scriptures as well!)
I would be more sympathetic with Ham had he advocated the avoidance of terms which are commonly misunderstood. I would wish that terms could somehow never be ambiguous or subject to misunderstanding. But that is very difficult to accomplish in any language and once a term is established, it becomes counter-productive to try and prohibit it. After all, the educated person must be able to engage the peer-reviewed literature, today and in the past. The word “myth” has had its academic meaning for a very long time. Also, do we really wish to allow the least informed people to dictate the terminology used by scholars?
Wow! What a lot of posts since I checked in last. Being busy, etc. has its disadvantages.
Thanks for the tips on importing quotes, etc., Christy.
I did get most of the way through forming a reply to some of the posts, but the number seems to have radically increased. I’ll post what I had and appologise for any duplication of overemphases on any subject.
Restrictive, yes. Misleading, I don’t belive so. The “plain meaning” of the words simply means what would be understood by someone reading them without prior knowledge of the argument and in an unbiased way as it is possible to be - although this part might be difficult. If a child, who knew nothing about evolution or creation, etc., read the text, what would they conclude from it? I would argue (without doing any extencive research) that almost all (if not all) children would understand the text as indicating a solar day each - even if they understood or were aware of the other definitions of the word. It is my belief - mainly due to the instructive nature of God - that the original readers would have understood it this way.
Quite right, except for evening and morning in this context actually mean just that - the context makes that quite clear. To change it’s meaning here corrupts the text.
Perhaps, but not biblical creationism. Biblical creationists rely on the biblical account partly because the scientific evidence matches the account. (An argumentthat biblical creationsists ignore scientific evidence (nature) because it doesn’t follow their interpretation of Scripture - and I know this isn’t exactly what you said - shows a lack of knowledge of the biblical creationists’ models.)
It is my belief that interpreting Scripture by external sources is a very dangorous thing to do. The only ways to interpret Scripture are either divine inspiration or Scripture itself. History has shown we are very good at misinterpreting scientific evidence, so how can we use it to interpret Scripture - the inspired word of God who was there at the beginning.
This statement implies that “All scientists have determined…” and this is far from true. Many scientist (significantly qualified in their fields), albeit a minority, have determined that the universe is far from “old”. Some of these are even atheists.
This is not exegetical and the text is certainly not poetic.
But the text (that God created in 6-days 6,000 years ago) does match nature! and it describes the Creator very well. And it certainly is no myth.
This not a good exception as it is not entirely clear whether the prophecy refers to the restoration of Israel or the resurrection of Christ. If the latter, then it clearly does indicate solar days.
Besides, exceptions (especially if it only one out of hundreds) don’t break the rule.
I think what you mean is that it has been argued against by those who wish to interpret it differently. I see no “debunking”.
One might argue that this interpretation has been “debunked”. It is clearly not poetry, whether in a historically Hebrew way or any other. Examples of poetry can be found elsewhere and they show no resemblance to the general text of Genesis 1.
Another thing to consider is the 4th commandment. “… For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day…” Are we to assume that God did not mean this? Maybe He should have written “For in six great-big-lengths-of-time the Lord made…” If He didn’t mean six solar days, He would then be classed as a deceiver.
In Genesis there could have been other words used that would mean extended lengths of time. Why didn’t God/Moses use any of these?
Of course, another way to look at it is, if God really had created everything in six solar days, how could He have made it much clearer?
And who gets to define “plain meaning”? Why, of all people, should it be some child that decides? When we want to understand original intent of the Founding Fathers within the Constitution, do we look to a random fourth-grader? Or do we consult learned Constitutional Law scholars? Why should the Bible deserve a lesser standard of care in terms of accurate hermeneutics?
I’d argue that the “plain meaning” of this scripture pericope would best be determined by (1) a native speaker of ancient Hebrew, (2) in the time of the author(s) of Genesis 1, and (3) preferably the author(s) who chose the words, phrases, grammar, and genre of that ancient text. I’d argue that those of us living today are far less suited for causally determining “the plain meaning”. (Frankly, the last person I’d look to for an authoritative “plain meaning” of Genesis 1 would be a young child! It defies all logic and scripture and even common sense.)
Also, why should anyone think that the meaning is “plain” in the first place? Not all texts are simple. Not all scripture meanings are simple. Some are very complex. Texts are often layered in their meanings. (Remember “When I was a child, I thought as a child.”) Are you confusing “child-like faith” with “child-like thinking”?
How about the “plain meaning” of Jesus’ teachings in the New Testament? Are they easily discernable? Or did the disciples complain that Jesus didn’t speak in such a way to make the “plain meaning” easily determined? In fact, when they complained to Jesus, he said that God chooses to hide the meaning from the masses. So that certainly doesn’t sound like the “plain meaning” is necessarily the objective of scripture.
When I was a Young Earth Creationist long ago, this was one of my colleagues’ favorite arguments: the child test. Is the child test a teaching of scripture? It depends upon what is meant. When the disciples were stumped by Jesus’ teachings, should they have consulted a nearby child? And when we academic types debate the exegesis of a passage at an ETS or SBL conference, should we break the impasse by surveying a group of children?
Was the lifetime I spent on Hebrew and Greek exegesis a waste of my time? Is knowing less about the Biblical text essential to understanding the meaning of a passage? Where do I find a scripture where I’m told that the child test is the ultimate determiner of meaning? Obviously, you will never find such a passage.
The child test is a modern day evangelical tradition with its roots in the Reformation, when the Reformers were declaring their revolt against the absolute authority of the Roman clergy. What came to be called the Doctrine of the Perspicuity of Scripture certainly has its merits—but only when properly understood. The Westminster Confession says:
“…those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed, for salvation, are so clearly propounded and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned, but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them.”
I entirely affirm that! I do believe that those things which are essential to salvation are so clearly presented in the texts of the Bible so that both “learned and unlearned”—and yes, even a child—are capable of understanding them as led to salvation through the Holy Spirit.
In contrast, there is no claim under the Doctrine of Perspicuity that everyone—even with abundant prayer and earnestness—will be led to a complete understanding of every possible truth implication and meaning of the Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic scriptures. And no Bible passage promises me that I am guaranteed an understanding of scientific, or even chronological implications of a Biblical text, when that was not the authors’ purpose in a particular Biblical text.
If the child test were valid, I wonder why Bible translation committees don’t consult a nearby child when we find ourselves stuck at a translation impasse. Yes, the final English language rendering of a particular Hebrew or Greek sentence may seem “absolutely clear” and “without ambiguity”, but that is because those of us on the translation committees had to make a final decision as to what we think is the most likely meaning of what many be extremely difficult and obscure vocabulary and syntax—and we usually relegate the second most likely meaning to a footnote.
AN ASIDE: And, if truth be told, sometimes we were overruled by the Bible Society Board of Directors in agreement with the publisher that our preferred translation-wording was too controversial—and that our bold but risky translation would be ripped to shreds in the marketplace by those who love tradition. So, sometimes the traditional reading had to appear in the main text of the translation no matter what and the alternate translation which the majority of us insisted was a much better rendering had to be demoted to a footnote at the bottom of the page, where most people will ignore it.
