Genesis 1-11 is a historical narrative, not a parable or myth.

Science disputes the biblical claims about creation, including our two first parents, and about Jesus, including his miracles and his resurrection. But I believe in the historicity of Genesis 1-11—for the same reason that I believe that Jesus Christ was born of a virgin, crucified, and raised from the dead.

As a pastor and preacher, my faith and Christian worldview are not based on cleverly devised myths but on real historical facts. When I say I believe in the historicity of Genesis 1-11, I mean that the story told in those chapters—whatever literary devices are used to convey the message—is solidly based on historical facts. Like the rest of the book, Genesis 1-11 is a historical narrative, not a parable or myth.

It is this historical foundation that makes Christianity, as well as Old Testament Judaism, unique compared to other world religions. Without that foundation, Judaism and Christianity become just like the other religions of the world—the creation of human beings to explain the world around them.

The creation story in Genesis is part of the covenant document God gave to Israel at Mount Sinai. It acts as a historical prologue of the covenant, explaining Yahweh’s claim upon the people he had just delivered from Egypt and offering a brief history of the relationship between Yahweh, the sovereign King, and his servant people Israel.

In chapters 1-11, Yahweh says, “I am the Creator—I made you. I created you in my image and likeness. I made you perfect and placed you in a perfect world. However, your first parents sinned, breaking the covenant of works I made with them. Then, in my amazing grace, I did not destroy you under the promised curse but promised to send a child of the woman to bear the curse for you and to complete the covenant of works for you.”

The Son of the woman (Gen. 3:15) is Jesus, the second Adam, the new head of the human race. By his obedience Jesus fulfilled the covenant of works God made with the first Adam and removed the curse of Adam’s fall.

God’s creation of human beings in his own image and the historic fall of our first parents are not minor parts of the biblical account we may conveniently remove. For if we deny that Adam is historical, what reason do we have to believe in a historical fall? And if the fall is not historical, then God did not make humans perfect, but sinful. We are left with a totally different understanding of sin, grace, and the cross. We might as well throw our confessional documents away.

I cannot believe that the New Testament authors, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, were just reflecting the naïve pre-scientific views of their day. Like them, I believe that the author of Genesis was recording historical facts—standing on the principle that Scripture interprets Scripture, and that my Savior, who really did rise from the dead, was not wrong about a real Adam and Eve.

I believe in true science and in the Bible, God’s self-revelation to us about himself, us, and our world. And I know they cannot conflict. So where there are apparent contradictions, let us re-examine our science and our interpretation of the Bible. But let us proceed with caution, knowing that the Spirit Jesus promised would lead us into all truth has always led the Christian church to confess and believe that Genesis 1-11 is historical.

What actually happened in history mattered to the authors of the Bible. And it should matter to us.

Study Questions
  1. Van Ee writes, “I believe in the historicity of Genesis 1-11—for the same reason that I believe that Jesus Christ was born of a virgin, crucified, and raised from the dead.” Is it possible to believe that Adam and Eve were not historical persons but still believe in the virgin birth, crucifixion, and bodily resurrection of Jesus? Or would that be a necessarily unreasonable position for someone to take?
  2. What reasons are there to believe that Genesis 1-11 present us with historical facts? What reasons might there be to question that?
  3. If the Genesis account is not historical, argues Van Ee, “then we are left with a totally different understanding of sin, grace, and the cross.” What would those look like without a historical Adam and Eve and an actual fall as described in Genesis?
  4. Van Ee agrees that we need to take both Scripture interpretation and the discoveries of science seriously and that, when we do, they place before us apparent contradictions. He advises caution in too quickly allowing the results of scientific investigation to alter our interpretation of Scripture. Why should we take that warning seriously? What’s at stake here?
  5. Do you agree that the Christian church has always confessed the historicity of Genesis 1-11? How ought we to respond to those who do confess the virgin birth, the crucifixion of Jesus, and his resurrection but who do not believe that all of Genesis 1-11 was intended by the author to be understood as historical narrative?

About the Author

Bernard Van Ee is pastor of an emerging church at Big Springs, Calif.

See comments (50)

Comments

To summarize these arguments:

  • Biblical characters A & B must have existed, because the Biblical characters E, F & G said so.
  • The story of creation is historical, because if it wasn't then our religion would be fiction like the other religions.
  • The story of Adam & Eve must be true, because if it wasn't then our confessions would be wrong.
  • I believe it's historical, because it is historical, and you should too.

OK fine. I'll just ignore the extensively researched, coherent and fascinating scientific explanation for human origins in favor of a bunch of logical fallacies.

The Biblical account does not show exactly how God created the world. Science can not determined the past exactly, it can provide some probabilities based on some assumptions. From various accounts it seems that the pre-historic stories was shared among various semetic groups in the middle east.  Genesis 1-11 can be regarded as the collective knowledge of the past at that time. I find no conflict between the facts discovered by science and this collective story. There are numerous conflicts if 1) you consider Genesis 1-11 a scientific description, 2) you accept whatever people conclude from the scientific facts discovered as true.

There is no need to have this argument. We are saved by faith alone and by faith I believe in the Bible as God intended it for us. I know we need to use our wisdom and knowledge when reading the Bible, but is it really necessary to combine the knowledge we have of evolution from science with the creation story of Genesis. Do you believe in the resurrection of Jesus Christ? Do you believe that Christ was born, has died and will come again? Then all the rest is just the surrounding story brought to fruition by the birth, death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Have faith, strong faith andyou will one day find out the true truth when you see Jesus you can ask him.

Well said, Bernard VanEe! 

Thank you, Pastor Van Ee,

As a fellow pastor and currently a professor of apologetics and theology, I fully agree with your position and encourage it for all in our beloved denomination.  We need this to be taught and preached more in our churches and schools.

In support of your position, from the scientific world, factual science (vs. theoretical science) is moving closer and closer all the time toward the biblical position in the book of Genesis (using a grammatical-historical method of interpretation re: Genesis, as you correctly employ).

I pray that our denomination's pastors, teachers, and leaders will uphold this classic, biblical, Christian position and thereby be in harmony with our Lord Jesus' own position, that of other Spirit-inspired biblical writers, and which factual science is lending support in increasing measures.

God bless you for this article.

I can't believe what I read. The Bible is not a scientific/historical handbook but a story of faith! And it certainly is not true that Jewish people today or in the past read the O.T. as scientifically/historically accurate! Also to them, it is a story of faith.  Bernard Van Ee has a right to his opinion and I respect him for that, but apparently he stubbornly does not read or values the countless Bible-believing Christian scientists and historians who regard both testaments as powerful testament of faith, as a journey to the Kingdom. The Bible is a highway to God.

(Rev.) Jan J.H. Hofland

 

 

The poet Psalmist tells us, "By the Word of the Lord were the heavens made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth... For his spoke, and it came to be; he commanded. and it stood firm." John who was dear to the heart of Jesus writes, "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God... Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made... and the Word became flesh and lived here on earth among us."

We must encourage the greatest scientific minds to explore to the best of their ability God's marvelous creative genious, just as we must encourage the brightest theological students of God's written Word to explore God's redeeming grace and love revealed and expressed in the incarnated, resurrected, and ascended Word of God, his own Son. We must all continue to do our best to understand the workings, the mind and methodology of God always recognizing that ultimately both his creative genious and redemptive love are unfathomable. In humility let us encourage both scenitist and theologian in their pursuits and be willing to admit that when it comes to both creation and salvation we will never fully understand the workings of God.

Rev. Donald J. Griffioen

The story of Adam and Eve is not the first creation story in Genesis.  How any pastor or theologian educated in our tradition could miss this fact (this is an argument about facts, right?) is beyond me.  In any case, to adopt a literal interpretation of the Adam and Eve story is, I believe, to reduce it to less than Scripture. 

Everyone is entitled to hold their own views, of course, but what concerns me is that people are being misled by the kind of ideas Rev. Van Ee is teaching.  It betrays a serious lack of authentic Christian faith when one capitulates to the need to read the story of Adam and Eve as literal historical fact rather than as the sacred text that it is. 

Respectfully,

Rev. Derek DeJager

Derek deJager is of course entitled to his opinion, as confusing as it may be.  I'm not at all sure what it means that Adam and Eve is not the first creation story in Genesis?  True the light and earth and water and animals and plants were created first, but what is the relevance?  

Also deJager gives no proof nor rationale why a literal interpretation of something reduces it to less than scripture?  Again, what does this mean?   Does a literal interpretation of the resurrection also reduce it to less than scripture, even though it is based on scripture?  The "fact" is that literal historic facts are found in the sacred text.  If there were no literal historical facts in scripture, then scripture would have little or no validity.  (Unless you are defining literal and historical in a completely different way than they normally are defined.)

I find Dejager to be both confusing and misleading in this instance. 

Elder John

I want to question August's conclusion that Gen 1-11 can be regarded as the collective knowledge of the past at that time.  I would say that that is a generalization that does not speak specifically to Gen 1-11.  While we can assume that many creation stories are similar because they all have some basis in the actual truth of what happened, that does not mean that all creation stories are created equal.  Based on the revelation of God to Moses, it would not be unreasonable for us to assume that if God could give Moses his clear commands for morality and for temple worship and sacrifice, then God would likely have given Moses an understanding of the process of creation for him to write down.  Or that this would be in conjunction with a clear passing on of the story of creation from Adam to Noah to Shem and his descendants Abraham, Jacob, etc. , while stories passed on in other ways became distorted and almost unrecognizable, while still having similarities.  So maybe I am not understanding what August is saying (we should have discussed it at a wedding we were both at recently...), but I am presuming a bit more than just a collective story;  I am presuming an inspired recounting and recording of what actually happened. 

There appears to be too much archeological and anthropological evidence to allow a literal interpretation of Genesis 1-11.  Let's take the Flood story, for example.  Genesis 6 clearly teaches that the Flood destroyed the entire Earth and all its inhabitants (v. 7).  If we take this literally, all humankind is descended from Noah, who lived much later than Adam.  One would then be hard pressed to explain the differences in races over a relatively short time span, unless one can argue that Noah lived a lot longer ago than we have assumed.  If one argues for a local, more recent flood, Gen 6:7 makes little sense because the aboriginals in North America and Australia would have survived.

