The Avengers: Age of Ultron & the Evangelical Fish Bowl

vision-avengers2

vision-avengers2[Warning! Spoiler Alert! This post concerns The Avengers: Age of Ultron and contains Spoilers.]

On May 14, 2015, Steve Camp, pastor of Cross Church wrote a post on Facebook entitled: “WAKE UP CHURCH: Reverence Matters.” In that post, he wrote the following after seeing The Avengers: Age of Ultron:

“Recently saw new Avenger movie. Incredible graphics, action scenes, some fun witty moments. But this one line in the movie overshadowed all other concerns. When the character “The Vision” is created he is asked, “what are you?” His answer is shocking, “I am… I AM.” He invokes the very name that God alone has ascribed to Himself (Exodus 3:14) and that the Lord Jesus ascribed to Himself (John 8:58).Words that come to mind: irreverent, blasphemous, godless, profane, unholy. Satan is the great counterfeiter. He mocks the very holy Son of God as part of his strategy. The fact that it’s put in the form of entertainment should not weaken our concern or dull our discernment.
We are in the world, but not of this world. Stand for Christ, pray for those who may even unwittingly offended the very Holy One to whom all will give an account. Live out loud!”

Now, the trouble is that the line from the movie he’s quoting goes like this: “I am not Ultron. I am not J.A.R.V.I.S. I am… I am.”  The line isn’t in print. It’s spoken. That may sound rather obvious, but trust me that this point is as important as it is overlooked. You see, in print, we’d be able to see whether the line was emphasized in any way. For example, if that last “I am” were printed in all caps, Steve Camp’s accusation of blasphemy would be justified… unless, of course, every other word in that paragraph were capitalized, in which case the line should’ve been shouted ;]
Since it’s spoken instead, we have to pay attention to both the context and the way the line is spoken. Which means we have to use discernment. Now the trouble with discernment these days is that what passes for it in Christian circles is less based on the Bible and logic than it is on evangelical cultural norms.

You see, Vision was not invoking deity. The capitalized I AM is how Steve Camp and other Christians in the sheltered fish bowl of evangelical culture are interpreting the scene. While he’s not the only one making this mistake (a good number of Christian reviews of the movie repeat this doggerel), this accusation of blasphemy is indicative of the insulated nature of modern USAmerican Christianity. The very reason many Christians take Vision’s statement as a reference to Godhood is because we’re used to seeing everything through a lens of theology and we presume that the rest of the world does so too, selectively ignoring all statistics suggesting the contrary is true where it concerns Biblical knowledge in secular culture – even though our pastors likely quoted these very statistical trends a few months ago in a sermon that had us shaking our haloed heads at the lack of Biblical literacy in USAmerica! In doing so, we’ve attached a significance to a phrase that was not intended by the context of the scene.

In that scene, the Vision was attempting to answer the question of his identity. He answered “I am…” pauses uncertainly and then shrugs “I am.” In other words, he’s saying I exist and I beyond that who knows?. Note that every other bit of Vision’s dialogue is frank and without ego; if he were invoking an “I AM” rather than “I am”, it would be completely and utterly out of character!

Steve Camp responded that “The I Am reference in the way it was used was more than I exist. It’s always Messianic. …I do think you’re being naive in your treatment. Surely the line isn’t benign but has context in a Savior motif.”

I had to point out what should have been obvious. The I AM reference is always used in the Messianic/Deity sense IN THE BIBLE. For the rest of the world, it depends on the context. It is our tendency as Christians to see that phrase only in the Messianic/Deity context, because we are trained to see the world through a Biblical lens and we are likewise trained to be very suspicious of the world and especially humanism [not without cause]. Even so, I assure you that context always determines meaning, especially in extra-canonical media.

As I pointed out to Steve Camp, his use of the word “Surely…” is indicative of an appeal to common knowledge. It means we’re  judging someone’s intent in total ignorance of what that intent was simply because “we all know what he really meant” …and this is little more than gossip. This is exactly the sort of false “discernment” we need to avoid.

If I may address this point more specifically, Vision was created to destroy the Avengers, but he didn’t turn out as Ultron intended. Neither [as Vision himself admits] did he turn out how Stark intended… Vision is on the side of life, but he does not fit the Messiah motif at all. Among the key requirements of this archetype [and this is a well-established archetype amongst storytellers, be they screenwriters, graphic novelists or authors], Vision is not sacrificed for the greater good, rather he is presented as Ultron’s exact opposite and sacrifices Ultron for the greater good. Yet again, Vision’s character, revealed in his other dialogue, is frank and without ego. Using this phrase to invoke deity would be completely out of character with either Vision according to the MCU, thus far, or the comic book representation of the same character.

Let me put it another way. In the UK the term bin means trash. Here it means a storage and/or sorting container. You’re like a British fellow who thinks everyone wants him to throw away his stuff when he hears an American use the term bin… simply because that’s how he’s used to hearing it IN HIS CULTURE. Of course, with a little discernment….

The end of the matter is this. In order to use true discernment when engaging modern media, we need to not only view the material in light of the revealed truth of Scripture, but also be careful not to judge it out of context. It is hypocrisy to insist that the world read Scriptures with the intended context in mind but to ignore the intended context of secular media. It is hubris to condemn such media for what they mean to say when we don’t bother to comprehend what that actually is.


 

Note: This post originally appeared on my author site, TonyBreedenBooks.com.

Jurassic World gives us food for thought on Man’s Dominion and the Tragedy of Death

Jurassic-World-Banner-teeth

Jurassic-World-Banner-teethI’ve seen Jurassic World twice now and I wouldn’t mind a third helping! I love the entire premise! What’s not to love? It’s got dinosaurs, Chris Pratt, those awesome gyrosphere vehicles and even includes several nods to the original movie for us diehard fans. And did I mention dinosaurs??

[Spoiler Alert! I’m discussing a movie and I may mention more than what you’ve seen in the trailers. Deal with it.]

Not everybody liked it. Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis opined that it was too violent and gory and that such fare desensitizes us to the reality of death:

“I think many Christians have become “desensitized” to death! And I think so many in the younger generations are not challenged to think about  death—including as presented in this new movie—in a correct, biblical way.

With the instance of when Jesus came to the tomb of Lazarus, many Bible scholars explain that this account shows He was a true man (the God-man) exhibiting sympathy and compassion. But it also shows that He was angry at death. Christ was about to deal death its “death blow” by dying on the Cross and being raised again. You see, all human beings are under the judgment of death because of sin (Genesis 3). In fact, when we experience that horrible separation between us and a loved one who dies, we need to be reminded of how a much greater separation has occurred between us and our God because of sin. Yes, death is an enemy! We also need to remember that for those who do not receive the free gift of salvation, the Bible tells us they will suffer a “second death” (Revelation 20:14).

Think about it! Those who are outside of Christ will suffer eternity separated from God. When we watch a movie like Jurassic World and see human beings being killed and devoured by dinosaurs, are we abhorred at the depiction of death? Are we reminded that if all those people had been non-Christians in a real world, they would be separated from God for eternity?”

I agree with him that Jurassic World was a little bit gory. There was a bit of blood to be sure. I thought the violence was handled well, with most of the bad stuff happening just off camera. It definitely wasn’t a movie for little kids.

I respectfully but strongly disagree with Mr. Ham’s opinion that our consumption of such fare necessarily desensitizes folks to the reality of death. Far from it! If violent, gory death alone were enough to desensitize us to the tragedy of death, we’d have to stop reading certain sections of our Bibles. Here’s how such desensitization works:

One way to desensitize ourselves to death and violence is to sanitize ourselves against it. That’s right. Just sugar coat it, turn into singsong or ignore it completely. Whatever we do, this method makes the scary thing something safer. Like when we turn this:Indominus-Rex-Jurassic-World-Movie-Jaws

 

 

 

…into this:

LEGO-75919-Jurassic-Park-Indominus-Rex-1

Children are good at this. For crying out loud, they turned the Black Death into a nursery rhyme [“Ring around the rosies…”]. Some of us even do it with God, making Him into some safe Deity we can predict and control, who exists merely for our pleasure and certainly at our service. Not exactly the God of the Bible.

Or we can go the other way. Most of us recognize that horror movies like the Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm Street, and Saw franchises desensitize us to the reality and cruelty of death. In those movies [and in video games like Mortal Kombat X, a game so gory and violent that they’ve placed an “age gate” on the website] not only show death in the most gory ways possible, but also in the most wickedly creative ways possible. These types of movies diminish the significance of death by trying to make death a matter of mere entertainment. In most cases, neither the killers nor victims are anything more than flat, two-dimensional constructs; they exist merely to provide a body count, to demonstrate the levels of depravity the creators of such fare are willing to go to in order to entertain us.

As a storyteller, I appreciated how almost each and every scene in Jurassic World was calculated to show us how tragic death is and how precious life is. That’s what Jesus taught us [among other things] at Lazarus’ tomb. When somebody dies, human or otherwise, director Colin Trevorrow made sure we felt how sad and wrong it was. Well, except when they kill off the villains, but even that was handled without being gratuitous. The only exception, in my opinion, is also the most talked about death in the movie, involving an assistant charged with taking care of the female lead’s nephews. That one was pretty gratuitous and drawn out. Even so, it wasn’t bloody and the other characters reacted appropriately with shock and horror at her demise.

I agree with Mr. Ham that we need to take opportunities to remind ourselves and our families why exactly Death is the enemy and of the tragedy of millions of lost souls headed for hell. In fact, the death scenes in Jurassic World were handled with sufficient gravity that I feel they represent the perfect opportunity to launch into this very discussion  from a Biblical perspective. Obviously, you should wait until you’ve left the theater to do so.

I think a few folks were shocked at Mr. Ham’s objection to Jurassic World because it wasn’t the objection we expected. Most of us presumed he would object to the aspects of the movie that portray millions of years of microbes-to-man evolution and a 65 million year gap between humans and dinosaurs as historical fact.

The idea of humans co-existing with dinosaurs is not a new one. Cryptozoologists have been suggesting for years that relict dinosaurs might exist in some forgotten corner of the world, inspiring the Ankgor Wat Stegosaurus carving of Ta Prohm temple, the Kachina Bridge Sauropod petroglyph at Utah’s Natural Bridges National Monument, and the myriad legends of mokele-mbembe and emela entouka of the African Congo’s Likoula swamp region. Those who believe in millions of years of microbes-to-man evolution might find such a possibility extremely unlikely.

anasazi dino2

In fact, Tyler Francke of GodofEvolution.com has written a post in which he opines that the Jurassic Park franchise demonstrates that the young earth creationist idea of human/dinosaur co-existence is probably not very realistic.

It is very true that when humans and dinosaurs come together in fiction, it’s almost never a good thing. When I was a kid, I used to enjoy reading Danny and the Dinosaur by Syd Hoff [Harper & Brothers, 1958]. If you’re not familiar with it, it involves a museum exhibit that turns out to be a real live dinosaur who ends up playing with a little boy named Danny and his friends. It’s cute. It’s fun to read. It’s probably never going to be adapted into an action-packed movie starring Chris Pratt. In fact, most of us imagine any story where a boy meets a live dinosaur will likely involve a lot of running and big teeth. As Ian Malcom [portrayed by Jeff Goldblum] noted in the first Jurassic Park sequel, “Yeah. ‘Ooh, ah,’ that’s how it always starts. But then later there’s running and screaming.”

Jules Verne’s 1864 Journey to the Center of the Earth gave early science fiction readers our first glimpse of the sort of fun-filled peril humans struggling to escape dinosaurs and other allegedly prehistoric creatures we’ve come to expect in works of fiction featuring humans and dinosaurs together. Arthur Conan Doyle, the fellow who gave us Sherlock Holmes, published The Lost World in 1912, featuring dinosaurs and other extinct creatures surviving on a plateau in the Amazon basin of South America rather than somewhere in a fictional Hollow Earth as Verne proposed. In 1918, Edgar Rice Burroughs, the fellow who gave us Tarzan and John Carter of Barsoom, er, I mean Mars, gave us The Land that Time Forgot, tucked away in a freak paradise in Antarctica, but even before that he gave us the first of his Pelucidar novels, At Earth’s Core [1914]. In 1929, in a notable crossover between his own series, the ever imaginative Burroughs pitted Tarzan against the prehistoric creatures in his fictional Hollow Earth [Tarzan at Earth’s Core].

Whether tucked away under Antarctica, in a fictional Hollow Earth or in some undiscovered remote jungle, the premise was always the same: some dinosaurs hadn’t gone extinct but rather existed in some “Lost World,” and when man ran into them, he ran out of ammo quick!

the-valley-of-gwangi-photos-4

While there were earlier attempts to portray modern humans and dinosaurs together on film [viz. Willis O’Brien’s The Ghost of Slumber Mountain (1918) which features cowboys fighting dinosaurs is considered by many to be a trial run for the 1925 version of The Lost World, also by O’Brien], it is Merian C. Cooper’s 1933 King Kong that stands out in most people’s minds as the film that finally allowed us see the human-dinosaur interactions of our sci-fi-fueled imaginations. Once again, these relict dinosaurs existed in a remote corner of the globe, Kong’s Skull Island. Slowly but surely, the science fiction dinosaur classics were translated onto the big screen, along with newer additions like Godzilla (1954), The Valley of Gwangi (1969) with cowboys and stop-motion dinosaurs orchestrated by the inimitable Ray Harryhausen, and even a film based on the mokele-mbembe legend Baby: Secret of the Lost Legend (1985).

jurassicpark

In 1990, Michael Crichton offered us a new angle on dinosaurs interacting with modern humans. Instead of finding them alive and well in some forgotten or unexpected corner of the globe, scientists discover a way to recreate dinosaurs from ancient DNA preserved in amber and then populate a “biological preserve” with their creations. Like King Kong, the book took place on a remote island, Isla Nubar. The 1993 film adaptation gave us a look at dinosaurs that were faster and ultimately more terrifying than ever before. The special effects of Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park were so groundbreaking that it paved the way for Lucas’ Star Wars prequels [for better or worse], Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings franchise and 2005 King Kong remake [which thankfully included dinosaurs unlike the disappointing 1976 King Kong starring Jeff Bridges], the most recent Godzilla remakes, and pretty much any other film that was unthinkable before CGI technology reached this level. Of course, it also spawned two immediate film sequels [Jurassic Park: The Lost World (1997) and Jurassic Park III (2001), both set on a sister island to Isla Nublar called Isla Sorna where dinosaurs run about free range and featuring some of the actors from the first movie] and, of course, Jurassic World(2015).

There’s a point to this history lesson. Very few live action films portraying dinosaurs and humans together show them getting along very well. Jurassic Park was no exception. The Velociraptor’s handler in that first film thought they should be destroyed. The only positive interactions humans had with dinosaurs in that film was with the herbivores. The sequels weren’t much better. The message of all three films was clear: the dinosaurs never should have been brought back and the best thing we could ever do is just leave them alone! Or kill them. One of the two.

jurassic-world-own-raptors-poster

Despite Tyler Francke’s assertions, Jurassic World stands apart from the first three films because it actually includes positive interactions between humans and carnivorous dinosaurs. The film’s protagonist, played by Chris Pratt, has made sure the Velociraptors imprint on him as their Alpha from birth. Rather than just being treated like killing machines on legs, they’re treated like real animals with understandable motivations. It’s a turning point as striking as when scientists began advocating for sharks as something more than bloodthirsty demons of the depths. By understanding these creatures, man has been able to harness and control them. The protagonist puts the Velociraptors through their paces like a lion tamer and later runs them like hunting dogs. Using what we learned of a T-rex’s vision from the events of the first movie, we now lure it to its dinner with a flare. [So no more Ian Malcolm mockingly asking you if there will eventually be dinosaurs on the dinosaur ride, right?] In fact, the problem is that we have things so well in hand that a dinosaur theme park has become little more than an expensive zoo.

rex-cage

To liven things up, the scientists at InGen create a hybrid dinosaur that’s “bigger, badder, with more teeth.” By ignoring what we know about predators in captivity, they create an antisocial  monster that kills for sport. Even so, this Indominus rex should have been easy to kill, in my opinion. In fact, Chris Pratt’s character echoed my own thoughts on the matter: “You’ve got an M134 in your armory. Bolt it to a chopper and take this thing down.” These guns are featured in Johnny Came Home and I daresay that an M134 would definitely smoke any creature lacking some sort of superpowers! Sadly, the humans in this movie were apparently not hired for their ability to accurately hit a target. In any case, every bit of dinosaur mayhem that ensues is a direct result of ignoring the advice of the only dinosaur expert worth a plug nickel in their midst – advice that conforms to everything that zoo experts and other wildlife professionals know on the subject. I mean, seriously, why didn’t they check that transponder for the monster’s location first?

jurassic-world-indominus-rex-share

Which brings up an interesting point. Tyler Francke has a meme on his site showing a T-rex skull saying that “Take it from me – if dinosaurs had ever actually coexisted with humans… we wouldn’t be the ones who went extinct.” Yet Jurassic World shows that without a series of unfortunate – dare I say moronic – events, humans are quite capable of getting along with any other species. In fact, we always seem to find some way to secure dominion over them. In fact, if dragon legends are actually based on relict dinosaurs [with fanciful elements added over repeated tellings at the campfire, so to speak] as cryptozoologists and young earthers propose, it looks like man’s already had the upper hand over the beasties.

