Tag Archives: creation

Four Views on Creation, Evolution, and Intelligent Design: A Book Review

If I had to pick one book that concisely gives an overview of the controversy over human origins, Four Views on Creation, Evolution, and Intelligent Design would be it. Part of Zondervan’s Counterpoint series, this book manages to pull together four of the leading Christian thinkers, about science and faith issues, to have them dialogue with one another in a spirit of charity and mutual respect (…for the most part).

I have been looking forward to this book for some time, as the writers are the most visible representatives of their respective positions in the evangelical Christian world today. Ken Ham, the president of Answers in Genesis, the Creation Museum and Kentucky’s Ark Encounter, defends a Young Earth Creationist position. Hugh Ross, president of Reasons to Believe, defends an Old Earth Creationist position. Deborah Haarsma, president of Biologos, defends an Evolutionary Creationist position. Stephen C. Meyer, a senior fellow with the Discovery Institute, defends an Intelligent Design position. Each contributor wrote an essay for the book, and the other three contributors wrote a response to that essay, followed by a rejoinder, by the original essayist.

There is simply no other book resource available today that gathers these differing points of view together in one volume, on this difficult topic. That, in and of itself, is a major accomplishment. A verse in Proverbs makes the point: The first to state his case seems right, until another comes and cross-examines him (Proverbs 18:17 CSB). Sadly, many Christians only hear one point of view, failing to consider other perspectives, leading to mistrust of other believers who might see things somewhat differently.

This is not to say all points of view are correct. They are not. There is but one truth. But it is difficult to properly uphold the truth, if you have not taken the time to consider other biblically responsible options. Proverbs suggests that we should hear one another out before making a firm judgment. Continue reading


Can Science Tell Us Nothing Reliable About The Past?… (Only the Bible Can Do That?)

True followers of Jesus trust God’s special revelation, the Bible. But can they also trust God’s natural revelation, as an independent witness to history, as understood by science?

History cannot be deduced by science, only explained by it.” So reads a promotional ad for the anniversary showing of the film Is Genesis History?, featuring Del Tackett, creator of “The Truth Project.”

A common apologetic argument today, for some Christians, insists that science can not tell us anything reliable about the past. Instead, we must look to the Bible for God’s revelation of history, and not to science, for answers concerning the age of the earth, and human origins.

For those unaware of other alternatives, this might at first seem reasonable. This approach seeks to honor and defend the Bible as God’s Word. After all, the Bible is under attack in our culture, and if modern science is to blame, we need good reasons to refute such godlessness. Christian parents are rightly concerned about worldly influences on their kids, and so the message of Is Genesis History?, hopes to stem the tide against encroaching unbelief.

But is this apologetic argument consistent with what Scripture itself teaches? Is science not to be trusted, when it comes to our knowledge of the past, and our ability to reconstruct natural history? Does science, with respect to the past, only function to explain history, as revealed by the Bible? Let me give you two biblical reasons why the usefulness of this apologetic has difficulties.

First, the concept of fixed laws of nature, transcending present, future, and the past, is actually grounded in the Bible. For example, God ties his everlasting, constant commitment to His people, with the very laws of nature that He created, as He said thousands of years ago:

” Thus says the Lord: If I have not established my covenant with day and night and the fixed order of heaven and earth, then I will reject the offspring of Jacob and David my servant and will not choose one of his offspring to rule over the offspring of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.“(Jeremiah 33:25-26 ESV)

The fixed laws of nature, that transcend time and undergird the practice of modern science, are reliable. Why? Because God is reliable to keep His covenant with His people. He gave us Jesus, a descendant of Jacob and David, as our King and Savior, through the nation of Israel. He has proven Himself reliable by continuing to build His covenant people over many, many, many generations, even today.

True, we can not travel back in a time-machine to observe previous events. But if the Bible teaches that God’s fixed laws of nature are trustworthy, would it not be reasonable to assume that events from the past should be consistent with what we observe today? Here are a few examples, demonstrating that we are constantly looking to science as a means of understanding the past.