That is the reality of the Bible translation world in at least some cases. It’s another example where a vocal minority, such as Young Earth Creationist “Biblical creationists”, continue to get their way and exert undo influence. That’s because Bible publishers are loathe to anger traditionalists who are most likely to declare a Bible translation “heretical” when it fails to reaffirm their favorite traditions. (One such sound bite in the news can destroy a new Bible translation’s prospects before it even has a chance to prove itself.) In contrast, other evangelicals are much more willing to allow for alternative translations and interpretations—and therefore, their reluctance to use the word “heresy” as a blunt weapon actually gives them less influence on these matters of Bible translation. Anybody who doubts what I’m explaining here should take a look at several modern translations and compare the main text of the translation to the many alternative translation notes at the bottom of most pages.
For example, notice in Genesis how the traditional use of the word “earth” continues to appear in the early chapters—even though the alternate translation notes at the bottom of those pages keeps saying “land, country, or region”. Publishers love the ambiguity of the word “earth” because traditionalists incorrectly assume that Hebrew ERETZ means “planet earth”, even while everyone with a knowledge of ancient Hebrew and 1611 KJV English understands that ERETZ/earth mainly means “opposite of sky” and can refer to the soil beneath us, as well as country/nation/region. (Most traditionalists don’t notice that once the KJV translators got beyond the early chapters of Genesis, even their 1611 King James Bible text usually renders ERETZ as “country”, “nation”, and even sometimes “wilderness” when it is absolutely obvious that ERETZ is used to refer to a particular region. Yet, when someone today points out to traditionalists the fact that Noah’s Flood was regional, all Hades breaks loose.)
No. As a “creation science” speaker and debater back in the 1960’s and 1970’s, I regularly presented “biblical creationists’ models” to the general public and even university audiences. I do understand that the traditional argument that “You think we ignore the scientific evidence but that is only because you don’t understand or have any familiarity with our literature” is a convenient and all-too-simplistic one. Yet, it is maddeningly weak due to the obvious fact that a huge percentage of the evangelical Christians and others who criticize the ways in which “biblical creationist’s” (an abused term I chafe at because lots of us are biblical creationists but reject Young Earth Creationism, for example) ignore the scientific evidence know of that reality because we grew up in and once embraced those failed arguments! Indeed, I have two other ex-YEC colleagues who post on Biologos now and then who were also once “creation science” speakers at churches and Bible conferences. I would bet that if you were to survey all of the posters here, a huge percentage have backgrounds and even personal academic experience in carefully examining the Young Earth Creationist biblical creationist position, having once embraced it themselves.
Yes, people like Ken Ham often say, “We don’t hate science. We love science!” but then he proceeds to ignore any and all scientific evidence. Indeed, in the Nye-Ham debate, Ken Ham was basically asked: What would it take for you to change your interpretation of Genesis? What would it take for you to accept billions of years of earth history and the evolution of life into the diverse biosphere we observe today? When Ham made clear that, unlike Nye, no amount of quality and quantity would make any difference to him, he left no doubt that he has no interest in nor respect for science. Sadly, a great many YEC “biblical creationists” would agree with that stance.
So you solve the problem by pretending it doesn’t exist. Then you declare anyone who interprets it differently as being a vandalizer of the text.
That too is one of Ken Ham’s favorite tactics: If you don’t agree with my tradition-based interpretation of this scripture passage, you hate the Bible and do violence to it. That’s the tactic of a demagogic politician, not a careful expositor of the scriptures. (Yes, vilifying everyone who disagrees with “us, the true Christians” plays well with Ham’s donors. It is a preaching-to-the-choir tactic that never convinced anyone else of anything other than the desperation of the preacher.)
This is the tactic of “You are not only wrong, what you are doing is dangerous!”
Are you sure that “external sources” are bad? Do you deny the doctrine of the Holy Spirit’s role in the interpretation of scripture? I would also ask you this: If God is the author/creator of the entire universe, why do you rule out God’s creation as an “external source” in helping us to understand God’s other great work of authorship, the Bible? If God created both the universe and the scriptures, shouldn’t they be in a harmony where each helps us to understand the other?
One of the first contradictions which led me to question my involvement in the Young Earth Creationist “creation science” movement was the hypocrisy of assuming that God’s Creation (the universe) could NOT be trusted to tell us anything true, while God’s scriptures were assumed immune to misinterpretation by fallen humans—or, at least, by fallen Young Earth Creationists! My colleagues pretended that entire fields of the science academy were nothing but error and evil (“because fallen man can not be trusted to interpret the scientific evidence”) but everything from the mouth of Henry Morris, John Whitcomb Jr., and Henry Morris were assumed infallibly correctly interpreted—both in matters of theology and science! Apparently “the error-prone minds of fallen sinners” was a very selective problem, making everything our opponents said horribly wrong while everything we said was “based upon the infallible truths of the Living God of the Bible!”
As I look back on the years of my life when I was a biblical creationist “creation science” activist, I can’t think of a single instance where this was true. No, everything started with our favorite cherished traditions, grounded in the histories of our respective denominations and church fellowships. Then, we looked about very selectively for anything sciencey-sounding which could be used to support our already formed conclusions about what we wanted to believe.
By the way, a few years ago I laughed aloud when one of the Board of Directors of the Discovery Institute let slip in an interview the fact that the R.A.T.E. Project had already determined all of its conclusions well before it had even gathered its funding in order to begin the very expensive “scientific investigation” into radiometric dating. I knew from my contacts within the ID and DI community that the scholars involved in R.A.T.E. were furious that an administrator had naively and innocently stated what everybody in the world already knew about their propaganda plan. The embarrassment was palpable. The end result, of course, was equally predictable. R.A.T.E. was never about science and discovery. It was about staking a position in advance (as in “We hate radiometric science because it destroys a young earth view and our many of evolution-denial arguments”) and then trying really hard to cherry-pick some kind of scientific evidence to convince donors that scientists are wrong—and therefore “we” might be right after all!
In what ways? Please give us your best examples of how “God created in 6-days 6,000 years ago” (a concept one can’t find anywhere in the Bible) “matches nature”.
If you believe there is scientific evidence for a 6,000 year old universe, let’s hear your #1 Best Scientific Evidence for it. (Obviously, if your #1 best evidence for a young earth doesn’t hold up, it’s downhill from there with your lesser categories of evidence.)
Even tree rings provide climate histories which go back over 5,000 years (and thereby, beyond the assumed date of an allegedly global Noah’s Flood in your 6,000 year schema), so the evidence from creation is against you. Likewise the varve evidence. Likewise the ice cores evidence. Likewise the ERV evidence. Likewise the geological evidence. Likewise the radiometric evidence. Have you ever noticed how “creation science” and other Young Earth Creationist advocates never mention the tremendous CONSILIENCE of the available evidence. Ken Ham & Co. never will because the greatest embarrassment of “creation science” YECism is the total lack of consilience in their alleged evidence and arguments.
