God Rested: How the Sabbath Day Destroys a Critic’s Argument Against Young Earth Creationism

Recently, a fellow named David Evarts posted a rather subversive comment on the Defending Genesis Facebook page, hoping to attract Biblical Young Earth Creationists over to what he sees as a more reasonable point of view.

He began with the following statement:

 “Christians and other theists are, by definition Creationists. As such, the debate isn’t actually between creation and evolution. It’s actually a debate between creationists who accept evolutionary biology and creationists who take a newer theology. For those who are unaware of this, the type of reading of Genesis done by young earth creationists is limited mostly to members of the very new American style Christianity and was warned against by, among others Origin, the man most responsible for the assembly of the New Testament. It doesn’t fit well with Christian theology and has caused the making of a brand new theology. I wrote this a while back to note the theologic problems with anti-evolutionary ideas.”

I find it interesting that he claims that Biblical Creationists who affirm a young earth and deny evolution are somehow asserting a new theology. A lot of folks seem to confuse the fact that while the Young Earth Creationist movement is relatively new, it stands in the established tradition of those who taught a young earth from Jesus and the Apostles themselves, to the Church fathers to the Scriptural Geologists to the present. Origin might have seen the days of the Creation Week as figurative, but he himself was still a young earther, stating that “the Mosaic account of the creation, which teaches that the world is not yet ten thousand years, but very much under that…” In fact, all of those who allegorized the days of the Creation Week before the 1800s did so in favor of the view of instantaneous creation, supposing that Creation over a spread of 6 days impugned the omnipotence of a God who could do so in an instant if He chose (forgetting of course that just because one is capable of doing something doesn’t require one to do so at maximum efficiency), so that they actually believed in a slightly younger earth than modern young earthers – younger by six days! We should also mention that Origen didn’t assemble the New Testament; he merely collected usage information on what texts were accepted by the third-century churches throughout the known world.

So only by ignoring the fact of history, that the traditional Christian view has been that God created everything in six days, can he claim that Biblical Creationism is a brand new theology which doesn’t fit well with Christian theology.

He then refers to an article he wrote sometime earlier, entitled “Why evolution is the system that best fits with the traditional Christian view of God,” which begins thus:

 “The traditional Christian view of God is that God is constantly involved with his creation on an intimate and routine level. At the same time, theologians have held that “miracles” in which God sets aside the routine workings of nature he devised are infrequent.”

So far, so good. He then adds an aside:

“By the way, I use “he” only in the universal sense here. The Bible does not attribute a gender to God, other than in clear metaphor, so far as I know.”

So, Jesus told us to pray, “Our Gender-Neutral Deity Who Art in Heaven….” right? This is just liberal gender bending of the Bible to fit modern notions.

That aside, he continues:

“Frequent, incontrovertible miracles (or routine proof of God) are seen as violations of our free will to choose God and as events that would render faith moot. We are told that if God were to simply sky-write “I exist and this is what you must do” that we humans would have little choice, but to believe. Thus, we believe that weather patterns, in example, with their inherent stochastic noise are an example of a system that God created and can intervene in, but generally leaves to function as they were created. God is also seen as outside of time, space and the material universe, but able to interact with our physical world, as God chooses.”

So far, his argument is OK. I would add that God promised Noah that in general we should expect to see uniformity in nature in Genesis 8:22.

But then he goes off the map:

“We are also told, and I believe that, the wonders of our physical world, the intricate beauty, complexity and patterning speak of Gods creative nature, that our world is a canvas on which God is painting something beautiful, although many of the steps may be messy. Further, we postulate that the painting is alive.”

Where does He get the idea that God is actively “painting something beautiful, although many of the steps may be messy” or that the painting is “alive?” Did he derive this analogy from Scripture? Of course not. We read instead in Genesis 2:1-3 that:

“Thus the heavens and the earth were finished, and all the host of them. And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it; because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.

The word rendered “rested” in these versed is shabath which means “(cause to/let/make to) cease.” This passage is the basis of the 4th Commandment [Exodus 20:11], which reminds us to keep the Sabbath because God Himself worked six days and then rested from the work of Creation on the seventh and thereby hallowed it.

Which brings up an interesting point: evolution claims that the work of creation has never ceased, that it is still in operation and that, yes, it is a very messy process. As such, it stands in direct contradiction to the revelation of Scripture which affirms that God created everything in 6 days, that He ceased from the work of creation and that when he saw everything he had made, it was “very good” [Gen. 1:30].

He continues, oblivious to the theological error his analogy implies:

“On origins, Deists postulate a God who designed the laws of nature, but then left the mechanistic universe to function on its own, without further input. This is tied to Newton’s billiard ball, mechanistic view of the universe in which, if you knew the original locations and trajectories of the universe, you could start it in motion like clockwork and predict future actions backwards and forwards through time. We still hold some of that view, but have come to accept that, although we can increasingly know something of the mechanism, we often cannot know the specifics well enough to predict all of the outcomes.”

So as before, a little truth before the error:

“An anti-evolutionary perspective on biological creation is deistic. It postulates that God created the universe, the workings of nature and humans ex nihilo and other than miraculous interventions is no longer involved in creation.”

Wow. Wrong, but wow. Actually, the Bible says that God rested from his work of creation AND also says that without faith it is impossible to please Him, for we must believe that he exists and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him. You see, the traditionally acknowledged difference between a deist and a theist is that a deism teaches us that God wound up the universe and left it to its own devices, while Biblical theism says that God still intervenes, by miracle and providence, on behalf of those who serve Him. This does not require Him to continue the process of creation, but merely to act on behalf of those existing within His creation. In fact, by a traditional estimation of deism versus theism, it is “theistic” evolution which is actually deistic, for there we have a God who speaks the mechanism into existence and then lets it play out over millions of years.