 

As to the question, "how sin entered world," if one assumes that humans did evolve, there must have been some time in history where "humans" became aware of right and wrong and where they started to make conscious decisions.  Animals have no sense of right or wrong even though it may appear to be so in the case of some domesticated animals.  Suppose then that, God, in his wisdom, allowed a species to evolve to the point where it would be able to make conscious decisions and that He allowed these creatures the freedom to make wrong decisions, and further that God chose to redeem these creatures from eternal death by the sacrifice of His Son. 

 

Now, if this is a plausible explanation for sin, how would God explain this to a civilization that had no idea of evolution and that saw the Earth floating on a "sea" and covered by a "firmament" on which the Sun moved as on a track with the Heavens beyond the firmament?  Could God not "describe" the beginning of conscious thought in the way He did by portraying a representative couple (Adam and Eve) making a conscious decision (eating a forbidden fruit)?  Would even Jesus not want to use Scriptures as had been given to His listeners to explain why He was the "Second Adam" where Adam was understood to be the architect of human misery and sin?

 

My question to Rev Van Ee is then, if I were to hold these views but can recite the Apostles' Creed without any reservation, would I be welcome in his congregation?

Thank you very much, Pastor Van Ee. I had a discussion with someone from my congregation (who holds a biology degree) last night about such matters. While we (with you) recognize the possiblility of various literary divices used to tell the story of Genesis, it remains a true story – and vital for our understanding of ourselves as needing redemption purchased by real Christ. C. Collins spells out these possibilites and certainties well in his book, "Did Adam & Eve Really Exist?" (your title got me looking at my bookshelf)

In order to distance ourselves from a factual reading of the Bible, are we ready to dismiss the factual truth of Psalm 8 simply because we have not yet discovered enormous fingerprints on the sun [Psalm 8.3]? Until the canon of science is closed and authenticated (by who, I'm not sure), I'm trusting the truth of the Word – in whatever manner the Holy Spirit inspired that truth to be conveyed to us. Thank you, pastor, for your dedication to the truth of the Word and defending this truth to those under your preaching.

@august g. I see some conflicts between the "science" and Genesis. One story has an original state that was altogether good and became subsequently corrupted as a direct result of culpable human agency. The other story doesn't. Big difference.

@The religious s... This "representative couple". . . were these two individuals qualitatively different from all the other human beings on the earth at the time? If so, how did they become that way, if not through a miracle of God that science could not possibly prove or disprove? And if God did perform such a miracle in suddenly infusing this "representative couple" with their distinguishing qualities, then what else is there in the story of human origins that is beyond the scope of scientific inquiry, simply because it is supernatural? On the other hand, if this pair of human beings were essentially the same as all the other human beings on earth at the time, then why would God not allow each of the human beings on earth at the time to make his or her own decision as to what kind of relationship they would have with God? In other words, why would Adam's neighbor down the road not be responsible for his own choices, given the fact that he was as much a moral agent as Adam was? I also wonder how you can echo Paul's comparison and contrast between the Adam and Christ in Romans 5 and apparently not see a problem for this inventive theory of a "representative couple." If indeed Jesus and Paul understood Adam as the "architect of human misery and sin," then doesn't it follow that there was no human misery and sin prior to Adam and Eve's catastrophic rebellion against God? But there is no scientific evidence for the sudden and huge degrading of human existence which is described in Genesis 1-3. It seems that at this point the attempt to syncretize the Genesis account with "the science" completely fails, notwithstanding the conjuring up of this "representative couple."

Dan,

First of all, thanks for taking the time to read my speculative submission and to comment.  Like many scientists, I have [had] to wrestle with the apparent conflict between "general" and "special" revelation.  The tentative option that I presented is just that, a tentative option.  I realize that I'm wading into deep water here, not being a theologian.

If we take God at His word that He is trustworthy, it is (to me) reasonable to assume that natural laws don't change.  God is not a capricious God who decides, at the spur of the moment (humanly speaking) to change the gravitational constant, the speed of light, or the half life of the decay of a radioactive isotope.  Therefore, scientists are capable to look at the geological and archeological information and reconstruct history, no different than a forensic scientist is able to reconstruct a crime scene.  My reading of geology and anthropology tells me that the Earth is very old (we have evidence, as I mentioned in my previous post, of a sustained nuclear fission that could only have occurred more than a billion years ago), that some sort of human life has existed for a long time and that humans were clever enough in the past to build fires, make tools, and even have some sort of worship.  To me, this suggests that these old civilizations knew right from wrong.  If so, Adam and Eve must have lived a very long time ago and, yet, the Bible tells us the approximate location of the Garden of Eden (Gen 2:10-14).  Rivers tend to wander and geology changes and the fact that the location of the Garden of Eden is quite explicitly described, suggests to me that the story of the Fall is rather recent, geologically speaking.

Now, let's assume that the anthropologic record is correct and that humans in one form or another have been around for a long time, and that there is also ample evidence of some sort of evolution.  Is it then too big of a stretch to consider that pre-humans slowly evolved to the point that they started to recognize that some things they did were wrong?  To me, it is interesting that the Bible combines the realization that Adam and Eve had violated God's command with the realization that they were naked.  These two separate us from animals (I cannot think of modest animals who cover themselves in some sort of clothing but maybe somebody will correct me).  This recognition may have come gradually and over long periods of time (God moves in mysterious ways).  God, in His wisdom, then allowed human to evolve into beings with the freedom to make wrong decisions.  This freedom comes with a price that has been paid by the sacrifice of Christ.  The act of disobedience, as described in Genesis 3 may then be no more than a fuzzy time in human history when humans started to differentiate between right and wrong.

Now, if this scenario is correct, how would God get this concept across to people in Old Testament times?  My suggestion (very tentative) is that God could "explain" this by postulating a "representative couple" in the form of Adam and Eve and place them in a location that the hearer could identify (Garden of Eden).

My suggestion gets around all sorts of problems, including the creation of Eve from a rib from Adam, a very crafty serpent that, apparently, was able to communicate with Eve and convince her that some fruit was pretty good.  This serpent was punished by losing its ability to walk.  My suggestion also answers the question as to why Cain was afraid (Gen 4) because there were people around.  More importantly, my suggestion also gets rid of the problem of "original sin" that has many wondering why a single act of disobedience could have such a wide-ranging impact.  Let's face it, one mistake by Eve (and then by Adam) resulted in the mayhem of WW I and WW II, the Holodomor in Ukraine, and the genocide in Rwanda.  It also gets around the perennial question if there was death before the Fall.  In my view, yes, there has always been death; it's part of God's design.

I don't have answers to all your questions, Dan, but I would suggest that Jesus may have "talked down" to his hearers who were familiar with the story about Adam and Eve.

I sincerely hope that my interpretation is incorrect and that somebody will come up with an argument that will square the special and general revelations.  To do so, will mean addressing the problems that are created by a literal reading of Genesis 1-11, including placing Adam and Eve in their proper place in history, the impact of the Flood on the aboriginals in Australia, the curious limited geographical distribution of marsupials, and the drifting of the tectonic plates.  Incidentally, I don't, for a moment, deny that miracles happen but I have some problems with calling on miracles when we see scientific evidence to the contrary.  Did Jesus walk on water during a storm?  Did Jesus miraculously multiply the bread and the fish?  The Bible tells us that there were reliable witnesses and that's good enough for me.

Finally, I am still waiting to hear from Rev Van Ee if somebody holding the views I have expressed and also subscribing to the Apostles' Creed would be welcome in his congregation.  I'll up the ante by including agreeing with the five points of Calvinism unless somebody can show me that the views I have expressed are incompatible with these five points.

religious s.,

I don't know your name, but thanks for your very thoughtful reply. In answer to your question to Rev. Van Ee, I can't, of course, speak for him, but I personally can't see any good reason why you should not be welcome in any orthodox, Bible-believing church. You are thinking hard about real questions faced by all of us. These questions don't have clear answers, and although we can live without answers, it is our God-given nature to seek them. By sharing ideas with an open mind between different perspectives, we can begin to understand what we didn't understand before. (It's called "learning.")

All of the controversy about the science or origins and the scriptural account has stretched my thinking and sharpened my understanding. That's all to the good, I would think.

It helps me to know you are a scientist. I'm not. That might be a source of tension as we converse together, but there is no reason why it can't be a creative and productive kind of tension.

I personally have a deep streak of agnosticism about many things science purportedly "knows" -- particularly in those areas where no actual scientific experiments can confirm or disprove a particular hypothesis; as in, e.g., anything that happened millions or billions of years ago.

I also have a problem when "science tells us" things that I find completely counter-intuitive. For example, the strictly natural process of evolution seems, on a basic common-sense level, to violate the Second Law of Themodynamics. I've never heard a credible attempt to explain how it doesn't. Maybe it's beyond my capacity to understand, but I haven't even heard someone claim to know how to explain this apparent discrepancy. If it looks like people are pushing a view while brushing aside valid problems with it, I tend to distrust them on those particular points.

Of course the General Theory of Relativity and Quantum Mechanics also are very counter-intuitive. They are also far beyond my understanding. Yet scientists who understand more than I do are constantly testing the theories against the facts, and checking up on each other's checking, and they all agree that, based on the evidence available so far, these theories clearly seem to be a description of reality.

There is nothing of that process possible with theories and hypotheses about anything that happened "in the beginning" -- and by that I mean the very beginning. The "Big Bang Theory" particularly seems without much warrant, in my opinion. It seems based on extrapolating backwards from observable phenomenon today to a point where none of the known physical laws of nature apply. Why in the world would scientists, who (as you point out) work on the assumption that physical laws of nature always apply, adopt a theory that includes a time when they didn't apply? Something seems a little out of wack here, at least from my unscientific perspective. Even though I don't understand the science involved, it does look like the people who do understand it are going about things in a somewhat irrational way. So again, I get very sceptical about what they claim -- especially when their claims require major revision in many of my current and deepest beliefs.