I would imagine that Tyler’s beef with Biblical [young earth] creationists is that he doesn’t think man and dinosaurs could have co-existed because science chained to pure naturalism puts about 65 million years between us. Everything else he says is a smokescreen for that a priori assumption that Genesis is a myth because all-natural science says so. Perhaps what he really needs is a lesson in the difference between fact and fantasy. He will find this ironic, of course, since he believes that Genesis is fiction that teaches truth, not a record of historical fact. Nevertheless, if he did not arbitrarily hold all-natural science as his ultimate authority over the revealed word of God in Genesis [though he inconsistently allows for the supernatural elsewhere in the Bible], he would realize that the all-natural story of origins proposed by modern science is nothing more than science fiction parading about as historical fact.

Darwin's Fairy Tales for Grown-Ups

Darwin’s Fairy Tales for Grown-Ups

So go see Jurassic World. Use it to have a Biblically-based discussion on why death is bad and to how man has been given dominion over all of the animals, including dinosaurs. Again, wait until you leave the theater.

Tony Breeden, DefGen.org

 

10 Theological Questions Theistic Evolutionists Think No Young Earth Creationist Can Answer – The Final Insult

evodebate

evodebate

Tyler Francke, founder of the YEC-bashing God of Evolution site, has written a post called 10 Theological Questions No Young-Earth Creationist Can Answer. In our first post, we addressed his opening remarks and his first 3 questions. In the next post, I addressed questions 4 through 6. I addressed the last four questions in the final post of the series.

This redux post is meant to summarize what we’ve learned. I encourage you to read the full answers to each question, but this should give you a basic idea.

After part two of the series, Tyler “responded” to my answers with a bit of hand waving, suggesting that my answers seemed “to consist primarily of put-downs, spiritual one-upmanship and liberal uses of the special pleading fallacy.” The latter comment referred to the fact that I utilize presuppositional apologetics. He at no point addressed my answers specifically. Instead he’s begged off that he doesn’t think an exchange with yours truly would be either pleasant or effective. He’s right. I find him unimpressive and I am not in a habit of giving quarter to Bible compromisers.

So let’s review Tyler Francke’s earth shaking theological questions that no young earther can answer and see how this particular young earther answered them:

1. What was the point of the Tree of Life?

A: To grant eternal life to whoever ate from it. Note here that I have answered Tyler’s question. Of course, that’s not what he was really concerned about. Tyler’s real objection is that it doesn’t seem to serve any point in a world where no one can die. I provided a possible purpose [which Tyler missed when he skimmed my article, stating instead that I had admitted that I couldn’t answer the question] and then pointed out that Ecclesiastes promises that everything has a purpose, so rather than providing a paradox that YECs can’t answer, so even an unrevealed purpose for the Tree of Life cannot be used to refute our position. It’s a Biblical answer, so I’m assuming he finds it intellectually unsatisfying.

So the answer could be the one I proposed, but even so, we know that Tyler’s objection is invalid because the Bible promises that there is a purpose for everything, even if he doesn’t understand what that could be.

2. If human sin is the reason animals die, why can’t they be saved?

A: Animal life is different from human life [1 Cor. 15:39]. Only humans were made in the image of God and have a living soul [Gen. 2:7]. The passage that Tyler quoted for his argument was irrelevant to the discussion and ignored how Romans 8:22-23 applied to his question.

3. If physical death is part of the punishment for sin, why do Christians still die?

A: Because spiritual death is remedied at salvation and physical death will be remedied at our Blessed Hope as revealed in passages such as 1 Cor 15, and 1 Thes 4:16. Tyler also used the non-literal death Paul spoke of in Romans 7:9 and tried to normalize the usage of the word death as meaning spiritual death, regardless of the context of each use. In doing so, he ignored the fact that the meaning of a text is determined by context, not merely by how any given might be used in other contexts. Those opposed to the plain-sense meaning of Genesis apply this same faulty tactic to the use of the word day in Genesis based on a single non-literal instance in Genesis 2:1.

4. Why was Eve named “mother of life”?

A: Because God promised Eve that she would bear children for Adam. Tyler used a selective presentation of Scripture [Genesis 3:17-19] to suggest that Adam had no reason to call Eve the mother of all living in light of the fact that mankind had just been cursed. He failed to take into account the promise of childbirth in the preceding verse. On purpose, no less.

5. How did Adam and Eve know what death was?

A: As evidenced from the fact that Adam is able to speak and name things from day one, we infer that God created a fully functional adult male whose mind came equipped with a bit more than a one year old typically has. Tyler’s objection was built on the unBiblical idea that Adam was a baby in a man’s body or a blank slate. Once again, he did not take into account the entire revelation of Scripture.

6. If the punishment for eating from the tree was that Adam and Eve would physically die … why didn’t they physically die?

A: The Hebrew construction of this verse implies that God meant that the death sentence would be decreed on that day, not that it would be carried out immediately. The verse should be rendered “dying you shall die” and basically means that the process of death began at the moment they sinned. Interestingly, Tyler admitted that YECs have all sorts of answers for this question; he simply rejects them with a bit of cursory hand waving [Ironic, I know]. He again attempts to use Romans 8 to say that the only reasonable interpretation is that Adam incurred spiritual death only, so I again referred him back to 1 Corinthians 15, which he has once again failed to take into account.

7. Can you name any other piece of literature in which the existence of a talking snake and trees with magical powers would suggest to you that it was meant to be taken literally?

A: Tyler here reveals his double-mindedness where it concerns the supernatural in Genesis because science chained to pure naturalism forbids a literal interpretation of the Creation account, even though he allows for supernatural elements in history as revealed in the Bible elsewhere. Of course, all-natural science also says no to supernatural agency of any sort, so Tyler is guilty of straining gnats and swallowing camels. What Tyler’s double-minded objection fails to take into account is the question of what a history book that allows for supernatural things would look like. To back his objection, he notes two Scriptures where the Tree of Life is spoken of figuratively, failing to take into account other passages where it is mentioned as actually existing. Once again, context determines meaning, Tyler.

8. Why do Genesis 1 and 2 contradict?

A: Yes, this oft-refuted chestnut. The answer is that with a proper understanding, they complement each other rather than contradict. Rather than providing a theological question no young earth creationist can answer, he provides one that pretty much every young earether already has!

9. Why is incest wrong?

A: Extramarital incest is wrong because all sexual relationships outside marriage are a sin, going against the foundation of marriage God instituted in Genesis. Marriage between close family members is a sin because it was later forbidden by Levitical Law after the Patriarchal Era. Rather than not being able to provide an answer as to why marriage between close relatives is wrong now but wasn’t wrong until Mt. Sinai, young earthers have noted that we can infer that genetic mistakes were by that time more numerous and, in God’s wisdom, such unions were now no longer permitted. In his zeal to castigate young earthers, Tyler ignores church history on this subject, ignores the principle of ex post facto, and makes God out to be a bean-counting rulemonger. He also ignores the fact that this question has been answered ad infinitum simply because he doesn’t want to accept the answer.

10. And finally, if it is so vitally important that Christians take Genesis literally, why did Jesus never once instruct us to take Genesis literally?

A: By his example, Jesus demonstrated that we should take Genesis literally. Tyler knows this. In another post written by Tyler, he admitted that Jesus spoke of Genesis as literal history, but his theistic evolutionary bias forced him to conclude that Jesus was wrong, accommodating Himself to the historical misconceptions of his followers rather than correcting them, so that he might teach them spiritual truths. Rather than offering us a proposed argument from silence, Francke actually ends up admitting that the record is not silent but rather that Jesus was wrong for being on record as speaking of Genesis as literal history.

So what do we make of this list of theological questions no young earther could ever answer?

Well, first we note that many of them are false dilemmas, objections raised because Tyler is being selective in his consideration of Biblical revelation. This is called eisegesis. It’s a bad thing. Context determines meaning, and when the meaning is unclear it is always best to allow the revelation of other Scriptures to inform our understanding. Tyler failed to take into the context of other Scriptures in his first five objections and in #7 as well. In his final objection, Tyler prefers to be willfully ignorant of the historical context with which Jesus refers to Genesis, asking instead why the Master who spoke in parables did not speak explicitly on this subject in order to avoid misunderstanding. Again, a classic false dilemma.

We also note that his list includes questions that have been answered a ridiculous number of times by young earthers, making his inclusion of  these objections little more than evidence of his unwillingness to accept those answers.

Lastly, we note that we were able to provide reasonable answers to each question despite Tyler’s hopes to the contrary.

At the conclusion of Tyler’s post, he states that “regardless of whose interpretation of Genesis is correct, it doesn’t really matter in the end,” yet the entire premise of Tyler Francke’s list of questions is an attempt to demonstrate that it does matter which view of Genesis is correct and that his favored interpretation of Genesis is necessary to true understanding of Christianity.

Rather than giving us a list of unanswerable questions, Tyler has simply demonstrated how far he’s willing to go to insulate himself from the truth. He’s willing to call our Blessed Hope a lie and to claim that Jesus allowed folks to believe a lie about their own origins in order to teach them a greater truth. [Think of the implications of that idea the next time you have your Bible study!] The problem is that Tyler Francke’s ultimate authority is found neither in Christ nor the Bible, nor even to science chained to pure naturalism. His pick and choose religion requires that he be the ultimate authority over both Scripture and science, arbitrarily deciding which authority prevails in each particular passage.

10 Theological Questions Theistic Evolutionists Think No Young Earth Creationist Can Answer – Part 3

Need Direction  Jesus is the way  John 14:6

Need Direction  Jesus is the way  John 14:6

Tyler Francke, founder of the YEC-bashing God of Evolution site, has written a post called 10 Theological Questions No Young-Earth Creationist Can Answer. In our first post, we addressed his opening remarks and his first 3 questions. In the next post, I addressed questions 4 through 6. Before I reply to the last of his questions, let’s review what we’ve learned so far.

1. What was the point of the Tree of Life?

A: To grant eternal life to whoever ate from it. Note here that I have answered Tyler’s question. Of course, that’s not what he was really concerned about. Tyler’s real objection is that it doesn’t seem to serve any point in a world where no one can die. I provided a possible purpose and then pointed out that Ecclesiastes promises that everything has a purpose, so rather than providing a paradox that YECs can’t answer, it provides an unrevealed purpose that cannot be used to refute our position. It’s a Biblical answer, so I’m assuming he finds it intellectually unsatisfying.

2. If human sin is the reason animals die, why can’t they be saved?

A: Animal life is different from human life [1 Cor. 15:39]. Only humans were made in the image of God and have a living soul [Gen. 2:7]. The passage that Tyler quoted for his argument was irrelevant to the discussion and ignored how Romans 8:22-23 applied to his question.

3. If physical death is part of the punishment for sin, why do Christians still die?

A: Because spiritual death is remedied at salvation and physical death will be remedied at our Blessed Hope as revealed in passages such as 1 Cor 15, and 1 Thes 4:16. Tyler also used the non-literal death Paul spoke of in Romans 7:9 and tried to normalize the usage of the word death as meaning spiritual death, regardless of the context of each use. In doing so, he ignored the fact that the meaning of a text is determined by context, not merely by how any given might be used in other contexts. Those opposed to the plain-sense meaning of Genesis apply this same faulty tactic to the use of the word day in Genesis based on a single non-literal instance in Genesis 2:1.

4. Why was Eve named “mother of life”?

A: Because God promised Eve that she would bear children for Adam. Tyler used a selective presentation of Scripture [Genesis 3:17-19] to suggest that Adam had no reason to call Eve the mother of all living in light of the fact that mankind had just been cursed. He failed to take into account the promise of childbirth in the preceding verse. On purpose, no less.

5. How did Adam and Eve know what death was?

A: As evidenced from the fact that Adam is able to speak and name things from day one, we infer that God created a fully functional adult male whose mind came equipped with a bit more than a one year old typically has. Tyler’s objection was built on the unBiblical idea that Adam was a baby in a man’s body or a blank slate.

6. If the punishment for eating from the tree was that Adam and Eve would physically die … why didn’t they physically die?

A: The Hebrew construction of this verse implies that God meant that the death sentence would be decreed on that day, not that it would be carried out immediately. The verse should be rendered “dying you shall die” and basically means that the process of death began at the moment they sinned. Interestingly, Tyler admitted that YECs have all sorts of answers for this question; he simply rejects them with a bit of cursory hand waving [Ironic, I know]. He again attempts to use Romans 8 to say that the only reasonable interpretation is that Adam incurred spiritual death only, so I again referred him back to 1 Corinthians 15, which he has once again failed to take into account.

Hopefully, we can get through the remainder of Tyler’s questions in this part.

You should know that Tyler has apparently “responded” to my answers thus far with the following:

“It seems to consist primarily of put-downs, spiritual one-upmanship and liberal uses of the special pleading fallacy, which isn’t all that surprising. It has long been Breeden’s specialty to present a Bible passage that only supports the young-earth view if one has already assumed a priori that the young-earth view is correct, and he does nothing different or unexpected here.”

So… he skimmed it then. I’ll address the special pleading fallacy first. I’ve made no secret of the fact that I practice presuppositional apologetics. I presuppose that the Bible is true and that Genesis purposes to relate true history, just as Tyler Francke presupposes that the Bible is true but that Genesis purposes to teach spiritual truths ala’ Aesop’s fables rather than relating true history. He approaches the Bible with these presuppositions because he also presupposes a priori that the all-natural truth claim of millions of years of microbes-to-man evolution is true history. So pots and kettles, Mr. Francke.

He seems to have a real problem with someone using insults when rebuking a religious person. I refer him to Elisha’s remarks to the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. Read it again. If he thinks that’s not very loving or Christ-like, I refer him to Jesus’ comments concerning the Pharisees in a rather infamous chapter of Matthew and remind him that his stained-glass Sunday school version of Jesus needs to be tempered with what the Bible actually reveals.

Without further ado, here’s his next question:

7. Can you name any other piece of literature in which the existence of a talking snake and trees with magical powers would suggest to you that it was meant to be taken literally?

This one is funny, because when you start discussing the proper interpretation of Genesis with young-earth creationists, they tend to refer to contextual clues a lot. To give just one example, this Creation.com piece, which goes to hilarious lengths to compare the use of the Hebrew “yom” (“day”) to the 2,282 other Old Testament uses of the word.

Pause. Look at the hand waving he does here concerning the contextual clues for the word day in Genesis. The contextual clues that let us know that the days of Genesis are meant to be understood as six, literal 24-hour days. This is called willful ignorance, folks.

Somehow, in this author’s detailed analysis of the use of ordinal numbers in conjunction with “yom,” he managed to miss out on a couple of fairly significant contextual clues, like, I dunno, the freaking snake that is TALKING TO PEOPLE. Because I actually just completed a survey of 6,842 stories that feature talking animals, and — wouldn’t you know it — none of them were history.

Then you have the trees whose fruit bear obvious magical properties, which happens to be another astoundingly common theme in one particular type of writing: fiction writing.

Fiction writing? Hey, look, he’s on my turf now.

Tyler here reveals his anti-supernatural bias. His post even include a picture of Aesop’s Fables at this point presumably to drive his argument home. Why does that sound familiar? Oh, right. Because I’ve been warning folks about the Clergy Letter Project for years, noting among other things that they claim the Adam, and Eve Noah and the Ark are teaching stories in the tradition of Aesop’s Fables, despite the fact that our Lord and the Apostles referred to them as historical events. Tyler supports the pro-evolution Clergy Letter, even if he hasn’t yet signed it.

By basically calling Genesis a work of fiction, he once again demonstrates that his ultimate authority is not the Bible, no matter how much he claims to hold it in very high regard. History can only include the all-natural elements in Tyler’s worldview… well, when it’s convenient anyway. Watch him go on about Balamm’s ass:

Some young-earthers have responded to this with the story of Balaam’s donkey, but unlike in Genesis 3, the donkey’s ability to talk is explicitly described as a miraculous act of God. Of course, their exhaustive comparative studies never include Proverbs 3:18 and 13:12, two instances in which the biblical authors revisit the concept of the tree of life — in an obviously figurative context.