But for the sake of argument, let’s get back to Evart’s objections:

 “A Deistic view presents a couple of challenges for Christian theology. If God is loving and designed the entire system to run precisely like clockwork without any trial and error elements, than he designed it badly. There have been many species that have died out. Perhaps more than currently exist. Why? Why create species that would not be a final product and whose genes may not have contributed to a final product? Questions like these are best understood by the directionless nature of evolution. Deistic views also do not fit with an involved God and are a bit hard to reconcile with a God who allows choice.”

Ugh. He’s really muddled things here, mostly because he assumes that evolution is true. In the Biblical view of history, God created a very good universe over six days. God created everything according to its kind [which is generally found at the family taxon].

Furthermore, man and animals were herbivores [Gen. 1:29-30]. Then sin entered into the world through Adam, bringing forth sin, death, thorns, predation, disease and suffering. Afterward men became so evil that God wiped out mankind with a world-covering Flood which further ravaged the planet and wiped out the geological features of the world that was. By the Bible’s history, the suffering and death that exist in this world are man’s fault rather than God’s. Evart wants to convince us that as long as there’s a plan, it’s OK if God uses a process of death, suffering, mass extinction and mutation to accomplish His purposes, but does this really get God off the hook for theodicy if He used evolution to accomplish His purposes? Um, no, because that suffering and death still exist as an innate part of the evolutionary process; worse still, it paints God as a Creator who only cares about the end product, not the process – a deity who would be perfectly compatible with the concept that the ends justify the means… but this is not the God revealed in the Bible!
Apparently wishing to dig his hole ever deeper, he continues:

“’God of the Gaps’ theories are theories that hold that Gods working exists only in places where the mechanistic laws and actions of life and the universe are not observable. Deism in both the humanistic and anti-evolution forms (such as young-earth anti-evolutionism) is by definition a God of the Gaps view that places God only at the start of creation. The form of anti-evolutionism known as intelligent design looks for areas in which we are, as of yet, unable to determine how nature might work and places God in those spaces by attributing miracles or proof of design only to the places in which we cannot yet understand cause and effect naturalist explanations. One of the problems with a God of the Gaps theories is that the parts we cannot describe naturalistically continue to get more distant as we understand more. Whether you place God, as creator, only at the beginning of the universe or in the questions on how evolution and other mechanisms work, God gets smaller and farther away as we learn more and the time “before” our knowledge is pushed farther back and the areas where we have unanswered questions on the mechanisms of creation get smaller.”

We have already addressed his erroneous notion of deism. Here he likewise misses the point that the “God of the gaps” view is an old earth creationist concept, not a Biblical Young Earth Creationist concept. Biblical creationists stand firm on when, what and how God created, but some Old Earthers and “theistic” evolutionists have arbitrarily accepted many of the claims of science chained to pure naturalism and tried to claim that evidence for God’s agency in instances where pure naturalism cannot consistently account for natural problems. The confusion arises because Biblical Creationist point out these same gaps in evolution’s explanatory power [e.g, science claims that it works via the principle of uniformitarianism, that the present is the key to the past, but it goes on to postulate things that contract this principle like the Big Bang (either the idea that everything came from nothing or that everything came from an unobservable multiverse, though we have never seen a Big Bang event happen in the present), life springing from non-life, and leaps from one kind of organism to another (viz. fish to reptiles, dinosaurs to birds, ungulates to whales, apes to humans)]. The difference is that we don’t merely try to say God works only in these gaps according to the evolutionary/uniformitarian framework, but rather we use these gaps to point out that their entire framework is wrong and the Biblical framework is correct.

He also makes the mistake of supposing that if a naturalistic explanation has been proposed that it must be the truth. Chained to pure naturalism, science is no longer the truth but rather the search for all-natural answers which may or may not be true – and are most certainly false where supernatural agency was actually responsible!

Undaunted by his dearth of knowledge on this subject, he continues on… and on:

 “Another problem with any God of the Gaps view is that it violates classical Christian thinking on the nature of God by 1.) requiring God to supply “signs and wonders”, that is incontrovertible proof of Gods existence and 2.) removing God from the routine involvement with Gods creation when God chooses.”

Really? I don’t give a can of beans for the God of the gaps view, but how does it violate classical Christian thinking on the nature of God? Where does it force God to supply incontrovertible proof of His existence? One thing that Biblical Creationists and Old earthers alike agree on is that the Bible makes it clear that God’s existence and many of His attributes are obvious from observing the finished work of creation and the moral law evident in our consciences. So obvious in fact that despite a public school monopoly on science education, in which they provide an uncritical, one-sided indoctrination into millions of years of microbes-to-man evolution as scientific fact, evolutionists have not been able to prevent much of America from believing in the Biblical creation account. Nor does a finished work of creation prevent God from routine involvement in it when He chooses; in fact, an established creation is required in order for supernatural intervention to be possible! By way of an imperfect analogy, there must be a working video game program in existence if we are to manipulate elements within the game environment. In any case, Evarts has failed to establish his point.

Which doesn’t keep him from continuing stalwartly on the downward spiral:

“In contrast to Deist and God of the Gaps views, biological evolution provides a means for God to routinely be involved in dynamic creation on the physical plain and to do so without frequent events seen as miracles.”

How? Microbes-to-man evolution is a process meant to explain biological origins without God. How exactly is He routinely involved in a process which excludes Him as necessary? Evarts has missed the obvious, that rather than routinely including God in dynamic creation, evolution actually makes Him unnecessary. The creationist view that God set up natural selection as a conservative force and that each kind of organism was pre-coded with variability to allow it to adapt to various environments makes more sense if we’re including God at all. Furthermore, to say that He is routinely involved in the evolutionary process is to again say He is routinely involved in a process of death, mutation and suffering that existed long before the Fall of Adam; what sort of an Ogre would call such a process “very good?”