What particularly disenchants me with science is its apparent bias against the supernatural. I quite frankly see that bias in the hypothesis of a "representative couple." If I were a scientist trying to square the current genetic evidence with an "original pair" of human beings, I would hypothesize that God chose a pair of humanoid monkeys and miraculously infused them with "the image of God," gving them all the human qualities that make us different from the animals (including a soul) This miraculous event would of course not be evident in the fossil record, so no one could argue that asserting it happened was contrary to the evidence. Then, I would consider that God making man from the dust of the earth was a highly stylized way of describing a merely earthly monkey suddenly and miraculously becoming human -- attaining human qualities while every genetic quality remained the same.

That speculative move would solve every problem you are trying to solve with the "representative couple," and harmonize much more completely with the Genesis account. But -- and here is where the problem seems to come in for Christian scientists -- that move would amount to some kind of abandonment of the scientific method, since that method rigorously assumes that things only ever happen in accord with "the laws of nature."

I don't mind science explaining things and helping us gain technical mastery of the material world. But science can't explain everything, and when scientists attemp to explain everything scientifically, some true things get pushed aside. I do see that happening at times in this whole origins controversy.

Aside from that rather esoteric objection, I have no problem with your speculations, and would hope no one inhibits your participation in some very interesting conversations.

Thank you Pastor Van Ee for defending the historic, Reformed faith. Far too many in our denomination today seem self-critical in these matters.

Dan, thanks for your kind comments. This is probably not the proper forum to get too deep into scientific theories but I do want to take issue with your assertion that "the strictly natural process of evolution seems ... to violate the Second Law of Thermodynamics" [TD2]. I think you are referring to the concept of entropy and that entropy (or disorder) is always increasing. However, this applies to a closed system but the Earth is not a closed system because it "imports" energy from the Sun. Having said that, even if the Earth were a closed system, I cannot imagine how TD2 could prohibit a process of evolution. We have evidence that, on a small scale, some evolution occurs over relatively short times although opponents of evolution would argue that these minor changes cannot be termed evolution.
But, no matter! The reason I entered this on-line discussion is that Rev Van Ee claims that Genesis 1-11 is a "historical narrative, not a parable or myth." Of course, he is entitle to his opinion but, having made that statement, he is obliged to explain the apparent internal and external inconsistencies. Internal, as the two Creation stories (Gen 1, Gen 2 [Gen 1 has God create humans on Day 6; in Gen 2, God created "man from the dust of the ground" (Gen 2:7) before "no shrub had yet appeared in the earth (Gen 2:5)], and as to the number of animals Noah took with him in the ark (Gen 6:20 and Gen 7:2). External, in the apparent contradiction between God's General and Special revelation. I'm not all that concerned about internal consistencies and echo John Calvin's comment about Paul's incorrect quote of Psalm 51:4 in Romans 3:4 as being inconsequential. It's the apparent contradiction between the first 11 chapters of Genesis and the evidence we find in nature that is causing a major stumbling block. I've cited a number of these apparent contradictions in previous posts and see no need to repeat them. I point to reader to publications by Davis Young and Howard van Till, The recent publication by Davis Young and Ralph Stearly, The Bible, Rocks and Time, is an excellent read.
I accept that God is free to intervene into history and that He is free to suspend the natural laws that He has created. However, "God left so many clues in nature in the form of fossils, geological strata, fluid inclusions in icecaps" that can only be explained with our current understanding in terms that do not agree with the narrative in Genesis 1-11.
What troubles me about Rev Van Ee's article (and the decision by the editor of The Banner to publish it) is that it may set up a barrier to those who have difficulties with Genesis 1-11 representing a "historical narrative." It has been argued by a number of Christian scientists that the six days of Creation cannot be read as six consecutive 24-hour days. One plausible explanation is that the creation of the Sun is relegated to Day 4 to put the Egyptians in their place because they worshipped the Sun as their god.
If we, for the sake of argument, take the position that God chose to use evolutionary processes to create what we have today, there may have been a time when pre-humans (Neanderthal, pre-Adamites, perhaps) looked like humans but had not evolved to the point that they could differentiate between right and wrong. There were probably a lot of them and as, as time went on, some of these individuals slowly (and by the grace of God) became aware that some actions were right and some were wrong. It may have been one individual and, slowly, over the years, others started to realize that you don't kill your children or your aged parents. [Note: my Icelandic pastor-friend tells me that, when Iceland voted to accept Christianity, the "heathens" (as he calls them) were allowed to continue the practice of "exposing of infants" by abandoning them]. This very gradual realization that some actions were right and others wrong could then be portrayed as a single event in history, by Eve, and then Adam, disobeying God by eating the forbidden fruit. My question then is, how could God reveal this to a civilization that had no concept of evolution and a very limited understanding of geology and astronomy? Why not, by "talking down to humans" and using the narrative in Genesis?
Does this matter? I suggest that it does. In the West, Christianity is having a difficult time: church attendance is dwindling, mainline churches are losing members, and young people in particular. When you get down to it, the nub of our Christian faith is summarized, to me, in John 3:16. As Calvinist Christians, we adhere to the theology as expounded by John Calvin in his Institutes and, as members of the "Holy Catholic Church" we recite the Apostles' Creed. Why then debate the historicity of the first eleven chapter of Genesis? If the intent is to drive scientists away from the Christian Reformed Church, it may just work.

The religious skeptic

@religious skeptic. I would enjoy having a long conversation over three or four cups of coffee with you.

Van Ee says (and I agree) that science and the scriptures can't be in real conflict. When they appear to be, it is because either our science is mistaken or our interpretation of scripture is mistaken. Those two omnipresent possibilities together create a sea of grey in which we can swim together for a long, long time without loosing our faith or excommunicating one or the other of us.

I think it is helpful to remember that something can be a description of real history without conforming to a particular format for recounting what happened. Revelation is a description in many places of future history, as is Jesus' "Olivet Discourse" in Matthew 24. But the history is recounted in very "non-scientific" terms, which doesn't of course make it false. It does, however, leave some ambiguity regarding what "really happened" and when and how did it happen. That doesn't matter, however, as long as we get the intended point.

You still believe in an historical Fall. Your way of portraying it is driven by your scientific sensibilities, which I don't share with you. That doesn't make me a better Christian or you a heretic. Your part of the big grey sea is as valid as mine.

I know this sounds a little bit "postmodern," but I want to emphasise the limits of my "relativism." In this big grey sea there are some solid rocks that don't move -- God's clearly revealed truth, which includes the set of fundamental beliefs that C.S. Lewis named "Mere Christianity." Your map of realiy and mine have the same rocks in the same places.

As far as the sun providing the power and whatever else is necessary for primordial ooze to become something as organized as DNA or the human brain apart from any external input other than that which came from the sun, and apart from any intelligent direction. . . . well, let's just say I have a hard time warming up to that.

I'm sure we could enjoy our coffee together anyway :-)

 

@ (Rev) Jan J F Hofland and Rev Derek DeJager

 

I can’t believe what you just wrote!  You are pastors?  The Bible most certainly is a book of history and has been shown to be 100% accurate at that.  Pastor Van Ee did not say that the Bible was a scientific text book but where it speaks regarding science it is accurate.  What he is saying is that when our very limited minds come to a theory that clashes with what we know to be true then we may want to rethink our theory.  I grow quite weary of those who will constantly try to make it a science vs. faith issue.  Those of us who believe the Bible literally and as such believe the historical accounts as recorded in Genesis also have a love of science.  And let’s not forget the difference between observational and historical science. In the past science flourished only when carried out within a biblical context.  It’s really just elephant hurling to exaggeratingly say that “countless Bible believing Christian scientists and historians” regard the Bible as not being historically accurate, but simply a “testament of faith, as a journey to the Kingdom” whatever that might mean.  If we cannot trust the Bible as being accurate, it is not a highway to God but a road to nowhere.

As for the blog by Rev Derek DeJager, I must say that it’s difficult to understand exactly what you are trying to say, but I get the gist of it. You speak of “facts” as if you have some concrete evidence that Adam & Eve were not historical figures? You seriously believe you can produce facts concerning otherwise? This is historical science we are talking about remember.  Reading the text as written and thereby as Adam & Eve being actual historical people is not “adopting” a literal position, but rather reading it in a straight forward way as intended.  Whose interpretation should we use then, yours or one of the thousands or other ideas floating around? We don’t reduce Genesis to “less than scripture” by believing Adam & Eve to be historical, the text IS scripture – it tells us what happened and what to believe.  We should not try to tell God what He is trying to tell us.  You say that you are concerned that “people are being misled by the kind of ideas Rev. Van Ee is teaching.”  Seriously, think about what you just said! We are talking about God’s Word here! Although many may not believe what the Bible says, very few especially those who study Hebrew would ever say that Genesis is not written as historical narrative.  That aside however, what else in the Bible would you discount as simply allegorical or symbolic in some way?  I suppose we would have to discount the birth of Isaac, the parting of the Red Sea, manna and quail in the desert, Jericho, Jonah, the birth of John, as well as the birth and resurrection of Jesus, since “modern science” would deem these impossible.  But if Adam wasn’t real than none of this would matter anyway, since then death did not come into the world by the one man Adam, so there would be no need of a Saviour the second Adam.  If sin and death were present from the beginning, God becomes the originator of sin and Christ would not need to die to conquer death and to pay for our sin.  How can anything in the Bible make sense without an explanation of where sin and death came from and why we need to be saved?

You say that we betray a serious lack of Christian faith when we capitulate “to the need to read the story of Adam and Eve as literal historical fact rather than as the sacred text that it is.”  I’m not exactly sure what you might be trying to convey here, but to call the Bible sacred text in one part of your statement while reinterpreting the text speaks volumes. It’s frightening to think that leaders in our church would so compromise the Word of God.