Of course, that is a theological topic. I don’t think any Christians on this forum would deny that the Bible describes the Creator, and describes him sufficiently well that we humans can know how to relate to him.
You may have missed the recent posts where we discussed the two main definitions of the word “myth”, both the one usually assumed by the general public and the term used in the academy. As to the latter, Genesis 1 is most certainly a text which explains the origins of something we observe in the world. It explains the origins of the universe. That certainly qualifies it for the academic term “myth”.
Clearly not poetry? I’ve spent a lifetime trying to define what is poetry and the poetic in Classical Hebrew. So I would be very interested in how you made this determination.
Does prose narrative normally observe a 3 YOM + 3 YOM chiasmic structure? Does prose narrative normally consist of six verses, each followed by a chorus, an identically worded refrain of “And the evening and the morning was the Nth YOM”? Could you please cite some examples in ancient Hebrew where a prose passage uses such a well structured, very repetitively worded, verse-refrain coupling in a series of six—and nobody calls it poetic or at least hymnic?
Whether someone choose to call such an obvious structure of six verses, each followed by the same chorus (much like a traditional poetic hymn), an example of poetry or simply a very poetically structured pericope doesn’t really matter to me. I just know that historical prose certainly doesn’t sound like Genesis 1 sounds! Show me prose that is composed of six verses, each followed by an identical chorus, that is not considered at least poetic!
MattC, if you have genuinely studied enough Hebrew to know that Genesis 1 could not be poetic and in a hymnic structure (with inescapable chiasms), please tell me how you managed to explain how it could be historical prose. I will freely admit that I didn’t focus on this topic in my grad work, so I will freely defer to you or anyone else who has been able to illuminate the flaws in my observations about Genesis 1. (Obviously, my position on Genesis 1 is not at all original to me. Everything I’m explaining here can be found in any university textbook, even at the undergrad level class in Pentateuch/Torah.)
There are many examples of Hebrew poetry reflecting the many different elements of Hebrew poetic style and structure. If you are saying that the elements in Genesis 1 are very different from the poetic elements in Lamentations, for example, I would certainly agree. But that is like saying Lord Cardigan’s Charge of the Light Brigade can’t be English poetry because it “shows no resemblance” to the children’s poem, “Mary had a little lamb, his fleece was white as snow. And everywhere that Mary went, the lamb was sure to go.” So, MattC, I would like to know how you made your determination.
Yet, even if one could successfully argue that there are no poetic literary elements in Genesis 1 (good luck with that), that still wouldn’t demand that it be considered historical prose narrative.
Answer: Because even in the early chapters of Genesis, the word YOM/day is not used with only one meaning! We are told in Genesis 2:4:
“These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens.”
Not even six/24-hour-day “Biblical creationists” believe that God made the earth and the sun, moon, and stars on same 24-hour day! Even Ken Ham & Co. admit that in “the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens”, YOM means “period of time”.
Moreover, when I was a Young Earth Creationist, I would have told you that the seventh YOM, the day in which God’s creative activity rested, was not limited to twenty-four hours but persists until the present. So my question for you is this: If you read YOM literally as requiring an exclusive meaning of a 24-hour day, do you believe God resumed his creating once the seventh day was over? Did God create more things on Day 8?
And what is “a Sabbath rest for the people of God” in Hebrews 4:9? Is that a 24-hour day as well?
The following link makes some good points. I include it not necessarily to endorse the late Gleason Archer and Norman Geisler as the last word on Hebrew lexicography and exegesis but to say that a great many “card-carrying Evangelical conservatives” have published detailed debunkings of the YEC-24-hour-day traditionalism:
Notice in particular how they distinguish “the second YOM” from “a second YOM”. Mattc, have you ever noticed this key difference in Genesis 1 when reading the Hebrew text? Are you really so certain that the same use of YOM appears throughout the Tanakh?
The aforementioned link has a handy summary:
*"Conclusion: What does all the foregoing mean for understanding Genesis 1?
The uniqueness of the Hebrew numbering of the creative “yom” actually supports the view that the
creative “yom” are not ordinary (24-hour) days.
The numbering of the creative “yom” does not exclude the “extended period” or “age” meaning of
the Hebrew word “yom” when referring to the six creative times. The unique numbering of the
creative times adds support for the “extended period” or “age” meaning.
There are no other applicable examples of the numbering of a sequence that is equivalent to the
numbering of the creative “yom.” Assertions which attempt to interpret numberings which read
“yom” “second” using numberings which read “in yom” “the second” are flawed."*
Because it doesn’t.
I’m curious, MattC. Have you carefully compared the exact phrasing of YOM in Genesis 1 against the other HMT passages? I find it hard to believe that you have. If you still don’t understand why I say that, please read the aforementioned linked article very carefully.
No. The fact that a given word in a Hebrew lexicon can have multiple meanings—just as most English words in an English lexicon—has absolutely nothing to do with denying " the consistency of Scripture and indeed God."
Frankly, this popular mantra from Young Earth Creationist “Biblical creationists” makes me a bit angry. I’ve actually had some Bible readers down through the years adamantly maintain that “God always uses the same word in Greek and Hebrew in only one way throughout the Bible.” In every case they were self-taught, “armchair exegetes” who imagined themselves to have discovered “truths of the Bible” which “all of those book-learning scholars have either missed or refused to acknowledge!” I remember one such man who developed an entire sermon series on how the ark of the covenant and Noah’s ark were “the same thing in terms of significance and meaning because the same word was used.” I still remember how white his face got when I explained to him that that “sameness” was an accident of linguistic history and the English language—because in Hebrew two very different words are involved. (I’ve had similar experiences explaining “world” in Greek, especially 2Peter 3:6) Yet, his face soon turned several shades of red as he began to rebuke me. You see, he was a KJV-only proponent who claimed that every word of the KJV was specially chosen by God, and because the KJV was the ultimate inspired text of scripture, even our exegesis of the Hebrew and Greek texts should be subservient to the KJV! So he informed me that my “smarty-pants” remark about these being two different kinds of arks was obviously of Satan because God in his wisdom had inspired the KJV translators to unite them under a single word, “ark”. (To him, English is the ultimate divinely-appointed language of revelation!)
MattC, doesn’t this sound sadly similar to “If you don’t agree with me on this interpretation, you not only deny scripture. You are opposing God!” Could you please explain to me how this wouldn’t be the plain meaning interpretation of most readers?
However, most of all I’m curious why you think that a God who recognizes that words in human language have more than one definition would be “inconsistent” by using those multiple definitions? Is God inconsistent because Biblical Greek and Biblical Hebrew lexicons (which are based on a study of the scripture texts) show that many words in the Bible have multiple definitions listed? Or does that simply mean that all such Biblical language lexicographers deny the consistency of God?
