A few months back (tempus fugit!), I was surprised to find that a number of visitors seemed to be coming from a particular website. I’ve met Joel Watts on several occasions and he’s a likeable fellow by anyone’s standards. That’s not to say we see eye-to-eye on everything. He doesn’t care for Ken Ham and he thinks Young Earth Creationism is completely whack. Nobody’s perfect.
He objected to my announcement of 2011 as the Year of Taking the Bible Seriously, not because he doesn’t think that’s a good idea, but because I equated it with being a Biblical Creationist [as opposed to an extraBiblical Creationist who impose extraBiblical ideas upon the text and hold to extraBiblical sources as their ultimate authority where Genesis is concerned; e.g., Old Earth Creationism, Day-Age, Gap Creationist, Framework Hypothesis, Progressive Creationism, Theistic Evolution, etc.]. The basic premise of the Year of Taking the Bible Seriously is that we need to hold the Bible as our ultimate authority. Well, he didn’t like that, because he affirms evolution and millions of years, though he rejects the extraBiblical notion that man evolved from apes or ape-like ancestors.
In any case, he began his post, Are YE Creationists the only ones to take the Bible seriously?***, with the following:
“I beg to differ with my friend Tony Breeden. Now, I’ve met Tony several times, and he is a wonderfully spirited man who cares deeply for his family and for Scripture. While I believe that he may be overshooting the text with his Young Earth Creationism (YEC), I think he is spreading a blatantly false rumor, or inferential at the very least, when he insists that only YEC believers take the Scripture seriously or that somehow, if you take the bible seriously, you will be a YEC.”
Of course, I don’t think that at all. I noted that he’d misrepresented me a touch [he disagrees] and replied with the following:
“It is true that that I believe that the Young Earth Creation position is the only Biblically consistent interpretation of Genesis and the rest of Scripture; it is not true that I believe that anyone who takes his Bible serious will come to believe in a YEC position, for truth nor reason compels – that is, people do not always come to a logically consistent, nonarbitrary position though they should.
Of course, he wasn’t finished:
“I am not a YEC believer – but I believe that Scripture is to be taken serious (which is why I continue to call myself a theological conservative).”
If he’d stopped right there, I probably could’ve agreed with him. After all, I once rejected Biblical Creationism for evolution. My wife recalls that over a decade ago she asked me what I thought of evolution; I replied, “I suppose God could have used evolution.” A lot of Christians are like that. Their cognitive dissonance boils down to an unexamined faith. They suppose science has established millions of years and evolution as indisputable fact, so they feel must find a way to make the Bible conform to these scientific proclamations. But as the Holy Spirit began to guide me into all truth, as the Scripture promises, I began to see that the revealed Word of an omnipotent, omniscient God and the word of men in lab coats [most of whom rejected God] was not lining up. I chose to give God the benefit of the doubt. Not so with many others I’ve known…
“However, I believe that by taking it seriously, we must take the humanity in Scripture – the human authors under the Divine Inspiration in their human limitations – seriously as well. We must take in context, culture, and the history of canonization. Canonization concerns not only the books, but the order of books, the manuscripts and the shape of the text. (Think Esther and Daniel for this one). And before you throw me under the bus for saying that God has to work within human limitations – read the Scripture and examine it as a progressive revelation of God to His creation. There is a veil still yet causing us to see through a glass darkly. If you think that everything is Scripture is easily revealed, then you are in effect denying what Scripture says.”
Did you see what he did there? He said that God could not overcome the limitations of His chief creation to relate His Word clearly. He said that God had to work with what He had, these primitive folk with their misconceptions and superstitions. In doing so, He stripped God of omnipotence [for He could not overcome the limitations of mere men] and/or omniscience [since He could not fathom a way to accomplish it under any circumstances]. The theological implications of the position he takes is, well, pretty awful. He just said that God cannot overcome human limitations. Remember that the next time you pray! Of course, I know Brother Joel well enough to realize he didn’t intend to say any such thing, but what he’s said of Genesis and special revelation have further implications for the rest of theology.
