The Fabric of Creation: Understanding Genesis

| |
The work of thinking and wondering about God’s world through experimentation, exploring geological or paleoanthropological evidence, and other scientific means seems a fitting exercise for God’s vice-regents.

Editor’s note: How do Christians reconcile the creation story in Genesis with the findings of science? We asked Mary Vandenberg, professor of systematic theology at Calvin Theological Seminary, to tell us what she teaches future Christian Reformed pastors on this issue.

Many people study the Bible as a piece of interesting ancient literature. But Christians believe that the Bible is an ancient book written by people under the guidance of the Holy Spirit (2 Tim. 3:16). The Bible is the Word of God for the people of God. It is the foundation of our understanding about God and God’s interactions with the world. Every other teaching must ultimately submit to this God-breathed Word.

But we cannot pick up this book and expect to understand everything in it without knowing some things about it.

Understanding the Text

The first thing we need to recognize is that the Bible is a literary work. In other words, it reflects the literary conventions of its day. So one of the things we need to do as we approach any text is to figure out what sort of text it is. Is it poetry or narrative or prophecy or a letter? We would not read a letter from our child in exactly the same way as we read a newspaper article or a novel or a poem. Each type of literature requires a certain kind of reading and understanding. And identifying the type of literature we are dealing with as we read the Bible will affect our interpretation.

The second thing worth noting is that the Bible was written in several ancient languages and in a particular historical context. Our English translations are generally good, but they reflect judgment calls made by the translators wherever ambiguous words or grammatical constructions occur. Sometimes we miss details if we are not reading the original Hebrew, Aramaic, or Greek.

More important, however, is acknowledging that the words and phrases of the Bible come out of a culture and context we are not familiar with. Many people in the ancient near East, for example, believed that humans were created to be slaves for the gods. How surprising it must have been for them to read the Israelite account in which humans were made not to be slaves but in the image of God, who intended humans to represent him on the earth like royalty! Clearly part of the purpose of this text was to contrast what the ancient world was saying about human persons with what God says about human persons. But in order to recognize that detail, we need to know something about the context of the ancient Near East.

Biblical scholar John Walton writes that good interpreters must enter the culture of the biblical text in order to read these culturally shaped texts properly. If we do not attempt to enter and understand these cultures, we run the risk of reading Scripture on our terms rather than its own terms.

This does not mean, however, that these texts are in some way bound by their cultures and not relevant to us today. Rather, this principle entails hearing the text within its culture in order to better understand the teaching of the text for the people of God today.

What about Genesis?

So how does this principle apply when reading the early chapters of Genesis? Taking into account the type of literature we are dealing with and the cultural context in which it is situated, including the other literature of that era, we find that the creation account has as its primary purpose to instruct God’s people that the God of Israel—not the sun, moon, or stars—is the only true God. And that this God created the heavenly bodies and everything else.

The poetic structure of Genesis 1:1-2:4 is more like a “drawing of the far-distant past,” as Henri Blocher suggests, than a detailed historical-scientific description of how the material world came to be. Although Genesis 2-11 has a narrative rather than poetic structure, a similar argument could be made about these unusual narrative chapters, particularly when noting the shift in the tone of the narrative at Genesis 12.

Using the metaphor of a book, the Belgic Confession teaches that God makes himself known to us in two ways. First, God reveals himself through the creation and providential care of the world. Second, God reveals himself through Scripture. In fact, it is through Scripture that God makes himself known “more clearly.”

‘Brighter Views of God’s Glory’

John Calvin writes that we first encounter God through creation. Drawing on Romans 1, Calvin writes that on each of God’s works “his glory is engraven in characters so bright, so distinct, and so illustrious” that there is no excuse for ignorance of God. Calvin goes on to describe the natural sciences and those who study them as having the opportunity “to obtain brighter views of God’s glory.” Nonetheless, also drawing on Romans 1, Calvin makes clear that, left to our own devices, we will stifle or distort this knowledge of God and his attributes that is all around us. Scripture, says Calvin, provides the “spectacles” needed to read nature and come to a correct understanding of God.