Anyway, he’s not done yet:

“That is to say biological evolution is uniquely suited to the historically postulated nature of the Christian God. Natural selection works on genetic variation. Genetic variation arises through recombination events, transposition and mutation. All of these are stochastic or chaotic events that we might call random. We can understand rules as to how they work and even look at forces that may drive them to one or more most likely ends, but we cannot predict which particular new genetic variation will occur. Given the evidence that on the subatomic level we will never be able to do more than statistically place an electron in a “cloud,” we may never be able to do more than give a statistical measurement of the likelihood of a given mutation or genetic outcome from recombination, much less a series of mutations and environmental pressure over evolutionary time. If God chooses one seemingly random mutation or linkage event over another, how would we know, especially if the system itself usually functions without Gods input. If over time those changes and other similar, seemingly stochastic processes, such as the rise of this disease or that local environmental event are used to sculpt a given, intended outcome, we’d be unable to tell. Dr. Kenneth Miller has described this as a tool by which God can make minute changes that can be subtly amplified to speciation and beyond in his book “Finding Darwin’s God.” This allows an area that is basic to the development of new species, where God can routinely work across deep stretches of time that are “but as a day to God” to develop creatures that God chooses without overly revealing Godself in too frequent miracles.
Natural selection itself and genetic drift provide additional opportunities for God to work behind the scenes and without disturbing the evolutionary mechanism God designed. If Dr. Simon Conway Morris, FRS is right that convergent evolution suggests that some traits such as camera like eyes and complex human like brains are favored by as yet un-elucidated selective mechanisms or “engineering requirements”, that and the design of the other mechanisms in nature is yet another (although first cause) place where God can work. In this view, based on evolutionary biology and other natural mechanisms with stochastic elements, God is indeed intimately and continuously at work at the basis of all creation. God can let the programs run their course or nudge them without flagrant intervention as often as the artist chooses.”

Congratulations, Evart. You just stumbled upon your very own God of the gaps. More of a ghost in the machine actually, but still. Again, this is a God who cares more about outcomes than processes; a God of the ends justified the means. Evarts’ God sees when each sparrow falls, for He calculated their demise to lead to the eventual rise of the apes!
If only Evart would begin his theology with the Bible’s statement that God has ceased from the work of creation rather than trying to impose the fallible ideas of men onto the Scriptures, he might realize the folly and inconsistency of his position. When he makes the statement that “God can let the programs run their course or nudge them without flagrant intervention as often as the artist chooses,” does he not realize that this is actually true for the Biblical view that God has ceased from creation, so that the program is established and running, allowing him to override them as necessary. Despite all his mewling over deistic creation schemas in which God winds up the machine and then lets it do most of the work, Evart has simply latched upon the very same notion in evolutionary terms, making his entire venture rather self-refuting!

Think about it,

Tony Breeden

Note to Readers: For whatever reason, this post originally contained text from the article entitled Underminers: The Self-Defeating Proposition of Compromising Scripture With Millions of Years of Evolution. We apologize for any confusion this may have caused. Comments posted before this article was corrected on 4/15/12 at 8 PM EST will appear on the Underminers article.

71 Comments Add yours

  1. I don’t understand how saying that God saw fit to create through a process of evolution makes God an ogre, but saying that God introduced all those same things that cause suffering into the cosmos in response to human sin is somehow radically different. Isn’t God causing squirrels to suffer because they pick up brain-eating worms from raccoon feces just as problematic, if not more so, if God does it in response to human sin? I keep hearing this objection, and I don’t understand it, so perhaps you can help me to understand it.

    1. Tony Breeden says:

      Before I respond, are you responding to this comment?

      “The creationist view that God set up natural selection as a conservative force and that each kind of organism was pre-coded with variability to allow it to adapt to various environments makes more sense if we’re including God at all. Furthermore, to say that He is routinely involved in the evolutionary process is to again say He is routinely involved in a process of death, mutation and suffering that existed long before the Fall of Adam; what sort of an Ogre would call such a process “very good?””

      Thanks in advance for the clarification,
      Tony Breeden

      1. Tony Breeden says:

        “God introduced…” I think that’s where I start objecting to the formulation of your question, because I think it sets up a straw man.

        When God created life, through His foreknowledge He created the potential for the variation we see in nature today and from Noah’s day [in the fossil record]. This includes nasty things like carnivory, parasitism, disease, etc., as a reflection of the fallen state of man who had been given dominion over said. When a king makes a bad decision, the kingdom suffers. These genetic potentials, however unpleasant, are actually a mercy to nature, since fallen man has proven just how far he will go to exploit nature.

        Evolution on the other hand makes death, disease, parasoitism, suffering, etc a part of the design process, implying an ogrish God who cares only about the end product and in which the ends justify the means.

        God does not “cause” squirrels to suffer because they pick up brain-eating worms from raccoon feces; he allows it until such time as the world is reborn.

        Since we’re on the subject of microbes-to-man evolution, how much faith does it take to believe that the everything came from nothing [or improbable comic book multiverses], that life came from nonlife, and that a frog can become a prince if we just give it millions of years? You seem to put a lot of faith in the words of fallible men who statistically speaking largely reject the Bible as their ultimate authority.

      2. I do not follow why God, using suffering for his own purpose, is an ogre in one scenario but not the other. It seems simply an insult applied to a view you dislike that could be applied equally well to your own.

        You seem to trust ancient people more than modern ones, as well as more than the Creator’s own handiwork.