So in the case of this talking donkey, Tyler says it’s OK to read the Bible as real history because it’s explicitly noted to be a miracle. Nevermind that the 6 Day Creation is also noted as an explicit supernatural act of God and is even mentioned in the Ten Commandments for crying out loud; all-natural science says no to that one. Of course, all-natural science also says no to talking animals of any sort and definitely no to miracles, so Tyler is guilty of straining gnats and swallowing camels. What Tyler’s double-minded objection fails to take into account is the question of what a history book that allows for supernatural things would look like. He allegedly affirms a supernatural Creator God. He tells us he believes that Jesus supernaturally rose from the dead. He believes that Balaam’s miraculously talking donkey is true history because it’s described as a supernatural act of God. We presume he believes the other miracles based on this statement, selectively at least. He accepts these elements that are virtually indistinguishable from magic elsewhere in the Bible as historical facts of history, but stumbles over them as fiction in Genesis.

What a hypocrite! What a double-minded man! I weep for his congregation.

As for the Tree of Life, it’s mentioned again in supernaturally prophesied future history, as we noted in our remarks on question #1. It’s mentioned as a literal tree, Tyler. Again, the context of a text determines its meaning.

So the answer to Tyler’s question is that it is irrelevant whether any other piece of literature includes supernatural elements and yet claims to be true history. If the Bible speaks the truth about God and the context determines that Genesis is meant to relate true history about how a supernatural Creator supernaturally created the cosmos in just six ordinary days, then the real question is whether you believe this supernatural revelation… or whether you believe it was made up?

8. Why do Genesis 1 and 2 contradict?

I have a much more detailed post on this issue here [link removed], so I’ll be brief.

Here is the order of some of the things God made in Genesis 1:

Plants (1:11-13)
Fish and birds, concurrently (1:20-23)
Land animals (1:24-25)
Men and women, concurrently (1:26-27)

Now here’s the order of the same stuff in Genesis 2:

Man (2:7)
Trees (2:9)
Land animals and birds (2:19)
Woman (2:21-22)

Notice any differences? Oh, wait, it’s all different. Now, if these two stories are meant to be theological allegory, as I believe they are, then there’s no issue. But if they are — as the young-earthers insist — historical accounts of the same creation of the same universe, then we have a problem … because they are irreconcilably different.

Oh my stars! This again?? Old earthers and other Bible skeptics never tire of parading out this oft-refuted chestnut. Answer it as many times as you like, they’ll never listen. And Tyler knows we’ve already answered this one. He admits it in the next sentence!

Some may criticize this question’s inclusion on this list. True, it’s not like young-earthers haven’t tried to answer it before. (Not that they really have a choice — if they can’t even get past the second chapter of Genesis without their literalist exegesis falling apart, they’re in big trouble.) Unfortunately, their explanations are utterly unfaithful to the very story they purport to be defending.

The primary explanation is that the verb in verse 19 (NASB: “Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the sky…”) should be translated in the past perfect: “had formed.” And indeed this is how some modern translations like the New International Version and the English Standard Version render the verse, even though the only reason to do so is to serve the translator’s underlying theological presuppositions.

Morphosyntactic considerations aside, if you do render the verse 19 verb “had formed,” it kind of completely wrecks the story.Whereas, in the NASB, verse 19 proceeds logically from the preceeding one (18: God says, “I will make a helper suitable for man.” 19: He makes a bunch of helpers), the NIV is hopelessly muddled (18: God says, “I will make a helper suitable for man.” 19: God suddenly reverses course: “Actually, never mind. I forgot I already made all these things. Will any of these work?”).

And don’t forget, this is only one of many problems that the literalistic, young-earth hermeneutic creates. It has to make you wonder: If these really are two literal accounts which are meant to be read as one harmonious history, why do you have to change or ignore so much of what they say to make them harmonize?

Yeah. My answer has nothing to do with any of that. My answer is provided here but the basic point is that chapter 2 provided further details of Day 6 and that the animals formed in Genesis 2:19 were special representatives for Adam to name:

“What gets a few people is this whole business of Adam naming the animals, particularly verse 19: “And out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field, and every fowl of the air.” God had already created all of the land animals [creeping things, cattle and beasts of the earth – Gen 1:24-25]. Now he forms the beasts of the field [a sub-set of beasts of the earth], birds and cattle from the dust of the earth and brings them before Adam to see what he’ll name them. Were these real live creatures? or simply clay images of the real McCoy? I have this sort of sci-fi fantasy image in my head of God sculpting each creature with a wave of his hand and sending them hovering in front of Adam. In my mind’s eye, each clay creature is moving as it would in real life. Maybe it even becomes real, live flesh as Adam gives it a name. Ah, they need to make a decent movie about Creation and the Flood… sigh.”

Next question.

9. Why is incest wrong?

Ken Ham claims the most common question he’s been asked is, “Where did Cain get his wife?” Well, consider this the follow-up.

You see, young-earth groups are pretty up-front about where they think Cain’s wife came from: He married his sister. According to the young-earthers, God’s divine plan necessitated that men to procreate with their sisters or mother at least twice: following Noah’s flood and right after our original creation.

OK, we’ll stop right there for just a second to correct Tyler’s misconceptions. I know he likely has his Ken ham hater glasses on, but this doesn’t excuse him from gross ignorance of church history. You see, it’s not just young earth groups who think Cain married his sister. This is a position with a long pedigree. In fact, this question was answered over 1600 years ago by John Chrysostom [347 AD – 407 AD]:

“But perhaps someone will say: How is it that Cain had a wife when Sacred Scripture nowhere makes mention of another woman? Don’t be surprised at this dearly beloved: it has so far given no list of women anywhere in a precise manner; instead, Sacred Scripture while avoiding superfluous details mentions the males in turn, though not even all of them, telling us about them in rather summary fashion when it says that so-and-so had sons and daughters and then he died. So it is likely in this case too that Eve gave birth to a daughter after Cain and Abel, and Cain took her for her wife. You see, since it was in the beginning and the human race had to increase from them on, it was permissible to marry their own sisters.”

Besides being weird and disturbing and more than a little icky, this is problematic because, biblically, incest is repeatedly and consistently described as a sin. It happens to be mentioned in scripture at least as many times as homosexuality, and I think we all know what Ken Ham thinks about that.

So why does incest get a pass?

Two reasons: Because there would “fewer genetic mistakes” the closer the happy couple was to Adam and Eve, and because God hadn’t issued his Mosaic-era prohibitions against incest yet.

Unfortunately, the first defense was arrived at using X-trabiblical Vision™, and since I don’t possess this power, I’m not really qualified to respond.

As I explained in my response to #5, what he refers to as “X-trabiblical Vision” isn’t a superpower; it’s merely inference. If he doesn’t comprehend this – and given the level of snark he’s dishing out here, I’d suggest he’s being facetious – then he really isn’t qualified to respond. That sort of willful ignorance is simply criminal.

The first reason is consistent with a Biblical [Young Earth] creationist interpretation and Tyler’s snarky response to it reveals that he has nothing of substance to offer against it. If Adam were originally perfect, as evidence by his lifespan, he and his immediate progeny would have had fewer genetic mistakes in their makeup. There was obviously a bottleneck effect at the Flood with Noah and his kin, as evidenced by the greatly reduced lifespans of their descendants, resulting in greater genetic mistakes. Still, Abram married his half-sister and Moses’ own father married his father’s sister [his aunt] without controversy. We infer that by the time of Moses that genetic mistakes were now prevalent yielding a pragmatic reason for the prohibition against incestuous marriage. Please note that we have no reason to presume that extramarital incest wasn’t as wrong then as it is now. In fact, we have several Biblical passages involving extrabiblical incest

But the second is — pardon my French — total BS. News flash: According to the young-earthers, God hadn’t issued any commands at this point in history beyond “Don’t eat that fruit,” but it still seemed to be a pretty major party foul when Cain murdered Abel.

So if God’s moral prohibition against murder was in effect before Heston — er, I mean, Moses — laid down the law on Sinai, then so was his moral prohibition against incest. Which makes it pretty unlikely that he would have set up his creation in such a way that it required incest almost immediately, don’t you think?

Um, God made it clear in Genesis that murder was wrong. I mean, death – both spiritual AND physical death, Tyler – was the punishment for Adam’s sin. If you know death is wrong, you also know that causing death is probably wrong, too. Cain knew this, which is exactly why he answered God’s question as to the whereabouts of his brother with his infamous dissemblance [“Am I my brother’s keeper?”]. Note however that the punishment for Cain’s sin was not death as would later be prescribed by both the Noachian Covenant [Genesis 9] and Levitical Law. Why was Cain given a pass? Well, he wasn’t. He was punished, but the punishment wasn’t death [it was banishment]. In fact, Cain was worried that everyone else would slay him for killing Abel. Interestingly enough, God placed a mark on Cain as a warning to others that anyone who killed Cain would receive sevenfold vengeance for the deed. In other words, rather than the penalty for murder being death, God actually gave Cain surety against death.

Why? Well, because things were different in the Adamic world. Human life was precious because only humans could reproduce other humans and because there weren’t many around. The theistic evolutionary view that Adam and Eve were part of a greater population of humanity makes God’s mark on Cain a giant inconsistency in His justice. God makes it clear that murder was always wrong precisely because man is made in the image of God [Genesis 9], a God who identifies Himself with Life itself in other passages of Scripture. Murder is a crime against life, against God Himself. Extramarital incest is a crime against the family as established in Genesis when God made man, male and female. Why treat Abel’s murder differently than murder under the Noachian Covenant or Levitical Law if murder is always exactly wrong?

The young earther has a an answer in that God’s plan required man to be fruitful and multiply to fill the earth. After Eden, if a man murdered another but was then also killed for his crime, this reduced the population and the available gene pool by two [at minimum]. After the Flood, 8 souls were given the Noachian Covenant. They had seen what level of depravity and violence humanity could stoop to. In his wisdom, God established the Noachian Covenant and prescribed death as the penalty for murder. While there was a genetic bottleneck after the Flood and life was no less precious, the death penalty for murder was necessary in order to dissuade men from committing this sin in a world where God had promised not to wipe out mankind for such violence against His image. This caveat is important in comprehending why God changed the penalty for murder.

Likewise, by the time of the giving of Levitical Law, genetic mistakes had likely increased to the point where a prohibition against marriage between close relatives was was now necessary. Francke would have us believe that those who lived before Levitical Law was given were still Francke can protest this as much as he likes, but he cannot deny its logic.

Tyler Francke is hoping that we ignore the principle of ex post facto, namely that one is not amenable to the consequences of a law passed after the commission of a certain act. I once had a boss who promoted a fellow employee above me and then tried to hold me accountable for not carrying out that recently promoted supervisor’s wishes before said promotion. It was pretty unfair, not to mention nonsensical, so I quit. Tyler Francke wants us to believe that the justice of God ignores the inherent unfairness of disregarding the ex post facto principle. In his zeal to castigate young earthers, he makes God out to be a bean-counting rulemonger.

Now to answer his question comprehensively, we have to address the fact that Christians are not held accountable for much of Levitical Law now. Levitical law has traditionally been divided into ceremonial law, moral law and judicial/civil law. Several New Testament passages make it clear that ceremonial and judicial/civil Levitical Law [viz., Acts 10:9-16; Galatians 2:1-3; 5:1-11; 6:11-16; 1 Corinthians 7:17-20; Colossians 2:8-12, 16-17; Phillipians 3:1-3] have passed away. Leviticus 18, which deals with sexual immorality of all sorts including incest, falls under moral law. Moral law here is defined as non-culturally-dependent [universal] moral law. One could note that a prohibition against incest [whether the parties are married or not] is a violation of moral law because genetics is not culturally dependent and extramarital incest in wrong because it violates God’s establishment of marriage in Genesis.

10. And finally, if it is so vitally important that Christians take Genesis literally, why did Jesus never once instruct us to take Genesis literally?

Sure, it’s an argument from silence. But it’s still worth considering why Jesus — who often addressed Old Testament passages that religious people had a habit of misinterpreting, and surely knew the issue this would one day become in the church. Preventing all that would have been as simple as this:

And again the Pharisees came to test Jesus. “Great teacher,” they said, “there are some who say the creation accounts are like your parables, and not meant to be read as history. What do you say to this?”

And then Jesus replied, giving the exact right answer that would preemptively end decades of harsh debate almost 2,000 years later.

But there’s nothing remotely like that in the gospels. Which proves that, regardless of whose interpretation of Genesis is correct, it doesn’t really matter in the end.

Because, if one particular view of the creation accounts was remotely necessary to the true understanding of Christianity, I’m pretty sure the founder of Christianity would have mentioned it.

Did anyone else just catch what Tyler did there? I’ll give those of you who did a moment to stop laughing before we continue.

While we’re waiting on those guys, let’s examine Tyler’s “argument from silence.” To make an argument from silence  is to express a conclusion that is based on the absence of statements in historical documents, rather than on presence. Unfortunately, that’s not what Tyler’s doing here. He’s hoping we won’t notice that his “argument from silence,” cleverly accented with a Things Jesus Never Said meme, isn’t really an argument from silence at all. You see, Jesus may never have explicitly said that Genesis was meant to be taken as literal history, but when He referenced Genesis, He spoke of it as literal history. The context makes that so clear that in another post written by Tyler, linked in this one, poor Tyler is forced to admit that Jesus spoke of Genesis as literal history but that Jesus was wrong:

“But let’s pretend for a moment, as the literalists will insist, that by “at the beginning,” Jesus meant the sixth day of Creation Week. If creation really took billions of years, does that mean Jesus was wrong?

Yes. Sort of.

You see, Jesus was wrong, but only because his listeners were wrong. His audience believed that humans had always existed on the earth; they had no reason to think otherwise. And Jesus accommodated himself to their inaccurate views of our biological origins in order to remind them of a deeper truth: that we are made in God’s image, male and female, and that there is a grand, divine beauty in the marital bond that flippant divorce makes a mockery of.”

That’s right. Jesus was wrong. The one who defined Himself as the Truth accommodated Himself to the errors of His day rather than correcting them and let them believe a lie in order to teach them truth. Er, um, waitaminute. Is that what he really believes? How does he back that up?

He suggests that by using figures of speech in passages like Mark 4:30-32, Mark 13: 23:26 and John 12:23-24, Jesus was also accommodating Himself to the misconceptions of His day because the mustard seed isn’t the smallest of all seeds nor grows to be the largest of all garden plants, dead seeds produce nothing, and meteorites fall rather than stars. The problem is that Jesus isn’t using hyperbole in the passages where he refers to Adam and Eve in Matthew 19:1-11 and the parallel passage in Mark 10:1-12; He’s quoting Scripture as a justification for doctrine and speaking of Genesis as a matter of historical record in doing so.

So rather than an argument from silence, Francke pulls a bait and switch and actually ends up admitting that the record is not silent but rather that Jesus was wrong for being on record as speaking of Genesis as literal history. And how does he know Jesus was wrong? Because Tyler Francke’s ultimate authority, science chained to pure naturalism, says that Genesis cannot be literal history. When forced to choose between Jesus and science chained to pure naturalism, Tyler Francke chooses to believe Jesus was wrong and that naturalistic science provides the truth. Wow.

As to why we’re laughing…

Did you catch it? The entire premise of Tyler Francke’s list of questions is supposed to show us why the traditional Biblical [young earth] interpretation of the Bible is theologically problematic and therefore wrong, making his position of imposing long ages of theistic evolution onto the text the better choice. By claiming that the traditional Biblical [young earth] interpretation of the Bible is theologically problematic, he’s trying to demonstrate that it does matter which view of Genesis is correct and that his favored interpretation of Genesis is necessary to true understanding of Christianity.

In other words, his entire post undermines the very premise that “regardless of whose interpretation of Genesis is correct, it doesn’t really matter in the end.”  The very existence of this post, not to mention his entire Godofevolution.com website gives lie tot he fact that Tyler Francke believes a correct interpretation of Genesis matters very much after all!

The real problem, for folks like Tyler Francke, is that the founder of Christianity did mention Genesis as a matter of historical record. But they need to explain that away because their ultimate authority is found neither in Christ nor the Bible, but nor even to science chained to pure naturalism. Their pick and choose religion requires that they be the ultimate authority over both Scripture and science, arbitrarily deciding which authority prevails in each particular passage.

This post has gone rather long, so I shall summarize and offer my conclusions in a final post.

 

10 Theological Questions Theistic Evolutionists Think No Young Earth Creationist Can Answer – Part 2

evodogmaTyler Francke, founder of the YEC-bashing God of Evolution site, has written a post called 10 Theological Questions No Young-Earth Creationist Can Answer. In our last post, we addressed his opening remarks and his first 3 questions. I’m hoping to get a little further this time, but let’s review what we’ve learned so far.