MattC, why does God have to live up to your or my expectations? Are you saying that God cannot use the conventions of human language because whenever he does so, there is always room for misunderstanding and ambiguity? Do you think that Jesus should have not said, “I am the door of the sheep” because (1) Jesus is not literally a door, and (2) Jesus is not the kind of “literal shepherd” who spends his time literally leading and literally grazing the literal flock of literal sheep?
MattC, do you see that that argument is a grasping at straws?
I do understand where you are coming from and what the disciples meant when they complained to Jesus, “Why do you speak in parables? Why do you say things in ways that make it so hard to understand?” And did you notice what Jesus said in reply: Easy understanding was not his primary goal! (I’ll resist the temptation to pursue this huge topic and the role of mystery in the Bible.)
I spent a lot of my life dealing with Bible translation and helping Bible translators on the field. They constantly dealt with the problem of ambiguity and misunderstanding that arose both in the original language texts of the scriptures and in the target languages they had to use to reach people for Christ. My favorite example was, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock.” Translating that literally into the language of an Amazonian jungle tribe would mean that Jesus was declaring himself a literal thief! Only thieves knocked on the door of a hut. If nobody responded to the knock, the thief would go in and steal. But a genuine friend would call out the name of the person who owned the hut. So the Wycliffe translators told me that they chose message over literalism and rendered the Biblical text: “Hello. I stand at your door and call to you.”
MattC, do you think my Wycliffe friends were denying the clear meaning (and wording) of the scripture? Were they denying God himself? I actually had an angry man walk up to me after a sermon where I used that example and told me that those translators were going to hell for refusing to honor the Word of God—and me too for speaking well of them. He said that God chose every word of the Bible and it was heretical and blasphemous for us to dare “change them”. (Does that mean Bible translation is evil? Should all preaching be done in ancient Hebrew and Greek?) He said that we should have translated “according to God’s law” and not “man’s law”. (Kinda sounds like Ken Ham wording, doesn’t it!) He said that the missionaries should explain to the natives how in Jesus’ culture they had very different customs than those of the “pagan jungle”! (I’m almost surprised he didn’t say “jungle savages”!) He said that people should accommodate God instead of the other way around.
Are we headed into the realm of discussing legalism? I’d say we already have been in multiple portions of this thread, whether we’ve realized it or not.
MattC, long ago I preached from the pulpit and university lectern many of the arguments you are making today. A half century of study of the Hebrew scriptures, general/historical linguistics, and science led me to abandon and apologize for my past errors. I can assure you that I still keep up with “creation science” and YEC-exegesis trends. I reject them not because I don’t understand them—but because I do. In any case, nobody has to know everything about the Young Earth Creationist brand of “biblical creationism” to identify major errors.
I can’t say it was an easy road out of YEC-ism’s brand of “Biblical creationism”. It took a lot of work. Now I realize that my former position was based not so much upon the scriptural and scientific evidence but the history and traditions of my family and church fellowship. We as humans naturally make what I like to call the Grand Assumption of Superior Luck: “I sure am thankful that, despite the odds against me, I was fortunate enough to have been born into the particular, minority subgroup within the Church that constitutes not only the ‘true Christians’ but those whose traditional beliefs are all the correct ones.” So, of course, I sincerely believed that everything I was taught at church was the “obvious” conclusion of all of the scientific evidence—as well as the correct interpretations of the Bible. (Corollary: “That’s not to say that we are inerrant in every detail of our doctrine. No, we aren’t God! But any errors there might be in our Bible interpretations involve unimportant details. So any little mistakes in our interpretations which might possibly exist certainly don’t prevent us from being the most correct of all Christians on earth. Our mistakes are still far less important than everybody else’s mistakes.”)
MattC, I look forward to your point-by-point explanation of why my rebuttals concerning Genesis 1 are flawed. I will appreciate any details you can provide.
We’ve already examined the problems with assuming that YOM must always be understood as always referring to “literal 24-hour solar days.” But I love your concern for anything which would classify God as a deceiver!
Indeed, that is one of my biggest theological obstacles to Young Earth Creationism. I refuse to believe that God intentionally crafted a universe filled with misleading evidence. Why would a deity go out of his way to make hundreds of natural phenomena so obviously evidencing a universe much older than 6,000 years?
When I was a young professor, I knew pastors who told their people from the pulpit “God placed dinosaur bones in the ground to test the faith of God’s people and to frustrate evil atheist scientists.” They had no problems casting God as a great deceiver. But I do.
I can’t find any valid evidence for a young earth. I can find piles and piles of evidence for a very old earth. I refuse to believe that God is a deceiver and prankster. Do you believe God created the universe in ways meant to fool us?
As to Genesis 1 and God using a typical work-week to illustrate God’s power in creation, consider Carl Sagan and his COSMOS series. His Cosmic Calendar illustration treated the entire history of the universe as a single year of 365 days. Was Sagan deceiving his audience? Or was he explaining his topic?
Seconding that. Most people in conservative Evangelical churches have no clue how complicated meaning, language, interpretation, and translation are and many would totally freak out at the “liberties” taken to produce a comprehensible translation. All of the misconceptions surrounding the translation of divine familial terms and how that played out for Wycliffe and SIL a couple years back are a case in point.
For anyone who actually made it through your whole post, you made lots of excellent points here, especially about the doctrine of perspicuity. In a Scripture Engagement (a branch of Missiology) class I took a few years ago, we read Grudem’s article on perspicuity and discussed all the ways it does not apply to actually doing missions work and all the ways he uses linguistic/translation terms (like clarity and accuracy) in ways that are totally disconnected from the ways that linguists and Bible translators use those terms. It’s a bunch of ivory tower theologizing that is completely impractical and inapplicable as far as speaking to best practices in cross-cultural translation and promoting contextualized indigenous church movements.
I see that my colleague has responded to the claim that those who
disagree with “biblical creationists” and their young earth creationism
supposedly don’t understand their arguments. I’m very interested in
reading MattC’s rejoinder to the point-by-point dissection of his
A reasonable question with answers which have been published by Biblical scholars for as long as I can remember:
He could have avoided the use of chiasms and choruses/repetitions which provide poetic structures which emphasize the heavy symbolism of the pericope.
He could have written Genesis 1 as more conventional historical narrative.
He could have avoided the many obvious contradictions of the passage which become quite problematic the moment one tries to impose “literal 24-hour days” on the word YOM in Genesis 1. For example, how can there be literal evenings and mornings before the sun is created? (Also, an evening and a morning does NOT define a 24-hour YOM/day! It sounds more like a type of idiom, such as the idiom which uses the evening sacrifice and the morning sacrifice in the tabernacle to define the span of one night.)
God could have created a universe which wouldn’t so obviously contradict the idea of a 6,000 year old world created in six solar days!
I’m tempted to keep going but I hate to beat a dead horse, especially when the corpse was given last rights so many years ago.