 

Dan,

Again, thanks for your thoughtful response. I like the way you describe these uncertainties in a "sea of grey" with the certainties as "solid rocks." In the past, I've often thought that the first thing I would like to do when I'm "translated into glory" is to ask God how He did all this but, lately, I would probably be so overwhelmed and so preoccupied with glorifying God that any questions would be irrelevant. I so wish that there was no conflict between God's general and special revelation but that's not the way it is and we have to deal with it.

Scrolling up to the article by Rev Van Ee, I noted the study questions at the end of the article that I either missed before or that were added later. It's probably a good idea to give my succinct answers here.

1. Van Ee writes, “I believe in the historicity of Genesis 1-11—for the same reason that I believe that Jesus Christ was born of a virgin, crucified, and raised from the dead.” Is it possible to believe that Adam and Eve were not historical persons but still believe in the virgin birth, crucifixion, and bodily resurrection of Jesus? Or would that be a necessarily unreasonable position for someone to take?
TTV: Yes, I think so, because there were eye witnesses to the virgin birth, crucifixion and the bodily resurrection of Jesus. With eye witness I include the testimony from Mary. I don't put the historicity of Genesis 1-11 at the same level as that of the four Gospels and the predictions of these events in the OT

2. What reasons are there to believe that Genesis 1-11 present us with historical facts? What reasons might there be to question that?
TTV: There are many Christian scientists (van Till, Young, etc) who have shown that accepting a global Flood is at odds with the geological record. Anthropologists tell us that there has been a lot of human (or pre-human) activity for a very long time.

3. If the Genesis account is not historical, argues Van Ee, “then we are left with a totally different understanding of sin, grace, and the cross.” What would those look like without a historical Adam and Eve and an actual fall as described in Genesis?
TTV: Not necessarily, one can imagine the "Fall" as a time when pre-humans became human by acquiring a conscience. This acquisition could have come through evolution or by an interaction by God, just as God interacted occasionally in history.

4. Van Ee agrees that we need to take both Scripture interpretation and the discoveries of science seriously and that, when we do, they place before us apparent contradictions. He advises caution in too quickly allowing the results of scientific investigation to alter our interpretation of Scripture. Why should we take that warning seriously? What’s at stake here?
TTV: I agree that one must be very careful in altering our interpretation of Scripture but we have already done this in the past when we rejected the ancient concept of the universe and, more recently, the geocentric universe. Although I would argue following "the world," there are cases where the scientific evidence is so overwhelming that ignoring it becomes counterproductive and hinders the spread of the Good News.

5. Do you agree that the Christian church has always confessed the historicity of Genesis 1-11? How ought we to respond to those who do confess the virgin birth, the crucifixion of Jesus, and his resurrection but who do not believe that all of Genesis 1-11 was intended by the author to be understood as historical narrative?
TTV: Even if the Christian church has always confessed the historicity of Genesis 1-11, this does not mean that it should continue to do so if evidence from general revelation proves otherwise. Be kind in your response to those whose views are different! (and remember how Prof Daniel Harlow and Prof John Schneider were treated). Take the time to investigate general revelation and do so prayerfully.

This will probably be my last comment on this topic on this forum. Let me end by identifying myself. I am a retired scientist, received my first degree at Calvin College and owe a great debt to the members of the Christian Reformed Church who nurtured me and allowed me to attend Calvin. For geographical reasons, I left the denomination but have been, and continue to be active in my congregation. I selected a "nom de plume" and then had second thoughts but could not think of an easy way to make the change.
Shalom!

Tjalle Vandergraaf (aka "the religious skeptic")

While I agree w/ the gist of the article, Van Ee's first sentence sets a poor course for what follows. By personifying "Science" at the outset as something (someone?) in conflict w/ Biblical claims regarding creation and Jesus, he creates an evil caricature out of one of God's great gifts to us ... science! In reality, some scientists dispute Biblical teaching and some don't, an idea that Van Ee hints at when he affirms his belief in "true science" late in the article ... but I'm sure that at least a few readers never made it that far b/c of the "evil science" caricature at the beginning.

Obviously, a good journalist tries to engage readers w/ a strong first sentence, but Van Ee (or an editor) could have done better w/ this one.

here is a link: network.crcna.org/forums/global-mission/creation-vs-evolution-impact-witness-and-faith

Skeptic, Genesis 2:5 says, “no shrub of the field”  and “no plant of the field”.  The phrase “of the field” is important and critical, since it refers to plants that were planted and managed by mankind.   The explanation is that they were not there because there was no one to work the fields, thus no farmed fields.   Ergo, no contradiction. 

No conflict between Gen.6:20 and 7:2 either, since he did take two of every kind, as well as seven (five additional) of clean animals.   It seems to me that creating supposed conflicts in scripture where there are none, reveals a bias of some kind. 

 

There are others who would disagree that Young and Stearly is an excellent read.  There are those who would say that Young and Stearly misinterpret the evidence. 

 

This explanation or comment simply supposes that God’s explanation of creation was dependant on the perspective of the Egyptians or some other nation, rather than on what actually happened.   That doesn’t say much about God, nor about scripture, nor about special revelation. 

  

If this primitive civilization had no concept of evolution or geology and astronomy, and thus could not understand it, then how would they get an understanding of God which they also did not know?  What kind of bias are you displaying by assuming that they could not understand an evolutionary explanation if one had been provided to them? 

 

Dan says you have the same “rocks” as believing Christians do.  Well, yes, I agree somewhat, but your basis for it becomes somewhat tenuous, and your bias seems to be somewhat against it too.    Since you have difficulty with a special creation as well as with a universal flood, some scientists will have an easy time to convince you that miracles cannot happen.   Your assumption that scripture can be written or manipulated to say inaccurate things in order to appeal to or apply to a certain audience, makes the authority of scripture doubtful.  For example, if the genesis story only put the sun on the fourth day to stick it to the Egyptians, then the reverse is also true, that if this was found to be false, the Egyptians could stick it right back to the Israelites.   And I would think God would know this.   Even Moses would know this. 

 

Realizing that this earth has gone thu dramatic times, leading to the finding of seashells on the tops of mountains, should make you realize that there may be other very dramatic possibilities for how it has been formed and shaped.  It may be difficult to explain exactly how everything happened, but it is unlikely in my opinion that it happened based on common gradual processes that we observe today, although we may get some clues from present day dramatic events. 

 

There have been some detailed discussions of this issue on the crcnetwork in the past, about a year or two ago, I believe.   You may get some more info and ideas from there in a couple of blogs/discussions/forums. 

John, I had not planned to continue to comment on this forum but, reading your comments, I don't think I have much choice.  I will grant you that Gen 2:5 may refer to "field" but my NIV version mentions "earth" or "land."  Regardless, this verse does mention that God had not sent rain on the earth (land/field).  Yet Gen 1:11 tells us that the land produced vegetation (well before the creation of the Sun (Gen 1: 14-19 on Day 4).  One has to wonder how these plants grew in the absence of a Sun!  Of course, there was light so the plants could have thrived in this light but they would have had to do without rain (oh, maybe it was a heavy dew?).

Nuclear physics tells us that the chemical elements we find on Earth were synthesized in the Sun.  It's difficult to come up with a process that does not involve the nuclear fusion process of the sun in the formation of the elements although it can certainly be postulated that God created the Universe, complete with the stars and planets (but not the Sun or Moon) in one fell swoop.  He then also placed most solar systems a long distance away and the light they emit close to the Earth so it would appear that the light from these stars had been traveling for many years.  God also placed fossils in the various geological strata to make them look old so that He could test the godless geologists.  Somehow, this does not sound like the God Who revealed Himself in Scripture.  Oh, I forget, maybe Satan planted those fossils to deceive us, as some have claimed.

As to your response about the two different commands to Noah, why would God give Noah two different commands (two of all living creatures (Gen 6:19-20) and seven pair of every kind of clean animal and one pair of every kind of unclean animal and seven pairs of every bird (Gen 7:2-3))?  But I'll grant you that this is no major issue; I simply mentioned it because it is a bit odd and not because I have a particular bias.

Davis Young and Ralph Stearley are well-respected geologists and, although I'm sure that "there are others" who would disagree that their books are an excellent read, one would have to know who these "others" are and what their qualifications are.

Your mentioning of the "finding of seashells on the top of mountains" makes me think of the fossils in the Burgess Shale in the Rocky Mountains, near Emerald Lake, BC.  Note that these fossils were found in shale. Shale is a sedimentary rock that is formed from clay particles that have been compressed by high pressure over long periods of time.  It's highly unlikely that these fossils can be cited a evidence of the Biblical Flood that only lasted less than a year.  I agree with you that the Earth has gone through dramatic times (but that we know this as a result of studying the geological record; look at Mt Rundle near Banff some time and you'll see that it consists of sedimentary layers that have been thrust so that they are now slanted) but scientists (Christian as well as non-Christian) have been able to explain these using accepted fundamental natural laws.  On the contrary, Creationists (Henry Morris, for example) tend to pick at one or other observation to prove their point but fail to come up with a scientifically satisfactory explanation that fits all of the data.  If you accept a "global Flood" you will have to account for the distribution of humans across the Earth, and the (pardon me) "evolution" of Noah's descendents into the various races, from Caucasian to Australian aboriginals, all within the time span between this Biblical Flood and now.  Of course, you can always revert to a miraculous intervention by God (and I don't, for a moment, reject miraculous interventions) but then, should the geological record not show this?

I could go on and on but, I have mentioned earlier, other Christian geologists, anthropologists, biologists and geneticists have done a much better job than I can do.  If you have not already done so, I suggest you read the book by Young and Stearley.  It's only 31.99$ and you may be able to borrow it from your local library or through interlibrary loan.

But we're getting well off the questions that were posed at the end of the Banner article, especially the last question, "How ought we to respond to those who do confess the virgin birth, the crucifixion of Jesus, and his resurrection but who do not believe that all of Genesis 1-11 was intended by the author to be understood as historical narrative?"  Would these people be welcome in your congregation?  Would they be allowed to teach Sunday School?  Would they be allowed to serve as elders and deacons?   John, I understand you are an elder in your congregation.  What would you decide?