For Christians who may at times become anxious about the work of science, it might help to remember that God created humans with the expressed intention that they rule over the created world. Good and responsible rulers know their territory and subjects well. The work of thinking and wondering about God’s world through experimentation, exploring geological or paleoanthropological evidence, and other scientific means seems a fitting exercise for God’s vice-regents. Furthermore, Calvin suggests that through the work of discovering how the world works, “the Providence of God is more fully unfolded.”

The work of scientists has the potential to enhance our lives in many practical ways. For that we should all be thankful. But it also has the potential to help people delight in God and his attributes through the discovery of the intricacies of God’s world. Calvin suggests “it is impossible to contemplate the vast and beautiful fabric of creation without being overwhelmed by the weight of God’s glory.”

It would be good to end this brief discussion where we began. Sometimes theologians behave as though we have all the answers to the difficult questions regarding Genesis and its intersection with science. Likewise, sometime scientists behave as though they have all the answers, or someday will have all the answers, to the sorts of questions that arise from the early chapters of Genesis. In reality, although God has given us a magnificent world to explore and his marvelous Word to interpret, there is much here that we will likely never know.

Theologian Thomas Weinandy suggests that the best theological inquiry begins with the acknowledgment of mystery, takes time and effort to explore the mystery, and ends with an acknowledgment of mystery. I suggest the same sort of method should be employed in scientific inquiry.

Ultimately all conclusions from human experience must submit to the authority of Scripture. It is the first word and the last word. Very simply, that means that in many cases we won’t have all the answers to every question we have.

But we do have all we need for salvation.

About the Author

 

Mary Vanden Berg is a professor of systematic theology at Calvin Theological Seminary who teaches in the area of faith and science.

See comments (43)

Comments

Thanks Mary, for helping us to understand the Genesis account of creation.  I think, though, you are being more diplomatic than actually helping your readers to understand this creation account.  The question that readers today of this creation account are asking is, how did this world of ours come about?  From the beginning of time, Jews and Christians have assumed that it was just as recorded in Genesis. Didn’t the New Testament authors, even assume this?  Your parents and mine and other people, all the way back to Old Testament times assumed that the book of Genesis is telling us that God created the world in six actual days. Of course it points to God as the creator God, but also to the way in which he did it.  Regardless of the type of literature that Genesis uses, its original readers, no doubt, assumed a six day creation.  They had nothing to compare this account with, other than the accounts of other religions.  Assuming their religion, as the only true religion, they would have no reason to doubt such an account, just as my parents and grandparents had no reason to question the Biblical account.  So I doubt that the Biblical genre dictated anything other than a literal understanding of the opening chapters of Genesis, even for the earliest readers of this account.

But now, in more recent history, scientists have come along and, using the scientific method of discovery, are finding that the earth is much older than what the Bible seems to indicate and that the human species is likely the result of the evolutionary process.  Although, not a bygone fact, this is the direction that the scientific evidence is increasingly leading the scientific world to.  There is more than an apparent conflict between the Biblical and scientific accounts of origins, but an actual conflict.

So now we hear, in the more recent decades, Bible scholars and theologians telling us that maybe we have to find new ways of reading the Bible’s account, differently than we have in the past.  Is this to account for the newer scientific evidence?  Maybe the Bible’s account of creation is not actual history, but mythology or even embellished history.  Maybe Adam is not a historic character and we should accept the creation account as a subjective reality rather than objective reality and history.  But of course, when we start down that road of subjective reality, where do we stop?  Although Jesus is a historical character, how much of his life as recorded in the Bible is embellished history (like that of the creation account), and does he become real to us only through faith?  In other words is Jesus only real to me through the eyes of faith, or is he objectively real?  These are the kinds of questions that our seminary professors seem to have a hard time answering.  I don’t think diplomacy is very helpful for the thoughtful Christian who wants more than simplistic answers.

One other thing, you suggest, Mary, is that the opening chapters tell us that humans are given the task of ruling over the world, unlike other ancient cultures who believed humans were created to be slaves for the gods.  But isn’t that task secondary to the main thrust of Adam and Eve’s account, which is that humans were created to be obedient to God?  That’s the whole point of Adam and Eve’s placement in the garden and charge by God to be obedient (don’t eat the forbidden fruit).  And with their disobedience they were vanquished from the garden and from the trust that God had given them.  Isn’t “obedience” the first obligation of a slave?  It’s strange how we can so easily miss the obvious thrust of such an important narrative.