What amazes me most is that Young Earth Creationists keep repeating the same tired arguments and never up their game. Just as in the realm of science, they make no attempt to address the best arguments of their informed opposition. Instead, they replay the same traditional arguments of generations ago. Why? They know that, when preaching to the choir, familiarity is more important than the quality of the argument. Those who hold to six 24-hour solar days of creation just 6,000 years ago require reassurance, not scholarship in the form of evidence and careful logic. The quality of the argument doesn’t matter to them. The goal is identify and ideology, not the best understandings of the text.
The hymn-like creation pericope of Genesis 1 is obviously structured to contrast YHWH ELOHIM with the pagan pantheons of neighboring peoples. Instead of a god of the sea, a god of the beasts of the field, a god of the sky, etc. etc. etc., the God of Israel is master of all of the realms of the world. The six YOM structure provides an outline for the author’s message: God is Creator of the entire world and everything in it, and a single week is enough for God to create all that we see. That is the message of Genesis 1. There is nothing said about 24-hour days, or 100-hour days, or any other length of day. There is simply a series of YOM.
Of course, EVEN IF each YOM were intended to refer to 24 hour days, a Framework Hypothesis where each YOM is a “Day of Proclamation” is just as harmonious with the text as the traditional YECist viewpoint. That is, each YOM is associated with a COMMAND issued by God, and the fulfillment could just as easily involve the millions of years that the Book of Creation (authored by God himself) so clearly describes.
Unlike our own language and culture, ancient Hebrew language lacked verbal tenses and our obsession with chronology. Thus, nothing in Genesis 1 necessitates our modern day insistence on “Day 1 happened first, Day 2 happened next, etc.” That may seem farfetched to most English Bible readers, but every one of my Semitic language professors at the very secular university where I began my Hebrew language studies cautioned against reading our chronological expectations into the text. As my first year professor used to day, “To understand the language of the ancients, one must understand the minds of the ancient author and readers.” He told us that when a culture doesn’t even bother with verbal tenses, that should be a red flag that chronology and the sequences of time weren’t a top priority within that culture.
Are the numbered amendments of the Bill of Rights, the original amendments to the U.S. Constitution, numbered so as to indicate their chronology? No. Yet I’ve known international students who were studying in hopes of eventually becoming U.S. citizens who “naturally assumed” that “the first amendment was obviously the first amendment to get approved.” Is that true? Is there a “rule” of English grammar which requires “the first amendment” to be the first of a series of chronological ratification events? No. Yet, we can understand why the uninformed might jump to that conclusion.
I often ask “Biblical creationists” this question: “What was the very first thing God created?” The most popular answer is LIGHT. Yet, before there was “Let there be light!”, Genesis says that the Spirit of God moved over the face of the waters. Everything was formless and void. So, even the YEC literalist must admit that before there was light, there was “the waters” and the formless void, the TOHU VAVOHU.
I also like to ask them whether Genesis 1:1 is a summary of the entire pericope OR is it God’s creation of the entire universe (the heavens and the earth) and the seven YOM were subsequent events as God organized and allotted significance and purpose to many important things within that creation.
So I would like to hear MattC’s answers these questions and issues. Do you TRULY believe that you can say with a straight face that YOM in Genesis 1 “obviously” refers to a 24-hour solar day and, therefore, the entire universe as we know it today was created in a single conventional week of “instantaneous” acts of non-gradual/immediate sudden appearance? If so, why did God go to such elaborate lengths to give us such a wonderfully coherent history of the earth involving billions and millions of years? Why would God author Book of Scripture timeline that so obviously contradicts his Book of the Universe timeline?
This issue (the meaning of YOM) gets raised fairly frequently here, and I honestly have never understood the point.
There are two separate linguistic issues at play - polysemy and figurative language.
Polysemy is when words have more than one sense. So for example, the Greek word ποιμήν (shepherd) has two senses, the primary sense, a person who tends sheep for a living, and an extended figurative meaning of a pastor.
In John 10, when Jesus calls himself the good shepherd, the sense in which he is using the word is the primary sense of a person who tends sheep for a living. He isn’t talking about pastoring a congregation. But the passage in which this primary sense is used is an extended metaphor that is clearly an example of figurative language. Jesus is not claiming to have made a career change from carpentry to shepherding. He is using shepherding as a vehicle for communicating meaning about God’s care and provision and sacrifice for his children.
Same deal with YOM. It has multiple senses. In the primary sense, it means a normal day. In the extended figurative sense it can mean a more general time period or era. It seems pretty clear to me that its use in Genesis 1 is the primary sense of “day.” But just because the figurative sense of a word is not being used in a passage, does not mean the passage is not a figurative passage as I just showed above with Jesus the shepherd.
The logic I have heard presented resembles to me something like this:
“Vine” has two senses; it can mean a leafy plant, or it can mean a chewy red candy.
If I say “Jesus is the true vine,” and you prove that the intended sense of the word I used was the “literal” plant sense, then you are justified in going on to say, “Therefore the intended meaning is ‘Jesus is literally a plant.’” That’s wrong. Determining whether my whole utterance was meant figuratively or not is a separate interpretive process from determining whether I used a literal or figurative sense of a given word.
Who cares if YOM means normal 24-hour day? Establishing that’s the intended sense does not get you anywhere in arguing that the passage it is found in is not clearly figurative and poetic.
Wow. That’s probably the longest post I’ve ever seen on any forum I’ve ever been on.
This is the second time I’ve written this as my computer crashed after I had nearly finished and, unfortunately, the site only saved the first few sentences, so I may have missed out on some of the points I thought of first.
First of all, OldTimer, I’d like to say that my intection, in any post, is not to make anyone angry. If this has happened, I’d like to appologise. My intention, like most people on here and on many of the forums I’ve been on, is to both let others know my point of view and to enquire as to the point of view of those others. Some people have the intention of arguing for the sake of it and not listening to others - that is not mine. I have my opinions, my worldview, if you like, but that’s not to say I will not listen to others. I will try to be a little less dogmatic and antaganistic. I found your post interesting and some of the points I would either agree with or, at least, be unable to directly argue with.
Secondly, I’d like to hold fire on those points that are specifically scientific as opposed to scriptural, although some of them do overlap. One reason is that I am too tied up in other matters to deal with those at the moment - I hope to open up another thread at a later date. Another is that I wanted to keep this thread closer to the scriptural reasons than to the more scientific (again, I appreciate that they do overlap).
It shouldn’t. I have never heard of ‘the child test’. My intention was to choose smeone whose background knowledge didn’t unduly influence them one way or another. I thought a child might be the obvious answer - apparently not. as you quite rightly suggest, there are many passages in Scripture that require specific interpretation by those who are known to be guided by the Spirit. Although all interpretation of Scripture can be said to be guided by the Spirit, some more or less in need of theological influence. As you quoted, some passages need not be interpreted by the ‘learned’. I believe that Gen 1 is one of them. If the suggestion about a child causes you irritation, then I apologise.
My argument was that YEC’s do not ignore scientific evidence. Anyone who claims that they do is ignorant of their work. What they do do is use the same scientific evidence that OEC’s and interpret it differently. We might disagree on the interpretation, but it does not mean that YEC’s do not use the same evidence.