      3. Tony Breeden says:

        You are presuming that the Bible is merely the handiwork of men. If God wrote a book, what would it look like? How would you recognize it?

      4. I don’t think that God would have someone else sign their name to letters that were from him. And I don’t think that God would mimic different styles to give the impression that the texts in question were writings by different authors. In short, I don’t think that God would provide inerrant texts made to look like they could just be the work of human beings.

      5. Tony Breeden says:

        You’ve said a great deal about what you don’t think, which I find rather appropriate in this case.

        Since you are the Goodwin Chair in NT language and Literature, I would presume that you already know that Peter claims that Scripture was written as men were moved of the Holy Ghost, preserving their distinctive personalities and literary styles without damaging the inerrancy of His revelation.

        If you suppose that the Bible looks like the work of human beings, how do you explain away fulfilled Bible prophecy?

      6. If you are referring to the sort of thing we find in Matthew 1-2, I suggest reading the texts in question in their original contexts. We can make sense of what the human authors on both ends of the process meant, but treating it as supernatural prediction and then the prediction coming true seems at best unnecessary and impossible to substantiate, while in some instances (such as Matthew’s infancy stories) it seems clearly to not be what is going on at all.

      7. Tony Breeden says:

        What rationale do you suggest to deny that these events were not the fulfillment of prophecy [which is clearly what the author meant when he penned Matthew]? If it is unnecessary to believe this is a fulfillment of prophecy, why does Matthew continue to beath that dead horse?

        As for substantiating these prophecies, denying that the Bible is true except where it is substantiated by other sources is the exact opposite way we go about approaching other ancient documents, which we generally hold true unless directly contradicted by a more reliable source. What more reliable source or rationale do you propose to deny these events occured and therefor could not be instances of prophetic fulfillment? Or does your need to call the Bible a fully human work suffice?

      8. Let’s take a specific example. Do you view Hosea 11 as a prediction about Jesus, read in its original context? I am more inclined to think that Matthew is speaking of fulfiilment as typology, not as prediction.

      9. Tony Breeden says:

        Must you resort to cherry-picking? Matthew 2:15 is fulfillment as typology; we recognize it as such because in context the quoted passage refers to Israel not the Messiah. Matthew here relates the Messiah to the experience of the Jewish people and thus Israel is a type of Christ, specifically as God’s son.

        That be as it may, there are many other passages in the Old and New Testaments that do not speak to types but are actually supernatural prophecy. For example, in the life of Christ, as you should well be aware, we have the following:

        ■He would enter Jerusalem on a donkey’s colt (Matthew 21:4–10; Zechariah 9:9).
        ■He would be betrayed by a friend (John 13:18; Psalm 41:9).
        ■The betrayal would be for 30 pieces of silver (Matthew 26:14–16; Zechariah 11:12).
        ■The money would be used to purchase the potter’s field (Matthew 27:3–10; Zechariah 11:13).
        ■The Messiah would die a sacrificial death for us (Matthew 27:50; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Daniel 9:26; Isaiah 53:8).
        ■He would die with criminals but His burial would be with the wealthy (Matthew 27:57–60; Luke 23:33; Isaiah 53:9).
        ■He would rise from the dead (Matthew 28:6; Psalm 16:8–11; Isaiah 53:10).
        ■He would say certain words on the Cross. He would be mocked, and people would gamble for His clothes (Psalm 22:1, 8, 18).

        In other words, you are ignoring the elephant in the living room, sir.

      10. You are picking and choosing which texts to treat as typological and which to treat as predictions. Assuming any Gospel author had actual information about what Jesus said on the cross, why on Earth would you treat it as Jesus fulfilling a prediction as opposed to Jesus quoting a psalm that he knew? Why treat riding a donkey as something other than Jesus deliberately acting in accordance with a text he knew?

      11. Tony Breeden says:

        I ma not picking and choosing. I am using discernment to detrmine the context of the passage to determine whether the passgae is predictive prophecy or typology.

        You, on the other hand, are ignoring the predictive passages, pretending as if a few exceptions to the rule somehow disprove the rule entirely. You do so because you have an a priori assumption that the Bible is a purely human work and that, therefore, there cannot be any true examples of predictive prophecy within it. Hubris.

      12. No, I actually started with assumptions like yours, and concluded that it was hubris to keep insisting that the Bible fit my assumptions even when it resisted my efforts to push it into an inerrantist straightjacket.

      13. Tony Breeden says:

        See, there’s an irony. I actually started out rejecting the Bible and thinking I was being intellectually honest about it too. A decade later, I realized that I was simply being hypercritical and anti-supernatural.

        But since we’re being honest, how about you answer a question, just so I know whether I’m dealing with a believer who disagrees with me or a non-believer:

        Can you affirm the literal, historical, bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ, Dr. James McGrath?

      14. So if I give a one word answer “Yes,” do we then discuss whether it is possible to demonstrate this through historical study, what sort of body, etc. etc.? Or can we just focus on the topic?

        I am a born-again Christian. You can read about the details of my coming to a personal faith, and my specific beliefs, on my blog.

        But I really find the question inherently suspect. It sounds as though you don’t think that this matter can be dealt with on the level of evidence, and so are looking around for a back-up plan to be able to dismiss what I say without having to wrestle with it. Not all who have studied the Bible who aren’t Christians come to the wrong conclusions about it. Surely you know that, since Christian apologists regularly point this out when it is convenient to do so. And so can’t we focus on the evidence, rather than looking for ways to dismiss what the other person has to say?

      15. Tony Breeden says:

        Dr. McGrath,

        With all due respect, I have done my homework concerning you. Your blog is as vague and dissembling on this point as the end of your June 10, 2010 interview with Luke Muehlhauser [http://commonsenseatheism.com/?p=8103]. Note that many of those who commented likewise pointed out that the end of your interview was disappointing for its vagueness.