When astronomers see distant starlight coming in from outer space, they are seeing light that was generated millions of light years ago. Unless one is willing to accept some untested hypothesis of millions-of-years old light being generated in midstream, or of light that travels at different speeds in different directions, or to suggest some other, hitherto unknown law of physics, it is extremely difficult to conclude that the universe is somehow less than 10,000 years old.

When archaeologists are digging for evidence, they are looking at layers of soil that correspond to ages in the past, as clues to understanding that past. Dendrochronologists measure tree rings as a means of understanding past events. Forensic scientists analyze DNA and other criminal evidence, from long ago, in order to solve cold cases. Most scientists, whether they be non-Christians or Christians, practice their craft today, with the hope that they can reasonably create a convincing historical narrative. But if you inherently distrust science, as a tool for reconstructing history, then science will have limited value for you.

Second, the Apostle Paul taught that pagans, who have no Law of Moses, effectively, no Bible, are without excuse when it comes to having a knowledge of God, as revealed in creation.

” For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”(Roman 1:19-20 ESV)

Paul is quite confident that by examining creation, even in looking at the evidence for the original creation event in the past, we are given a reliable testimony as to who this Creator really is. If the pagan, or anyone else, fails to recognize this, it is no fault of God’s. It is due to our failure to acknowledge what God has revealed in nature.

Paul is giving the first century, biblically-illiterate pagan, as well as anyone living today, no escape route, whereby someone could plead, “Well, if only I had something like the Bible, a written Word from God, to tell me the real history of the universe, then I would know for sure that there is a Creator.

Read the whole passage, Romans 1:18-2:29, to get the whole context, and tell me if you think Paul is saying anything differently. Then read Romans 10:14-18, where Paul recites the same theme, yet again, where even if someone has not heard the Word of special revelation, they still have the witness of natural revelation, as when Paul quotes from Psalm 19:4. In other words, Paul appears to be teaching that natural revelation, which is the domain where science operates, bears a witness to the truth of God, independent of, but nevertheless, consistent with, special revelation, the domain of where we study the Holy Scriptures.

Granted, if natural revelation, as we study it through the disciplines of the sciences, can not tell us anything reliable about the past, then yes, this apologetic argument, popular among Young Earth Creationists, makes good sense: You then only need to read the Bible in order to find out the real history of the universe (assuming the Bible is being correctly interpreted). Science only comes in, after the fact, to explain the details of that history. What more could be commendable to the Christian?

However, just be aware of the implications. This line of reasoning is built on a philosophical presupposition as to how we are to understand God’s revelation in nature, and it has some problems. First, it goes against the grain of how most scientists, including non-believers and believers in Christ, across all sorts of disciplines, daily practice their craft. Secondly, it also chafes against several passages in the Bible, noted above. You tell me: Should a Christian follow a philosophical presupposition, where scientific evidence about the past, on its own, is irrelevant, and ironically, its biblical basis is shaky?

On the positive side, a Young Earth Creationist will have confidence in the Bible, as God’s special revelation. Even an Old Earth Creationist, can say “Amen” to that.

But when it comes to God’s natural revelation, all bets are off: Is God’s revelation in nature to be trusted? A Young Earth Creationist can never be completely sure.

Just something to think about.

 

Have you ever heard of this philosophical presupposition before, that “history cannot be deduced by science, only explained by it?” Well, a Christian DVD making the rounds today, that many of my homeschooling friends like,  Is Genesis History?, popularizes this very idea. The film will also be in theaters, February 22, 2018. You also hear it in statements like this: “You can not trust carbon dating! The Big Bang is really just a ‘big bust!‘” If you do decide to see the film, you might want to also think about some of the alternative Christian views profiled here on Veracity, that the movie does not discuss. Explore this and other topics above, by clicking on the links, or read other articles on Veracity, by going to the search box on the blog, type in something like “creation,” or “creationism,” and click go!

 


“Theistic Evolution:” Was Everything Perfectly Good Before the Fall?