1. What was the point of the Tree of Life?

A: To grant eternal life to whoever ate from it. Tyler’s real objection is that it doesn’t seem to serve any point in a world where no one can die. I provided a possible purpose and then pointed out that Ecclesiastes promises that everything has a purpose, so rather than providing a paradox that YECs can’t answer, it provides an unrevealed purpose that cannot be used to refute our position.

2. If human sin is the reason animals die, why can’t they be saved?

A: Animal life is different from human life [1 Cor. 15:39]. Only humans were made in the image of God and have a living soul [Gen. 2:7]. The passage that Tyler quoted for his argument was irrelevant to the discussion and ignored how Romans 8:22-23 applied to his question.

3. If physical death is part of the punishment for sin, why do Christians still die?

A: Because spiritual death is remedied at salvation and physical death will be remedied at our Blessed Hope as revealed in passages such as 1 Cor 15, and 1 Thes 4:16. Tyler also used the non-literal death Paul spoke of in Romans 7:9 and tried to normalize the usage of the word death as meaning spiritual death, regardless of the context of each use. In doing so, he ignored the fact that the meaning of a text is determined by context, not merely by how any given might be used in other contexts. Those opposed to the plain-sense meaning of Genesis apply this same faulty tactic to the use of the word day in Genesis based on a single non-literal instance in Genesis 2:1.

Noting that reasonable answers have been provided and that no problematic theology has arisen, except on the part of Tyler Francke, who seems to deny the physical resurrection of the dead, we continue to the next question:

4. Why was Eve named “mother of life”?

Immediately after Genesis 3:17-19, which is when God “curses” mankind, Adam names his wife Eve. And when I say “immediately after,” I mean, literally, the very next verse. This is significant, because the curse is the part of the Bible that young-earth creationism proponents cite as the genesis (geddit?) for all death and illness and disorder and pretty much any bad thing that’s ever happened (even though, again, the Bible says nothing remotely like that).

Genesis 3:20 explains that Adam chose the name “Eve” for his previously anonymous wife because she “was the mother of all (the) living/life.” The name comes from the Hebrew Ḥawwāh, meaning “living one” or “source of life,” and is related to ḥāyâ, “to live.” I don’t know about you, but it just seems slightly odd (not to mention a little insensitive) that Adam would name his wife “source of life” immediately after she had supposedly just been responsible for cursing the entire universe with death, suffering and misery for the rest of time.

I mean, I know Adam may not have been the smartest guy in the world (he needed supernatural revelation to realize he was in his birthday suit, after all), but give him a little credit.”

This entire argument is predicated on the idea that Adam named her in the face of the curse and nothing else. In fact, Tyler asks us to keepin mind that verses 17 through 19 come before this naming. As luck would have it, the verse before 17 is verse 16 [imagine that!], and it mentions that Eve will bear Adam children. Granted, it mentions pain in childbirth as a punishment, but childbirth nonetheless. Immediately after verses 16 thru 19 [not just 17 thru 19], Adam names Eve. It takes special pleading to suggest that Adam had no good reason to name Eve the mother of all the living, when God had just promised them Even would bear children to Adam.

Next question:

“And, while we’re on the subject…

5. How did Adam and Eve know what death was?

When God first commands Adam not to eat from the tree of knowledge, he warns him what the punishment will be for disobedience: “You will surely die.” The woman hadn’t been made yet at this point in the story, but based on her reference to the penalty during her conversation with the serpent, we can assume the message got passed along in some fashion.

The confusing thing about this is, how did Adam and Eve know what death was? You know, considering the fact that they had just been molded into existence earlier that same day, and were living in a world in which there was no such thing as death. You ever try explaining death to a small child? It’s very difficult. You ever try explaining death to a one-day-old child? It’s even harder.

Now, to be fair, groups like AiG have tried to answer this one before. Using their X-trabiblical Vision™, that superpower common to young-earth creationists which gives them the ability to know what God’s word says about things that aren’t actually in God’s word, they reveal that Adam was a super-genius who would’ve known everything there is to know about death simply from hearing the word.

But again, a guy who’s not with it enough to tell that he’s naked doesn’t really inspire confidence that he’s capable of grasping complicated abstract ideas. When God dropped a supposedly foreign concept like death on him, I’m pretty sure the dude would have had some questions.

Like, “What is that,” for example.”

Tyler’s answer actually ignores the revelation of Scripture in favor of a snarky objection. Reading the events of Day 6, we see that Adam speaks and is able to name things. So God didn’t created a blank slate or a man-baby. By inference, the very thing Tyler mistakes for a superpower [and I’ve written a book about superpowers, so I might just know the difference], we can say that God created a fully functional adult male whose mind came equipped with a bit more than a one year old typically has. The sci-fi writer in me wishes to take Tyler to task here. We can imagine adult clones imprinted with knowledge and fake memories, but Tyler seems to think God would have to give Adam an education before His image bearer could make sense of things, even though the text has Adam doing things contrary to this notion… What a tiny, tiny “god” the god of evolution must be.

Next question.

Along those same lines…

6. If the punishment for eating from the tree was that Adam and Eve would physically die … why didn’t they physically die?

At first glance, you might be confused by this question. You may be thinking, “Wait a minute. The Bible says they would die, and they did die. What’s the problem?”

Well, the thing is, there’s a little bit more to it than that. The Bible doesn’t just say they would die, it says they would die “in the day”that they disobeyed. And, fortunately, we know from the literalists that the word “day” in the Genesis creation accounts can’t mean anything other than an ordinary, 24-hour day.

Straw man alert! Literalists and anyone else who holds to the traditional interpretation of Genesis do not woodenly hold that any instance of the word day in Genesis must be an ordinary, 24 hour day; rather, we affirm that the context determines meaning, whether old earthers would prefer a non-literal day or not. Now that we’ve addressed this attempt to poison the well, we move on.

Only, this is a little confusing, since — according to the story — neither Adam nor Eve actually died the day they ate from the tree of knowledge. We don’t know exactly how old Eve was when she shuffled off this mortal coil, but Adam lived to the ripe old age of 930. Now, I’m no mathematician, but I’m fairly certain 930 years is a lot longer than a 24-hour day. And I’m not aware of any coroner who begins his investigation into the cause of death by asking about fruit the deceased may have eaten 900 years prior.

This is disappointing. He’s simply parroting an oft-refuted old-earther objection and pretending as if it has no answer. Of course, we do have answers for this one, as he admits in his very next sentence.

The young-earthers have all sorts of creative ways they attempt to avoid this rather obvious discrepancy. A common one is to assert that, in this very special case, maybe the word “day” does refer to a long, indeterminate period of time (even though the people God was talking to clearly understood that the effects would be immediate, such that the woman feared she would die from simply touching the fruit).

My father once delivered a wonderful sermon on the mistakes Eve made. He noted that one of the first things she did was add to the commandment of God. God never said don’t touch it; He just said don’t eat it. When she was able to touch it, that’s when the trouble began, for then she began to doubt the truth of God’s commands for the sake of the traditions of men. Honestly, it was a great sermon. It underscores the point that what God said and what Eve supposed was the case weren’t necessarily the same thing, so who cares if she thought the effects would be immediate death.

Now, it is clear that Adam & Eve did not immediately die, so this cannot be what God was saying in this passage. I don’t particularly hold to the non-literal day interpretation of the word day in this passage as being “in the day” and neither does Tyler, so I’ll move on to the next point.

My personal favorite is this delightful little exercise in hand-wavery: “(After eating the fruit,) Adam and Eve began to die.”

Ha! “Began to die” — isn’t that great? Setting aside for now that that’s, you know, not what the Bible says (it doesn’t say “begin to die,” it says ”die” — “surely die,” as a matter of fact), what does that even mean? Because as far as I can tell, the definition of “beginning to die” is no different than “being alive.”

Which makes it pretty useless as far as I’m concerned. When any human being older than a zygote qualifies as having “begun to die,” I think the phrase has pretty much lost all meaning as a concept.

Ignorance has a mouth and it speaks! That isn’t hand waving, Tyler. That’s exegesis.

The Hebrew here is “muwth muwth,” literally “die-die” or “dying-die.” 1 Kings 2:37 has the very same construction of Hebrew as Genesis 2:17. Bodie Hodge of Answers in Genesis offers the following food for thought:

“This verse uses yom (day) and the dual muwth just as Genesis 2:17 did. In Genesis 2:17, yom referred to the action (eating) in the same way that yom refers to the action here (go out and cross over). In neither case do they mean that was the particular day that death would come, but the particular day they did what they weren’t supposed to do.

Solomon also understood that it would not be a death on that particular day but that Shemei’s days were numbered from that point. In other words, their (Adam and Shimei) actions on that day were what gave them the final death sentence—they would surely die as a result of their actions. Therefore, the day, in Genesis 2:17 was referring to when Adam and the woman ate, not the day they died.”

So what was God talking about in Genesis 2:16-17? I think the only interpretation that makes sense is the only one that made sense of Romans 5 and 7 earlier in this post: spiritual death.

Humans did not physically die the first time we disobeyed God, nor did we lose the immortality we supposedly enjoyed (for a few minutes, anyway) after our original creation. What happened was that we died spiritually, because our decision to sin severed us from our spiritual source of life — God. Faith in Christ is our one hope of restoring that connection, and restoring that connection is our one hope of eternal life, because our spirit — not our physical bodies — is the only part of us that can live forever.

I again [see question #3] refer his lazy butt back to 1 Corinthians 15 and ask him to READ. IT. AGAIN. Talk about a selective view of the evidence!

In Part 3, we’ll provide yet more answers to Tyler Francke’s list of supposedly unanswerable questions. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, a brief aside to Tyler Francke.

1 Corinthians 15:12-23 was written with people like YOU in mind. After giving us the nuts and bolts of the Gospel, that Christ died, was buried and rose from the dead according to the Scriptures and that He was seen thereafter by many witnesses, Paul lays out the following argument:

12 Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead?

13 But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen:

14 And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.

15 Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not.

16 For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised:

17 And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.

18 Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished.

19 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.

20 But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.

21 For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.

22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.

23 But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming.

Tyler, you’re teaching people that there is no physical resurrection from the dead. In doing so, you’re denying the resurrection of Christ. Ironic, huh? You see, I’m pretty sure that you do actually affirm the physical Resurrection of Jesus Christ. If I’m wrong on this point, feel free to correct me. That’s not the point Paul and I are making. By Paul’s logic – and you can disagree with the Bible if you want to, I’m sure – to deny that Jesus came to save us from BOTH spiritual death and physical death is to deny the physical resurrection of Christ, with all of the horrible consequences that entails. You see, if Christ only came to die for the spiritual death that Adam incurred as a penalty and physical death is just a natural part of the present order, why give us the promise of release from physical death? Why call Death the Last Enemy?

More to the point, your eisegesis makes utter nonsense of verses 20-23. Follow along if you;re confused. Aside from the fact that verse 18-19 make it clear that the physically death is being discussed where it concerns those who are “asleep in Christ” [i.e., physically dead believers], let’s pretend these verses jive with your particular theology. They would read as such:

20 But now is Christ risen from the [spiritual] dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.

21 For since by man came [spiritual] death, by man came also the resurrection of the [spiritually] dead.

22 For as in Adam all [spiritually] die, even so in Christ shall all be made [spiritually] alive.

23 But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming.

Everything’s looking pretty good for your nonsense theology until verse 23, when you start to realize the implications of your really bad interpretation would mean that all believers in Christ as still spiritually dead until Christ’s coming, which makes utter nonsense of the the entire idea of being born again.

Tyler. You’re making nonsense of the Gospel. Stop it.

Worse, you’re doing this for the sake of a way of knowing that precludes the supernatural from all consideration and proposes all-natural answers to all questions. These all-natural answers may or may not be true and are certainly false where the supernatural was involved, yet you insist that the Bible must re-interpreted in light of all-natural truth claims rather than calibrating the uncertainty of all-natural claims against the supernatural revelation of Scripture. In doing so, you have made the word of men in lab coats your ultimate authority over the Bible. Stop it.

10 Theological Questions Theistic Evolutionists Think No Young Earth Creationist Can Answer – Part 1

compromises

Tyler Francke, founder of the Biblical Creation-bashing God of Evolution site, has written a post called 10 Theological Questions No Young-Earth Creationist Can Answer. Oh my. In reading this list of supposedly unanswerable questions, imagine my complete and utter surprise when I realized that much of what I was reading sounded very familiar. Where had I heard Tyler’s objections before? I wondered. Then it hit me: right here on this site, when he left a few comments on a post of mine called God Rested: How the Sabbath Day Destroys a Critic’s Argument Against Young Earth Creationism. That post also managed to get Dr. James F. McGrath and fellow Appalachian and DefGen hater Joel Watts up in my grill. But this isn’t about my rogue’s gallery…

Tyler begins his article with a straw man that basically sets the tone for the rest of his piece:

“Most debates between young-earth creationists and those who accept evolution go something like this:

E: Rargh, I am a scary evolutionist! Prepare to be crushed beneath the weight of my mighty evidence and properly utilized scientific principles!

C: Not so fast, Mr. Evolutionist! Or should I say, “EVIL-lutionist”?! For, behold, I have this! (Holds up a Bible.)

E: Nooooooo! Quotes from the Bible! My only weakness! (Collapses to the ground.)

I had to take out some subtext to simplify things for our purposes, but that’s basically it. As far as most young-earther proponents are concerned, this is a dispute between science on one side and the Bible on the other, and the Bible will always trump science. Period.”

He’s right about the major point that we YECs hold the Bible as our ultimate authority, but he left out the part where we also present evidences from the sciences and logical arguments, because he wants to invoke a version of the old strawman chestnut of science v. religion. In any case, it’s clear that he resents the idea that the Bible will always trump science.

But don’t just take my word for it. He continues thus:

“Unfortunately for them, this neat little picture is complicated by the fact that there are people who also hold the Bible in extremely high regard, and who have no problem with the fact of evolution or the ancient age of the earth. People like yours truly. And we happen to think the Bible does not support the young-earth creationist view nearly as well as its teachers think it does.”

OK, he managed a lot of weasel words in that little paragraph. Note that he tries to paint the issue as fact [eg., the fact of evolution] v. opinion [eg., what YEC teachers think]. You don’t want to go against the facts, right? All truth is God’s truth; we can’t be ignoring the facts… right? Well, the trust is that Tyler Francke and his fellow compromise creationists do believe that millions of years of microbes-to-man evolution is a fact [and not just in the technical scientific consensus sense of the term], but this is an interpretation of the evidence that results from a position that does NOT hold the Bible as one’s ultimate authority, even if they hold it in high regard. Rather their position holds that science chained to pure naturalism is the ultimate authority of the Bible and that the Bible [and not the claims of science] must be re-interpreted when these two magisteria are in conflict.

Bottom line: He and his cohorts hold the Bible in extremely high regard, but it’s NOT their ultimate authority. Everything you read from this guy’s article should keep this point in mind.

We continue with Tyler’s opening comments:

“Actually, we think their theology is quite bad. Really quite bad.Really, quite, terribly, awfully, really-are-you-serious-with-this-theology?–this-is-actually-what-you-believe?, just horribly,incredibly bad.”

I’m sorry. I have to stop again. I should mention that I’ve removed the links from Tyler’s article, so you’re missing the full effect this time. What he does here is pepper this snarky paragraph with, what? Was that 11 links to his own site? This tactic was used to great infamy on this very site by a fellow we have dubbed Mr. Oops! Mr. Oops basically took pieces of my argument and then wrote “oops” after each of my statements. The “oops” was always a link somewhere else. As I pointed out then, this is not argument; it’s just contradiction… and it’s kind of lazy to boot.

His point seems to be that he thinks the traditional, orthodox, plain-sense reading of the Bible is bad.

Moving on:

“That’s why I’ve prepared the following list of questions, painstakingly compiled through my years of intense research working on this site. I hope it sparks some good discussion, but I also hope it illustrates that the young-earth crowd does not have the market cornered on biblical truth like they pretend they do, and that, really, their pie-in-the-sky claims fail on theological grounds, without ever having to get into the finer details of the fossil record or the human genome.”

Yeah. This should be good.

“1. What was the point of the tree of life?

The tree of life, so named in Genesis 2:9, is one of the most baffling of the many problems spawned by the literal interpretation of the creation accounts. Literalists often pretend like the purpose of the tree is vague and unclear, but the truth is — unlike many things in Genesis 1-3 — the power possessed by the tree of life isn’t vague at all. Genesis 3:22 makes it abundantly clear: Have a little nibble on the fruit of the tree of life and you live forever. Eat your heart out, diet and exercise.”