        As for whether I think the matter can be dealt with on the matter of evidence, I come armed to the teeth, so please quit dissembling. I am on record in the clearest manner possible. For example: https://siriusknotts.wordpress.com/the-everlasting-gospel/

        So then you’ll excuse me if I ask you to clearly answer the question again, Do you affirm the historical, physical bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ?

        To clarify, I ask this so I can determine whether I need to respond to you as a fellow believer with whom I disagree or with a non-believer who hides behind Christian terminology. For the sake of your own intellectual integrity, please quit dissembling and answer the question; I will happily discuss areas in which you disagree with the traditional Christian understanding of what “bodily” and like points, if you will do us all the courtesy of being bluntly honest [for once] by answering whether you affirm that Jesus Christ actually, bodily and historically rose from the dead.

        What say you?

      16. I am dismayed that you cannot engage in respectful disagreement with people and keep focused on the matter at hand. If you think that the evidence from creation is not a sufficient basis for discussion even across religious disagreements, I humbly suggest that your stance is at odds with Romans 1.

        I have no interest in carrying out a discussion if your approach is going to be to try to change the subject, or dismiss evidence based on ad hominem considerations. There are sufficient Christians who accept a literal, physical, bodily resurrection engaged in work in the natural sciences that I’m not sure what you hope to achieve by using these tactics.

      17. Tony Breeden says:

        I hope to achieve but one thing: clarity as to your beliefs on this subject so that I know whether I am dealing with a Christian with whom I disagree or a nonbeliever. Why do you continue to dodge the question?

        You see, I often ask my classes, if you were going to get into a fight, would you choose a flyswatter or a sword? Most of them choose the sword, but then someone realizes that they need to ask me another question: What are we fighting? Swords are useless against flies [I am not calling you a fly; this is an analogy]. So the purpose of the question is to help me understand where you are coming from so that I may address the issues more effectively.

        Why is this question so hard for you to answer?

    2. ChazIng says:

      Creation suffers because man broke divine law, it is not due to God’s doing per se. Creation ex nihilo or through guided evolution would pertain only to God. Your comparison is thus a non-sequitur.

      1. ChazIng says:

        Exactly, so that’s why McGrath is incorrect in his initial post blaming God for the result of man breaking divine laws and the resultant suffering. Sin and suffering are not God’s fault but it would be God’s fault for using an evolutionary process of death by mutation.

      2. I really doubt that you have never felt the impact of sinful behavior on your life, or seen the impact of your own sinful behavior on others. We all have. That is itself a penalty. And most Christians believe that there is an eternal penalty as well. So I don’t see how causing illnesses and meat-eating to affect animals is a more effective, appropriate, or intelligible penalty for human sin. It simply does not make sense. And the fact that, in Genesis 2-3, there is a tree of life access to which provides immortality shows as clearly as possible that the author of that text didn’t think that immortality was the norm. It was an exception, which humans could have had access to by grace, not by a pre-Fall nature.

      3. Tony Breeden says:

        And your opinion, Dr. McGrath, stands in the face of traditional Christian orthodoxy on this matter

      4. No, it doesn’t. It has never been the mainstream stance of the church to reject evidence from the natural world based on a literalistic reading of the Bible.

      5. Tony Breeden says:

        It has never been the mainstream stance of the church to reject the supernatural, James.

      6. This isn’t about the supernatural. Secular meteorologists never mention that God sends the rains, and yet there is no outcry. It is about the evidence and what we understand about natural processes as a result of studying them. If you can’t see God at work in natural processes, then you’ll have problems with weather and planetary orbits and not just biology or geology.

      7. Tony Breeden says:

        So we’re gonna talk about this, but you refuse to answer my simple question. wow.

        The issue is precisely about a supernatural creation as described in Genesis or an all-natural interpretation of the evidence which excludes all consideration of the supernatural. I just want to know how far your anti-supernatural hbias extends. Does it only concern our origins, or do you also deny thay Jesus rose physically and historically from the dead simply because scientists with their all-natural presuppositions deny that men rise from the dead? You do realize that Romans 10:9 prescribes faith – not doubt – in Christ’s resurrection as a requirement of salvation, right?

        And for the record, creationists do not deny that God uses natural processes except where he acts directly. I mention this because it seems you are setting up a straw man. We tend to presume that the natural answer is the best one UNLESS supernatural revelation [which you deny as existing and yet quote in a cherry-picking manner] says otherwise.

      8. So you do not oppose the explanation of rainfall in terms of natural processes, even though the Bible attributes the rain to God? Why then is it that you approach biology and geology so differently?

        And out of curiosity, do you take the dome mentioned in Genesis 1 literally or metaphorically?

      9. Tony Breeden says:

        So you’re gonna cowardly refuse to answer whether you affirm the literal, physical, historical resurrection of Christ, but we’re gonna talk about this. OK.

        Christians expect God to work through natural processes per Genesis 8:22’s promise of the uniformity of nature; however, we note that the promise of uniformity is not invoked until AFTER God’s perfect creation is affected by both the Fall and the Flood. Even so, God can supercede natural law by supernatural acts which we call miracles. God has withheld rain in the past through his prophets, but generally he provides rain to the just and the unjust through natural processes. Now, do you believe in miracles, as the Bible describes? or do you believe all supernatural acts are either mythical or have all-natural explanations?

