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.
“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.
“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.