I responded according to my rather sensible convictions:
“Neither is it true that I believe that only a YEC takes his Bible seriously; I do believe that only a YEC takes His entire Bible seriously enough to take God at His Word and believe that He is omnipotent to have made His menaing clear even being capable of [gasp!] overcoming the limitations of fallible men to do so. This is a high view of Scripture that I make no apologies for. I have heard this hubris [oft repeated] that some claim to take the Bible too seriously to take it literally and it’s doublespeak: If I take a man or text seriously at all, I take it in the context intended, even if it comes into conflict with men who don’t affirm it and conduct science by a naturalistic philosophy that excludes God from all consideration anyway.”
Honestly, whatever happened to Let God be true and every man a liar! If we do not take God’s Word as our ultimate authority in Genesis [rather than the word of men who doubt it], how can we trust it elsewhere, except arbitrarily? The same naturalistic science that denies special Creation, a young Earth and a world-wide Flood also precludes the possibility of water changing instantly to wine, of immaculate conception, of instantaneous weather control and, especially, of men rising from the dead. If we accept miracles, fulfilled prophecy and the resurrection in spite of the claims of men in lab coats, why do we turn around and doubt God’s Word in Genesis. Would it surprise you to note that Thomas Huxley, Darwin’s Bulldog, had more faith than these extraBiblical Creationists:
” `Creation,’ in the ordinary sense of the word, is perfectly conceivable. I find no difficulty in conceiving that, at some former period, this universe was not in existence, and that it made its appearance in six days (or instantaneously, if that is preferred), in consequence of the volition of some preexisting Being. Then, as now, the so-called a priori arguments against Theism and, given a Deity, against the possibility of creative acts, appeared to me to be devoid of reasonable foundation.” Thomas H. Huxley, quoted in *L. Huxley, Life and Letters of Thomas Henry Huxley, Vol. I (1903), p. 241 (1903). 63.
Of course, Huxley only lacked the one element of faith that extraBiblical Creationists claim to have: a belief in a Creator. Think of the irony: Huxley affirmed millions of years and evolution, but claimed that given a Deity he would have no trouble conceiving of Creation as the Bible describes. An agnostic [the very man who coined the term] has more faith in the abilities of a Creator he denies than an extraBiblical Creationist has in the abilities of the Creator he affirms.
Brother Joel next offers us a classic false dilemma:
“For Creation Sunday, YEC believers are asking that the first 11 chapters of Genesis be nailed to the door of your local church. Why? Why not the Gospel preached, always? Why is it that an extreme woodenly literal view – when in fact the original authors may not have meant it that way – be nailed to the door instead of preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ who was the fulfillment of all the Scriptures and is the holy hope of humanity, regardless if you believe in YEC or OEC or EEC or ASAP, XYZ and MNOP?”
Of course, we don’t promote the historical veracity of God’s Word at the expense of the Gospel, but rather because it is the foundational basis of the Gospel. We use it as a launching point to preach the Gospel, for Genesis gives us context. It’s the bad news the Good News remedies. Let me give you an example of how this works: At this very moment, as it’s been for the past 3 months, the front page of DefendingGenesis.org has a prominent link to a post called, The Everlasting Gospel: Christ the Creator. Read it and you’ll see how by affirming the historical reliability of Genesis, by holding the revealed Word of God as your ultimate authority, you also preach the ENTIRE Gospel.
He then goes on to castigate Martin Luther for espousing geocentrism, which is beside the point. No one here is claiming the Church Fathers and Reformers were infallible; we’re claiming the revealed Word of God is infallible and ought to be our ultimate authority.
Joel’s not convinced:
“What we actually have are people getting the Protestant Reformation wrong when they declare the Scripture as the absolute authority. For example, when you use the Protestant canon, you are using Tradition. When you (mis)use sola/solo scriptura, you are using Tradition. When you insist on literalism as the only way to take the Scripture seriously, you are denying traditions of the Christian Church. And when you add that Genesis 1-11 is more important than the Gospel, even if it is passively added, then you are adding to Scripture.