        Note that as a Christian I expect the rain or lack thereof to have a natural explanation [even if Scripture reveals this process has been put in place as a blessing from God] unless supernatural revelation tells me otherwise [as was the case regarding some OT prophets]. It is upon this key pont that you and I disagree. It is hubris to suggest that we should accept the authority of the Bible where it concerns Jesus’ teachings or where it says that God’s power and deity are revealed through nature, but then deny it’s authority where it speaks of biology, cosmology, astronomy, geology or what-have-you. That sort of Choose-Your-Own-Theology or Choose-Your-Own-Truth might appeal to you, but it is not a faithful and consistent interpretation of God’s Word.

        I note here that you seem baffled as to why Christians makes a distinction between operational science which uses the scientific method [meaning it is directly observable, testable, repeatable and falsifiable] and origins science, which attempts to re-construct a past which is not directly observable, testable, repeatable, or falsifiable. If you understood the distinction, you would not have to ask why Christians approach the all-natural claims of scientists who weren’t there, don’t know everything and are, statistically speaking, largely biased against God where it concerns evolution and claims of long ages for the universe. Of course, you have conflated the all-natural interpretations of science with the evidence they seek to interpret, thereby blinding yourself to all other possibility.

        And, no, there is no dome in Genesis. The word rendered firmament simply means expanse. Kindly thatch that straw man argument somewhere else.

        Now, again, can you affirm the literal, bodily, historical resurrection of Christ or not? or intellectual integrity just not your thing?

      10. The only people who say the ancient Israelites did not think there was a dome over the Earth are people who have decided in advance that they are supposed to take the Bible’s language as scientific truth, and then refuse to accept any linguistic or other evidence which might challenge that belief.

        So if you think that we cannot use evidence and deduction to draw reliable conclusions about the past, are you saying that there is no way to deduce from currently-existing manuscripts that they were written by people who knew what they were talking about, and that historians cannot legitimately claim that there was a historical Jesus based on such evidence? Or is this distinction only one that you apply to views you choose to disagree with?

      11. Tony Breeden says:

        The only people who say the ancient Israelites believed there was a dome over the earth are people who think the Bible is full of myths and contradictions, so back atcha.

        You seem to think that evolution and millions of years are a better explanation for our origins because they are all-natural, but how much faith does it take to believe that everything came from nothing [or unobservable comic book multiverses], that life came from nonlife or that a frog can really become a prince if we just give it millions of years? [another question you’ve dodged, btw]

      12. If you think that evolution is about multiverses and something from nothing, then you must not have read anything whatsoever on this area of biology.

      13. Tony Breeden says:

        And he takes the “evolution is just about biology” dodge, folks! PZ Myers would have your head for that, McGrath. We’re talking about evolution as a scientific framework [ie., cosmological evolution, chemical evolution, biological evolution, etc]; please try to keep up.

      14. Blurring different realms of science, some well founded with heaps of evidence, some abstract and highly speculative, does make it easier to dismiss the entirety. So I can understand why you would choose to do that. But if you aren’t interested in interpreting the Bible according to linguistic data rather than your own imagination, and aren’t interested in discussing what scientific evidence indicates rather than using what we do not know as a means of dismissing what we do, then it does not seem that we have anything to talk about, or any basis for communicating. I believe that words have meaning, and evidence matters and should be followed where it leads, even if reality requires us to rethink our assumptions.

      15. Tony Breeden says:

        Nothing you just said changes the fact that evolution is taught as a cosmology and that textbooks use terms like chemical evolution, biological evolution, etc.

        Besides, if you were really interested in clarity, you’d tell us whether you can affirm whether Jesus actually, bodily and historically rose from medical death. But you can’t answer that because you don’t mean the same thing us actual Christians mean when we say yes to that question. Words don’t mean diddly-squat to you, which is why you hide behind doublespeak.

      16. No one who understands evolutionary biology confuses it with cosmology. If you want to discuss cosmology, then we can do so, but it is a different subject, dealing with different processes and difference evidence.

      17. Tony Breeden says:

        So neither PZ Meyers nor Eugenie Scott understands evolution?

      18. Tony Breeden says:

        My point is that the mainstream stance of the church has not historically been anti-supernatural, which is your stance; therefore, you stand in direct opposition to the traditional stance of the Church.

      19. Tony Breeden says:

        If God created a world of death and suffering through guided evolution, what was the penalty for man’s sin?

      20. “If God created a world of death and suffering through guided evolution, what was the penalty for man’s sin?”

        Spiritual death — the severing of an individual’s soul from his or her source of life, God. And because flesh is temporary, and the spirit eternal, spiritual death is a far graver concern than physical death could ever be.

        The Genesis text offers numerous reasons to believe the penalty is spiritual, not physical death. As James McGrath has already mentioned, one of them is the fact that there was a tree of life in the Garden. If nothing could die anyway, that tree was useless and unnecessary. Also, a world where all living creatures are called to be fruitful and multiply would soon be a very unpleasant one if there were also no death. Do you have any idea how fast fish, rabbits and insects reproduce, for example? The earth would have been “filled,” and its resources completely exhausted, within a handful of generations. Also, in a world where there is no pain, why did God curse Eve saying he would INCREASE her pain in childbirth? Sounds like Eve already knew what pain was and was fully capable of experiencing it.

        There’s more. God’s warning about the tree was that Adam would die “the day” he ate of it. Eve clearly expected the death would be immediate, to the point she thought she would even die from touching the fruit. But they did not physically die that day. The text indicates they both lived hundreds of years after the Garden. So either the serpent was telling the truth about the penalty for eating from the tree (which means God was lying), or the death God warned of was a different kind of death than they expected.

        And finally, God’s curse in Genesis 3 says nothing of animal death being part of the curse. You’d think he might have mentioned it. He thought Adam should know about thistles and thorns, but not the fact that the lions and crocodiles that used to be harmless would now be killing machines? You seriously don’t see a problem with that?