 

Shalom,

 

Tjalle Vandergraaf (aka "the religious skeptic")

Tjalle keeps asking a question which is a more specific version of the same question which is last in the list of discussion questions following the article. So far no one has answered it as clearly as it deserves to be answered. It is a hugely important question.

John Calvin writes this in his "Institutes of the Christian Religion"

BEGIN QUOTE
What is more, some fault may creep into the administration of either doctrine or sacraments, but this ought not to estrange us from communion with the church. For not all the articles of true doctrine are of the same sort. Some are so necessary to know that they should be certain and unquestioned by all men as the proper principles of religion. Such are: God is one; Christ is God and the Son of God; our salvation rests in God's mercy; and the like. Among the churches there are other articles of doctrine disputed which still do not break the unity of faith. Suppose that one church believes -- short of unbridled contention and opinionated stubborness -- that souls upon leaving bodies fly to heaven; while another, not daring to define the place, is convinced nevertheless that they live to the Lord. What churches would disagree on this point? Here are the apostle's words: "Let us, therefore, as many as are perfect, be on the same mind; and if you be differently minded in anything, God shall reveal this also to you" [Philippians 3:15]. Does this not sufficieintly indicate that a difference of opinion over these nonessential matters should in no wise be the basis of schism among Christians? First and foremost, we should agree on all points. But since all men are somewhat beclouded with ignorance, either we must leave no church remaining, or we must condone delusion in those matters which can go unknown without harm to the sum of religion and without loss of salvation.
END OF QUOTE from Inst. IV.1.12

John Calvin here doesn't definitively answer all the questions that arise in conjunction with Tjalle's, but it does inject a consideration that is often lost in all the heat of the creation science question; namely, that recognizing what we and others don't know and can't know is as important as standing up for what we do know and ought to know. There is a lot that scientists don't know and can't know in spite of their habitual over-reaching. Likewise for theologians -- even those whose interpretations of scripture are all completely correct; the Bible doesn't tell us everything.

Ah yes, Dan, you are right.  We will not always agree on everything.  But that doesn't necessarily make me more comfortable.  I hear too often, well, you got your opinion and I got mine...whatever... everyone's entitled.  What happens usually is that is the end of the discussion, and no one learns anything more, and sometimes important issues get relegated to back benches.  It's a way that people have of avoiding the issues, while still holding on to their opinions and beliefs. 

Now I know that sometimes it is the only solution to simply agree to disagree.  But we often do this much too quickly.  Too often our fear of schism makes us afraid to tackle certain issues.  And often we begin to call certain things "non-essential" which are still very important to our faith and our understanding of scripture and of God.  

Tjalle, I want you to know that I am not questioning your desire to serve God.  Partly I cannot question what I don't know (and I don't know your heart), and partly the issue for me is about the implications of certain ideas for our understanding of our faith. 

Some on these discussions have said it is more about the heart than about the head, it is more about accepting the essence than the details of our theology.  That's partly true, but at the same time it is difficult to understand or trust a God who lies, or a scripture which tells untruths.   So I trust that scripture tells the truth, and I trust that God tells the truth.  If there was a reason that scripture used what sounds like untrue language, or is called symbolic or figurative language for the story of creation, then the reason for this symbolic reason would still have to make sense.   So far I have never seen a reason that clearly made sense for that, beyond our mere desire to wish it so. 

Dan, I can be brothers and sisters with those who deny infant baptism;  they have good reasons for denying it (although I disagree with them), and they demonstrate a great conviction of faith and trust and service.  But when we are dealing with evolutionary theory, I become much more cautious, because so many of the proponents of it use the theory as a way to evaluate and describe everything in life, and a way to deny God any place in it.  The main theory as it is described cannot be subscribed to by Christians.   Christians need to find ways to adapt the theory, but these adaptations of the theory are not acceptable to most scientists in the field because they describe these adaptations as "non-scientific".   In addition there are leaps of logic needed to join basic evolutionary theory with the scripture story of creation. 

So, as a result, I prefer to challenge the theory of evolution in as many ways as possible.  If I am wrong, it will eventually be revealed to me.  But in many ways, if we don't challenge it, we are wrong already in our assumption that God is somehow subject or subordinate to the creation He made and to the scientific methods he enabled us to use.   I prefer Daniel who denied the godhood of Nebuchadnezzer.  I'm with the early christians who refuse to offer a sacrifice to Ceasar.   As long as evolution denies God, then we know that some understanding is missing in those who propose the theory.   And for that reason, I do not totally trust science conducted in that paradigm. 

Yes, Adam and Eve definitely did literally exist.  True science is showing more and more that the Bible has been accurate all along.

 

"The Search for Adam and Eve", was a Newsweek article by John Tierney, Lynda Wright and Karen Springen. This article of January 11, 1988 stated: "Trained in molecular biology, they [scientists] looked at an international assortment of genes and picked up a trail of DNA that led to a single woman from whom we are all descended”.

 

Maternal mitochondria DNA is passed relatively unchanged in the female line only. Over time, mutations occur in the DNA of humans. How many mutations have occurred since Eve? How fast do mutations occur? In other words, what is the rate at which the mitochondrial DNA clock runs? If the number of mutations since Eve were known, then one could calculate how long ago mitochondrial Eve lived.

 

"Calibrating the Mitochondrial Clock", is a ‘Science’ article by Ann Gibson. Article of 2nd January 1998 stated: “Mitochondrial DNA appears to mutate faster than expected, prompting new DNA forensics procedures..." For example, researchers have calculated that mitochondrial Eve - the woman whose mtDNA was ancestral to that in all living people - lived ... using the new clock she would have lived a mere 6000 years ago.

 

 

If you do not accept this history (Genesis) and prefer to believe that man's body developed as a result of an evolutionary process you are still left with the question of how to explain Eve for the Bible is very particular as to the origin of Eve.

D.M. Lloyd-Jones 

 

“And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up

the flesh instead thereof; And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.” Genesis 2:21-23

 

Luke traces the family tree down through Heli, father of Mary, mother of Jesus, through David’s son Nathan, until we read in Luke 3:38

“... Seth, who was the son of Adam, who was the son of God.” 

Therefore Adam, the son of God is related to the Son of God (our kinsman redeemer).

 

As Eve is related to Adam, Eve is also related to our kinsman redeemer.

 

"And Adam called his wife's name Eve, because she was the mother of all living." Genesis 3:20

 

And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth Acts 17:26a

 

And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit.

1 Corinthians 15:45

 

 

“For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountain of knowledge; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries." Robert Jastrow

Tjalle, the problem of lack of rain, ought not to be a problem;  irrigation or a high water table, whether due to underground springs or melting snow, but more importantly, Gen. 2:6 specifically mentions mist or streams coming up from the earth to water it. 

Then you bring up the plants on earth one day before the Sun… well, it’s a problem if one day is not a day…  But maybe not, maybe there is another possibility, as you say for an energy(light) source. 

Nuclear physics doesn’t tell us anything; It is people who tell us that the chemicals of the earth were synthesized in the Sun.  Perhaps other people could merely tell us that they are similar to chemicals that are synthesized in the sun.  Or other people could tell us that the material and processes the sun derived from also created the earth.  But in the end, it is speculation based on the limits of our present knowledge.

Fossils look like fossils; dead things resembling things once living.  Once they are fossils, they don’t necessarily “look” older; they are only determined to look older by certain deductions and specific measurements such as the rock layers and accompanying fossils.  If the deductions and assumptions are incorrect, then they are not as old, nor do they any longer look older.  But even if they are “old”, that doesn’t say how old they are, nor does it require that they must have evolved. 

It’s true, Tjalle that there has not been a lot of work done in alternative geological explanations.  There is relatively small amount of funding and energy spent in looking for alternative explanations.  Evolutionists constantly say that if there was a better explanation than evolution, that it would be picked up in an instant.   However, I do not believe that is true, because evolution as a religion is so closely tied to evolution as a scientific theory.   Considering other theories creates religious problems for many/most evolutionists, even more so than considering adaptations of evolution causing problems for Christians, as you yourself are evidence for. 

 

However, one attempt which is somewhat credible includes Walt Brown’s book, “in the Beginning”, which is much more detailed and refined than anything Morris has written in terms of trying to postulate an alternate geological process.  I doubt that Brown’s book has all the answers, but it raises some interesting possibilities. 

 

I also like the videos and scientific discussion brought by Ian Juby (you can get his youtubes free on the web).   It is possible that he is not 100% right every time, but he gives some concrete examples of where evolutionists are certainly not right 100% of the time.  I get a little tired sometimes of hearing the responses from evolutionists, that well, evolutionary scientists know what they are doing; there are answers for all the problems;  and the average guy wouldn’t understand so just trust them, and it takes too long to explain, etc. 

 

Much of the evolutionary theory is based on the absence of evidence.   Since fossils are not present in a particular rock layer, it is assumed they didn’t exist when the layer was formed.  It’s a bit like saying that since it is sunny and dry today, there must not have been any rain here last year on this day…  Or,… that since there are no buffalo on mainstreet today, there probably never were any buffalo eating grass in that part of the city area in the past.

 

There are serious problems of logic with various aspects of evolutionary theory, such as deducing that because closely related humans or animals have certain similarities in their DNA, that therefore all species are related and descended from a common ancestor merely because they have some DNA.  The varying sizes of DNA (in gigabytes) from similar or disimilar organisms seems to bear no relation to any type of supposed ancestral tree.

 

In my opinion, evolutionists by and large get an easy ride, since so few people challenge the basic tenets of the theory.  Students are invariably taught by evolutionists.  Every supposed human ancestor fossil gets a huge news story, even long before research is published, and when it is not published or when the fossil is shown to be false, or fabricated, or misinterpreted, it is a back page story, taking years to be changed in the public mind and in the school textbooks.  Aspects of the theory is taught about as fact long before the facts are in evidence.   Those who propose alternate theories or who point out foundational problems with evolutionary theory, always face an uphill battle. 