My apologies, I was being a little over zealous with my words. In my opinion, it changes the meaning of the passage. But I certainly don’t pretend that the problem doesn’t exist. The problem is either the text implies long ages, or it implies short ages. Interpreting it the wrong way (whether that’s short when it should mean long, or long when it should mean short) means that, at least, the meaning is is corrupted. It cannot mean both.
By ‘a 3 YOM + 3 YOM chiasmic structure’ are you referring to, what I know as, the ‘literary framework hypothesis’? If so, it is entirely possible that God, in his infinite wisdome decided to create everything in some framework fashion, i.e. three places and then three contents. This neither invalidates my suggestion that there is no real evidence of poetry, not that the creation days are solar days. It could still be taken as literal history - even it poetry were involved.
It is clear from the context that ‘the day the LORD God made…’ means ‘period of time’. It’s in the context. The context for each created day implies a single solar day.
On the contrary. If I were building something and told you that on the seventh day I stopped building it, you wouldn’t automatically assume that I restarted on the eighth day. On the seventh day God stopped creating - simple as that.
At a quick glance at this paper, the quotes in it do seem to back up the idea that the word ‘day’ of the created days don’t necessarily have to mean solar days. I don’t have time to look into it at the moment. I’ll have to get back to you on that one.
It is my experience that most readers assume that Gen 1 reads as though the writer is infering solar days - whether or not they believe God even exsists. It may not be the correct way to interpret it, but I’m convinced it’s the ‘normal’ (if that’s not to ambiguous a word) way to read it.
On the contrary, but if He were to have created the earth in 6 days, it seems a very good way to write about it.
It is clear from the context that Jesus is talking metaphorically. It is certainly not clear that God is talking metaphorically about solar days, if, in deed, He is.
OK. How about biblical references to the creation week. Some of them indicate that Jesus believed that Gen 1 was short.
Matthew 19:4: “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’. Mark 10:6: “But at the beginning of creation God ‘made them male and female.’ If these were long periods, then they would not have been created at the beginning, but near the end. Also, the implications of ’ Haven’t you read…’ is that even a child could understand the very words of God, so why are the Pharisees having trouble.
Can you explain your interpretation of the 4th commandment. To me, it implies that God is reitterating His six-day creation.
MattC, you have once against stressed the importance of context to Bible interpretation—but then you headed into a consideration of Matthew 19:4 and Mark 10:6 (parallel passages, obviously) without any mention of the context. So before responding to your challenge, I will wait for you to post your reflection on the context in which Jesus spoke the words recorded in Matthew 19:4 and Mark 10:6. Was Jesus preaching on the chronology of creation week? Or was Jesus talking about something else entirely?
While you are at it, I would also like to know if you have ever taken the time to consider why so many Biblical scholars consider your argument among the very weakest possible for arguing a six solar day creation. After all, you seem to be unaware as to why your very traditional arguments for a six 24-hour day “creation week” have been failing to impress exegetes for such a long time. However, if that is an erroneous assumption on my part, I would encourage you to correct me and demonstrate that you do already understand why so many scholars remain unconvinced. (Of course, if you have never read commentary arguments against your position, I will go ahead and explain them. But we can save a lot of time if we don’t keep replaying the traditional arguments move-by-move as if re-enacting a well-known chess match.)
Of course, your argument that “Jesus believed that Gen 1 was short” seems to be pulled out of thin air without any basis. And the logical disconnects don’t stop there. So please explain further:
(1) What exactly defines a “short” versus a “long” Genesis 1 time period of which you speak? Where does the Bible—or some alleged rule of grammar perhaps—tell us how to distinguish a short from a long time period? Moreover, why should it matter?
(2) If you are saying that Genesis 1 covered a single work-week of six solar days, then “the beginning of creation” would have referred to Yom #1, would it not? Yet, we all agree that Genesis 1 speaks of HA’ADAM on YOM #6, the end of the creation week! Accordingly, you have just provided for us the very best argument for rejecting your interpretation. After all, according to your arguments thus far, in reflecting upon Genesis 1 Jesus should have said that God made them male and female at the end of the creation, not the beginning! (To your embarrassment, your emphasis on literal interpretation leads to Jesus’ words totally destroying your position.)
What surprises me the most, however, is the fact that you have not investigated the significance of “at the beginning” (also translated “from the beginning” or “in the beginning”.) MattC, have you ever considered the Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic wording behind these English language renderings? You see, if you truly consider CONTEXT to be important, you absolutely must do so. I’ll even speed things up by giving you a big hint: MattC, by what title would Jesus and his contemporaries have referred to what we call the Book of Genesis?)
I look forward to hearing why your presumably very “literally based” interpretation of Jesus’ words seems to totally miss the fact that Jesus referred to “the beginning of creation” and not “the ending of creation”, that is, YOM #6 for the mention of male and female in the creation account. I also want to know why you assume that Jesus is referring only to Genesis 1 and not to Genesis 2. (Indeed, considering that there was no numbering of chapters in Jesus’ day, why are you making the distinction at all?)
Was it you or some other commenter who said that using other definitions of YOM within the text would be a case of God being inconsistent—and that God would never be inconsistent in that manner? If it was not you, then my commentary on this topic was directed at some other commenter, not you. Accordingly, it still stands as my rebuttal to what I consider a very poor argument because it imposes an arbitrary linguistic rule on God that ignores how human language works.
Again you pretend that a simple declaration of your opinion makes something so. And I have already explained the many ways in which YOM in Genesis 1 does NOT necessarily mean a solar day. In particular, how could the first three YOM of Genesis 1 be “solar days” when you yourself claim that *there was no sun until its creation in day #4!" How can one have anything that is “solar” without any sun? This is yet another reason why your “literal interpretation” of Genesis 1 is its own best refutation! The more literally you interpret the pericope, the more self-contradictory it becomes!
Moreover, every time someone speaks of a 24-hour day and claims that they are certain every YOM in Genesis 1 is a 24-hour day, they ignore the fact that Genesis says nothing about the length of a solar day. Science and the testimony of God’s own creation tells us that the “solar day” as you call it has been of varied duration over the course of history because it depends upon the rotational speed of the earth itself. Where does Genesis 1 define the rotational speed of the earth (or even state that the earth rotates at all) and tell you that 24-hour durations are a fixed definition of a solar day?
Here again we are reminded that the six 24-hour day interpretation of Genesis 1 is a matter of *tradition, not text!"
MattC, why does it matter whether some interpretation is “normal” or not? There is no reason to assume that a “normal” (or most popular) interpretation is a valid one. Nicodemus assumed the “normal” interpretation when he heard Jesus say that “You must be born again.” Nicodemus expressed his surprise at a “natural” interpretation of Jesus statement when he went to Jesus one night and asked, “Can a man enter into his mother’s womb a second time and be born again?” Yet, Jesus told Nicodemus that his “natural” understanding of the term was wrong.
This “normal interpretation” and “natural reading of the text” sounds like just another version of “the child test” that I’ve heard people cite for as long as I can remember.