Let’s pause. The question is: What’s the point of the Tree of Life? To give the one who ate from it immortality. Scripture makes that clear. Why is Tyler calling this baffling and abundantly clear at the same time? Oh, because he thinks this presents a problem for the literal interpretation of Scripture. It doesn’t, of course, but let’s find out why Tyler thinks it does:

“This presents a huge problem for the young-earth view, because they believe physical death was not part of God’s original creation. According to them, neither humans nor animals were capable of death, pain or suffering until after Adam and Eve’s sin in the garden. Because, obviously, causing the death of every living thing for all time is a perfectly fair and reasonable punishment for a single act of disobedience.”

And right there, Tyler impugns God’s justice. What he’s saying is that it’s not fair that all of creation had to suffer for Adam’s sin.This ignores the fact that Adam was given dominion over creation. Just as the entire kingdom suffers for the bad decisions of its king, Adam’s sin had far reaching effects for his dominion. Bodie Hodge of Answers in Genesis gives us another reason why crying foul on this point is just bad logic:

“You might be tempted to think that it would have been better if God had created a universe where the actions of another person affected only that person and no one else. At first, this kind of spiritual “insulation” sounds great. But salvation would not be possible in such a universe—because Christ’s actions on the Cross could have no effect on us. If we sinned even once, we would have no hope. Fortunately, God designed a universe where the actions of another person can be imputed to us; this means we can be redeemed because of what Christ did in a similar way that Adam’s sin affects us. Christ doesn’t have to die individually for each person but once for all.”

This is just a drive-by snark. Tyler’s main point is that creating a Tree of Life in an originally perfect world with no human or animal death is a “huge problem” for the traditional interpretation of Genesis:

“Of course, this raises the question of why, exactly, did God create a magical tree that grants immortality in a world where every living thing was already immortal? If the young-earth theology is correct, then this tree’s miraculous power served absolutely no useful function until after the fall of man — at which point God barred access to the tree with a bad-ass angel and a flaming sword. So why’d he make it in the first place?”

We know from several Biblical passages that God foreordained the plan of salvation from the beginning of the world. Given that fact of Biblical revelation, we read Genesis 3:22 again. We note that God bars access to the tree with said “bad-ass” angels [plural, dude] and a flaming sword which turned every way AFTER He decreed his punishment. What was His punishment? Death. And here was a Tree of Life, whereby man could remedy himself without addressing his sin. Can you imagine a world of immortals capable of some of the things you see on the evening news? Even in the act of barring us access to that tree after Adam sinned, we see God’s wisdom and grace demonstrated. Only but Christ could we defeat both death and sin.

By why did God originally create it? I don’t know. I do know it had a purpose, thanks to that oft-quoted verse in Ecclesiastes. Maybe the demonstration of grace I just mentioned was its entire point. That would certainly be point enough. God’s ways are higher than ours and His thoughts higher than ours. Just because I cannot think of a purpose [beyond that which I’ve suggested] doesn’t mean there wasn’t one; t just means it hasn’t occurred to me yet. And given God’s omniscience, perhaps my suggestion is right after all.

Of course, why God created the Tree of Life is irrelevant to whether the passage is meant to be taken as literal history. The Book of Genesis is not a work of fiction and, thus, is not subject to Chekhov’s Gun [the dramatic principle that every element in a narrative must needs be irreplaceable and that anything else should be removed; basically, the idea that a shotgun should not be placed on a stage unless its meant to go off at some point]. Maybe the Tree of Life qualifies more as prophetic foreshadowing. The bottom line is that Tyler says the Tree’s existence is damning to a literal narrative because it presents a paradox; I say that we don’t actually know why God placed the Tree in the Garden at all and so we cannot claim paradox with any real level of certainty, though we can readily admit ignorance if God grants us the humility. This is why the Tree’s why is irrelevant to the discussion and why the presumption of the Tree as paradox is really a case of special pleading requiring the sort of omniscience mortals such as Tyler and I do not possess. Put more simply: since the Bible claims there is a purpose to everything, the Tree had/has one and thus Tyler’s claim of paradox [due to lack of purpose or utility] is unBiblical.

Tyler has another sub-question for us:

“And speaking of the tree of life, where is it now? Because, again, God didn’t mulch it at the end of the story. Young-earth proponents maintain it was destroyed in Noah’s flood, but not only does this require exactly the kind of extrabiblical conjecture that makes people like me such compromisers, but it also implies the tree of life can die (!), which sort of makes my brain explode a little bit.”

Since the Tree of Life shows up again in the future according to the book of Revelation, I think it’s safe to say that God has replanted it.

OK, next question:

 

“2. If human sin is the reason animals die, why can’t they be saved?

Let’s recap: young-earth creationists believe all death, even animal death, is a consequence of human sin. Now, ignoring for a moment the fact that the Bible never once actually says animal death is a consequence of human sin (seems significant enough to warrant at least a mention or two, don’t you think?), this creates some pretty problematic theology.”

Of course, he knows full well that many of the doctrines we glean from Scriptures are gained by inference, but let’s just see what sort of “pretty problematic theology” he supposes the belief that all death is a consequence of the fall leads to:

“Consider, for example, 1 Corinthians 15:21-22: “For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.” You see where I’m going with this. The young-earth crowd can’t say animals are among those who “die in Adam,” but not among those who “shall be made alive in Christ.”

Of course, no young-earth creationist really believes goats and hamsters and dragonflies can become born-again believers in Jesus, but they can’t have it both ways. Scripture doesn’t allow them to. To argue otherwise is not only to nullify this passage and many others, but also to call into question whether Christ’s sacrifice really addressed the full ramifications and consequences of our sin.

Some may respond to this that 1 Corinthians 15 is just about people, not animals, and I agree, of course. The only problem is that this is one of the very few biblical proof-texts that have ever been offered to justify animal death as a consequence for human sin in the first place. Without them, the doctrine is based on nothing but the assertions of folks like Ken Ham, which — confident and self-assured they may be — aren’t much to go on.

And, really, that’s as it should be. The whole notion of animal death being a “not-good” amendment to God’s perfect original creation is ridiculous on its face, one I suspect always had a lot more to do with “Bambi” and people’s sentimental notions about animals (not to mention providing a simple solution to the problem of natural evil) than it ever had to do with the Bible and what it actually says.

Please, let’s jettison this silly dogma once and for all, and have a purer — and more biblically accurate — faith to present to the world.”

Let’s just start with the short answer: Animal life is different from human life [1 Cor. 15:39]. Only humans were made in the image of God and have a living soul [Gen. 2:7]

Tyler knows this. He’s trying to make mountains out of molehills by thatching together another  straw man; Young-earthers don’t typically quote that passage in 1 Cor. 15 to back up our position regarding no animal death before the Fall; instead, we tend to quote Romans 8:22: For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. In context, I Corinthians 15 is talking about mankind specifically, as Tyler points out, while Romans 8 seems to be talking about both mankind and the rest of creation. Interestingly enough, Romans 8:22 is followed by Romans 8:23 [who knew?], which begins, And not only the creation, but we ourselves… In other words, not only the rest of creation, but we Christians, we men who have received Christ, shall one day overcome the affects of physical death and corruption. This is an allusion to our Blessed Hope and to the New Heavens and New Earth prophesied to come, which are admittedly two different things. Not sure why Tyler Francke is missing this, except, of course, on purpose. Basically, his straw man is dependent upon giving man and that which Adam was given dominion over equal status[which admittedly makes about ZERO sense], even though [again] the Bible says that animal and human life are different and only human life is made in the image of God and has an eternal soul in need of salvation.

I really don’t know what happens to pets when they die. The Bible doesn’t really say.

Nevertheless, Tyler’s assertion that the doctrine of no death of any sort before sin begins and ends with such Young Earth luminaries as Ken Ham is, of course, evidence of a gross ignorance of ecclesiastical history.

Frankly, the only reason to argue for animal death before the Fall is because one has already decided that millions of years of molecules-to-man evolution, via all-natural processes involving death, struggle and mutation, is a fact and traditional interpretations of the Bible need to be discarded or amended to mesh with these facts. This is also the only reason why old-earthers reject the idea that the term “creation” in Romans 8 means the entire world, insisting instead that it means only mankind, context be damned.

Next question:

“3. If physical death is part of the punishment for sin, why do Christians still die?

So at this point, you may be saying, “OK, that’s all well and good about animal death, but what about human death? Because there are definitely verses that say human death came from Adam’s sin.” Fair enough. Let’s look at one of those verses, shall we?

Romans 5:12: “Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned.”

Now, look at what the verse is really saying, and don’t — as we are so often tempted to do — neglect the second part: “… death spread to all men, because all sinned.” If this is talking about physical death, then it clearly implies that we don’t become capable of physical death until after we sin, which makes absolutely no sense.

What I believe is that this passage is talking about something different entirely: spiritual death — which is a pretty common theme in scripture as well. Like, for example, just a couple chapters later in Romans, when Paul writes, “I was once alive apart from the Law; but when the commandment came, sin became alive and I died.”

Since it’s unlikely that Paul was an unusually eloquent zombie when he penned the Book of Romans, it rather obvious that he’s talking about a non-physical type of death here. And, since the two contexts are identical (discussing the consequences of human sin), the same is almost certainly true of Romans 5.

But there are more insidious implications of this notion that physical death is part of the punishment for human sin. Central to the Christian faith is the idea that Jesus “paid it all,” that his sacrifice was fully sufficient to atone for our sin, remove the punishment that was due us, and reconcile us back into a right relationship with God.

The only problem is that every single Christian who has ever lived has also died. Which has to make you wonder how that’s possible, if physical death was part of the punishment for human sin and Jesus paid the full sum of our punishment with his death on the cross. Fact is, they can’t both be true. Either Christ’s sacrifice was not sufficient to cover all the consequences of our transgressions (which throws a bit of a monkey wrench into the past 2,000 years of Christian theology and tradition), or death just isn’t one of those consequences.

Personally, I side with the latter. I believe God appointed that man should die once, not as a punishment, but as an inherent part of the current created order and a symbol of what’s to come — when that order is ultimately done away with.”

As I asked Tyler when he made a similar comment on this site, if we were only sentenced with spiritual death, what hope have we of physical resurrection? Such a false dichotomy would undermine our Blessed Hope. Fortunately, we note that he is cherry-picking verses that seem to support his position without taking into account the revelation of 1 Corinthians 15 and similar passages on this subject. Those passages remind us that at some point in the future the physically dead but spiritually alive believers will rise first, then those believers who are physically alive, to meet Christ at His Coming [vs. 52; compare 1 Thess. 4:16]. I Cor 15 also makes it clear that if we say that we are only saved from spiritual death, we deny all but a spiritual resurrection and by implication deny that Christ was physically raised from the dead. The two are intrinsically linked, making Tyler’s false dichotomy evident. Again, we experience spiritual resurrection at salvation, but will experience physical resurrection at Christ’s Coming. The fact that Tyler seems to deny the Blessed Hope of all the redeemed makes me weep for his flock.

He also pulled his Zombie Paul remark on my site. Apparently, he still thinks it’s somewhat clever.

In Romans 7:9, Paul uses the word die in a non-literal sense, which is clear from the context of the passage. This does not mean that Paul always meant spiritual death and not physical death anywhere else he used the term, as Tyler’s argument implies. As I told him then, the meaning of a word is always determined by its actual context not by how it is used in other contexts. The context of 1 Corinthians 15 makes it clear that both spiritual and physical death have a remedy in Christ’s death and resurrection, but that the remedy for physical death will come to fruit at our Blessed Hope. This is a common tactic among Bible doubters. When faced with a passage where the plain sense of a passage would indicate a literal meaning that would fly in the face of their extraBiblical interpretation, they always suggest that a word may have a non-literal meaning like it does elsewhere in passages where the context makes it clear the words are intended as non-literal. Obviously, they undermine themselves in doing so because their appeal to the non-literal precedent is an admission that there are rules of context that determine a word’s meaning within a passage; thus, they admit that the plain-sense reading is valid but not preferred in light of extraBiblical authorities who would dispute the meaning of the passage.

We’ll continue to provide [gasp!] answers to Tyler Francke’s list of allegedly unanswerable questions in Part 2.

 

Damaged Goods: Creation, the Gospel, Divorce & Broken Plates

broken-plate

Recently, I saw a meme on Facebook that went something like this:

“OK, grab a plate out of the China cabinet and smash it. Now tell it you’re sorry. Did that fix everything?”

The answer is obvious: the plate is still smashed. Sometimes the damage we cause requires more than an apology to make things right.

Unfortunately, there are Pharisees who take this analogy or something similar and apply it to salvation. There is, of course, a legitimate way that one could apply this analogy. For example, we can say that a Christian is forgiven but should make restitution and reconciliation for the wrongs he or she has committed to their fellow man, because, let’s face it, when we sin, we do a lot of damage. That’s not how the Pharisees are [mis]using it.

They say that we can be forgiven of our sins and have the assurance of eternal salvation, but some of us will always be damaged goods. Don’t believe me? Not quite following me? What if I bring the subject of pre-conversion divorce into the picture?

Yes, there are actually well-meaning Christians who legalistically interpret the phrase “husband of one wife” [1 Timothy 3:2; Titus 1:6] where it concerns elders, deacons and pastors to prohibit a man who was divorced prior to salvation (or is married to a woman who was divorced prior to salvation per Matthew 5:31-32, though oddly they don’t seem to hold the preceding verses of Matthew 5:27-28 in the same regard]. I denounce the shamefully Pharisaical assertions of various commentators that this phrase forbids the placement of remarried, widowed, or divorced persons into pastoral office. Too, the position that it conveys the idea that a man must be removed from office if his wife dies or, if through no fault of his own, his wife divorces him is baseless. Equally bankrupt is the charge that it restricts the office to exclusively married candidates. On the contrary, on this latter position, Cary Perdue comments, “[The text] is not insisting that he be married although this may be ideal” [Cary M. Perdue, 1 Timothy Explained. O.M.F. Publishers (1975), p. 44]. William Hendriksen also concurs: “This cannot mean that an overseer must be a married man. Rather it is assumed that he is married – as was generally the case – and it is stipulated that in this marital relationship he must be an example to others of faithfulness to his one and only marriage partner” [William Hendriksen, New Testament Commentary: Exposition of The Pastoral Epistles. Baker Book House (1957), p. 121. Emphasis in original].

It should be said that this Scriptural phrase has three possible meanings. It could be a prohibition against a deacon, elder or pastor who is re-married; a prohibition against polygamy; or it could be a figure of speech denoting marital fidelity.

Of the three, the latter meaning is the most likely. Kenneth Wuest writes that “The Greek is mias (one) gunaikos (woman) andras (man). The entire context [of the passage 1 Timothy 3:1-7] is one in which the character of the bishop is being discussed. Thus, one can translate ‘a one-wife sort of husband’ or ‘a one-woman sort of man.’ Since character is emphasized by the Greek construction, the bishop should be a man who loves only one woman as his wife” [Kenneth S. Wuest, The Pastoral Epistles in The Greek New Testament. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing (1956), p.53. Brackets mine]. Others agree with this assessment: “In the Greek, mias gunaikos (3351, 1135) meaning ‘of one woman’ would have been better translated ‘a one-woman husband.’ The total context speaks of the moral conduct of the bishop and deacon. He should be a man totally dedicated to his wife and not flirtatious” [The Complete Word Study New Testament with Parallel Greek. Spiros Zodhiates, editor. AMB Publishers (1992), p. 690].

A brief discussion of whether this phrase prohibits polygamy/bigamy or digamy is required at this point. Dr. Charles Ryrie believes that this phrase could not be a prohibition against polygamy (or bigamy) contending that polygamy was unknown amongst the Greeks and Romans [Charles Ryrie, Basic Theology. Moody Press (1999), p. 481]. To be fair, some commentators agree with him. For example, Cary Perdue states, “It is not prohibiting polygamy for civilized Rome outlawed multiple wives, and polygamy would be unthinkable among Christians” [Perdue 44].