Micheangelo’s depiction of the Fall of Humanity, in the Sistine Chapel. Did evil enter the world, when Adam and Eve sinned, or did evil sneak its way into the world prior to the Fall?

A new 2017 book released by Crossway publishers, Theistic Evolution: A Scientific, Philosophical, and Theological Critique, is an array of essays meant to discourage Christians from embracing so-called “theistic evolution.” But what exactly is “theistic evolution?”

I have never been happy with the term, as it leaves the question of, “who is this particular God?,” up in the air. Is the theos in “theistic” referring to the God of the Bible, or some other divine concept? A lot of people believe in “God,” but that does not mean that they embrace the God as revealed in Jesus Christ.

Instead of “theistic evolution,” the name “evolutionary creationism,” embraced by the folks at Biologos.org, an organization started by Francis Collins, one of the scientists behind the Human Genome Project, is a specifically Christian description, as it grounds the concept of evolution within a biblical concept of creation. But is evolution really compatible with the Bible’s teaching on creation? Do the authors of this new book succeed in promoting its thesis, in dismantling “theistic evolution“? Or to put it another way, in the authors’ efforts to take down materialistic evolutionary philosophy, and its influence on evangelical Christianity, have they set up a straw man?

Theistic Evolution: A Scientific, Philosophical, and Theological Critique contends that the prevailing biological theory of evolution should not be accepted whole-heartedly by Christians, as it works to undermine certain traditional biblical ideas about creation. It is a challenging argument, that the thoughtful Christian, engaging with scientifically-informed skeptics, must wrestle with.

Presumably the authors all hold to an Old-Earth Creationist viewpoint, one that accepts the well-attested antiquity of the earth, while denying macro-evolution. Young Earth Creationists, to the contrary, believe the earth to be less than 10,000 years old. But according to reviews I have surveyed, nowhere does the 1,000-plus page book actually take a stand on the age of the earth.

ReasonsToBelieve president, Hugh Ross, has written a thoughtful (partial) review of the book. Ross, an Old Earth Creationist himself, broadly accepts the book’s thesis, but he also points out some weaknesses. For example, at least one essay proposes that the natural order of the world only became corrupted after the Fall of Adam and Eve in the garden. It is true that God was originally pleased with what he created, declaring it to be all “good.” But does that tell the whole story of what we read in Genesis 1-3? The text also gives some indication that all was not completely hunky-dory by the time Adam and Eve first arrive on the scene.

What does one make of the presence of a crafty serpent in the garden? (Genesis 3:1) If all was created “good,” how did such a deceptive creature make its way into God’s “good” world? Furthermore, did not God command the first humans to “fill the earth and subdue it?” (Genesis 1:28) Why would God insist that the earth be subdued, or domesticated, if there was not some form of elusive chaos permeating God’s good world, that needed to brought under the Creator’s control?

These observations within the biblical text do not necessarily take away from the goodness of creation. Nevertheless, they are there in the text. If we take biblical inspiration seriously, we must still account for all of what the text says. As I understand the term “Evolutionary Creationism,” those who advocate for it are trying to grapple with these biblical observations.

C. S. Lewis put it this way, in The Problem of Pain (p. 134-135)

“It seems to me, therefore, a reasonable supposition, that some mighty created power had already been at work for ill on the material universe, or the solar system, or at least, planet Earth, before ever man came on the scene; and that when man fell, someone had, indeed, tempted him.”

The authors of Theistic Evolution go to great lengths to say that “Neo-Darwinism” subverts the Scriptural witness, and there is much to commend this view. But do these criticisms fairly apply to “Evolutionary Creationism?” If I understand Lewis correctly, then it would appear that at least some of the authors of Theistic Evolution may have chosen to ignore the above uncomfortable, Scriptural observations.

As evidenced by the recent furor over Pope Francis’ critique of the traditional translation of the Lord’s Prayer, God’s role in temptation, is indeed a difficult biblical topic. However,the Book of James teaches that God could not have tempted Adam and Eve to sin, so it must have been some force of evil, present in the world prior to the Fall:

“Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.” (James 1:13 ESV)

Furthermore, the Apostle Paul in the Book of Romans tells us:

“For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God.” (Romans 8:19 ESV)

But when did this agonizing wait from creation start? Was it after humanity’s fall or prior to the fall?