        On a related note, I challenge anyone to provide a single verse from the Bible that supports the idea that animals couldn’t die before the fall of man. If you cannot, then you must admit that the existence of natural evil is just as much a theological problem for your worldview as it is for mine (like David Evarts, I’m an evolutionary creationist), and stop using it to bludgeon positions you don’t agree with.

        In Romans, where Paul frequently discusses Adam and alludes to the fall, as you’ve mentioned, he says that when sin came to life in him, he died. Either he was a zombie when he wrote Romans, or the death that sin brings is spiritual — not physical. I, like you, trust in God’s promise that death, in all its forms, is the last enemy that will be destroyed. But the idea that there ever was a time in history that physical death did not exist in the world is a fairy tale, and one that is supported by scripture far less than you assert.

      21. Tony Breeden says:

        Paul was a zombie? That’s your actual argument? I’m seriously befuddled as to whether you’re being at all serious, especially since you describe yourself by a term [“evolutionary creationist”] that is nothing but an oxymoron [creation being a term that involved supernatural agency while evolution denotes purely natural processes]. Are you always so comfortable with being so logically inconsistent?

        I shall answer your arguments if you will deign to respond as to whether you’re quite serious. Know that every objection you raised has already been addressed by better apologists than I.


      22. ChazIng says:

        To expect a physical tree or the fruit thereof to provide the knowledge of good and evil as well as immortality is very poor theology. It would seem that you are being a hyper-literalist expecting these trees to have divine powers. Perhaps in your theology, those trees are part of the Godhead!

        It matters not if YEC theology doesn’t have all the kinks worked out (who does BTW?). Those trees make less sense in an “evolutionary creation” framework. Why would God use 3.5 billion years of death and then require two trees to provide immortality and the knowledge of good and evil? All historical records are open to interpretation and if the narrative was ‘plain’, you would more likely be a YEC.

        I also notice that you sadly do not tackle my replies to some of your other claims. For your benefit, I will repeat myself: the onus is on you to explain why a perfect God would use billions of years of death when it is simpler and more consistent with his nature to create over 6 days of 24 hours.

      23. ChazIng says:

        Tyler, to be alive is to display irritability, so the argument that an increase in pain = death before sin is silly. Your argument that the tree of life necessitates that there was prior death is to argue that the tree of the knowledge of good & evil necessitates that both also be known. This is demonstrably false as Gen 3:5 indicates that they desired to be ‘like gods knowing good and evil’.

        Where does it say that ALL living creatures were to multiply? While the death was spiritual, the consequences extend into the physical. Animal death is a consequence of man’s spiritual death as man is the ruler of the animals. This is like a sinful man’s family and property suffering the consequences of his sins.

        Evil is not a problem in a YEC worldview as evil plays an integral part in its formulation. However, to accept the present macro-evolutionary mechanism, the onus is on you to explain why a perfect God would use billions of years of death when it is simpler and more consistent with his nature to create over 6 days of 24 hours.

      24. “Your argument that the tree of life necessitates that there was prior death is to argue that the tree of the knowledge of good & evil necessitates that both also be known.”

        Seriously? What does the text describe as the purpose of the tree of knowledge? To grant to the eater the knowledge of good and evil. YEC theology says that the knowledge of good and evil did not already exist in the world, so there is no contradiction with this tree existing.

        Now, what does the text describe as the purpose of the tree of life? To make the eater immortal (Gen 3:22). YEC theology says that every living thing was already immortal before Adam and Eve sinned, therefore the tree was completely useless and served no purpose.

        See the difference?

        The onus is not on me to explain why God chose to create the way he did. The very long history of this amazing universe God created is plain in the record and the evidence he left. I’m sorry that the evidence wreaks havoc on your theology, but you don’t get to simply pretend it isn’t there because it’s inconvenient.

      25. Tony Breeden says:

        Once again, I pity those in your flock, goat.

        Yes, seriously. There isn’t a separate sauce for the goose and the gander.

        Nowhere does Scripture say Adam and Eve were prevented from eating of the Tree of Life, only the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. It could be their immortality was conditional upon eating the tree’s fruit. We will note that God made sure Adam and Eve were barred from it thereafter, yet we are promised that the Tree of Life will return in Revelation. So it could have served a purpose and you are still a Bible-denying prat.

        Your last two sentences caused my eyes to glaze over. You haven’t the gift of critical thinking. You ended on a soapbox with a point you never established.

        Nothing is plain in the record, credulous serpent. What we have is evidence – and evidence is never self-explanatory. It has to be interpreted. You can interpret that evidence on the authority of men committed to pure naturalism, on the authority of God’s revealed Word, or on your own authority as you do, picking and choosing when you believe the Bible is true and when it must be wrong because the naturalists object to the supernatural revelation of God.

        And btw are you at all familiar with Dr. Russell Humphrey’s gravitational time dilation theory that demonstrates how only six literal days could have passed on Earth while the rest of the universe is in fact very, very old? You know, if you stopped swallowing everything those opposed to the Bible have to say about the world and about us ignorant creationists, you might just learn a thing or two.

      26. Hey Tony, quite a long gap between my message and your response, wasn’t it? To answer your question, of course I don’t think Paul was a zombie. I was joking, obviously, but it doesn’t surprise me that you would have difficulty knowing when something is supposed to be taken literally and when it isn’t. The point was that Paul was alive even at times when he wrote about being “dead” in his sins (like Romans 7, e.g.), indicating that he was talking about spiritual death rather than physical death. This suggests that he may very well have been talking about spiritual death on other occasions that he wrote about “death,” like in Romans 5.

        As to the comment I wrote six months ago, feel free to respond if you wish, but unfortunately, I’m very busy for at least the next few weeks, and can’t promise I’d be able to devote much time (if any) to my end of the conversation. Peace.

