Tag Archives: Evolution

Does the Bible Speak Definitively On the Age of the Earth?

Albert Mohler

Albert Mohler: Theologian and defender of a Young Earth view of Creation.

C. John Collins

C. John Collins: Old Testament scholar and defender of an Old Earth view of Creation.

I recently listened to a debate between Dr. Albert Mohler and Dr. C. John Collins, with the provocative title, “Genesis and the Age of the Earth: Does the Bible speak definitively on the age of the universe?” Christians have very different views on this topic, and sadly, a lot of debates of this sort tend to descend into either rancor, or simply talking past one another, particularly for debates with non-believers. But this debate, intended for an audience of Christian pastors, was different, and for that reason, I thought it worthwhile to make some notes and share them here on Veracity. You can view the debate yourself at the Trinity Evangelical Divinity School’s website, and I would encourage you to do so to get the most out of my following comments and observations (another synopsis of the debate is available here).

Al Mohler, the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, answered the debate question with “yes.” But in doing so, I appreciated what Mohler had to say about the very nature of this debate. As he put it, there are three different orders of theological debates that have an impact in the church:
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Jack Chick and the Real Halloween Scare

Jack Chick, fundamentalist cartoonist, died at age 92, on October 23, 2016. His most popular comic book tract was This Was Your Life.

Jack Chick, fundamentalist cartoonist, died at age 92, on October 23, 2016. His most popular comic book tract was This Was Your Life, viewable in full at www.chick.com, though I have included a few pages here. Jack Chick and the popular obsession with fear at Halloween have a lot in common .

I read my first “Chick tract” at a highway rest stop on Interstate 95 as a teenager. A middle-aged gentleman handed me this small comic book, spoke a few words, and before I could glance at what he gave me, the man quickly walked away. It was Jack Chick’s tract, This Was Your Life. I was already a follower of Christ, but what I read disturbed me, in more ways than one.

In one sense, Jack Chick was right. Before the scene shown above, a man who lived his life indifferent to the things of God, dies. Then this dead man was brought before the judgment seat, having his entire life exposed before the Lord, like on a theatre screen display. The hidden things were brought to light, demonstrating that his life, lived apart from Christ, had negative eternal consequences. He thought he could “get away with” sinful thoughts and actions in his life, thinking no one would notice, when in reality, nothing escapes the notice of God.

It is a terrifying thought. Continue reading

Tim Keller on Interpreting Genesis

New York City pastor, Tim Keller, offers a different approach than the one I put forward on how Genesis 1 relates to Genesis 2. Keller argues that Genesis 2 is actually historical narrative and that Genesis 1 fits more into a poetic genre, as opposed to a straight-forward historical narrative.

Keller may be right. The point I want to make is that different believers can look at some of the non-essential interpretation matters in Genesis differently, and they can still agree on the big picture, namely the essential doctrines concerning the knowledge of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as the Creator, as well as who is humanity in relation to that Creator.

I call these the great “who” questions of faith: Who is God? Who is the Creator? Who is Man? These “who” questions are in contrast with the “how” questions: How did God create? How long did it take God to create? How does Genesis 1 relate to Genesis 2? The “how” questions are still important, but they pale in comparison to the great “who” questions that the Bible seeks to address.

The following short video by Keller demonstrates some of the challenges in determining the appropriate context and genre of this very ancient passage of the Bible in early Genesis. Keller and I both affirm that no one takes all of the Bible completely literally, and he gives his brief analysis as to what type of interpretive “grid” should be used when reading the Bible. We can still debate the smaller questions, but let us keep in the front of our minds the big picture.

I would highly recommend Tim Keller’s book Reason for God as a great book to give to a non-believer or believer who is struggling with these issues. Here is a quote from the book, around pages 93-94, that explains more in detail Keller’s approach to interpreting Genesis, and interpreting the Bible in general:

“Christians who accept the Bible’s authority agree that the primary goal of Biblical interpretation is to discover the Biblical author’s original meaning as he sought to be understood by his audience. It has always meant interpreting a text according to its literary genre. For example, when Christians read the Psalms they read it as poetry. When they read Luke, which claimes to be an an eyewitness account (see Luke 1;1-4), they take it as history. Any reader can see that the historical narrative should be read as history and the the poetic imagery is to be read as metaphorical.

The difficulty comes in the few places in the Bible where the genre is not easily identifiable, and we aren’t completely sure how the author expects to be read. Genesis 1 is a passage whose interpretation is up for debate among Christians, even those with a “high” view of inspired Scripture. I personally take the view that Genesis 1 and 2 relate to each other the way Judges 4 and 5 and Exodus 14 and 15 do. In each couplet one chapter describes a historical event and the other is a song or poem about the theological meaning of the event. When reading Judges 4 it is obvious that it is a sober recounting of what happened in the battle, but when we read Judges 5,  Deborah’s Song about the battle, the language is poetic and metaphorical. … I think Genesis 1 has the earmarks of poetry and is therefore a “song” about the wonder and meaning of God’s creation. Genesis 2 is an account of how it happened including Genesis 1. But it is false logic to argue that if one part of Scripture can’t be taken literally then none of it can be. That isn’t true of any human communication.

What can we conclude? Since Christian believers occupy different positions on both the meaning of Genesis 1 and on the nature of evolution, those who are considering Christianity as a whole should not allow themselves to be distracted by this intramural debate. The skeptical inquirer does not need to accept any one these positions in order to embrace the Christian faith. Rather, he or she should concentrate on and weigh the central claims of Christianity. Only after drawing conclusions about the person of Christ, the resurrection, and the central tenets of the Christian message should one think through the various options with regard to creation and evolution.