Others claim that polygamy was common amongst the Greeks and Romans, even though it was not officially sanctioned [Patrick Fairburn, Commentary on the Pastoral Epistles. Zondervan Publishing House (1874, Reprinted 1956), p. 428], and bring to light marriage agreements which include special provisions against multiple wives [Jay Adams, Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage in the Bible. Zondervan Publishing House (1980), pp. 81-82]. Likewise, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible states: “He must be the husband of one wife; …not having many wives at once, as at that time was too common both among Jews and Gentiles, especially among then Gentiles” [Matthew Henry. E-Sword.net. CD-Rom. Retrieved February 24, 2003]. Jay Adams makes a good case for the existence of polygamy in the Apostle Paul’s day:

“But we are told by advocates of the anti-remarriage viewpoints that there was no polygamy in NT times. The facts prove otherwise; they are wrong… Many of the early converts of every church Paul began were Jews of the dispersion. Josephus twice mentions polygamy in his day. In A.D. 212, the lex Antoniana de civitate made monogamy law for Romans but specifically excepted Jews! …The law enacted in A.D, 212, mentioned above, also indicates the presence of polygamy in the Roman world” [Adams 81-82].

It seems we cannot dogmatically state that the Text does not prohibit polygamy. Nevertheless, Ryrie believes that, in lieu of his dismissal of polygamy as an option (again, based on his notion that it was rare and that it was therefore unnecessary for Paul to address it), it prohibits digamy [Ryrie 481]. Since Cary Perdue agrees with Ryrie where it concerns the question of polygamy, I’ll let him address this:

“In light of 1 Timothy 5:9 , it might be a prohibition against digamy, that is, the overseer should not be married more than once under any circumstances. This would be a very high standard which would dispel any question of moral stability but it also seems too restricting. The Greek may be translated ‘a one wife kind of man,’ that is, one who has only one wife and conducts himself accordingly” [Perdue 44].

We begin to see that the most literal and consistent definition within the context of this passage and the Bible throughout speaks of fidelity and faithfulness in a monogamous marriage, and nothing more.

A prohibition against those in ecclesiastical “office” having been divorced seems unlikely in light of Jesus’ allowance for divorce in cases of marital infidelity [Matthew 5:32; 19:9] and Paul’s allowance for divorce in the case of a new convert whose unsaved spouse wishes to break things off because, well, frankly, you’re no longer the person they signed up for [1 Corinthians 7:12-16]. The only option remaining that is consistent with both Paul and Jesus’ allowances is that “husband of one wife” is a figure of speech denoting marital fidelity, akin to the usage of today’s phrase, “one-woman man.”

To make it mean anything other than what the original Greek and the over-all context would allude to is simply adding opinion, speculation and the traditions of men to the Word of God, for where do commentators see prohibitions against divorce and/or remarried persons in these offices? It is only by abandoning a plain interpretation of the text in favor of inference. Hendriksen speaks wisdom on this subject:

“The attempt on the part of some to change the meaning of the original – making it say what it does not say – is inexcusable” [Hendriksen 121]; and again, “One cannot excuse an attempt to make a text say what it does not actually say in the original. The original simply says, ‘He must be… one wife’s husband’” [Hendriksen 122].

We must be cautious in dogmatism in areas of doctrine in which the Holy Writ is not explicit. As Henry Alford warned in his closing comments on this passage in his Alford’s Greek Testament, “It must be as a matter of course understood that regulations, in all lawful things, depend even when made by an Apostle, on circumstances: and the superstitious observance of the letter is often pregnant with mischief for the people and cause of Christ” [Quoted in Wuest 55]. Yet such wisdom goes unheeded. Some have taken upon themselves the error of the Pharisees, making a hedge of traditions and prohibitions around the Law so that no man can transgress it, rather than allowing men  to use discernment, good sense and the guidance of the Holy Spirit in these matters.

Those who hold to the hyper-literalist interpretation of “husband of one wife” (or else deny a man divorced prior to conversion on the basis of the “above reproach” qualification for a deacon, elder or pastor) are saying that some believers are damaged goods. They are saying that 1 Corinthians 5:17-19 is a lie, for in their minds some old things have NOT passed utterly away and God certainly counts some sins against us, so that we’re disqualified from serving in some ministries and offices. In their minds, those divorced prior to conversion [or who married someone else who was divorced before conversion) are neither fully new creatures nor fully reconciled to God. This hyper-literalist interpretation of “husband of one wife” as applied to pre-conversion divorce makes a shipwreck of the gospel of reconciliation, for some start not with a clean slate, where all their sins are cast as far as the east is to the west (Psalm 103:12). But rather begin with a black mark on their record. This very idea that a man can be forgiven of his sins but still disqualified by them would require God to be a respecter of persons in that He will forgive a man and qualify him to be a pastor if he stole, lied, cheated the poor, committed adultery or even murdered someone on the basis of Christ’s imputed righteousness, but He will not give equal treat meant to those who are… divorced?? Such a translation also makes nonsense of Paul’s allowance for divorce for new converts whose spouses wish to break it off, but stay if they’re OK with the new us. The implication is that we make this allowance to keep the peace. But why? Well, because we are in fact new creatures.

So there we have it. According to the Pharisees, a man or woman divorced prior to conversion (or who married someone divorced prior to conversion) is forgiven, but damaged; made new, except for one abiding flaw that disqualified them from ministry; saved, but only partially reconciled to God. And if the Pharisees have their way, such persons will never escape the stigma of this one sin they committed. The unforgettable sin will force you to either lie about your past or live as a second-class citizen in the kingdom of heaven. This is the sad reality of Christians in this state who live in churches dominated by such spiritual abuse, however “well-meaning” the abusers are in holding forth such man-made traditions.

Fortunately, the legalist is just dead wrong on this matter. His traditions make the grace of God of no effect, but the truth of God sets us free. This interpretation of “husband of one wife” not only flies in the face of 1 Corinthians 7:12-16, but also Romans 8:31-34. Truly, if God gives us all things freely and justifies us, who but a Pharisee would dare to condemn us? When one is saved, it is not just that one’s sins are forgiven, but that the penalty for sin is satisfied. If part of that penalty remains, even the stain of divorce, it is tantamount to saying one is forgiven but grace will not be imparted for some portion of the penalty; we are yet unclean. Does that make sense to you? Jay Adams has it right when he warns, “We must say, therefore, that what God has cleansed no man must call unclean. Christ is bigger than our sin – even our sin of adultery and divorce. We minimize Christ when we speak and act as if it were not so. These sins are truly heinous; we must not minimize that fact either. But Christ is greater than sin – all sin. We don’t minimize sin or its effects, then; rather we always maximize Christ and the power of the cross” [Adams 94]. In this way, we affirm that we believe the truth of Romans 5:20: “But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.”

We must never forget that gospel is not just a gospel of grace and forgiveness, but also reconciliation to God. The same God who will one day reconcile the heavens and the earth to Himself does not change. God created the heavens and the earth and everything in it and then declared His originally perfect creation “very good.” There was no death, suffering or disease. No sin or imperfection. Our Creator didn’t fashion a universe that was marred by these things. Judgment for man’s sin in the form of the Fall and the Flood have altered the world to how it exists today, but originally it was perfect (and will be again when He restores all things) because God doesn’t make damaged goods. Likewise, no matter what the Pharisees of today claim to the contrary, God takes the broken pieces of our lives and makes us completely whole again. Love is the bond of unity that holds us together, the supernatural glue that makes broken people whole and new again [Col 3:14]; legalism divides and damages [Romans 16:17].

Let the Church say amen

No Big Bang? Is the Universe Eternal?

A 2014 paper entitled Cosmology from Quantum Potential by Ahmed Farag Ali and Saurya Das in Physical Letters B spawned a lot of articles claiming that new research had done away with the Big Bang.

Not quite. The actual research suggested that there’s a way to do away with that pesky singularity that allegedly existed before the Big Bang. The confusion lies in the fact that folks tend to think of the singularity as the cause and the Big Bang as the effect, so they naturally assume that no singularity means no Big Bang. In this case, they’re suggesting a different initial state for the Big Bang, rather than a different cause. For example, if we have a ball at rest which is kicked and sent toward a soccer net, the effect is motion, the cause is the kick and the initial state is, well, the ball at rest.

Evolutionary cosmologists believe that some sort of non-specified quantum fluctuation caused the singularity to experience rapid inflation, expanding into the universe we see today. This new concept bypasses the singularity, suggesting that the “universe” existed as a sort of eternally existent quantum potential, whatever that means, before some sort of non-specified quantum fluctuation caused said rapid inflation and the universe-at-large.

It’s little wonder that some folks want to get rid of the singularity. The singularity itself is one of the major problems with the Big Bang model. No one knows what happens in a singularity because the laws of physics break down at that level. This basically means they may as well be invoking magic, which is a problem if you’re wedded to pure naturalism.

Add to this a complication brought up by Laura Mersini-Houghton. According to a mathematical study she was a part of, it may be that black holes, event horizons and singularities cannot not exist. When stars much bigger than the sun collapse under their own gravity, they are thought to collapse into singularities and form black holes, throwing off Hawking radiation in the process. Black holes are predicted by Einstein’s theory of gravity, but they conflict with a fundamental law of quantum theory that says that no information can ever disappear from the universe. This is referred to as the loss problem. In the study, researchers attempting to resolve this contradiction found that the stars shed mass too quickly to form an event horizon (i.e., it loses gravity as it loses mass); therefore, if the results of this study are correct, event horizons, black holes and singularities aren’t mathematically possible.

While this new research by Ali and Das may provide an answer to a Big Bang without a singularity, it doesn’t really do away with the problem of an all-natural theory invoking supernatural causes. It has inflation existing well before time, which is a direct violation of the laws of physics. You can’t have an effect like inflation existing independently of a cause… and causation itself implies the existence of time, which is why Stephen Hawking called his exploration of the Big bang model A Brief History of Time.

inflationbeforeuniverse-ethan-siegel

Don’t look for anyone to start abandoning standard Big Bang cosmology anytime soon. The idea of an eternally existent universe flies in the face of all of the data, which points to the universe having a beginning… and an ultimate Uncaused Cause. Scientists whose theories are wed to pure naturalism will likely claim, as Stephen Hawking does, that this great Uncaused Cause is the multiverse or some other “purely natural” concept that exists well outside of the realm of our natural world [and is therefore, by definition, actually supernatural!]. This makes their position internally inconsistent.

When we are confronted with claims that seem to contradict the Bible, we should remember that we have two competing Origins Claims, two competing worldviews. They are completely contradictory: one demands on pure naturalism while the other allows supernatural agency. How do we judge between them?

We should choose the worldview that is most consistent with the world we observe and with itself. In other words, we should begin with God’s revealed Word, the Bible.


Note: The chart on this page is by Ethan Siegel and is employed here under the terms of Fair Use.

Evolution versus Christianity: Why You Really Do Have to Choose

jesus-darwin-tinted-white

When atheist Dr. Michael Zimmerman isn’t comparing my ministry to book banning in India (I know, right?), he’s busy misrepresenting his Clergy Letter Project and Evolution Weekend as being representative of Christianity, so that he can say that Christian religion and molecules-to-man evolution are compatible, when it’s actually a minority of liberal churches who participate.

His most recent offering along the latter lines comes to us in the form of a HuffPo piece called “Evolution Weekend: Celebrating Fact and Faith.” The title is, of course, a reference to the unBiblical concept of non-overlapping magisteria (NOMA), popularized by the late Dr. Stephen Jay Gould. NOMA was Gould’s attempt to disarm religious folk to the dangers of science chained to pure naturalism by proposing that religion and science are two separate but equal magisteria dealing with different things; specifically, science deals with fact and theory while religion deals with meaning and morality.

Near the end of his usual shtick, Zimmerman comes to one of his favorite talking points:

“Together, the thousands of clergy and the hundreds of thousands of their parishioners who celebrate Evolution Weekend, are demonstrating that the supposed war between religion and science, and even more specifically between religion and evolution, doesn’t exist. While they understand that there are some religious sects that shun the modern world, that find reason to attack the findings of science on supposedly theological rather than on scientific grounds, they also know that people holding such beliefs are outliers on the religious spectrum.

Their goal is to demonstrate that those who argue that a choice has to be made between religion and science are presenting a false dichotomy. Their actions show just how easy it can be to embrace religion while recognizing that the methodology of science provides a potent means to understand the natural world.”

I’m afraid he’s wrong on all counts and I suspect he knows it. Oh, at face value his statement that one need not make a choice between science and religion is perfectly valid; a creation scientist would affirm that one need not check our brains and lab coats at the church doors. The problem is that he conflates science with a theory within science, namely, evolution, and then compares apples to oranges by saying religion is not incompatible with evolution, when he ought to be asking whether Christianity as it is understood by most of the world is compatible with molecules-to-man evolution.

Now I can testify that a man can hold to both Christian faith and millions of years of microbes-to-man evolution for a season. This is only because men have this strange ability to hold beliefs in contradiction. When a man determines that his worldview needs to be coherent and consistent across the board, one realizes that science chained to pure naturalism and a religion based on supernatural revelation affirming a supernatural deity who at times performs supernatural acts are antithetical concepts. Zimmerman doesn’t want folks to realize that a true dichotomy exists between these two worldviews because, in his own words, “there’s good reason to believe that if people feel they must choose between the two, religion will more often come out on top.”

He might be referring to the following findings of statistical surveys cited by the Pew Forum:

“When asked what they would do if scientists were to disprove a particular religious belief, nearly two-thirds (64%) of people say they would continue to hold to what their religion teaches rather than accept the contrary scientific finding, according to the results of an October 2006 Time magazine poll. Indeed, in a May 2007 Gallup poll, only 14% of those who say they do not believe in evolution cite lack of evidence as the main reason underpinning their views; more people cite their belief in Jesus (19%), God (16%) or religion generally (16%) as their reason for rejecting Darwin’s theory.”

This underscores what I’ve been saying for years: It’s not about facts (we have the same facts, but different interpretations) and it’s not about science (creationist thinking established the sciences and creationists continue to practice science today); it’s about our ultimate authority: the word of men who’ve chained science to pure naturalism or the supernaturally revealed Word of God.

Of course, when evolutionists convince our children that facts are self-explanatory (when they’ve presented said facts as interpreted by all-natural science) and that denying evolution is anti-science, you can certainly convince them to switch worldviews. This is essentially what happened to me. I was told by a science teacher that the claims of evolution were based on empirical fact and that I only believed in special creation because my parents told me to. Since no one was giving me an interpretation to the contrary and since I was shunning the resource of wisdom found in my parents in order to “think for myself” (i.e., parrot my science teacher’s beliefs instead), I ended up rejecting the Christian faith.

I did end up returning to the fold after about a decade of being an agnostic backsliding cliché. The following excerpt from my book explains my dilemma at that point and why we really do have to choose between the authority of God’s Word and the claims of men who’ve interpreted the evidence by science chained to pure naturalism:


Begin excerpt-

“Almost immediately, I knew I would have to tackle the issue of evolution, but I put the question off, remembering where it had led last time. At that stage in my life, when my then-future wife asked me, “What about evolution?” I told her I supposed God could have used evolution. I also insisted that we allow for long ages in the days of Genesis, fearing that denying the claims of science would be a stumbling block for those hearing the Gospel. I had come back to Christendom based on the evidence for Jesus’ resurrection and fulfilled prophecy, but I still had a fuzzy notion of Biblical authority.

Eventually, my intellectual integrity would no longer allow me to ignore the Origins Argument. I had by that time accepted the call to preach the Gospel. I was determined not to waste time on side issues, but as I preached and witnessed to folks, I began to notice a trend: when I told them they needed to be saved, they naturally asked why. Of course, we need to be saved because we have all sinned and the wages, or deserved earnings, of sin is death, right? The problem was that many of the people I spoke to were resistant to the Gospel because they’d been told that millions of years of evolution could account for everything, so God wasn’t necessary and the Bible was written by fallible pre-scientific men who got things very, very wrong.

How could one trust the Bible for salvation but not for what it says about why we need to be saved in the first place? Paul said that sin entered the world by one man, and death by sin [Romans 5:12]. Furthermore, “since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive” [1 Corinthians 15:22]. These passages point not only to Christ but back to Genesis chapter 3, where the Fall of man and the promise of a future Redeemer is recorded [Genesis 3:15]. How could one rationally retain one’s belief in the Savior if we divorce Him from the historical fact of Genesis 3?

If Adam and Eve were not actual people, if there was no literal Fall, there are serious consequences for Christianity; if there was no literal Fall, there is no need for a Savior! At best, God would be saving us from a design flaw He allowed us to develop via chance and evolution, which He may or may not have directed – and then passed the blame onto us, making God a liar!

Many of those who embrace evolutionism as fact often go on to reject Christianity wholesale, precisely because they recognize that what is being presented as scientific truth completely contradicts what they’ve been taught as religious truth.

For example:

  • The claim that the Earth and universe are billions of years old and man’s existence represents only the tiniest tail-end of that history contradicts Christ Jesus’ affirmation that God created man, male and female, “from the beginning” [Matthew 19:4; Mark 10:6] and the Bible’s clear testimony that the Earth and the universe were created in 6 calendar days [Exodus 20:11].
  • The claim that Man is the product of evolution, an endless cycle of death and mutation contradicts the Apostle Paul’s authority for he said “by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin” [Romans 5:12; also 1 Corinthians 15:22].
  • As noted, the claim that the account of Adam & Eve is only a teaching myth undermines the foundational basis of the Gospel, for if the literal First Adam did not literally Fall there is no need for literal sin debt to be paid by a literal Savior [1 Corinthians 15:45].
  • The claim that the Noachian Flood was local rather than global contradicts the testimony of the Apostle Peter [2 Peter 3:6] and makes God a liar since He promised never to destroy all flesh by water again [Genesis 9:12] — yet local floods abound!

Of course, there are certainly Christians who believe in millions of years of evolution who are otherwise orthodox in their beliefs. I call them extra-Biblical Creationists. In contrast to Biblical (Young Earth) Creationists who hold the Bible as the ultimate authority in all that it speaks upon, extra-Biblical Creationists [e.g., Old Earth Creationism, Day-Age beliefs, Gap Creationism, Framework Hypothesis, Progressive Creationism, Theistic Evolution, etc.] impose extra-Biblical ideas upon the text and hold to extra-Biblical sources as their ultimate authority where Genesis is concerned. 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.

As the Holy Spirit began to guide me into all truth, as the Scripture promises [John 16:13], I began to see that the revealed Word of an omnipotent, omniscient God and the word of men in lab coats was not lining up. I chose to give God the benefit of the doubt. Not so with many others I’ve known…

Some have objected that in order to take the Bible seriously, we must acknowledge the humanity of Scripture – that fallible men wrote the Scriptures under Divine Inspiration, but that God had to work within those human limitations – but this would mean that God could not overcome the limitations of His chief creation to relate His Word clearly. Such well-meaning theological doublespeak strips 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 that God cannot overcome human limitations are pretty awful in their own right. I mean, remember that the next time you pray!

Fortunately, such objections are purest bunk; an omnipotent, omniscient God such as the Bible describes is fully able to make His meaning clear, even if it means overcoming the limitations of fallible men to do so. This is a high view of Scripture that I make no apologies for.

I have also 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 them in the context intended. Likewise, because I take Scripture seriously, I take it in the context intended, even if it comes into conflict with the claims of 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” [Romans 3:4]?

You’d be surprised how many folks never consider the full implications of rejecting the history of Genesis. They accept millions of years of microbes-to-man evolution because men in lab coats tell them to. They never stop to realize that if Christians accepted everything these guys said, they’d be forced to deny miracles, the existence of the soul, the resurrection of Christ, God Himself and anything else supernatural, for science has been chained to pure naturalism.

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 extra-Biblical Creationists? Here’s what he had to say on the subject:

“‘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 foundation1.”

Of course, Huxley only lacked the one element of faith that extra-Biblical 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 extra-Biblical Creationist has in the abilities of the Creator he affirms.

We need to be consistent in our faith; thus, we need to 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. Thus, no man can serve two 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 its word, from beginning to end, no matter who disputes its truth.

That being said, if the one who disputes it is a fellow Creationist [albeit an extra-Biblical 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.”

Yet many Christians simply live with this contradiction. In doing so, they’ve effectively adopted the late Stephen Jay Gould’s concept of “non-overlapping magisteria,” better known as NOMA: the idea that religious truth deals with meaning and morality while scientific truth deals with facts and theories – and never the twain shall meet2! In other words, it follows Galileo’s dictum that Scripture’s intent is “to teach us how one goes to heaven not how heaven goes3.”

For the Bible-affirming Christian, NOMA has three distinct problems:

[1] It is built on a logical fallacy.

The problem with this concept is that it commits the fact-value distinction. Christianity makes claims [values] that are rooted in historical fact. For example, Paul noted in 1 Corinthians 15:14-19, if Christ did not rise from the dead, our preaching and our faith is in vain, we are yet in our sins, those who have died believing in Christ are dead and gone, and we’re guilty of bearing false witness for saying that God raised Christ from the dead. Furthermore in verses 30-32 of that same chapter, Paul notes that if the resurrection did not occur, those who martyred themselves for the faith did so needlessly, for we would have no promise of any life beyond this one. Jesus Himself refuted the false premise behind NOMA when he said to Nicodemus:

“If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?” [John 3:12]

[2] NOMA contradicts itself by telling us what God can’t do based on the claims of the magisterium of science. Perhaps the most important problem with NOMA is that it refuses to allow any consideration of the supernatural. According to Gould:

“The first commandment for all versions of NOMA might be summarized by stating: ‘Thou shalt not mix the magisterium by claiming that God directly ordains important events in the history of nature by special interference knowable only through revelation and not accessible to science4.’”

In the next breath, Gould clarifies that he means miracles aren’t allowed under non-overlapping magisteria, leaving God with nothing to do, unless he’s simply the grand clockwinder5 at the beginning of it all.

[3] The magisteria of science and religion aren’t really equal.

While Gould gives lip service to the equality of the magisteria of science and religion, in practice NOMA is really just Scriptura sub scientia (Scripture below science): a steady yielding of religious truth to all-natural truth claims made in the name of science. Indeed, it was Gould’s hope that NOMA would offer religious truth a means of quiet surrender by which it might “cede this disputed ground to the rightful occupants of science6.”

You see, as reasonable as NOMA sounds at first glance, it violates the principle set forth in Matthew 6:24:

“No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other.”

While Jesus was specifically addressing the fact that you can’t serve God and money, the principle He invokes is that you cannot equally hold two priorities or two authorities in your life. One must needs emerge as your ultimate authority.

Of course, evolutionists realize that NOMA is bunk, but they also recognize its usefulness in disarming Christians who wish to appear reasonable7.

On May 20, 2002, Stephen Jay Gould met his Maker [Romans 14:11-12] and shed his agnosticism. Sadly, Dr. Michael Zimmerman has taken up the NOMA torch in recent years. In the fall of 2004, Zimmerman began the anti-creationist Clergy Letter Project as a reaction against the Grantsburg, Wisconsin school board’s proposal that “all theories of origins” be taught in all schools districts8. Thanks to Michael Zimmerman’s actions, which initially only garnered less than 200 signatures, Grantsburg settled for a proposal that science educators teach both evolution’s “strengths and weaknesses.” Zimmerman hailed it as a victory for science education, though he later joined with the Center for Inquiry to fight against a “strengths and weaknesses” policy being considered by the Texas Board of Education in 20099. Zimmerman and similar “science advocacy” [read: evolution enforcement] groups have one sole aim: the exclusive, uncritical indoctrination of our children in millions of years of microbes-to-man evolution through our public schools. Make no mistake: this war for our children’s minds is quite on purpose10!Atheist11 Michael Zimmerman’s Clergy Letter Project, which now boasts the signatures of approximately 13,000 members of Christian clergy12, has been used since 2004 to bludgeon school districts into enforcing uncritical evolution-only science curriculums under the guise that the NOMA principle implies that there is no real conflict between evolution and religion. The signers of the Clergy Letter affirm evolution as a proven fact, that science and religion are “two very different, but complementary, forms of truth” (an espousal of NOMA), that “many of the beloved stories found in the Bible – the Creation, Adam and Eve, Noah and the Ark – convey timeless truths” in the tradition of Aesop’s fables, and that “religious truth is of a different order from scientific truth” (a second affirmation of NOMA). Predictably, the vast majority of the Clergy Letter signers are almost exclusively from Catholic and liberal mainline denominations with a handful of Unitarian Universalists tossed in for good measure.

For, example, Rev. Michael Dowd, a signer of Zimmerman’s Clergy Letter Project, believes that the supernatural is simply a synonym for unnatural; therefore, he gives the following synopsis the Good News in the Preface of the Plume paperback edition of Thank God for Evolution (2009):

“An unnatural king who occasionally engages in unnatural acts sends his unnatural son to Earth in an unnatural way. He’s born an unnatural birth, lives an unnatural life, performs unnatural deeds, and is killed and unnaturally rises from the dead in order to redeem humanity from an unnatural curse brought about by an unnaturally talking snake. After 40 days of unnatural appearances he unnaturally zooms off to heaven to return to his unnatural father, sit on an unnatural throne, and unnaturally judge the living and the dead. If you profess to believe in all this unnatural activity, you and your fellow believers get to spend an unnaturally long time in an unnaturally boring paradise while everyone else suffers a torturous hell forever.”

First of all, whoever said heaven is boring? The Bible makes it clear that eternity will be far beyond our wildest imaginations [1 Corinthians 2:9]. Dowd, a minister of the United Church of Christ, believes that the “kick-butt good news” of evolution is far preferable to the Biblical one, but it doesn’t seem as if he comprehends what he objects to well enough to make such a comparison!

Men such as Dowd are rank apostates, but I wonder if many of the well-meaning clergymen who’ve signed Zimmerman’s Clergy Letter realize the full implications of what they are agreeing to, especially if Zimmerman’s Letter is meant to espouse the same version of NOMA which Gould described in Rocks of Ages. Gould’s NOMA arbitrarily invalidated teleological arguments for God’s existence13, God’s provenance14; and even the possibility of theistic evolution15, while giving lip service to God as a “clock-winder” at the beginning of it all in one version of NOMA16 (mere deism at best).

In fact, during his testimony during McLean v. Arkansas, Gould was asked, “Professor Gould, does evolutionary theory presuppose the absence of a creator?” His response was telling:

“Certainly not. Indeed, many of my colleagues are devoutly religious people. Evolution as a science does not talk about the existence of a creator. It is quite consistent with one or without one, so long as the creator works by natural laws.” [emphasis mine]

See how he contradicts himself? In one breath, he says that evolution doesn’t talk about God’s existence; in the next, He says that evolution is only consistent with a supernatural God who doesn’t actually do anything supernatural, except perhaps to institute those natural laws: a clock winder, but no more. This is utterly at odds with the Bible’s revelation of God.

While signers of the Clergy Letter Project are desperately attempting to convince the world that religion and molecules-to-man evolution are compatible, if you listen to the testimonies of those who’ve abandoned Christianity in adulthood, you find a common thread: amid the muddle of charges against Christendom, we find that almost all of their stories mention that once evolutionism was explained to them as a fact that they began to find fault with the Bible. They lost faith in the Beginning of the Bible, they began to echo the Serpent’s question “Did God really say?” and then they began to doubt the rest of it, until it all seemed pointless. Many of those who embraced evolutionism as fact went on to reject Christianity wholesale, recognizing that what was being presented as scientific truth completely contradicted what they’d been taught as religious truth. In other words, once they rejected the “earthly things” of the Bible, they went on to reject the “spiritual things” of the Bible as well.

This very tendency is why Eugenie Scott17 of the National Center for Science Education (NCSE), a notorious “science advocacy” [again read: evolution enforcement] group, recognizing that many students have been warned that microbes-to-man evolution is incompatible with traditional Christian faith, has advised teachers to defuse the religion issue by telling them to ask a clergyman whether evolution is OK or not. If the child’s religion is not one of the monotheistic Abrahamic religions [Judaism, Christianity or Islam], then chances are their clergy will tell them that evolution is OK. Likewise, if the child’s religion is Catholic or one of the mainline Protestant denominations, they’ll likely get the response Eugenie Scott is rooting for. Yet she cautions against the idea of surveying local ministers from a community of traditional, conservative Christian ministers because such a survey would derail her primary goal of convincing students that evolution is OK. Given the dichotomy between liberal mainline and conservative evangelical Christianity, teachers who follow Eugenie Scott’s advice are guilty of promoting one religion over another, since their tactics are meant to undermine the position of conservative Protestant faith while promoting Catholic and liberal Protestant positions for the sake of their acceptance of microbes-to-man evolution. Far from being religiously neutral, the tactics the NCSE recommends are actually promoting religious faiths that teach the compatibility of theology with microbes-to-man evolution over ones that do not.

While liberal Christianity accepts evolution, much of it also rejects a good bit of Christianity’s fundamental teachings. In many cases, liberal Christianity is Christian in name only and is so far removed from apostolic teaching that it is simply the religion of secular humanism dressed up as Christianity! For example, Presbyterian pastor John Shuck, a signer of Zimmerman’s pro-evolution Christian Clergy Letter, doesn’t even believe in either the resurrection of Jesus Christ or the very existence of God18!

Does Eugenie Scott give a rip that what liberal Christianity preaches from its pulpits? No, she merely recognizes that compromising ministers have the power to sway minds toward evolution and methodological atheism. In many cases, this compromise will cause our children to doubt the very authority of the Bible and lead to actual atheism. These ministers compromise with evolution and/or millions of years because 21st century science tells them the plain meaning of God’s revealed Word must be wrong – and never once consider the fruit of evolution is the lost souls of our children and our grandchildren. A good tree cannot produce evil fruit. They should affirm the plain truth of God’s Word in Genesis and let every man who speaks otherwise be a liar!

At least Eugenie Scott, the late Stephen Jay Gould and Michael Zimmerman, being atheists and agnostics, are being consistent with their beliefs when they subvert our kids with this unbiblical concept and lead them down the road to philosophical humanism by indoctrinating them into believing evolution as fact – by any means necessary. The signers of Zimmerman’s pro-evolution, pro-NOMA Christian Clergy Letter and Christian organizations like BioLogos have no such excuse. They are guilty of considering neither the presuppositions nor the fruit of evolutionary theory. Rather than obeying the Biblical command to cast down arguments and everything that exalts itself against the knowledge of Christ [2 Corinthians 10:5], Christians who ascribe to non-overlapping magisteria are progressively undermining the foundational basis of the Gospel.


End excerpt-

If your church plans on celebrating a Creation Sunday rather than an Evolution Sunday this weekend, be sure to visit CreationSundays.com and add your church to the growing list of supporters so folks can attend a Bible-affirming church in their area.

Also be sure to visit our Creation Sunday Facebook page at http://facebook.com/creationsunday

defgenbookcover3And visit http://eepurl.com/8x9XL to sign up to receive our newsletter, Creation Sunday News. For a limited time, subscribers will receive a coupon code to receive a free ebook copy of my new book, Defending Genesis: How We Got Here & Why It Matters. The ebook is available in many different formats on Smashwords. This offer expires February 28, 2015.

Notes:

  1. Thomas H. Huxley, quoted in Leonard Huxley, Life and Letters of Thomas Henry Huxley, Vol. II (1903), p. 241.
  2. Stephen J. Gould. Rocks of Ages: Science and Religion in the Fullness of Life. Ballantine Books: New York (1999), p.6. Referred to hereafter as Rocks of Ages.
  3. Galileo Galilei, “Letter to the Grand Duchess Christian” (1615), from Stillman Drake, transl., Discoveries and Opinions of Galileo (1957), p.186, reprinted in Science and Religious Belief 1600-1900: A Selection of Primary Sources. D.C. Goodman, editor. Open University Press (1973), p. 34.
  4. Rocks of Ages, pp. 84-85.
  5. Rocks of Ages, p. 22. See also Note 15.
  6. Rocks of Ages, p.100.
  7. Bora Zivkovic. “Why Teaching Evolution Is Dangerous.” ScienceBlogs.com. Aug. 25, 2008. Web. Retrieved May 8, 2012. http://scienceblogs.com/clock/2008/08/why_teaching_evolution_is_dang.php.
  8. Background information on the Clergy Letter can be found on the Clergy Letter’s website at http://www.theclergyletterproject.org/Backgd_info.htm, an Aug. 23, 2005 article by the Beloit Daily News at http://www.beloitdailynews.com/news/clergy-weigh-in-on-evolution-design/article_9a418305-82e3-5c5c-b699-a00c16f4fe7a.html, and an interview with Jeff Nash for HumanistNetworkNews.org [Note 10].
  9. You can view more details of this joint effort by CFI and the Clergy Letter Project at their website, http://TeachThemScience.org.
  10. For an admission of this fact from the Humanist camp, see John J. Dunphy. “A Religion for a New Age.” The Humanist. (Jan-Feb 1983): 26.
  11.  “Conversations with Christian and Atheist Activists: Michael Zimmerman.” Interview with Guest Columnist Jeff Nash. HumanistNetworksNews.org. Web. Jan 3. 2007. Retrieved March 11, 2011. http://www.americanhumanist.org/hnn/archives/index.php?id=278&article=1
  12. The text of the Clergy Letter can be found at http://www.theclergyletterproject.org/Christian_Clergy/ChrClergyLtr.htm. For a line-by-line deconstruction of the Christian Clergy Letter visit http://kcsg.wordpress.com/clergy-letter.
  13. Rocks of Ages, pp .218-219.
  14. Rocks of Ages, pp.93-94; also 201-202.
  15. Rocks of Ages, p. 94.
  16. Rocks of Ages, p. 22. One assumes that in another version of NOMA even this small concession to the notion of a Creator God would be disallowed; certainly Gould provides no versions of NOMA in which God may act as more than a clock-winder.
  17. Eugenie Scott. “Dealing With Anti-Evolutionism.” Reports of the National Center for Science Education, v17 n4 p24-30 Jul-Aug 1997. NSCE.com. Reprinted at http://www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/fosrec/Scott.html. Retrieved 29 Apr 2012.
  18. John Shuck. “A Church Without God.” ShuckandJive.org. Web. March 23, 2010. Retrieved January 25, 2011. http://www.shuckandjive.org/2010/03/church-without-god.html.