      27. Tony Breeden says:

        Sorry, Tyler,

        You’re one of many casualties of my busy schedule.

        I got the absurdity of the argument, but you were offering a false dichotomy with one ludicrous option and the one you preferred. I decided to call you out on how poorly your argument was constructed. Only the truly credulous or plain gullible would have said you made your case.

        To address your point concisely, the meaning of a word is always determined by its actual context not by how it is used in other contexts, so your argument the word is used in a nonliteral sense sometimes is simply a case of special pleading.

      28. Thanks, Tony. I’m always eager to get advice on how to think and how to argue from those who interpret Genesis 1-3 as literal history.

        But you’re quite right, of course. We should never strive to read the Bible holistically. I’m guessing you don’t believe the talking serpent in Genesis 3 was Satan then? It seems to be identified as such in Revelation, but that’s far outside the context of that particular passage. We must use only the text of Genesis 3, which describes the slippery serpent as “the craftiest of all the creatures the Lord God had made.”

        OF COURSE we should look at the way a concept or word is used elsewhere, especially when we are dealing with a difficult passage like Romans 5, and especially when you can find other uses of the word by not only the same author but the same book (just a couple chapters apart). But even I conceded you the point, the context of Romans 5 alone points to spiritual death. Romans 5:12 says “death spread to all BECAUSE ALL SINNED.” We do not become capable of physical death because of sin, but we do die spiritually because of our sin.

        Later in the passage, the “life” that is discussed as being made available to us through the grace of Christ is not merely physical life. All of the people to whom this gift of life is offered are already physically alive. It is a different type of life that is being referenced. I say it makes sense that the “death” that is discussed is also a different type of death, not physical.

      29. Tony Breeden says:

        I weep for your congregation!

        If we were only sentenced with spiritual death, what hope have we of physical resurrection? You undermine our Blessed Hope with your bleating, goat. You’re translating it wrong to confirm your own biases, Bible doubter.

        And aren’t you cherry-picking by avoiding 1 Corinthians 15 on the subject entirely?

    1. Tony Breeden says:

      Here Joel Watts utilizes a good measure of cherry-picking to ignore the fact that Romans 10:9 makes an affirmation of the resurrection anything but an ancilliary doctrine of the faith AND hyperbole to accuse me and other YECs of attacking Jesus and the Apostle Paul as well as conducting an inquisition, as evidenced by my having the audacity to ask McGrath whether he believes in Christ’s resurrection.

    1. Tony Breeden says:

      Here McGrath suggests that I am looking for an excuse that can be used to dismiss things he says and evidence he presents, and uses that as an excuse to dismiss my question and distract people from the fact that he never clearly answers it. He finds this reprehensible.

      He also misapplies Romans 1:19-20, trying to make the verse say more than it does: that creation reveals God’s existence, eternal power and divine nature are clearly seen. It does not say that nature clearly teaches anything else, which makes sense if it was originally perfect, but has now suffered the effects of both the Curse and the Fall before the promise of uniformity of nature was given to Noah, Post-Flood.

  2. I have never met such an extreme postmodernist before. I believe that the meaning of words is not infinitely flexible, as you seem to. Linguistics dealing with ancient language look at the evidence regarding word usage and draw conclusions. But it is nothing new for science denialists to also be language denialists.

    1. Tony Breeden says:

      You keep saying things without actually supporting your points. Furthermore, you keep refusing to answer questions when you know your answers would be damning.

      I’ve never met such an intellectual coward… wait. Michael Zimmerman did the same thing for a while when I asked him if he was an atheist or a believer [back when he was being purposely vague about his beliefs like you’re being].

      But just so we’re both being held to the same standard, language denialist, what do the days in Genesis mean?

      1. Evening and morning. Ordinary days, according to the Jewish reckoning.

        My turn. When it says that “God said,” does that mean that divine vocal chords vibrated and the sound they produced was carried by some atmosphere already in existence?

      2. Tony Breeden says:

        Actually, you still haven’t answered any of my other questions, so you lose a turn

      3. I was curious about the limits of your literalism. But since you seem to think this is a game, whereas I am interested in serious discussion, I’m happy not to play. If you therefore consider myself to have forfeited and declare yourself the “winner” as a result, so be it.

    1. Tony Breeden says:

      This guy quoted one of Tyler Francke’s comments without bothering to mention that I answered it, making it appear as Tyler actually made some kind of valid point. Ah, the credulous. [shakes head]

      1. ChazIng says:

        Apparently, not the first time McGrath uses juvenile photos to ‘score a point’: https://www.facebook.com/aigkenham/posts/564435663586794

      2. ChazIng says:

        How utterly childish for someone in academia and I also answered Francke’s fallacious comment. Shame on you McGrath!

  3. Interesting post. I see you have McGrath posting here and he won’t let me post on his website nor does he come to mine.

    1. Tony Breeden says:

      Well,, he also refuses to clearly tell anyone whether he believes Jesus rose from the dead when his book espouses a version of the debunked mass hallucination theory for the resurrection. He’s a coward pretending at being an intellectual.

  4. Joseph B. says:

    Mr. Breeden, forgive me for not reading all this voluminous material ;), but could you answer a quick question: Do you believe in the 6000 (give or take a millennia) year old earth, or do you allow that the earth could be somewhat older, say 10,000 years or perhaps even a bit older? fyi, I believe in the 6 day creation, I just am not convinced the 6000 year number has been properly vetted. Thank you.

    1. Tony Breeden says:


      I believe the earth is about 6,000 years old, give or take a few hundred years. I believe this because of the genealogies of Genesis. The following link explains this more fully: http://creation.com/6000-years

      Thank you for asking,

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