Tag Archives: Creationism

“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.


Genesis: Paradise Lost, the Big Bang, … and Dogs Who Eat Homework

Some Christian friends of mine are all abuzz about Genesis: Paradise Lost, a new movie being shown in select theaters across America, November 13 and 16, 2017. Should Christians go see this film? (SEE MY DISCLAIMER at the bottom of the post, updated AFTER I first published this post).

In a promotional video for the movie, Dr. Charles Jackson, a professor of Creation Science at Liberty University, explains that the Big Bang Theory, of how the universe expanded from a single point, some 13 billion years ago, is part of a secular mythology, at odds with the Bible. As Dr. Jackson goes onto say, “there are all of these ‘dog ate my homework’ stories” that “atheist evolution theory” proposes to explain how stars were formed, in the wake of the Big Bang. Jackson argues that such explanations are “impossible” and “can not happen.”

The conclusion? Christians should reject Big Bang cosmology. Instead, they should embrace a Young Earth proposal, that the universe was created only some 6,000 years ago, based on a particular interpretation of the Bible. The film’s primary concern is to help Christians have a greater confidence in their Bibles, and to win those who have doubts, to have a saving relationship with Jesus Christ, which are critically important aims, that all believers can boldly affirm.  Genesis: Paradise Lost is endorsed by Answers in Genesis, the apologetics organization behind the Creation Museum and the Ark Encounter, located in Kentucky. Just based on this brief presentation, without any further knowledge, Dr. Jackson’s argument might sound fairly compelling.

But is what Dr. Jackson saying true?

Does Big Bang cosmology really contradict the Bible? It seems like the modern scientific consensus agrees with the Big Bang. If the Bible is out of step with the Big Bang, what does that mean?

What if, indeed, the opposite were the case? What if the Bible, written a few thousand years before scientists in the 20th century confirmed the evidence, aligns with the Big Bang? What if the Bible, accurately describes the scientifically-observed expansion of the universe? What is the likelihood of ancient, pre-modern Israelite prophets, perfectly articulating the precise nature of the universe, in a manner that exactly coincides with what modern scientists, have only recently seen in nature?

As I blogged about several months ago, Dr. Hugh Ross, of the apologetics ministry, Reasons to Believe, makes this very case.  Dr. Ross goes onto explain that the Big Bang was actually a fine-tuned expansion of the universe, and not a chaotic explosion.

But here is the kicker.

Dr. Ross makes the stunning claim that the Bible anticipates the discovery of the Big Bang by several thousands of years. Here is a quick sample of some of these Bible verses: Job 9:8; Psalm 104:2; Isaiah 40:22; 42:5; 44:24; 45:12; 48:13; 51:13; Jeremiah 10:12; 51:15; and Zechariah 12:1. Look them up at BibleGateway.com, where ancient Israelite prophets wrote about how God “stretched out the heavens,” a description consistent with modern Big Bang cosmology.

Is this merely a coincidence? Do Christians need to come up with other “dog ate my homework” stories, to explain features like this in the Bible, or are there better explanations that exist? Think about it.

Should a Christian go see Genesis: Paradise Lost? Sure, consider the evidence that the film presents, as Dr. Jackson does raise some good questions, and the film makers have a genuine, rightly-motivated interest, in presenting the Gospel message to non-believers. Amen to that! But do yourself a favor, and also consider a different viewpoint, from another Christian perspective.

Or better yet, read and study what the Bible itself says, and then come to your own conclusion.

As Proverbs 18:17 says, “The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.”

Below is the Dr. Charles Jackson clip, from the Genesis: Paradise Lost film, being used to promote the movie, then followed by an 8-minute presentation by Jeff Zweerink, an astronomer with Reasons To Believe , explaining what the Bible has to say about the Big Bang. Zweerink is part of the scholar team, along with Hugh Ross, at Reasons to Believe. Genesis: Paradise Lost should not be confused with an earlier film this year, Is Genesis History?, by Del Tackett and Thomas Purifoy, Jr. The earlier film has pretty much the same message, but the outdoor cinematography in Is Genesis History?, is spectacular, whereas Genesis: Paradise Lost relies more on 3D computer-generated graphics.

UPDATE (November 11, 2017): Though I published the above post a few days ago, I just learned something about “Doctor” Charles Jackson. Yes, Charles Jackson does have a doctorate. This is true. However, it is not in any particular science field. Rather, he earned his doctorate in the field of education, from the University of Virginia (UVA). He is not a practicing scientist, but rather he is a grade school science educator. This type of sleight of hand is not outright deception, but it is not entirely truthful either. At least, Is Genesis History? featured credentialed PhD-level scientists, having done doctoral work in their specific scientific field. Genesis: Paradise Lost relies on experts, that lack the level of expertise, as comparatively found in Is Genesis History?.  Eric Hovind, the producer of the latest film, should be embarrassed. Let the viewer of the film beware!!

 


Humans Came From East Africa, Southeastern Europe, (or Somewhere Else)?

Hominin footprints, by the shore of an island, near Crete, discovered by a Polish researcher.

The common evolutionary story is that modern humans first arrived on the biological scene, roughly 200,000 years ago, in East Africa. However, a controversial new discovery challenges that narrative. Does this news have any impact on Christian faith?

Most of the fossil or footprint evidence for hominins; that is, creatures that are thought to be biological ancestors to modern humans, have been found in Chad, Ethiopia, and Kenya, dating back several million years. However, a new study published in August, 2017, offers evidence of human-like footprints that have been found on an island, off of the coast of Crete (Greece), that date back to 5.7 million years ago. The age and location of the discovery may cause scientists to rethink where modern humans actually came from.

New Scientist magazine suggests that this latest research implies that modern humans may have come from southeastern Europe, and not way down south, in East Africa. In my mind, it opens up the possibility that the first humans might have actually come from somewhere roughly in between, in the nearby Middle East, which fits in with some models of Old Earth Creationism, or Evolutionary Creationism, that postulate that the first human beings, Adam and Eve, lived in an area of the Middle East. Many Old Earth Creationists would nevertheless contend for a definite break in biological development between hominin creatures and modern humans, whereas Evolutionary Creationists would see biological continuity between hominins and humans.

The 5.7 million year old dating, of course, creates a problem for Young Earth Creationism, that insists that the earth is less than 6,000 to 10,000 years old. I have heard of possible explanations by Young Earth Creationists, that suggest that the dating is completely wrong, and that the footprints were made shortly after the global flood.  The footprints would have come from either (a) human beings, and not hominins at all, or (b) ape-like creatures, that became extinct after making these prints. I am not sure how this all works, considering the facts that the evidence does not seem to indicate that these footprints were made by modern humans, and that we have no evidence of such ape-like creatures going extinct within the past 10,000 years. Would a pair of these ape-like creatures been aboard the Ark?

No matter what becomes of this discovery, it in no way undermines the biblical teaching about the sinful nature of humanity. After the story was released to the public, vandals found the site, spray painted part of the area, and stole several of the footprints, destroying some of the data. Thankfully, the site was not completely destroyed, and so it will hopefully remain a place that might yield some future discoveries.

For a closer look at what the Bible might have to say about the existence of hominins (or “hominids,” as some say it), you can dig into Veracity here.


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


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