I do not necessarily agree with all of Hugh Ross’ critique, but I think his review is very much worth reading. If someone has read Theistic Evolution: A Scientific, Philosophical, and Theological Critique, please leave your thoughts in the comments section below, as I would like to know what you think.  Here is the trailer for the book.


Is It A Stretch?….The Big Bang and the Bible

I know that a number of my Young Earth Creationist friends are not too crazy about the “Big Bang Theory,” as they argue that the Big Bang can not be found in the Bible…. and I am not talking about the TV show, but rather the cosmological theory….

But try this one on for size:

Bless the Lord, O my soul!
    O Lord my God, you are very great!
You are clothed with splendor and majesty,
     covering yourself with light as with a garment,
    stretching out the heavens like a tent(Psalm 104:1-2 ESV)

The continuous expansion of the universe, that results from the cosmological Big Bang, ties in very well with the psalmist’s metaphor, of God “stretching out the heavens like a tent.”

Okay. I am not necessarily saying that a psalm writer was consciously thinking about the modern physics of cosmic radiation, underneath his Middle Eastern tent, over twenty-five hundred years ago.

That would be a “stretch!”

Yet we are dealing with not just a human author, but a supernatural author, as well. It seems to be more than mere coincidence that God’s Word just happens to have a metaphor, that perfectly matches the description that astronomer Edwin Hubble first discovered in 1929. As John Paine demonstrates, the history of the universe from science is a good argument to help people who do not accept the Bible, to consider the possibility of believing in the God of the Bible.

True, having conversations with your neighbors about the Big Bang, rarely by itself will  lead them to profess faith in Jesus. But it can create a pathway to share the Gospel. Otherwise, to refrain from appealing to general revelation in our conversations, is like trying “to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.”

Think about it.

Perhaps the connection between the Bible and the Big Bang is not such a “stretch” after all.

 

If you are still a bit confused, Christian astrophysicist Hugh Ross at Reasons to Believe gives us some background on the Big Bang Theory (two videos, about 90-seconds each).  If you want to know more about how we at Veracity approach the debate over creation, just find the search field on the Veracity blog, type in “creation” or “creationism,” and click GO!….. (SLIGHTLY OFF-TOPIC: John Paine filmed the promotion video for Faith Bible College. Check that out, too!)


Dating the Adam Thoroughgood House …. (And While We Are At It,… the Earth, Too)

Adam Thoroughgood House. An historic colonial home in Virginia Beach, Virginia (credit: Frances Benjamin Johnston)

Adam Thoroughgood House. An historic colonial home in Virginia Beach, Virginia, but how old is it? (credit: Frances Benjamin Johnston)

I write this post in memory of my dad, who died one year ago today. My dad was a brilliant man, an architectural historian by trade, who inspired in me the desire to pursue the knowledge of the truth, even if that truth might challenge popular convictions. So while there is an application towards Christian apologetics here, I want to frame it within the context of one particular fascinating mystery in the history of colonial Virginia, a mystery that captivated the thought and imagination of my dad….

Let me take you back to Princess Anne County, a few hundred years ago, in the Tidewater of the Virginia Colony…

Adam Thoroughgood was a 17th century English Puritan (roughly equivalent to an evangelical Christian today), who obtained his passage to Virginia as an indentured servant, in the 1620s. After paying off his indentured servitude, Throughgood returned to England, married a wealthy woman, and came back to eastern Virginia, in modern day Virginia Beach, to become one of the most prominent land owners in the colony.

The traditional story was that Adam Thoroughgood built a brick home, in 1636, thought to be one of earliest structures of its kind in North America. None of the other surrounding structures, such as the slave quarters, have survived, but the Adam Thoroughgood house became one of the great prides of the area, as a U.S. National Historic Landmark, to boot, with all of its unique history…. or so it seemed. Continue reading


%d bloggers like this: