Saturday, November 18, 2017

Born in sin

I am discussing in this post what is called the doctrine of original sin. Basically, it is the idea that all who are descended from Adam (that would be all of us) are born in sin. Part of that doctrine means that we have inherited the corruption of sin from our father Adam. On this point, it seems that most Christians are basically in agreement. Our sinful tendencies are inherited.

The question is, does this mean that we are born spiritually dead; are we born sinners? I used to think so. After all we had certain verses in the Bible, especially in the book of Romans, that seem to say exactly that. We will examine some of them shortly.

First, we must define certain terms. One is obviously the word, 'sin'. Sin, in the singular, does not always refer to an act of sin but to the sin nature in us that causes us to sin. The word 'death' often does not refer to physical death, but to spiritual death. Physical death is the separation of our spirits from our bodies, it does not mean the cessation of existence. Likewise, spiritual death means separation as well, the separation of our spirits from God. The Bible says that before we were born-again, our spirits were "dead in trespasses and sins" (Ephesians 2:1). We were alienated from God. When we are born-again, we were made spiritually alive. "Even when we were dead in trespasses, [God] made us alive together with Christ, by grace you have been saved." (Ephesians 2:5)

So our salvation means that once we were sinners, spiritually dead, separated from God and now in Christ we have been made alive. Our spirits have been born from above, we have passed from death to life. (John 3:3; 1 John 3:14) {Notice here that I am defining what a sinner is. He is one who is spiritually dead, in bondage to sin. Being a sinner does not mean just someone who sins. The Bible does not define a sinner that way. A sinner is one who has not received eternal (spiritual) life, but one dead in sin. Believers are called righteous. But that is another lesson.}

So, back to our original question: are we born spiritually dead? The church has generally said, "yes". The idea that we are born in sin, with a sin nature, seems to naturally to lead to the conclusion that all are born spiritually dead. Certain scriptures seem to suggest that.
Therefore, just as through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned. Romans 5:12
For if by the one man’s offense many died ... For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous. Romans 5:15-19
From these verses, it does seem that we are born sinners, spiritually dead. However, when we formulate a doctrine we must take into account all relevant scriptures. If our interpretation of a scripture is contradicted by another scripture, our interpretation, no matter how reasonable our conclusion seems, must change. So, let's look at another scripture in Romans that suggests that the way that we die spiritually is not simply by being descended from Adam.
I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died. And the commandment, which was to bring life, I found to bring death. For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it killed me. Romans 7:9-11
In this passage, Paul is telling us what the effect of the law was in his early life. Rather than justifying him, the law condemned him. In fact, Paul goes further than that in saying that before "the commandment came", he was alive. That means that when Paul was a young boy, he did not have a revelation of the law in his heart though he may have heard it from his parents or others. He had not yet reached the age of accountability, the time when an individual becomes personally responsible to God to obey the law. But when he understood in his heart that God had commandments that he must do, then he became responsible. The problem was that the law stirred up "sin", or the sin nature. That sin nature in his flesh caused him to trip up and disobey the law. That is when Paul died spiritually - not when he was born. Before that he was alive to God.

So the "sin" that was stirred up was not in his spirit, but in his flesh. We still have a sin nature in our flesh though we ourselves are alive to God having received eternal life in the new birth. Paul also told Christians to not "allow sin to reign in our mortal bodies" (Romans 6:12). So, this "sin" which was stirred up in Paul was in his flesh, not his spirit. No wonder we have to "crucify the flesh with its affections and lusts."

Now let's look at Romans 5 a little more closely. We need to read verse 12 in the light of what is said in chapter 7. "Through one man [Adam], sin entered the world" means that the sin nature in the body is inherited from Adam apparently through the male seed. (Otherwise, it would have mentioned Eve.) Only a person not having a natural father (Jesus) could escape this corruption. Jesus was only in the likeness of sinful flesh. (Romans 8:3) Our spiritual natures do not come from our natural parents. Our spirits are created by God. When we knowingly commit an act of sin, we die spiritually. "Sin entered the world and (spiritual) death by sin, and thus death spread to all men, BECAUSE ALL SINNED." All sinned, not in Adam as theologians have said, but they all sinned in the manner of Paul in chapter 7 of Romans. That's when they died spiritually.

So, young children are not little sinners, but they do have bodies with a sin nature. When they are old enough to understand the law of God, they become accountable to Him. They then will yield to the flesh and knowingly sin. If they have not already accepted Christ, they will die spiritually. If they die before reaching the age of accountability they go to heaven. Jesus said of little children, "of such is the kingdom of God." (Matthew 19:14)

Now we can make more sense of Paul's statement about "many". He says, "For if by the one man’s offense many died ... For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners." Why many and not all? Because not all reach the age of accountability. Not all die spiritually because not all live to the age of accountability. The doctrine that teaches that children are born spiritually dead led directly to infant baptism. Women were afraid that if their babies died, they would go to hell. Unfortunately, the Catholic Church taught that an infant is regenerated (born-again) at baptism. To go to heaven, a child must be baptized. This is unscriptural. Children do not need to be baptized to go to heaven. They are already alive to God and they rest in peace.

In theological terminology, I do not believe in original guilt, which holds all guilty of Adam's sin. That causes all to be born spiritually dead. I believe in original corruption, specifically the corruption of our bodies. We have a sin nature in our bodies, our flesh, that will be gone when we are resurrected. Our spirits are born of God and we are alive to God with His own life and nature. Thanks be to God!





Saturday, October 28, 2017

Do Levitical laws apply to us today?

There is an argument, which is specious at best, that Christians do not need to keep any of the Levitical laws. Some make such claims because they want to justify their unscriptural beliefs about the practice of homosexuality or other things the Bible labels as sin. Of course, some of the laws regarding "uncleanness" clearly do not apply today. The kosher laws in particular are mentioned several times in the New Testament as not binding on the church.
Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron, forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving. 1 Timothy 4:1-4
The kosher laws are in Leviticus 11 along with some other uncleanness regulations in chapters 11 and 12. What is the nature of these laws and why do we not need them today? (I am referring now to the uncleanness laws in these two chapters. We will consider other laws shortly.) Let's look at a couple of other uncleanness laws here.
By these you shall become unclean; whoever touches the carcass of any of them shall be unclean until evening; whoever carries part of the carcass of any of them shall wash his clothes and be unclean until evening: The carcass of any animal which divides the foot, but is not cloven-hoofed or does not chew the cud, is unclean to you. Everyone who touches it shall be unclean. Lev 11:24-27
Then the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the children of Israel, saying: ‘If a woman has conceived, and borne a male child, then she shall be unclean seven days; as in the days of her customary impurity she shall be unclean. And on the eighth day the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised. She shall then continue in the blood of her purification thirty-three days. She shall not touch any hallowed thing, nor come into the sanctuary until the days of her purification are fulfilled. Lev 12:1-4
The first thing that we should notice is that these are not violations of the moral law, they are not sins. Touching a dead body is not sin. Having a baby is not sin. However, they were considered unclean as far as going into the sanctuary was concerned. In the case of touching a dead body, one had to wash and be unclean until evening. In the case of the woman who has borne a child, she would have to bring a sacrifice after a period of days.

But since God gave these laws in chapters 11 and 12, why do we not have to obey them today? The answer is clearly laid out in the New Testament.
Then indeed, even the first covenant had ordinances of divine service and the earthly sanctuary ... the priests went into the first part of the tabernacle, performing the services. But into the second part the high priest went alone once a year, not without blood, which he offered for himself and for the people’s sins committed in ignorance; the Holy Spirit indicating this, that the way into the Holiest of All was not yet made manifest while the first tabernacle was still standing. Hebrews 9:1-8
Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Hebrews 10:19-22
Jesus' sacrifice has opened up the way for all who receive Him to enter the divine sanctuary. We are all clean! It's not just the high priests but any priests (we are all priests, you know) can come into His presence. So the uncleanness laws of Leviticus 11 and 12 are no longer applicable under the New Covenant.

But what about the other laws of uncleanness. Have they been done away with as well? There is another list of "uncleanness" in Leviticus 18. They have to do with sexual sins - incest, homosexuality, bestiality, etc. It is odd that some have tried to say that homosexuality, because it appears in Leviticus, no longer applies to us so-called "enlightened" Christians in the 21st century. I do not hear them say (yet) that incest and bestiality are okay.

Another thing we need to see is that this kind of uncleanness has nothing to do with the sanctuary but has to do with sin.
Do not defile yourselves with any of these things; for by all these the nations are defiled, which I am casting out before you. For the land is defiled; therefore I visit the punishment of its iniquity upon it, and the land vomits out its inhabitants. You shall therefore keep My statutes and My judgments, and shall not commit any of these abominations, either any of your own nation or any stranger who dwells among you (for all these abominations the men of the land have done, who were before you, and thus the land is defiled), lest the land vomit you out also when you defile it, as it vomited out the nations that were before you. For whoever commits any of these abominations, the persons who commit them shall be cut off from among their people. Leviticus 18:24-29
These uncleannesses does not affect the sanctuary but the land. It says the land will "vomit" the Israelites out if they do these things. Those before them in the land of Israel were judged and expelled because they did the things listed in Leviticus 18. There is no such judgment on those who have babies or touch dead animals.

So, what does the New Testament say about the laws of uncleanness in chapter 18? Are they still unclean?
Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. 1 Corinthians 6:9-10
Paul is saying that we ought to know these things. We should also notice that Paul uses the word 'uncleanness' when speaking of some sexual sins.
Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness ... Galatians 5:19 (KJV)
"Uncleanness" in this passage obviously refers to sexual sins. No doubt that Paul is referring to Leviticus 18 which lists homosexual activities as unclean acts.

The list of unclean activities in chapter 18 is very different from those in chapters 11 and 12. To mix them together and treat them both the same is the result of a failure to understand basic distinctions in Levitical law. It also leads to deception by those who wish to justify sexual sins. It seems that today, like the first century, there are those who "twist the scripture to their own destruction".

[Note: I cannot take credit for the insights into the Levitical laws here. The credit goes to Peter Leithart, a great scholar who often talks way above my head. It is he who pointed out in his blog the difference between encleanness regarding the sanctuary and the uncleanness regarding the land.]

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Creation and Evolution, part 5

This is the fifth and final post in this series on creation. We could not possibly discuss all the issues and nuances involved in this important subject. I think it is safe to say that nobody has a monopoly on the truth though I think that Evolutionary Creation just accepts whatever the latest hypothesis so-called objective science hands us, and then baptizes it and pronounces it as God's truth. Now true science is God's truth as all truth is God's truth. But when we are evaluating claims about what happened in the distant past we need a little humility about what science is actually able to discover. That is why we need special revelation in the Bible. It tells us how we were created and why.

The issue for Christians is knowing what the Bible says and what things are essential and what things are not. And though I believe in literal 24 hour days for the six days of creation, I do not think it is essential to true faith. On the other hand, believing in a literal Adam and Eve are essential both for Christian theology and for maintaining the integrity of the New Testament witness. This leaves out the Evolutionary Creationist view and brings into question the Intelligent Design view despite its brilliant criticism of pure evolution.

That does not leave us only with Young Earth Creationism, however. There is a fourth view, the one I hold to, which is called the Gap Theory. Now the name is most inelegant but the concept is intriguing. It asks the question, "What if there is a "gap" between verses one and two in the first chapter of Genesis and what if there is a long period of time between the creation of the heavens and the earth and the 'six days of creation' in the rest of the chapter?"
1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was without form and empty, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. Gen 1:1-2
The heavens and the earth are created in verse one. That is the beginning. The six days say nothing about the heavens and earth themselves being created. Verse two says that the earth was (or became) formless and empty. The six days describe the earth being given form and then being filled. What is interesting is that Isaiah 45:18 states that God did not create the world "formless and empty". "The Hebrew for formless and empty is 'tohu' and 'bohu'. These two words are only put together in Genesis 1:2 and Isaiah 45:18.

So the suggestion here is that something happened between verses 1 and 2. This would allow for a long period of time from the original creation event and the creation of Adam and Eve. Is this biblically possible or just wishful thinking? The Gap Theory has been criticized as just being a compromise between "fundamentalists", who want to maintain a literal reading of Genesis, and secular scientists who insist on a very old heavens and earth.

Does a literal reading of the 'six days' be reconciled with this view? How about the fact that in most translations, verse three says that light comes on the "first day"? If it's the first day followed by the second day, etc., then how can there be so many days before that? The Hebrew does not actually read "the first day", "the second day", etc. Verses three to five ends with "one day". Verse eight says "a second day" and is in a different form than "one day". In other words, we can read this as a series of six days and not necessarily the first six days.

Some will complain then that the sun and moon are not created until the fourth day. But the word "made" is not the Hebrew word 'to create' as in verse one. The word for 'create' is only in verse one and then the creation of animal life (vs 20-21) and human life (vs 26-27). So it seems that the sun and moon existed already but were only made to appear from earth's point of view on day four.

Let's look at what the New Testament says:
Scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.” For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. 2 Peter 3:3-6
Reading this carefully, it does not seem that there is any reference here to Noah's flood, but to the state of the earth in Genesis 1:2. The heavens existed "long ago" does not seem to indicate a creation that, at the time of the writing of 2 Peter, was only about 4000 years old according to the Young Earth Creationists. It seems to indicate a much longer period of time followed by a flood which wiped out the world that existed before. We still live in the same world that Noah and Adam inhabited. Noah "saved the world" by building an ark.

This would explain when the dinosaurs roamed the earth. Young Earth Creationists not only claim that dinosaurs existed on earth from Adam to Noah but that they went on the ark. After all, Noah took two kinds of every animal. This would include dinosaurs. So where are the dinosaurs now? Young Earth Creationists say that they died out shortly after the flood because the oxygen content of the earth dropped so that dinosaurs could no longer get enough to live. My objection should be obvious. Why bother to put dinosaurs on the ark only to have them die when they get off? The reason for the ark was to preserve the lives of humans and animals, not kill them off later.

No, the dinosaurs lived in the previous world as did other animals and plants. God then wiped it all out and started again with Adam and Eve in a renewed earth. We can only speculate as to why God did this. It's His business, not ours.

So it seems that there is a little more flexibility with our literal interpretation of Genesis 1 than we thought before. That does not mean that we have to accept whatever secular science tells us as to what happened in the past. Neither does that mean that we have to dismiss it out of hand. We can accept some findings of science - apparent age of the earth and the heavens - without buying into their theories designed to exclude the possibility that there might be a Creator and that He might have revealed facts about creation in the biblical record.

We can accept the Bible as literal truth and seek true scientific knowledge as well.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Creation and Evolution, part 4

[If you have not read the first post in this series, I suggest you do so now as it sets the stage for all subsequent posts in this series. Thanks for reading.]

"In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth." (Gen 1:1) On that all agree whether we hold to Evolutionary Creation, Intelligent Design, Young Earth Creationism or the Gap Theory. We all take that literally. Why not, the Young Earth Creationists say, do we not take the rest of that chapter, and all subsequent chapters, literally? The Evolutionary Creationists and the Intelligent Design advocates do not take the "six days of creation" as literal 24-hour time periods. Rather they say that these "days" represent long ages of time. And, of course, the word "day" does sometimes mean a time period other than a 24 hour period. The Day of the Lord, for example, lasts more than a thousand years.

But we have to read this in context. It talks about evening and morning, and it speaks of multiple days. That is quite different from speaking about "the Day of the Lord." Nobody using the word 'day' talks about evenings and mornings. Those are spoken of only in the context of literal days.

Young Earth Creationists take all of Genesis literally as possible stating that the earth is no more than 6000 to 10,000 years old. Perhaps you have heard of Bishop Ussher's calculations and telling us that the creation occurred in 4004 B.C. He got that number by adding up all the genealogies and the ages of the men who begot a son who begot a son and on and on. This is the natural way for us to read these genealogies. And it is not really the proper way to read them. Generations were skipped in ancient genealogies even if the author knew who belonged there.

I have included a quote here of the issue of skipped generations in biblical genealogies. It is from http://www.trustbible.com/genealogies.htm if you wish to read the whole article. It is a concise summary of the matter.

"A close study of the Biblical text shows us there were gaps in the Biblical genealogies. I believe the original writers and readers of the Bible understood and knew the genealogies were correct but incomplete ... Matthew 1:8 tells us that Joram fathered Uzziah. However, in 1st Chronicles 3:11-12 we find that Joram fathered Ahaziah, who fathered Joash, who fathered Amaziah, who begot Uzziah who was also called Azariah. To see that Uzziah was also called Azariah compare 2nd Kings 14:21-22 with 2nd Chronicles 26:1-2."

The terms 'father' and 'son' have a much broader meaning in the Bible than they do today. A 'father' could be a great, great ... great grandfather - without limitations. So, simply adding up the years in the genealogies will not work. In the light of these facts, we need to read the genealogies as ancient people would read them.

Seth lived one hundred and five years, and became the father of Enosh ... Enosh lived ninety years, and became the father of Kenan ... Kenan lived seventy years, and became the father of Mahalalel ... Mahalalel lived sixty-five years, and became the father of Jared. (Genesis 5:6-15)

The "natural" reading of this passage puts 390 years between Seth and Jared. But what about generations that were skipped. If we assume those (and that is a very good assumption given the biblical record as a whole), we must read it differently. So when Seth was 105 years old, he fathered a child whose ancestor would be Enosh and when Enosh was 90 years old he fathered a child whose ancestor was Kenan. If we read it this way, and it is a justified way to read it without distorting the text, we cannot say that there were only 390 years between Seth and Jared. There could have been many, many more years.

Why skip generations? Well, first we would have an even longer Bible than we have now. In fact, in light of what we have learned about genealogies I think most Christians would shorten them even further so that there is not all that stuff to read! It seems that Genesis only records the most prominent ancestors of one person or another. Most have heard of Winston Churchill, the famous British Prime Minister who saved England in WW2. He had an ancestor, the Duke of Marlborough, who was famous in holding off the French Forces of Louis XIV in the seventeenth century. In our history books, both men will be mentioned but likely none of the men in the generations that separated them. They are not relevant.

Some Creations Scientists do insist on the 6000 years, but many read the genealogies as I have suggested and they will say that the number is more like 10,000 years. I even know of one scholar who suggests that it ought to be more like 35,000 years though I cannot recall why he prefers this figure. But I have no problem with any of these figures because it still fits within a literal reading of Genesis. We have not departed from that.

The interpretive issue here is not "literal vs. nonliteral" interpretation, but "ancient vs. modern". Most modern Christians do not really understand how ancient genealogies worked. We thought we were "just taking the Bible for what it says" but were really ignorant of how it was read in ancient times. Most of the time that we read we can just take the plain meaning of the scripture and it will be right. But there are times when there is a cultural distance between ourselves and those who wrote the Bible. That is when we need scholars to help us understand better. Some things we are so certain about can turn out to be quite wrong.

In conclusion, I must say that I agree more with the Young Earth Creationists who think that the Bible allows us to think that the earth is more than 6000 years old than with those who read the genealogies in a rigid manner requiring those who take Genesis literally to hold to 4004 BC as the date of the creation. Our ancient forebears did not hold to the strict standard of some Young Earth Creationists.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Creation and Evolution, part 3

[If you have not read the first post in this series, I suggest you do so now as it sets the stage for all subsequent posts in this series. Thanks for reading.]

There is a movement in the scientific community, mostly with Christian scientists (not Christian Science the religion), called Intelligent Design. It criticizes Darwinism, the idea that life came about by natural means alone and that a single-celled lifeform evolved into all life as we have it today, but it does not reject all evolutionary theory or of the assertions of secular science about the age of the earth, universe, etc. In particular, they accept the Big Bang Theory about the origin of the universe.

The Big Bang Theory (not the television show) states that at the beginning of time there was some kind of "big bang" that got this universe started and everything developed from there. This happened some 14 billions years ago. Though I do not understand all about how this supposedly happened, I do know that scientists have shown that we live in an expanding universe and we know how quickly it is expanding and how at what rate that expansion is slowing down. It's all very complicated. Anyway, they can calculate the time that it all began expanding, in other words, the beginning. The Big Bang Theory also asserts that the universe will collapse on itself and come to an end.

The first thing that I would like to point out, without endorsing the theory, is that the idea of a Big Bang origin of the universe brings us much closer to the biblical witness and record that one might think at first. Previous to the widespread acceptance among scientists of the Big Bang Theory, naturalistic (atheistic) scientists said that since there was no God creating anything, the universe is eternal - it has always been here. Also, they asserted that the universe was infinite, that's all there is. The Big Bang Theory states that the universe has a beginning and an end and that the universe is expanding, implying that it is finite. The Bible teaches that the universe is temporal, it has a beginning and an end, and that it is finite because one can go beyond it to Heaven. (The Bible speaks of three heavens - the first heaven is the atmosphere of the earth, the second heaven is the stellar heavens, and the third is the place where Christians go when they die.) So it seems that the Christians have won this one scientific argument about the universe - it is temporal and finite.

So, if the universe has a beginning, if it started with a big bang, who or what caused it? Well, here is where we get the idea of Intelligent Design. A being, or group of beings, must have brought it into existence. It could not have started itself - it logically incoherent. Some naturalistic scientists have said that they do not know who or what caused it, we only know that it happened. Or they make up flimsy theories about what might have occurred.

Intelligent Design advocates have argued that there must have been someone(s) intelligent designing all this and powerful enough to bring it about. The supposed randomness of the universe seems oddly not random at all. They point to evidence, which seems to become greater as our knowledge increases, that the universe is "fine-tuned" in such a way as to make life possible. Here is just one example of many: "Calculations indicate that if the strong nuclear force, the force that binds protons and neutrons together in an atom, had been stronger or weaker by as little as 5%, life would be impossible." (Sorry for the lack of reference.) This is one of many examples we could list. It is just not plausible that life, or even the existence of the universe itself, can be an accident. It must have been planned (designed) and that by someone who knew what they were doing.

Then Intelligent Design scientists turn to life here on earth. Could life have evolved from a primordial state without any outside "interference"? No, they say. Any lifeform, even the most simple single celled creature must have DNA and is extremely complex. This idea was put forth in Michael Behe's book, Darwin's Black Box. It may sound plausible that somehow a single-celled creature came out of an environment with no life, but where did the DNA come from? Even a "simple" lifeform is far too complex to come about by accident. All life shows abundant evidence of having been designed.

So, Intelligent Design scientists believe that God created life though they do accept some aspects of evolutionary development. But certain points in the past, God (the Intelligent Designer, I mean) created new life forms. They note in the fossil record that mammals suddenly appear. They do not slowly evolve and we get more and more mammal types over centuries or millenniums. They all come at once. So saying that they evolved from something else is contradicted by the very fossil record that naturalistic scientists point to for proof that all things evolved naturally.

This allows room, as well, for Intelligent Design scientists who are Christian to bring the Bible into this. They can, but do not have to, say that Adam and Eve are progenitors of the human race. So they do not have to deny the historicity of Genesis 2-11, but many of them do.

The other issue is there view of Genesis 1. They view the 'six days of creation' as merely symbolic as do evolutionary creationists. In that way, they are closer to the evolutionary view than to Young Earth Creationists which I will cover in the next post.


Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Creation and Evolution, part 2

[If you have not read the first post in this series, I suggest you do so now as it sets the stage for all subsequent posts in this series. Thanks for reading.]

The topic in this post is Theistic Evolution, or as some are now saying, Evolutionary Creation. This is basically the idea that modern, secular scientists are correct in their guess (that's what it is) that random forces in nature made life come forth on this planet and that one-celled life-forms evolved over billions of years into mankind and all other creatures. Obviously, Christians believe that there are no truly random forces but that God set things up so that we would come about eventually. Time doesn't mean anything to God so billions of years going by matters not at all.

Some might complain to these Christian evolutionists that it would be much simpler for God to have made what He wanted (mainly us) right away without all that evolution having to bring it about. Besides, it is difficult to reconcile this view with a literal reading of Genesis 1 and other scriptures. (This fact put me on the road to rejecting evolution.) One does not, theistic evolutionists assert, have to interpret Genesis 1 literally. It could be metaphor, declaring that God (the true God and not some other gods or something) created everything and that He should be honored. A primitive, pre-scientific world might mistake this as something to be taken literally, but in a literate, scientific age, we should accept whatever "science" tells us.

In fact, we non-evolutionists are told that not only should Genesis 1 not be taken literally, but that the first 11 chapters of Genesis should not be regarded as historical fact. It is some kind of metaphor, they say, that teaches us about human development until Abraham whose story begins in chapter 12. Then the rest of Genesis is literal history.

There are a lot of problems with this view. The book of Genesis has an introduction (chapters 1:1-2:3) followed by ten narrative sections. Even a cursory reading of chapters 2 through 11 show that it is written in the same manner as chapters 12 through 50. They are the same genre. No sensible scholar would read them differently. It is all historical narrative and that includes the part about Adam and Eve.

There can be no literal Adam and Eve according to Francis Collins, evolutionary creationist and head of the Human Genome Project. "The complexity of the human genome requires an original population of 10,000"*. So there can be no Adam and Eve at the head of the human race. But the New Testament clearly shows that they were literal people. Luke's genealogy (Luke 3:23-38) begins with Adam and ends with Jesus (recorded in reverse order). Paul clearly spoke of Adam as an individual human being who is compared to Christ. That fact of Adam and Christ is essential to Christian theology. And Jesus Himself spoke of Abel (Adam and Eve's son) as a real person. (Matthew 23:35)

I challenged one of these Christian evolutionists on this latter point. I averred that Jesus claimed that Abel was a real person and if he is real then so are Adam and Eve. I asked if he thought Jesus was wrong, assuming that he would realize his mistake. He responded by stating that Jesus was wrong about that. I was stunned. I never expected a Christian (let's be generous and assume he is one) to say that Jesus could be wrong about something. This is sheer blasphemy and if he does not repent then I feel sorry for him when He has to stand before the Lord and give an account.

So it is crystal clear that one cannot hold to evolutionary creation without distorting the Bible. It is absolutely necessary that a Christian believe in a literal Adam and Eve and reject the evolutionary hypothesis.

I promised that I would cover both strengths and weaknesses of these views, but there are not many strengths for evolutionary creation. Nevertheless, I will try. The evolutionary creationists themselves see it as a great advantage. They say that other views of creation that reject evolution make the gospel seem anti-scientific and therefore a stumbling block to scientists. Witnessing to them about the Lord is hard, they say, if you take a literal view of Genesis 1. Better to accept evolution and let scientists know that we do not have to be "anti-scientific" to be a Christian. This will make Christianity more palatable to them. Besides, if we teach something like Young Earth Creation ideas to our young people, they will go off to college and lose their faith as they begin to doubt the Bible. Better to teach evolution and the Bible (as evolutionary creationists understand it) and then they will not question or reject it when they become more educated.

I am not sure that is a real strength, but we all want to be both scientifically and biblically literate. There is one part of what they say that I think is a true strength however. They talk about what is called "natural revelation". Now this is not some concept that they dreamed up to convince us of their point of view. This is something that we, in our zeal to uphold the Bible as the Word of God, have sometimes neglected.

The heavens are telling of the glory of God;
And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.
Day to day pours forth speech,
And night to night reveals knowledge.
Psalm 19:1

Also:

For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made.
Romans 1:19

The Bible is supernatural revelation; nature (with true science) is natural revelation. Natural revelation can teach us some things about God. We should realize that sometimes science has informed, and changed, our understanding of the Bible. The best example is the idea that the earth goes around the sun rather than the sun going around the earth. Early readers of the Bible "knew" from both experience and scripture that the sun goes around the earth. The Bible talks about the sun rising and setting, etc.

We now know for a fact that the Bible does not teach that the sun goes around the earth but that it does appear that way from a human point of view. So now we read the Bible differently. Knowing that the earth goes around the sun, we interpret the passages that seem to suggest otherwise to mean that in our experience the sun seems to go around the earth. (It is interesting that we still talk about 'sunrise' and 'sunset' because we experience it that way.)

So, evolutionary creationists do remind us that we cannot use the Bible as if it were a scientific textbook. It is not. But it does reveal many things about creation that we could not know by natural revelation. There is also a great deal of difference between the fact of a heliocentric solar system and the hypothesis of evolution. The former belongs to observational science; the latter to historical science which is very speculative. There is a giant gap between observed phenomena and hypothesizing about things that can never be proved.

We need a good understanding of what the Bible teaches, and does not teach. And we need a good understanding of what science can tell us and what it cannot.


*Read more at http://www.patheos.com/blogs/tomhobson/2017/09/no-historical-adam-means-open-door-racism/#hjspaHFB8Zj03DSo.99

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Creation and evolution, part 1

I almost titled these lessons 'creation versus evolution' but I am not mainly addressing that issue. Primarily, this series is about different views of how Christians believe creation took place. Not many Americans, including the American church community, still believe in a literal Six-Day creation of the world. On the other hand, most do not really believe in theory of evolution as secular scientists teach either. (I am using the common term 'theory of evolution', though it is not really accurate scientifically. A more correct term would be 'hypothesis of evolution', but I will use the common term so that all can follow more easily.)

In this series, I will discuss several points of view regarding creation and how it was done. I will cover Young Earth Creationism, Intelligent Design, The Gap Theory and Theistic Evolution. I will talk about their strengths and weaknesses and where scriptures support or do not support each point of view. I am not an expert in any of this, but I have studied a bit and have definite opinions on these matters.

In my own life, I grew up being taught the "pure" theory of evolution. Since I believed in God all my life, I figured that God "got the ball rolling" so to speak and that He made sure that we would evolve and inhabit this planet. This is called Theistic Evolution. Accepting this is easy when you do not believe the Bible or really know what it says. You can accept whatever scientists have to say and then put God in the beginning. When I received the Lord at age 15, I continued to believe the theory of evolution but I added one thing. I figured that God had to give us human souls at some point along the way. (Today I would say human spirits, but I did not understand the tripartite nature of man.)

So I was satisfied that I had the truth about creation though I was still far from the real truth. Unfortunately, I did not really seriously begin to read my Bible until I went to college. Near the end of my freshman year, I was discussing my views with a more mature Christian. He challenged me on my views. He asked me that if I were to take Genesis chapter one seriously, would it jibe with my views. In other words, could I honestly interpret the creation passages and come out with the theory of evolution. I struggled with that. During the next summer, I began to study what the scriptures said, but I had trouble in my mind because I was convinced that the scientists were right.

I went to a Christian bookstore and found a book called, "Man's Origin, Man's Destiny" by Dr. A. E. Wilder-Smith. He had a PhD. in organic chemistry along with a couple of other doctorates. He did not believe in the theory of evolution but in a literal six-day creation according to Genesis 1. He said that what stirred him to speak about the biblical creation and against evolutionary theory was reading an article that stated that "every scientist believes in the theory of evolution." This bothered him because he was a scientist and he did not believe in the theory of evolution, and he was not alone. To prove it, he contacted many scientists over the next few weeks and found over a hundred scientists who believed as he did.

So he wrote this book not to uphold the biblical record but to show that evolution, as taught in the scientific community, was not possible. I can recall a few of the things he wrote. First, he talked about how old the earth is and the methods used to determine the ages of rocks, etc. He asserted that scientists use circular reasoning in their methods. One thing they do is see how much the atoms have decayed over time. By knowing the rate of decay the scientist can learn when the rock was formed. (The half-life, which can be millions of years, helps determine this.) But Wilder-Smith noted that we do not know how the rock started out. God could have created in an advanced state of "decay". Scientists use the theory of evolution that states that the rock starts out in a "pure" form, undecayed. So the theory tells us how to date the rock and the date of the rock is used to prove the theory. This is circular reasoning - using a theory to prove itself. It is a logical fallacy.

He also noted that sea mammals could not have simply gone, as evolutionists claim, from being land mammals to being sea mammals. We can know this from studying the nipples of a mammal who lives in the sea like a whale and compare them to the nipples of a land mammal. The nipple of a sea mammal must be very complex or the baby will drown. The nipple of a land mammal is very simple and cannot be used by a sea mammal. So if, as evolutionists say, sea mammals went from the land to the sea, the nipple could not have evolved quick enough to keep the babies from drowning.

So I realized that the theory of evolution, which is spoken of so confidently by just about everyone it seemed, had a lot of problems. I realized it would take faith to accept the theory of evolution just as it would take faith to accept what Genesis said. I chose Genesis. I have never regretted that choice and it helped me to move beyond natural, human thinking to thinking biblically. Isn't that our goal: to think biblically, to think how God thinks and not be limited by our own reasoning?