 

Suppose, that even as an evolutionist, you made it a habit to point out problems with evolutionary theory; that instead of defending it, you looked for inconsistencies in evidence and logic.   Suppose that you did this to even the playing field a bit, realizing that evolutionary theory is not at all like straightforward mathematics or like elementary  chemistry, but instead contains a lot of speculation, forensic science, circumstantial evidence, and deduction from correlations rather than from cause and effect.  As charitable as you are, you might yet find this difficult to do.  But it would be a credit to you, not to simply fall in line like a good little evolutionary soldier, but rather to improve and enlarge the field of discovery by insisting that evolution needs to be subject to normal rules of scientific discovery and deduction, and not be allowed to make broad claims of supposed “truth”, without being challenged on basic principles and on specific “evidence” at every opportunity. 

 

So I leave it to you this time, to imagine alternative possibilities for why shales such as Burgess, might contain sea shells and yet be thousands of feet above sea level, in formations which are not straight but often curved and usually sloped.  The theory is that they were buried by mudslides at the base of a reef, had even their soft body parts preserved,  then buried by 10km of vertical rock, then pushed upwards obviously, to the tops of the mountains, several km high, with the 10 km removed.  Sounds good if you say it real fast. 

 

And guess what?  All the major present day phyla of animals are represented in those same shales… (says Wikipedia)  in a sea environment… well, imagine that. 

 

 

 

 

What about claim: 95% to 98% homology between DNA of humans and chimpanzees?

 

Is this claim true or false?

 

Reality is that there is already a 11.5% difference between number of DNA base pairs of humans versus chimpanzees.

 

Humans: 3100 million base pairs; Chimps: 3500 million base pairs. (Nature 2005 437(7055) 69-87)

 

Humans have 6.2 billion bases; Chimpanzees 7 billion bases in their respective genomes. 

  • Latest alignment: 4.8 billion bases
  • Maximum demonstrated identity 68% - 77% 
  • Rearrangement not included 10% - 20%

 

Human / Chimpanzee differences:

  • Based on only 80% of genome
  • Not including all non-aligning DNA
  • Heterochromatin not considered
  • Chromosome scrambling ignored

 

Now, as Paul Harvey would say, you know the rest of the story.

 

“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” Philippians 4:8

This table listing number of chromosomes per creature / plant shows how ridiculous evolution is:

 

Chicken
Dog
Duck

78
78
78

Identical Triplets?

Horse

64

 

Cow

60

 

Silkworm

56

 

Cotton

52

 

Amoeba

50

 

Chimp
Tobacco

48
48

Identical Twins?

Human

46

 

Bat

44

 

Wheat

42

 

Soybean

40

 

Cat

38

 

Starfish

36

 

Apple

34

 

Alligator
Onion

32
32

Identical Twins?

Frog

26

 

Opossum
Redwood
Kidney Bean

22
22
22

Identical Triplets?

Corn
Marijuana
Carrot

20
20
20

Identical Triplets?

 

“Evolution is a fairy tale for grown-ups.  This theory has helped nothing in the progress of science. It is useless” stated Louis Bounoure, director of France’s Strasbourg Zoological Museum and professor of biology at the University of Strasbourg.  


1. It is reasonable for an individual to believe anything, provided their teacher is convincing and the facts they are presented with are plausible. This makes me think of the movie, "The Truman Show", a story about a man who finds out his entire life is a T.V. show. I always wondered why the director(of the show, not the movie)bothered to have Truman learn anything about the outside world. Wouldn't it have saved him from having to go to the trouble of making Truman fearful of water to prevent him from wanting to leave his island? He had complete control of every detail of Truman's life. Why open up the possibility that there is more to the world than the island? Well, it wouldn't be much of a movie.
In relation to the first chapters of Genesis, why would God inspire Moses to record this story? God has control of every detail of our lives. Why would he need us to know about how we came to be and how we fell from grace? Why aren't we little automatons without imaginations, interested only in what we can see around us? Why let us know about heaven? Well, it wouldn't be much of a life...
2.Tjalle says he can reasonably believe in the virgin birth, crucifixion, resurrection of Jesus because there were eye witnesses. Genesis 1-11 has its share of eye witnesses too. Adam was an eye witness of the Garden, of the creation of his wife(at least, to the fact that she wasn't there before he fell asleep), his and his wife's disobedience, God's curse and his promise, etc. He lived for 930 years. Don't you think he would have shared this information with his children, grand children, great grandchildren, great great....? And Shem, Noah's son, was still alive when Abraham's father was born. Wouldn't he have told anybody who would listen about his experiences on the ark? These individuals may not have been the ones who wrote down what we read today, but then Mary didn't write down her story either.
3. Can't begin to imagine.
4. and 5. What's at stake here? Our belief in the Bible. When we become comfortable with treating parts of God's inspired word as frivolous, there's no stopping us dismissing the rest of it over time. Let's follow the advice of Jude: 20-23.

Dan, thanks for bringing John Calvin into the fray and for citing that particular comment.  It's very relevant to this discussion. I was earlier thinking about relegating the question about a historic Adam (and Eve) to the adiaphora although that terms deals more with commands but you get my drift.

It's always a bit dangerous to invoke Calvin because he lived half a millennium ago, well before geological investigations  In fact, he apparently believed in a young earth ("We must not be moved

by the profane jeer, that it is strange how it did not sooner occur to the Deity to create the heavens

and the earth, instead of idly allowing an infinite period to pass away, during which thousands of

generations might have existed, while the present world is drawing to a close before it has completed

its six thousandth year."[ I.14.1]).  How he would have interpreted the Biblical Flood in light of subsequent discoveries is anybody's guess.

 

There is a lot that scientists do not know (your comment made me think of the one made by Donald Rumsfeld: "There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don't know we don't know." ) However, scientists use their God-given curiosity to try and understand the Created world and attempt to come up with a self-consistent explanation that fits known theories.  Admittedly, scientists develop a consensus that may be difficult to change but new ideas will take hold as they are shown to be validated.  Continental drift is a prime example: it took a while before Alfred Wegener's explanation of the "fit" between the coastlines of South America and Africa was accepted.

 

Actually, this discussion has become one of "diminishing returns."  The mind of many correspondents is set one way or the other and this is not the forum to change opinions.  It was certainly not my intent to do so; I merely pointed out some areas where I found accepting Genesis 1-11 problematic.  I can refer to books by Christian geologists; John Zylstra may counter with references that support a sequential six day creation that has no problems with the Sun being created on Day 4.  And, no I have never heard of Ian Juby  but a quick search on the Internet did not exactly give me any warm and fuzzy feelings about him.  In response to Joy citing an article in Newsweek on maternal mitochondria DNA, I point her to an article by Dennis Venema (Trinity Western University) in the 2010 September issue of Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith (62(3)).

 

In the final analysis, the Christian Reformed Church and its member congregations will have to decide if there is sufficient latitude to "tolerate" believers who have problems with the historicity of Genesis 1-11.  As I mentioned earlier, does insisting on the historicity of Genesis 1-11 form a stumbling block that may prevent some from accepting the Good News?

 

Shalom.

 

Tjalle Vandergraaf (aka "the religious skeptic")

Dan, thanks for bringing John Calvin into the fray and for citing that particular comment.  It's very relevant to this discussion. I was earlier thinking about relegating the question about a historic Adam (and Eve) to the adiaphora although that terms deals more with commands but you get my drift.


It's always a bit dangerous to invoke Calvin because he lived half a millennium ago, well before geological investigations  In fact, he apparently believed in a young earth ("We must not be moved


by the profane jeer, that it is strange how it did not sooner occur to the Deity to create the heavens


and the earth, instead of idly allowing an infinite period to pass away, during which thousands of


generations might have existed, while the present world is drawing to a close before it has completed


its six thousandth year."[ I.14.1]).  How he would have interpreted the Biblical Flood in light of subsequent discoveries is anybody's guess.


 


There is a lot that scientists do not know (your comment made me think of the one made by Donald Rumsfeld: "There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don't know we don't know." ) However, scientists use their God-given curiosity to try and understand the Created world and attempt to come up with a self-consistent explanation that fits known theories.  Admittedly, scientists develop a consensus that may be difficult to change but new ideas will take hold as they are shown to be validated.  Continental drift is a prime example: it took a while before Alfred Wegener's explanation of the "fit" between the coastlines of South America and Africa was accepted.


 


Actually, this discussion has become one of "diminishing returns."  The mind of many correspondents is set one way or the other and this is not the forum to change opinions.  It was certainly not my intent to do so; I merely pointed out some areas where I found accepting Genesis 1-11 problematic.  I can refer to books by Christian geologists; John Zylstra may counter with references that support a sequential six day creation that has no problems with the Sun being created on Day 4.  And, no I have never heard of Ian Juby  but a quick search on the Internet did not exactly give me any warm and fuzzy feelings about him.  In response to Joy citing an article in Newsweek on maternal mitochondria DNA, I point her to an article by Dennis Venema (Trinity Western University) in the 2010 September issue of Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith (62(3)).


 


In the final analysis, the Christian Reformed Church and its member congregations will have to decide if there is sufficient latitude to "tolerate" believers who have problems with the historicity of Genesis 1-11.  As I mentioned earlier, does insisting on the historicity of Genesis 1-11 form a stumbling block that may prevent some from accepting the Good News?


 


Shalom.


 


Tjalle Vandergraaf (aka "the religious skeptic")

I've addressed some of your points already, Tjalle, but I want to say something about geocentrism, which is almost always brought up in every discussion on this issue.  (your point 4)  Yes, there were issues of geocentrism.  There were scientists who were convinced that the earth was the center of the universe, based on their observations.  This was upheld by many churchmen who quoted biblical phrases such as "the four corners of the earth", "the ends of the earth", and "the earth is not moved".  But they ignored the phrase "the circle of the earth" (Isaiah 40:22).  Both geocentrism and heliocentrism are the results of observations that can be made today and verified today.   In other words, even knowing better, people still say that the sun came up at a certain hour.  The phrase "to the furthest corners of the earth" still means something.  I do not see a parallel between this and an evolutionary interpretation of genesis one. 