That last part shows some real wisdom that followers of Jesus should keep in mind at all times. Contrary to some well-intended yet misguided approaches, I do not need to debate the age of the earth or even the scientific theory of evolution with a non-believer. Instead, I should focus first on the central claims of the Gospel: Jesus Christ and Him crucified and risen from the dead.

Agreeing to Disagree

John Wesley (1703-1791) and George Whitefield (1714-1770) were the most well-known Christian leaders in the English-speaking world of the 18th century. Yet they struggled with each other regarding some significant points of Christian doctrine.

John Wesley (1703-1791) and George Whitefield (1714-1770) were the most well-known Christian leaders in the English-speaking world of the 18th century. They struggled with each other regarding some significant points of Christian doctrine, and through their dialogue they introduced the notion of “agreeing to disagree” into Christian discourse.

Sometimes “agreeing to disagree” with fellow believers can be difficult. I know. I have been there. But first, let me give you some historical background…

In 18th century England and America, two of the most celebrated figures were George Whitefield and John Wesley. Whitefield and Wesley would travel up and down the American Eastern seaboard and across the British Isles preaching in the open air. The first “Great Awakening” can largely be attributed to how God used these two men to lead many thousands into a relationship with Jesus Christ, perhaps one of the greatest spiritual revivals in the history of the church.

But Whitefield and Wesley had some rough spots in their relationship with one another. In one important matter, they differed in terms of some significant Christian doctrine. George Whitefield, a Calvinist theologically, believed that when Jesus Christ died on the cross, He died only for the elect who would come to know Christ. If you were not among the predestined elect, Whitefield concluded that the Bible taught that Jesus had not died for you. John Wesley, an Arminian theologically, vehemently rejected this teaching. For Wesley, Jesus Christ died for all of humanity, whether someone received Christ or not. Though these men clearly differed on the extent of Christ’s atoning work on the cross and how that related to predestination, they were united in many more things in terms of doctrine than over that which they were divided.

The prolonged controversy between Whitefield and Wesley was at times very tense. Though I do not recall the reference, my understanding is that John Wesley was the more quarrelsome of the two men. But it is to John Wesley’s credit that eventually when he was asked to deliver a memorial sermon when George Whitefield died, he was extremely charitable to his evangelistic counterpart. In that sermon, Wesley uttered a most memorable phrase:

“There are many doctrines of a less essential nature … In these we may think and let think; we may ‘agree to disagree.’ But, meantime, let us hold fast the essentials…”

Since that remarkable sermon, Christians over the years have recalled Wesley’s words that he at times exchanged with his colleague Whitefield about “agreeing to disagree.” Though these men still had their points of conflict, in the end, they were able to consider each other not as enemies but rather as friends, as brothers in Christ, despite their disputes over some points of doctrine.

It is a lesson that the evangelical church today still needs to hear.
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Adam vs. Atoms #2

Are Christians who look for literal scientific revelation in Genesis abusing the Biblical text?  John Walton, in The Lost World of Genesis One, says "Yes",  proposing a better way to interpret and honor the authority of Scripture based on pioneering research from the Ancient Near East.

John Walton understands Genesis to be talking about an archetypal, functional view of creation, as opposed to a scientific, materialistic account of origins.

Many Christians are opposed to calling Genesis One an allegory or poetry. These Christians warn that this threatens to change the clear message of the Bible, watering it down, and thus compromising the Gospel. On the other side, other Christians are troubled by efforts that interpret Genesis too literally. Does not an over-literal reading of Genesis One conflict with modern science, creating an unnecessary obstacle for a non-believer in coming to know Christ? John Walton, an Old Testament scholar at Wheaton College, takes both of these concerns seriously, and he suggests a third alternative.

In the previous Veracity post about John Walton, you were introduced to Walton’s thesis that the first chapter of Genesis is an account of the functional order of the universe, NOT the material origins of the universe. It sounds a little odd, but some refer to John Walton’s perspective as an archetypal view of creation. Walton calls it a cosmic temple inauguration view.

Yeah, just go ahead and try to explain that to your grandmother…. or Joe Friday.

Joe Friday wants to interrogate Moses.. he might just have to settle for Wheaton College's John Walton.

Joe Friday wants to ask Wheaton College professor John Walton, “So, what is the cosmic temple inauguration view, and what does it have to do with the Bible? Have you been spending a bit too much in time in those Ancient Near Eastern texts?

Okay, it does sound a little fancy and nerdy. But just exactly what is Dr. Walton driving at? Let us give Dr. Walton a little room here, shall we? Walton argues that the Genesis was written for us but not to us. It is as though we are reading someone else’s mail when we read Genesis. Walton contends that Bible students today need to understand Genesis from the perspective of those ancient Hebrews who first read the text. If we fail to do that, we risk distorting God’s Word.

Whoa. Do I have your attention now?

In the last Veracity post on this topic, we set out some of the primary points of John Walton’s thesis.  But before doing a “deep-dive” it might be good to consider some of the objections critics have been making to his ideas. Then, as you look over Walton’s presentation, you can evaluate on your own whether he has made a good case or not. Even if you are not entirely convinced, you will be challenged to grow deeper in your faith and understanding of God’s Word.
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