I won’t attempt to speak for my colleague but I want to ask you a related question. I once heard a biology professor say in her lecture to Biology 101 students, “For those of us of the female gender, when the stork delivered us to our parents we already had in our bodies a lifetime supply of eggs.” Tell me, MattC, because that biology professor mentioned a stork delivering babies to parents, do you think that that means that she affirmed a belief in storks as where babies come from? Or was she simply using a standard linguistic convention in the English language for referring to the day of a person’s birth?
Likewise, someone in first century Palestine could have referred to “the six days of creation” as a common convention to speak of all of God’s providence in bringing about the world they observed around them. (Whether or not the average person in Jesus’ day thought that the creation of the world required six solar days is irrelevant to what God actually did.) I have used the very same choice of words to refer to the plan of God in creating the universe—even though I’m well aware of the billions of years of earth’s history which God in his wisdom ordained and gave testimony to us through the evidence he placed all around us. Figurative language does not undermine the literal realities.
Genesis describes Noah’s flood as an inundation of the ERETZ. The fact that the ancients had limited understanding of the full nature and scope of the ERETZ doesn’t change the fact that we see zero evidence of a planet-wide flood. (Such a recent inundation of the entire planet so very recently as Young Earth Creationists claim should have left obvious evidence virtually everywhere we look. Instead there is zero evidence of a global flood. As a former YEC was once invested heavily in the “creation science” movement, I can assure you that I looked most aggressively for that evidence!) Jesus made no effort to describe the geographic extent of the flood. Indeed, when Jesus mentioned Noah, he worked from within the understanding of his audience. My question for you, MattC, is whether you think that Jesus should be denied the same facility of language that the biology professor is allowed to use. I think most of us grant the Lord Jesus the same leeway in his use of human language that we would grant a biology professor.
Jesus also said that the mustard seed was the smallest of all seeds. As a “literal” statement of botanical description, Jesus’ declaration would be considered a falsehood. Yet within the conventions of human language, Jesus used a linguistic expression which was well understood at the time. Jesus wasn’t giving a botany lecture at a university. He was making a theological point: a little bit of faith can have huge and powerful implications. Is that not obvious?
These are just a few examples of how those who demand literal interpretation create for themselves contradictions and problems within the Biblical text which otherwise would never be problematic—even under a “natural reading” of the text! Indeed, by insisting upon interpretations that would force Genesis 1 to contradict itself, they dishonor the text.
Really? That is news to me! After a lifetime studying the Greek texts of the New Testament, I’ve yet to find any evidence of Jesus “believing” that Genesis 1 demanded some sort of “short” duration. Again you confuse tradition over what the Biblical text actually states.
Indeed, that is the power which cherished traditions can hold over us. Our cognitive dissonance can be so overwhelming that we aren’t even conscious of it. We are reminded of that danger whenever what we think is “obvious” in the text, while to so many of our brethren within the Biblical studies academy, it is not so obvious at all. (If something were truly “obvious”, those with equal reverence for the value of the Biblical text would all agree on the interpretation of a given passage.)
Is it not obvious? The creation hymn we call Genesis 1—which was probably a very old oral tradition at the time it was put into writing as part of the Torah—is based upon a SEVEN YOM creation poem outline. So it is entirely appropriate that when God enacted a command of sabbath-keeping as part of the Sinai Covenant, he cited the special meaning of YOM SEVEN using a familiar tradition which everyone among the children of Israel would have understood. You appear to be saying that a YOM #7 sabbath day could not have been mnemonically-based upon the seven YOM of the Genesis 1 oral tradition unless seven solar days were involved in both. What is your basis for that? What “rule” of logic requires it? Why can SEVEN only be significant if linked to a “solar day” and not just the Hebrew YOM of Genesis 1? MattC, once again you are selectively applying your sense of “literalism” wherever it suits your purpose, even while ignoring such literalism wherever it doesn’t.
The Bible also speaks of the four corners of the earth. Do you assume that this is a “literal” description of the earth? And when you hear a sailor speak of his lifetime of experiences on “the seven seas”, do you assume that there are exactly seven separate seas of the world instead of one huge ocean which human language tends to classify and divide using very general terms of location?
You seem to be holding tenaciously to “solar days” in Genesis 1 as if everything depends upon them. MattC, can you please explain to us how there can be three solar days, each with an allegedly literal evening and literal morning, when you believe that no sun existed until “solar day #4”? Do you not see that as the enormous self-contradiction it is? Please explain to me how three solar days can exist without a sun?
By the way, within a poetic hymn, such obvious contradictions aren’t contradictory at all. But the moment you claim that Genesis 1 must be a prose historical narrative of seven solar days, the “chronological account” immediately falls apart from its own internal contradictions.
MattC, does it bother you at all that a 6,000 years ago, six 24-hour solar day creation based upon a “literal interpretation” of Genesis 1 totally contradicts the testimony to billions of earth history which God has given us in the creation itself? If God is truly the author of both the Bible and the Creation, shouldn’t we expect BOTH of God’s great works of authorship to be in agreement about our history? I certainly expect God’s two great books to tell a consistent story. So whenever it appears to me that the two are in contradiction, I generally assume that my interpretation of the evidence from one or the other or both is flawed. I have great confidence in the truths of the scriptures but have limits to my confidence in my ability to interpret them properly. And a major reason for that is that the longer I live and the more I learn about the original languages of the Bible (and many other fields of scholarship), the more I find my Biblical hermeneutics maturing and thereby changing from what it once was.
MattC, your comments bring back a lot of my memories of long ago. When I was drawn into the “creation science” movement with the publication of THE GENESIS FLOOD (1962, Henry Morris & John Whitcomb Jr.), after John Whitcomb had preached a preview at my church the year before, it blended perfectly into the Young Earth Creationism traditions of my peer group and family background. At the time there was limited breadth to my knowledge of science and Classical Hebrew—and more importantly, my grasp of historical and comparative linguistics—so I internalized six-solar-day creationism and “flood geology” uncritically and without hesitation. Why? I assumed that (1) those whose theology and personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ was similar to my own deserved my total trust, and that (2) God wouldn’t allow sincere, prayerful disciples of Jesus Christ to be wrong about such an important topic. (3) I also assumed that such apparently godly people had done their due diligence in investigating both the exegetical and scientific evidence, and surely I should trust born-again, Bible-believing Christians for my understanding of the earth’s history. After all, they told me that all of the evil atheists of the liberal, worldly universities taught the Theory of Evolution and its billions of years for the sole purpose of destroying students’ faith in God! So, it was obvious to me which side of the culture world deserved my allegiance.
Sadly, all of those presumptions on my part were wrong. They had no basis in the scriptures, though the cherished traditions of my church had convinced me that these were absolute truths! Not until I started digging deeper into the scriptural and scientific evidence for myself did I begin to realize that my “spiritual heroes” had not carefully done their research. I discovered that they had cherry-picked their so-called evidence and had so often deceptively (and dishonestly?) quote-mined their sources.