Ugh. [a] Nobody’s getting the Protestant Reformation wrong. It is well-known that Sola Scriptura was one of the five solas of the Reformation. Furthermore, even a cursory perusal of Luther’s 95 Theses reveals his conviction that the Church had unseated Biblical authority by ecclesiastical tradition. [b] When I use the “Protestant canon,” I am not appealing to tradition, unless it were the tradition charged of the apostles. The so-called “Protestant canon” is the only canon. Sure, Gnostic works, apocrypha and the like were in circulation, but these have never been viewed as God-breathed [the apocryphal works are viewed as important but not inspired]; they’re simply not on the same level as Scripture. [c] When I use sola Scriptura, I’m embracing a return to the tradition of the apostles. [d] When I insist on literalism in context, I am honoring the tradition of Scripture by taking it seriously enough to take it as God’s revealed Word and not the graspings of fallible men through whom God imperfectly imparted truth. I’m aware that Brother Joel rightly rejects the hyper-allegorical interpretations, so I’m sure he isn’t implying that all past traditions are equal. Nevertheless, we should make one thing abundantly clear: we are commanded to hold fast to the traditions we were given of the apostles – I do not say this also applies to the Fathers. Likewise, while I admire the Reformers for returning to the tradition of the apostles, I do not hold them infallible. God’s revealed Word is true from the beginning; man’s word, even the word of godly men, is prone to error. [e] A straw man… When has anyone ever said that Genesis was more important than the Gospel, even by implication? Acknowledging that it’s foundational to the Gospel is not the same thing as saying it’s more important. In fact, as related above, we consider Genesis a necessary part of the Gospel.
Now admittedly that last section of his was elephant hurling. The good news is that elephant hurling typically precedes the Big Finish. And here it is:
“I ain’t going to lie – it chaps my ever-widening hide to see Christians deny to others Christians the ability to take Scripture seriously (whatever that may mean to the subjective sense) because one sect believes it differently. I take Scripture seriously. I believe it to be divinely inspired and is itself a means of communicating Grace. I do not believe in the overly Alexandrian allegorical interpreting method, but that we should endeavor to mind the true meaning of the text by looking first at the context. I believe in literalism in context. For me, I believe that I take the Scripture serious because I believe it must first be understood objectively before we can apply it subjectively. And what is more, I believe that we can understand it objectively – in context, in culture, in time and space, etc… And when we do that, we will turn from recent insistences on Scripture to actually take the Holy Writ seriously. Of course, by that same token of trying to understand and apply Scripture, my dear friend would say that I am not taking Scripture seriously.”
For those of you who are still with us this far down in the post, I can sense your attention waning, so let me try to break it down for you.
Brother Joel doesn’t like it when I say extraBiblical Creationists don’t take their Bibles seriously where it concerns Genesis [and any other passage that refers to Genesis as historical] because they take extraBiblical sources as their ultimate authority over God’s Word where it concerns Genesis [and any other passage that refers to a historical Genesis]. Why? because he and other extraBiblical Creationists take the Bible seriously everywhere else, mostly.
He claims to believe in literalism in context, a statement I could affirm at face value, for we do take into account historical and grammatical considerations. But extraBiblical Creationist goes further, for what else does Brother Joel mean by the qualification “in time and space,” except long ages postulated by men as a naturalistic alternative to the Biblically revealed timeline and the world-wide Flood?
Let’s get down to brass tacks. The Year of Taking the Bible Seriously isn’t about Young Earth Creationism; it’s about our stand on Biblical authority. What we’re proposing is that beginning in 2011 [and beyond!] we use the Bible as our starting point, as our ultimate authority rather than taking the word of men as our ultimate authority in some passages of the Bible except when we arbitrarily take the Bible as our starting point in other passages. Why? Because Jesus warned that no man can serve two masters [authorities]; either God’s Word or man’s word must be our ultimate authority. Only the Biblical Creationist takes the revealed Word of God seriously enough to take it at it’s word, from beginning to end, no matter who disputes it.
And if the one who disputes it is a fellow Creationist [albeit an extraBiblical one], pray for him. I am one who can honestly and humbly say where it concerns compromise with evolution and millions of years, “There but by the grace of God go I.” Or more to the point, “Thus would I have remained but for the grace of God.” For those interested, here is the tale of man who began as a theistic evolutionist and ended up a Biblical Creationist: http://www.answersingenesis.org/creation/v19/i2/creation.asp
That’s what it’s all about.
-Rev Tony Breeden
***NOTE to the Reader: Apparently, I initially forgot to link back to Brother Joel’s original posts, as I had intended [and as is my usual habit]. He has taken issue with the omission and erroneously mischaracterized me for an honest mistake. Ah, well. These things happen.