 

The church is in a difficult position. It was unprepared to stand up against the onslaught of evolutionary teaching that started some 200 years ago. It chose to attack the validity of science. Now, when the church tries to show how science is compatible with God's word, evolutionists will have none of it. Only their view of geology, paleontology, anthropology is the correct one. Inconsistencies are downplayed. When a new discovery "proves" something, it's big news; when further study shows they were incorrect, it ends up in small print(if it's published at all).
Christians are dividing themselves into creationist and evolutionist camps. Accusations of intolerance abound. Others claim that none of this matters as long as we hold to the truth of the gospel.
But what is the Good News if there really isn't any bad news. If death was always part of the plan, what did Jesus conquer? Why is there a penalty for sin if it's something we just evolved an awareness of? These are stumbling blocks, are they not?

It seems those who choose to compromise Scripture with so-called science seem to almost regard the Old Testament as totally separate to the New Testament, perhaps even optional.  And yet our Lord Jesus Christ is actually the Creator which is clearly stated in John 1: 1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.  

 

Also John 5:46 “For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me; for he wrote of me.”  Including: 1 Corinthians 10:4 “And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ.” This is referring to when the Israelites were in the wilderness.  

 

Especially in Exodus 20 we read "And God spake all these words," (God included our Lord Jesus Christ) including verse 11 "For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it."

 

Thomas Huxley (1825-1895) understood Christianity much more clearly than did the compromising theologians. He used their compromise against them to help his cause in undermining Christianity.  The Church succumbed to the teachings of Darwin, propagated by Huxley, the ardent anti-Christian humanist who, in 1861, concerning a series of lectures he was giving, said, 'By next Friday evening they will all be convinced that they are monkeys.'

 

In his essay 'Lights of the Church and Science', Huxley states, 'I am fairly at a loss to comprehend how any one, for a moment, can doubt that Christian theology must stand or fall with the historical trustworthiness of the Jewish Scriptures. The very conception of the Messiah, or Christ, is inextricably interwoven with Jewish history; the identification of Jesus of Nazareth with that Messiah rests upon the interpretation of the passages of the Hebrew Scriptures which have no evidential value unless they possess the historical character assigned to them. If the covenant with Abraham was not made; if circumcision and sacrifices were not ordained by Jahveh; if the "ten words" were not written by God's hand on the stone tables; if Abraham is more or less a mythical hero, such as Theseus; the Story of the Deluge a fiction; that of the Fall a legend; and that of the Creation the dream of a seer; if all these definite and detailed narratives of apparently real events have no more value as history than have the stories of the regal period of Rome — what is to be said about the Messianic doctrine, which is so much less clearly enunciated: And what about the authority of the writers of the books of the New Testament, who, on this theory, have not merely accepted flimsy fictions for solid truths, but have built the very foundations of Christian dogma upon legendary quicksands?'

 

Huxley quotes Matthew 19:4-5 ('And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?'), and then comments:

'If divine authority is not here claimed for the twenty-fourth verse of the second chapter of Genesis, what is the value of language? And again, I ask, if one may play fast and loose with the story of the Fall as a "type" or "allegory," what becomes of the foundation of Pauline theology?'

And to substantiate this, Huxley quotes 1 Corinthians 15:21, 22:

'For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.'

Huxley continues, 'If Adam may be held to be no more real a personage than Prometheus, and if the story of the Fall is merely an instructive "type," comparable to the profound Promethean mythos, what value has Paul's dialectic?'

 

Huxley quotes various theological sources in which the authors attempt to harmonize the Bible with belief in such things as millions of years, and who suggest that Noah's Flood was just a local event. Concerning this idea, Huxley states, 'A Child may see the folly of it.' He gives a detailed account of what he sees as the absurdity of such an idea when one reads the account of the Flood event in Genesis — particularly considering what the topography of the area would have been like where this 'local flood' supposedly occurred.

When we speak of the historical fact of a global flood and use fossils to uphold the fact we are already at a disadvantage to the evolutionists. The word fossil used to refer to things dug up, to organic material preserved in rock. Only in the last century has the definition contained the words "from a past geologic age" meaning that the material preserved was from a time before man. So even using the word fossil denies the Biblical Flood.

Fossils are supposed to be impressions of plants and animals that no longer exist and yet examples of modern day insects, shellfish, fish, reptiles, birds and even mammals along with plants are found in "dinosaur age" rock. Fossils of squirrels, shrews, beavers, primates! Why are these tucked away in storage instead of being on display at museums? It just doesn't fit with evolutionary thinking!

 

Tjalle, you suggest diminishing returns from this discussion, which suggests to me that you feel that your comments are not given validity, and therefore you can not have any impact.   In a way, you are right, that basic opinions are not likely to change quickly, but even so, some common misperceptions on both sides can still be changed. 

 

For example, Walt Brown’s book considers an adaptation of Wegener’s continental drift theory.  Brown aligns continental plates based on a different alignment than simply the surface of the continents, but instead uses the continental shelfs, which provides a better and less forced alignment.   

 

Ian Juby has given many people warm and fuzzy feelings, primarily because he is down to earth, visits geological sites and formations, has built creation science museums, and humorously points out the contradictions in evolutionary literature.  This would give anyone warm and fuzzy feelings.  

 

You suggest that Joy should read an article by Venema in Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith, but it is ironic that Venema on the one hand quotes Bonhoffer: “We are to

find God in what we know, not in what we don’t know; God wants us to realize

his presence, not in unsolved problems but in those that are solved.”  And then on the other hand claims that natural mechanisms can generate new information (supposedly this implies “natural” without any intelligent design).  Is Venema suggesting that natural mechanisms are not part of that intelligent design?  Doesn’t this contradict his Bonhoffer quote? 

Anyway, I didn’t see a direct reference to Joy’s table of chromosomal pairs sizes in Venema’s article, perhaps I missed it.  Joy’s table only deals with chromosomes, but the variation in gigabytes of dna per species is even more dramatic in not having any relation to the supposed complexity or development of a species.  Nature.ca claims that the largest known genome belongs to an amoeba, then closely followed by lungfish and easter lily.  Many amphibians also have a larger genome than humans, apparently…  The size of the genome doesn’t relate to the complexity, apparently.  Does that mean that more information is not always better?  What does it mean really?  It suggests to me that an evolutionary pathway would  not necessarily be the result of an increase in dna information.  It can be the result of a decrease in information, which would suggest devolution. 

It seems that information is more than just dna.  The arrangement of the dna is more significant than its quantity.  It’s not how many letters you have on the table, but how they are arranged, that make the difference, and that is the essence of intelligence vs randomness. 

Venema’s argument is that predicted common ancestry is substantiated by examination of various aspects of the genetic code, including synteny, genetic homology, and sequencing, including sequencing of inactive dna.  Ironically, predicted common ancestry is mostly based on organism homology.  Why would it be surprising to see similar dna for organisms with similar homologies?   In spite of all the possible variations of dna sequence and content, and his arguments that they should resemble each other less if intelligently designed, I would still think that it is not surprising to see similar dna for similar organisms, with or without any supposed common ancestry. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

John, when I mentioned "diminishing returns," I meant that this forum is not the most appropriate one to revisit the debate about science and religion or whatever terms one wants to use.  If we go back to the initial article by Rev Van Ee, he stated that the first 11 chapters of Genesis are "a historical narrative."  I commented (on July 31) that there was too much geological and anthropological evidence to allow a literal interpretation.  We then had, I thought, a very civil exchange between Dan Brouwers and me where we agreed on a "sea of grey" with "solid rocks" as certainties."  I was quite happy to leave it at that (see my last comment on my entry dated August 8) because I could see this forum becoming derailed and become a battle between proponents of a literal interpretation and those who have problems with that approach, each citing evidence to bolster their case.

 

I note in your latest entry a reference to "intelligent design."  That, by itself is enough to start another debate.  For every Denyse O'Leary there is a Loren Haarsma.  The former is a freelance journalist; the latter a professor of physics at Calvin College.

 

But I come back to the "study questions" following the end of the article by Rev Van Ee and that I addressed to you in my post of August 10.  If we accept the fact that there are two widely divergent views on the historicity of Genesis 1-11, how does a denomination and how does a church council deal with this?

 

If you think that I'm throwing in the towel because I can no longer support my views, so be it.

 

Shalom,

 

Tjalle Vandergraaf (aka "the religious skeptic")

Okay, you threw in the towel.  I think we have all kinds of people in church.  We have those who have never been baptized, and those who go to restaurants on Sundays, and those who work regularly on sundays, and those who do not send children to christian schools, and those who drink too much, and others who smoke cigarettes, and some who have been divorced and remarried, and some who engaged in premarital sex, and some who blatantly disagree with some of the confessions.  Why wouldn't those who believe in evolution guided by God, also be able to attend?  

God has room for all people who desire to serve him completely, especially those who wish to forsake their lives for Christ's sake. 

Rose, when you stated: “when the church tries to show how science is compatible with God's word, evolutionists will have none of it", this can be answered.  Firstly, it is true science that is compatible with God’s word.  Almighty God is the ultimate scientist.  Belief in evolution is a faith just as belief in Biblical Creation is based on faith. 

Actually evolutionists, especially those who are atheists, such as Thomas Huxley, typically have contempt for Christians who compromise (trying to mix chalk and cheese) because they see far more clearly than compromising Christians, that claiming to believe in God and evolution at the same time is actually inconsistent. Typically former atheistic evolutionists who become Creationist Christians, state that they had more respect for those that are consistent, i.e. believe in Biblical Creation and the Gospel (both of our Lord Jesus Christ).

Contrary to Tjalle’s claim, there is plenty of evidence to support a literal interpretation of the historical narrative in Genesis.  Both sides have the same evidence, i.e. looking at same/similar fossils, rocks etc.  What is different is the interpretation which is based on bias. For example when an evolutionist looks at the Grand Canyon he might say: “Wow, look what a long time and a little water produced”.  Whereas the Biblical Creation would say:  “Wow, look what a little time and lots of water produced”.  There have been recent catastrophes that have replicated what probably happened to form the Grand Canyon.  It is probably far better for us to have our bias in sync with Almighty God than fallible humans.

Indeed Almighty God says in: Isaiah 55:8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. 

Isaiah 29:16 Surely your turning of things upside down shall be esteemed as the potter's clay: for shall the work say of him that made it, He made me not? or shall the thing framed say of him that framed it, He had no understanding?

I agree with you completely, Joy. The hard part about discussions like this is getting everyone to agree what true science is. Tjalle holds the view that the geological, archeological and anthropological records are correct. Period. Will he acknowledge that these records do not explain themselves but that someone has interpreted the information according to his own bias?

Joy and Rose, I really appreciate your contributions to this discussion.   Your points are very relevant and significant.  Changing the bias is like the difference between pessimism and optimism.  And you increase my optimism. 

I want to express my qualms about the use of various words in this discussion which are derivatives of the word "historical." I do believe that Adam and Eve actually lived, and that they were the first pair of genuine human beings. I also believe that they rebelled against God by believing the lies of the evil one, and thus plunged the human race into sin and death and condemnation.

I also believe that to deny all that is a serious deviation from Biblical teaching, which will eventually cause other important areas of theology to unravel --- and that consequently "we can't go there."

I hear Tjalle toying with the idea (which is fine IMO), but settling on it as any kind of confirmed conviction and commitment may or may not turn out to be within the "official boundaries" of our denomination. That matter is currently hanging in the balance, as we await the report of Calvin College's committee to deal with the interrelationship of faith and science, and what Synod eventually does with the report of this committee next summer.

Be all that as it may, when we insert derivatives of the word "historical" into the discussion, we inject a very troublesome element of ambiguity.

Let me use an analogy to the book of Revelation to make my point. The analogy is appropriate and helpful IMO due to the fact that in many ways Revelation is a description of future history, as Genesis is a description of of past history.

Take the 1000 year reign of Christ as an example. We don't always agree on the exact form this reality will take or how it fits into the timetable of history as a whole. But nonetheless all orthodox Christians agree that it is a reality in history. The book of Revelation, for all its symbolism and figurative language, is not merely an imaginative "fairy tale." It is rather a very imaginative portrayal of reality, which is accomodated to our limited capacity to completely understand the complete reality.

I pretty much have a parallel position regarding the reality of Adam and Eve, and also regarding the very relevant questions as to how that reality is conveyed in Genesis vis a vis our modern, scientifically conditioned preconceptions of what meets the standard of "accurate" in "historical" accounts.

To make a second analogy, are Mommy and Daddy misrepresenting the truth when they tell their 3 year old daughter that Mommy is going to have a baby, and that this baby is "growing inside Mommy's stomach"?

Scientists who feel compelled to "correct" the pre-scientific, accomodated descriptions of reality in Genesis have about as much effect on me as they would on a three year old as they try to explain the important differences between a uterus and a stomach. That distinction is important for a surgeon, but otherwise not all that crucial to many of our conversations.

Dan, historical, history, his story, can't have too many different meanings, although it may have some connotations.   With regard to your example of the stomach word, it has at least two main meanings.  One is the biological, medical, scientific term.  The other meaning is related to it, but is more like "tummy", or the general area of the abdomen.  Both of these terms are valid in their context, and neither term is poetic or fanciful or inaccurate. 

Some of the terms in Genesis 1 also have more than one potential meaning.  Theoretically, day could mean a period of time rather than 24 hours.  But in the context, with morning and evening specifically mentioned each time, it cannot mean an undifferentiated period of time from beginning to end, from first to seventh day.  That would be like using the word stomach to refer to your big toe or your knee. 

There are many things in Revelations that we can't be sure of how they will apply.  The city of Zion being a magnificent cube... how would that work?  Where would it be?   We don't know.  We can imagine trying to understand some of the 400 prophecies relating to Christ on earth.   "As a lamb before its shearers is dumb, so he opened not his mouth."  How would you interpret that if you didn't know how Jesus was tried and died? 

Still, the words mean what they say, don't they.  When people suggest that stories were adapted to people's understanding... well that doesn't make much sense.   The prophecies were barely understood by very few people.  The parables usually needed to be interpreted.   Jesus miracles surpass our understanding.  I would rather say that the truth and accuracy is there, whether we understand it or not.   Therefore the genesis story was not adjusted to accomodate to people's understanding;  it was written to be more accurate than what we can imagine. 

John, when you write, "There are many things in Revelations that we can't be sure of how they will apply," I agree wholeheartedly. I would also add that if when we are finally walking the streets of the New Jerusalem, the streets aren't literally paved with gold, we won't conclude that anything in the book of Revelation was "inaccurate."

My point was that in a similar way, there are many things in Genesis that we can't be sure how the DID apply, and there may be elements of the story as written that may correspond to the streets paved of gold in Revelation, which would not render Genesis "inaccurate" in any but a very restricted and unnatural sense.

Your literalism is showing in your insistence that "day" in Genesis 1 must be understood as a 24-hour period. When you go to Revelation 20, do you understand this 1000 year period as one which is still in the future -- in which Satan will be bound so that he cannot deceive the nations, and in which Christ will reign with the "the souls of those had been beheaded," and after which the Final Judgment will occur? And if you don't interpret Revelation 20 along those lines, what happened to the literalistic hermeneutic you use when interpreting the days of creation? After all, "a thousand years" isn't 2000 years and counting, is it?

I wonder what you make out of "the expanse" or "firmament" in Genesis 1. It is something which clearly has water above it and below it (see Genesis 1:6-7)? I we don't know what that is in our terms of understanding what is there when we go up and up and up, then perhaps describing the physical world with that term is an accommodation, wouldn't you say?

Dan, some scientists are convinced that the stork brings the baby. I don't think John is saying you have to literally believe that the creation days were 24-hour periods as we know them now but examine the reasons why we are encouraged not to believe that. God could have stretched creation week over 6000 years or 6 million years but that's not what He said He did. God said His creation was good. Does that include disease, destruction and death?

 

Rose, I still read John as arguing that the "days" of creation were 24 hour periods. I really don't know or care how long the days of creation were in our way accounting time. I do believe that God created this world and everything in it good, and that disease, destruction and death are all part of the result of the culpable acts of Adam and Eve, that we all share in their guilt, and that this is why we need the salvation obtained for us by Christ, the "second Adam." I'm not in the strict literalist camp, and I'm also not in the "Oh well, it's just a myth" camp. I expect that the "official" position of the CRC is going to turn out to be somewhere between those two extremes, and that would be just fine IMO.

Dan, I have never spent a great deal of time wondering when this thousand year reign of Christ would be.  I believe that it is possible that 1000 years is symbolic;  but maybe it is literal.  It does have a real significance, where Satan will be obviously bound in a unique way.  But the important thing is how we live, in spite of Satan being bound or not in various ways.  Satan was bound by God, limited to what he could do with Job.  And yet Satan is not totally bound, and in many ways is deceiving the nations even today.  Yet Christ reigns!  So I do not make it a point of contention. 

I think that maybe it is possible that one day means more than one day, and represents a period of time, but, this does not seem to be the most likely, based on how the entire story of creation is told.  If it is symbolic, then it makes no sense to talk of seven days if all the days are indistinguishable from each other.  Therefore, what is the symbolism?   What do the days represent?  How are they separated by a symbolic morning and evening?   Since those questions are not answered, the symbolism seems to be contrived. 

Thus I also agree with Joy and Rose that the significance of those "days" falls in line with the significance of the special creation and existence and fall into sin of Adam and Eve.   I don't mean that everything in scripture is only to be taken literally;  but if it is not literal, there ought to be a good explanation of why those words were used and what they mean symbolically.  Do you find that to be the case in the Genesis account?  If the days were long, eons, how does that still work with God created everything and saw that it was good? 

As far as streets of gold... well it would surprise me a great deal if there was no meaning to it.  Whether you could find gold on every street, or whether gold is the new pavement, or whether the value of the streets would be more significant than gold... who knows?   To me personally, gold doesn't mean much, and I could live quite happily without it... but how that applies to the streets in heaven, I'm not sure. 

As far as the expanse above which there was water, and below which was water, there are two possibilities:  first that it applies as today, water in the sky and water on earth, considering "sky" or "heavens" to have two meanings, as they sometimes do today... the sky we can fly in, and the sky showing the stars.  Second, that the condition of the sky was different than it is today, up to the time of  Noah and the flood.  It's not appropriate to use this "firmament" term as some kind of barometer of the physical accuracy of terms or scientific concepts.  It only reveals a bias in how to regard scripture as inaccurate, when it really isn't.  We can instead regard it as more accurate than the scientists of the time may have though it, even though they didn't fully understand what was in the heavens or how everything was separated. 

Dan, I'd like to be happy with a "middle of the road" position but I think that leaves the church in a very vulnerable position. It's a bit late in the day for the church to be coming up with its official position and in the meantime, a lot of bad science has taken hold.(Besides that, my bit of research shows that Synod accepted a report that basically said,"We believe God is the Creator but here's the proof of evolution". Correct me if I'm wrong..). Those of us in the "literalist camp" have a hard time defending our position that what is described in Genesis is real and has a flesh and blood impact on us today because 1) people automatically cite things like the fossil record and geologic column--as they are interpreted-- as proof that the earth cannot be young and 2)people emphasize the Spiritual lessons of Genesis over any possible physical lessons and 3)people are convinced that all that really matters is believing in Jesus/having faith and we can wait 'til we get to heaven to find out the truth.

 Tjalle is hoping that someone will be able to "square the special and general revelation" but is convinced that his view of general revelation is correct. If the church accommodates his view, does it do him any service?

What could we learn from Genesis at a scientific level? Perhaps the effect of climate change(the Flood) on the longevity of human life. How to make "fossil fuels" without disturbing the earth's crust. How we are all related, regardless of the colour of our skin. From the view point of evolution, there is nothing to explore here.

And as for vulnerability, if the church is willing to perceive the events of the first chapters of Genesis as anything less than reality, how can it defend the reality of Jesus' time on earth and what he accomplished?

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