A Free eBook for Creation Sunday 2015… by Tony Breeden of DefGen.org

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defgenbookcover3Recently I’ve been doing a LOT of writing. Some of you know about my fictional works. I love writing action-packed apologetic sci-fi and I have every intention of getting back to it as soon as possible, but I had one of those odd moments recently where you simply feel God giving you a bit of a nudge in a different direction. In this case, I was happily writing the sequel to Luckbane, when Daniel Hoskins, president of the local Kanawha Creation Science Group, asked me to speak at their annual WV Creation Conference. As I was putting together a new presentation, based on the post Evolutionary Fictions: On Plot Holes, Deus ex Machina and Other Crimes Against Fiction, I had this realization that it was time to write a nonfiction book on a subject near and dear to me.

Many of you are fully aware that my particular forays into the Origins Argument have involved atheist Dr. Michael Zimmerman’s pro-evolution Clergy Letter Project and Evolution Weekend. Through CreationLetter.com and CreationSundays.com, in particular, I’ve set out to expose the flaws of the most widely advertised compromise position between Biblical creationism and millions of year of molecules-to-man evolution. I’m speaking here of non-overlapping magisteria or NOMA, popularized by the late Dr. Stephen Jay Gould in his book Rocks of Ages and espoused by such groups as Biologos, the Clergy Letter Project and the National Center for Science Education (NCSE). NOMA is the idea that religion and science are two different but complementary forms of truth; religion dealing with morality and meaning, while science deals with facts and reality. NOMA commits a logical fallacy called the fact/value distinction where Christianity is concerned; Christianity makes claims [values] that are rooted in historical fact. For example, Paul noted in 1 Corinthians 15:14-19, if Christ did not rise from the dead, our preaching and our faith is in vain, we are yet in our sins, those who have died believing in Christ are dead and gone, and we’re guilty of bearing false witness for saying that God raised Christ from the dead. Furthermore in verses 30-32 of that same chapter, Paul notes that if the resurrection did not occur, those who martyred themselves for the faith did so needlessly, for we would have no promise of any life beyond this one. Jesus Himself refuted the false premise behind NOMA when he said to Nicodemus:

“If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?” [John 3:12]

In Defending Genesis: How We Got Here & Why It Matters, I explore what the Origins Argument is really about. It’s a matter of what we presuppositionally hold as our ultimate authority: science chained to pure naturalism or science informed by Biblical revelation. In Defending Genesis, I demonstrate why the world we observe is most reasonably explained by the Bible rather than pure naturalism. It’s time to remind the Church that we’re really dealing with two different faith propositions. Science chained to pure naturalism can only give us all-natural answers that may or may not be true – and are certainly false where God was involved! Meanwhile, the fruit of presupposing an all-natural worldview as our ultimate authority (or accepting arbitrary compromises with such) is often apostasy, for no man can serve two masters.

Defending Genesis is currently available in a variety of ebook formats at Smashwords for $5.99. The print version should be available in the next few weeks. I’m offering the Smashwords version for free to subscribers of my Creation Sunday newsletter. Simply sign up for our newsletter at http://eepurl.com/8x9XL and we will email you the coupon code. Then got to https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/511956, select the ebook format you prefer and enter the code before you checkout. Offer expires 2/28/2015.

Evolutionary Fictions: On Plot Holes, Deus ex Machina and Other Crimes Against Fiction

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BookCoverPreview-FrontJohnny Came Home is my superhero sci-fi novel set in the town of Midwich, West Virginia. Noting that microbes-to-man evolution is the the preferred explanation for comic book super powers these days, I basically set out to see if superheroes could be explained from a Biblical creationist POV. Editing this Biblically faithful superhero novel took much longer than I originally thought! I had no idea how many typos and grammar errors can creep into a document when you’re not looking!

As much as I hate to admit it, as I began editing Johnny, I noticed a few plot holes. Plot holes are one of my personal pet peeves. I cannot count the times that I’ve been thoroughly engrossed in a book, quite enjoying myself only to encounter a contradiction so glaringly evident that it takes me out of the fantasy and basically ruins the book. While the worlds we create as authors are imaginary, these imaginary worlds have boundaries and rules which cannot be violated if we’re to be faithful to our readers. Even historical fiction is really an imaginary world where we flesh out the details and dialogue of real events, for we don’t really know the details and dialogue we’ve just added really occurred. In fact, we can only say that our story is one possible way these events might have played out. If you create a scenario which defies the rules of your imaginary world, or a ridiculously fortuitous deus ex machina [whereby a seemingly unsolvable problem is suddenly and abruptly solved with the contrived and unexpected intervention of some new event, character, ability, or object], or a credibility-sucking plot hole, you’ve violated your readers investment in that world.

Let’s take a real-world example to drive this point home:

Science today is played by the rule of pure naturalism, so in creating [they would say re-creating, but I’ll get to that erroneous notion] the history of the cosmos and life here on earth, they can only consider all-natural answers to the evidence of nature. They cannot consider deities, fairies or any other supernatural thing. According to the rules, science deals with things that are observable and repeatable and then extrapolates these observations backwards to events that happened in the historical past. As they say, the present is the key to the past, which is the principle of uniformitarianism. So far, so good, as far as science fiction worlds go. And yes we’re dealing with science fiction here, for barring the invention of a time machine or some other credible witness by which we could verify the events of the past, we can only say that this is one possible way things might have played out. In the case of modern science, we can only say that their story is how things probably played out in answer to the question, “What IF the world came to be by all-natural processes consitent with those we observe today?”

It goes without saying that if the premise is wrong [i.e., if pure naturalism is a false assumption and God actually exists so that He had something to do with the origin and history of the cosmos], the story becomes totally improbable.

The problem for the evolutionary fiction we teach our kids is that it contains a few crimes against fiction, things that frankly destroyed it credibility when I stumbled upon them. Keep in mind that we’re answering the question, “What IF the world came to be by all-natural processes consistent with those we observe today?” Yet right from the beginning of the story, we have a deus ex machina whereby either everything came from nothing [not something we observe happening today] or as a property of the multiverse [which is unobservable and theoretical]. So the question has really been adjusted to “What If the world came to be by some miraculous event or by some unobservable multiverse straight out of a science fiction novel, but then developed by all-natural processes consistent with those we observe today?” Again, we have a problem – several in fact! The evolutionary science fiction tale requires other things we never observe, special one-time events that are quite simply miracles: they propose information without an intelligent source [though our experience teaches us that such information is always the product of intelligence], life from non-life, [when no one has ever observed any such thing] and the gradual development of one kind of organism into another [viz. fish to amphibians, dinosaurs to birds, ape-like ancestors to humans]. None of these things have ever been observed. There is no present process that can account for them. They require deus ex machina to move the plot along.

But wait! you might say. Evolution occurs by the gradual adaptation of an organism via mutation and natural selection and the fossil record shows this. Except it doesn’t. The fossil record shows stasis and sudden appearance. The fossil record shows phyla that are full formed. Dogs are still dogs and recognizably so, whether a wolf, Australian shepherd or English bulldog. Observable nature confirms the Biblicla claim of variation within created kinds, as does the fossil record. The late evolutionist Stephen Jay Gould stands as a hostile witness to this fact, when he wrote the following:

“The history of most fossil species includes two features particularly inconsistent with gradualism: 1. Stasis. Most species exhibit no directional change during their tenure on earth. They appear in the fossil record looking much the same as when they disappear; morphological change is usually limited and directionless. 2. Sudden appearance. In any local area, a species does not arise gradually by the steady transformation of its ancestors; it appears all at once and ‘fully formed.’”

Now let’s examine that quote a little more closely:

“The history of most fossil species includes two features particularly inconsistent with gradualism [gradualism: i.e., mainstream evolution as taught in our public school textbooks]: 1. Stasis. Most species exhibit no directional change during their tenure on earth. They appear in the fossil record looking much the same as when they disappear; morphological change is usually limited and directionless. [A dog is still a dog and recognizably so, be it a wolf, English bulldog or a wiener dog.] 2. Sudden appearance. In any local area, a species does not arise gradually by the steady transformation of its ancestors [and keep in mind that a species arising “gradually by the steady transformation of its ancestors” is, again, pretty much a textbook definition of the sort of evolution our textbooks teach. But instead of OBSERVING what’s taught in textbooks in the fossil record we see instead that]; it appears all at once and ‘fully formed.”

Rather than admitting that the evidence doesn’t affirm microbes-to-man evolution, he came up with punctuated equilibrium, the idea that organisms speciate, adapt and mutate as we observe today [facts which Creationists likewise affirm], but then undergo rapid [geologically speaking] evolution periodically which causes one type of creature to change into a completely kind of organism; conveniently, these changes occur in the gaps in the fossil record, so that he’s extrapolating from the lack of evidence for Darwin’s predicted transitional forms rather than evidence supporting his theory! This is a major plot hole in the evolutionary science fiction tale we are taught in public schools!

Neither is the only plot hole in the all-natural just-so story of the cosmos. Co-evolution is proposed to explain the contradiction that bees [and other pollinators] need pollen to survive and flowers need vectors [pollinators] to survive. Homology is touted as evidence for common descent, except when they know that the organisms did not share a common ancestor, in which case homology is evidence of convergent evolution. When an organism ceases to leave fossils in the geological record, this is said to be evidence of its extinction, yet “living fossils” like the Coelecanth anf the Wolemi pine are admitted to leave absolutely no fossil traces over alleged millions of years despite their living existence in the present. Polystrate fossils, extending over several strata which would normally be interpreted as several long ages, are admitted as evidence of geologically quick, catastrophic processes, yet such layers elsewhere sans polystrates are unquestionably regarded as evidence of long ages. And so on and so forth.

Being so painfully aware of the problems with the all-natural story of the cosmos, you can probably appreciate how I would want to rid my own fictional work of plot holes and other crimes against fiction. And so I did.

Johnny Came Home deals with the flaws of evolution, the superior interpretation of Biblical Creation and the evils of racism, wrapped in an action-packed superhero epic full of surprises, humor, mech suits, flying saucers, hover crafts, zombies, clones and epic battles – all from a Biblical worldview! If you’re interested in finding out more, visit http://TonyBreedenBooks.com or visit our Facebook Page at http://facebook.com/tonybreedenbooks. If you share this on Twitter @creationletter don’t forget to include the hashtag #tonybreedenbooks!

Matthew 18:15-17: Christian Conflict and Social Media

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themaskpackingheat_2Recently, I went to a fellow Christian via a Facebook PM about a matter that I felt he was wrong in. I chose a private message because I believe that Jesus Christ told us how to handle conflict in Matthew 18:15-17:

15Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.  16But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.  17And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.

Most Christians recognize this passage as what is generally called Church Discipline. It may surprise you, but Jesus was simply reminding folks of OT procedure on the matter [see Deut 19: 15-21]. In other words, this procedure was established as a part of OT Law to help folks handle disputes.

Note that there are three steps to this process:

  1. A private exchange between two individuals.
  2. An exchange with two or three witnesses who are there to establish what was said and what wasn’t said AND to reason with the offender [note that verse 17 says, “if he shall neglect to hear THEM].
  3. A hearing before the church

Now it should be clear from even a cursory reading of tis passage that the initial exchange is to be a private matter. So imagine my surprise to find our personal exchange via PM posted to a wall of a Facebook Group. My wife experienced the same thing over another matter: a Facebook PM being pasted to a personal Facebook wall for the world to see.

The problem is, of course, that there is no way that this can be construed as fulfilling a step of Matthew 18:15-17. A Facebook post is by no means private, so we’ve left Step 1 in the dust. A wall post typically involves more than 2 or three witnesses [more on that in a moment], so it cannot be said to be a fulfillment of Step 2. Furthermore, we could not typically call Facebook, Twitter or any other social media platform the “church,” even in the local sense, and in those rare cases where, say, a Facebook group constituted an Internet Church [as opposed to a social media gathering by a geographically local church] posting a private exchange in this manner entirely skips Step 3.

It should be said that posting a private exchange between two individuals on a public social media forum actually violates the intent of Step 2, for the exchange is usually prefaced with remarks about how this other person hurt their feelings or how they’re attacking them. Rather than two or three witnesses establishing every word that is said [or isn’t], one party has sought to present the matter in a manner that seeks to bias their audience. They want their friends and family and fans to be on their side and tell them how awful this other person was to “attack them” or hurt their feelings. Rather than helping to resolve a conflict, such a tactic seeks to vindicate the one posting the private exchange. Often it is coupled with an attempt to demonize the other party.

In their zeal to comfort and rise to the defense of their friend, Christians often forget that we are to judge without partiality [Leviticus 19:15] and that their friend is essentially asking them to judge the matter based on their word alone!

Another matter to be considered is that posting a private exchange on Facebook violates 1 Corinthians 6, for when we bring our private disputes to a public Facebook wall rather than following the pattern God gave us, we are taking our disputes before both believers and unbelievers. For this cause the name of the Lord is blasphemed among the heathen. When they see us fighting rather than seeking to make peace according to the Lord;s command in Matthew 18:15-17, the unbelieving world wants no part of the Church or its Lord. And who could blame them? Paul advises us to accept wrong and let ourselves be slighted [1 Cor 6:7] rather than bringing our discord before the unsaved world.

Rather than trying to gain sympathy from friends or to demonize our opponents via social media, we are commanded to handle conflict with discretion [which we’ve already discussed] and urgency.  We are to seek to be a peacemaker and to remember to address the issue rather than attacking the person [Eph 6:12]. One way to accomplish this is by using descriptive language that relates the facts rather than evaluative language that passes judgment. For example, you should seek to say things like, “When you did this, I felt this” or “Please stop doing this for this reason.“] Don’t say things like “You made me feel this” or “Only an idiot would do that.” To be more specific, don’t call someone a liar; tell them what they said and why you think it wasn’t true. Sometimes our conflicts are based on misunderstandings.

You should also avoid passive-aggressive posts. Seriously. The Bible says that we should say what we mean [Matt 5:37]. I know it’s common in the South to say, “Well, bless her heart,” when you mean somebody oughtta do something about that so-and-so, but God wants us to use plainness of speech. Passive-aggressive posts that veil insults under innocent-sounding words are a form of gossip at best and slander at worst. As the Bible says, “Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My bretrhren, these things ought not so to be” [James 3:10].

I freely admit that I don’t always respond as I ought. We need to keep in mind that Christians aren’t perfect and that everyone slips up in the same ways we slip up. Just as you’ve come after someone hot-headed with both guns blazing, you may encounter an unreasonable Christian who’s just having a bad day. Don’t let your emotions ruin your relationship. Sticking to the issues rather than engaging in insult will go a long way toward a speedy resolution. So will being willing to forgive a person for making an honest mistake and to seek forgiveness for your own.

Jesus emphasized the urgency of reconciliation in the Sermon on the Mount, when he said the following [Matt 5:23-26]:

23Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee;  24Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.  25Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison.  26Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing.”

Here, Jesus advises us to be reconciled with our brother before the matter escalates to a formal hearing, where far more serious consequences were in store. Paul likewise emphasized the urgency or reconciliation, when he commanded the Ephesian Church, “do not let the sun go down on your anger” [Eph 4:26]. It’s easy to let misunderstandings fester into bitterness and on to full-blown conflicts. If both parties seek to resolve the matter quickly and discretely and to follow the outline Jesus gave in Matthew 18, personal conflicts don’t get the opportunity to inflate into full-scale church feuds.

Before I end this piece, a word on gossips.

Gossips love social media. I’m not condemning social media as a harpy pit. I’m not saying Christians shouldn’t go on social media. I’m saying that Christians need to be on guard against social media gossips. As the Bible warns, “Where no wood is, there the fire goeth out: so where there is no talebearer, the strife ceaseth” [Proverbs 26:20]. Following the steps outlined in Matthew 18 will prevent a gossip from getting a foothold in the conversation and make reconciliation a real possibility.

Bottom line: Christians, don’t use social media to air out your personal differences.

I hope you’ve found this article helpful.

Keep the faith,
Tony Breeden
DefGen.org