Worse yet, when someone during the audience Q&A would expose blatant errors in my colleagues’ books and conference presentations, these “creation science” experts would promise to correct them and more carefully explain them in the next edition of their books—yet that rarely happened. Even more worse yet, the following weekend at the very next “Creation Weekend” Bible conference, the same speaker would repeat the same misinformation unchanged, as if they had somehow forgotten their promise to be more truthful. Yet, when I would confront them privately, I was given the worldly excuses of compromise and self-justification: “Do you think the atheist evolutionists care about getting their facts perfectly right? Why aren’t you complaining about them?” I got angry replies when I answered those questions with “Atheists don’t reflect my position, nor do they represent Jesus Christ and the Gospel as we do. Shouldn’t the highest standards of truth-telling start with us? Doesn’t the Lord call us to truth?”
Needless to say, my questioning of the authority of the self-appointed leaders of the creation science movement gradually brought me into more and more conflict as I began to see these non-profit and yet commercial enterprises gradually evolving into what would became the lucrative origins industry we observe today.
Why do I mention these asides? Many of the arguments you are presenting, MattC, have been made popular by the enterpreneurs of the origins ministry industry. Their poorly constructed arguments about the scriptural and scientific evidence today have changed very little from those used a half century ago. So many Christians repeat them out of sheer familiarity and tradition with little thought to the fact that they make no more sense today than they did in 1962. (Insisting upon three solar days of evenings and mornings before the sun was created on Day #4 destroys a rigidly literal interpretation of Genesis 1 without any help from Hebrew exegesis or modern science! I’m absolutely amazed that anyone still uses the six-24-hour solar-days “plain meaning” argument.) This does not escape the notice of non-Christians as they make natural assumptions about the credibility of the Bible, and so general receptivity to the Gospel message itself suffers accordingly. That’s why these topics are not just a minor matter of disagreement among believers. The evidence-denialism (both of the scripture evidence and the scientific evidence) of Young Earth Creationism is doing incredibly damage to the Great Commission. Claims of a six solar day creation 6,000 years ago are not just absurd on the basis of all available scriptural and scientific evidence. They destructively distract from the salvation teachings of Jesus Christ.
I have a question for those who believe that Genesis 1 must be interpreted in a very literal way: Do you find anything within the text which rules out the Days of Proclamation view? Even if someone insists that YOM must refer to a “solar day”, is there any reason why each day of creation week could not be a YOM of God’s creative commands, while their fulfilment obviously entailed the passage of time?
For example, is there any reason to think that all of the world’s forests, coral reefs, sedimentary rocks, and all ecosystems for that matter, must have come about “instantaneously” as popular tradition has it. Or could it be that on a given day of creation, God commanded all that would develop in a particular domain of the the created world? Humans are subject to the arrow of time but to God, “and it was so” doesn’t require God to wait for many years to pass before acknowledging that his command brought about what Genesis 1 describes.
Of course, I find it impossible to accept the far-fetched “appearance of age” view. The stars we see in the sky which would have required billions of years to reach our eyes aren’t just pinpoints of light. Each dot in the night sky consists of data packets detailing the history of that particular star. Would God create a night sky full of fictional stories about many millions/billions of years of star history which never happened? Is the entire universe just one big deception meant to convince us of billions of years of history which never happened?
I won’t say that the Omphalos Hypothesis is blasphemous. But does it come close? Thoughts?
My past errors continue to humble me. And to make sure that I never forget the lessons learned, I often find myself reading the famous quotation from Augustine. I’m sure every reader on this website has read the following countless times but I’m going to re-post it anyway. I consider its message timeless, but all the more amazing in that Augustine lived from 354 to 430 AD:
“Usually, even a non-Christian knows something about the earth, the heavens, and the other elements of this world, about the motion and orbit of the stars and even their size and relative positions, about the predictable eclipses of the sun and moon, the cycles of the years and the seasons, about the kinds of animals, shrubs, stones, and so forth, and this knowledge he hold to as being certain from reason and experience. Now, it is a disgraceful and dangerous thing for an infidel to hear a Christian, presumably giving the meaning of Holy Scripture, talking nonsense on these topics; and we should take all means to prevent such an embarrassing situation, in which people show up vast ignorance in a Christian and laugh it to scorn. The shame is not so much that an ignorant individual is derided, but that people outside the household of faith think our sacred writers held such opinions, and, to the great loss of those for whose salvation we toil, the writers of our Scripture are criticized and rejected as unlearned men. If they find a Christian mistaken in a field which they themselves know well and hear him maintaining his foolish opinions about our books, how are they going to believe those books in matters concerning the resurrection of the dead, the hope of eternal life, and the kingdom of heaven, when they think their pages are full of falsehoods and on facts which they themselves have learnt from experience and the light of reason? Reckless and incompetent expounders of Holy Scripture bring untold trouble and sorrow on their wiser brethren when they are caught in one of their mischievous false opinions and are taken to task by those who are not bound by the authority of our sacred books. For then, to defend their utterly foolish and obviously untrue statements, they will try to call upon Holy Scripture for proof and even recite from memory many passages which they think support their position, although they understand neither what they say nor the things about which they make assertion. [1 Timothy 1.7]” – Augustine of Hippo
MattC, I’m afraid that, while this is an often-repeated and much-loved claim, it simply isn’t true.
Young Earth Creationists do NOT “use the same scientific evidence and interpret it differently.” They simply dismiss any evidence which they cannot reconcile with their predetermined conclusion of a young Earth and a global Flood.
Thus, when the much-vaunted RATE Project encountered a tiny problem with their rapid-decay model–namely, that their own calculations indicated that the excess heat would melt the planet’s crust and kill every living thing–they concluded that, since they couldn’t possibly be wrong, God must have taken the heat away through some unknown, possibly miraculous mechanism.
That’s not “interpreting the evidence differently.” That’s hand-waving the evidence. And that’s what Young Earth Creationists do constantly. Millions of pollen-clay varve couplets? Dismissed with vague comments about turbidity during the Flood. Polystrate fossils with their rootlet systems intact and growing through many layers of “Flood sediment?” Typically outright ignored.
I have never heard any Young Earth Creationist offer any explanation of the correspondence between oxygen isotope ratios in ocean core samples and the orbital eccentricity predicted by the Milankovich Cycle.
Heck: I’ve never heard any Young Earth Creationist explain why (winged) pterosaurs are consistently buried much deeper than sloths, or why dolphins and icthyosaurs are always buried at vastly different depths. The usual explanations certainly don’t work for THAT one–dolphins and icthyosaurs occupied the same habitat, had the same inability to escape the Flood, and had nearly-identical hydrological profiles.
1 Thessalonians 5:21 tells us to test all things and hold fast to that which is good. While this was written specifically in reference to prophetic pronouncements, I think it’s quite safe to say that it applies whenever someone claims to be speaking for God’s “plain meaning.”
Young Earth Creationist claims routinely fail to stand up to the test.