Thanks again, Mary, for your attempt to help us reconcile Scripture and science.  If we are only left with the idea that it’s a big mystery and the decision is still out, then I think I can see the handwriting on the wall.  And it doesn’t look good for the Christian faith.

I love this quote, "Theologian Thomas Weinandy suggests that the best theological inquiry begins with the acknowledgment of mystery, takes time and effort to explore the mystery, and ends with an acknowledgment of mystery." If we don't leave room for mystery, we risk re-making God into our own image. As humans we don't get to understand completely; but God has given us enough, through his Spirit, to follow him with heart, soul, mind, and strength. Humilty before God, also extends to humility before others - there is always more that we can learn.

In response to Roger's thoughtful comments, I would like to point out that there has been a theological tradition of reading the creation story non-literally (i.e. not six 24-hour days) dating back at least as far as St. Augustine in the 4th/5th century. In fact, the particular "six day" reading familiar to 21st century North American Christians (regardless of whether they believe it) didn't really appear until much more recent eras in Christianity. Human understanding of the world certainly changed with modern scientific evidence regarding the age of the earth and evolution (starting in the 19th century) but the assumption that all Christians prior to that time were adherents to a literal six-day perspective is not actually true. Despite centuries of diverse thought in interpreting Genesis, Christianity has flourished.

Thanks, Mary, for this great primer on reading the Genesis creation account.

Bonnie, thanks for the quote regarding the preservation of “mystery.”  But also realize that actual knowledge dispels mystery, as well as superstition. That is true in so many areas of life, including religion.  It seems, to me, that this article, as well as our theologians, are getting caught between mystery (superstition) and reality (scientific discovery).  It’s a difficult place to find oneself in, because increasingly scientific discovery is dispelling what Christians have held as fact for centuries.  In a sense, this dilemma is forcing the hand of our theologians.  Do we hold tightly to what we have always thought (and call it mystery), or do we allow actual scientific knowledge and understanding to lead us in completely new ways of understanding portions of our Bible?  It is creating unrest in our denomination, even as many other issues are creating unrest for nearly the same reason.  Christianity is a growing religion, but mostly in lesser developed countries.  In more developed and educated areas that is not the case, in fact Christianity is diminishing in numbers.  Holding to the past will not help the CRC to grow or be effective for an increasingly intellectual audience.  Again this puts our theologians in a difficult position.  If preserving mystery is helpful for you, Bonnie, then I wouldn’t really want to take that from you.  But for a growing number of our members, the idea of mystery is only a false hope.

Steve, I appreciate your correction in regard to literal versus non literal days of creation.  What is telling to me in your comment, is that a non literal 24 hour days of creation has always been “a” tradition all the way back to the 4th or 5th centuries.  That doesn’t mean that such a non literal view was the only view or even the predominate view.  It would seem that the apostle Paul considered Adam as an actual historical figure when comparing him to the second Adam (Christ), and therefor also considered the creation account as literal, as well.  Even John Calvin believed in a literal six day creation (according to his commentary of Genesis 1).  But maybe that is somewhat immaterial to the discussion today in regard to the creation account, because for at least the last century or two (or more) the view held by the Reformed churches has been a literal understanding of the Genesis account.  And this poses the problem for our churches and their future effectiveness.  Will we ever be able to break away from this literal understanding of the creation and fall account?  Who do we target for our denomination’s audience?  For years (even centuries) the Reformed expression of the Christian faith has appealed strongly to the mind.  Will that continue to be true?

If we give any validity to the idea of being created in God’s image, then that image bearing quality has to do with our ability to use reason and logic, unlike the animals who act on instinct rather than reason.  We are most like God when we use our higher intellectual powers of logic.  And such logic tells us that it makes sense (even common sense) to listen to the well reasoned findings of science rather than a primitive account of creation.  Such a primitive account may have made sense to a much more archaic population of people, but it makes little sense today, and will make even less sense in years to come.  And so what direction should our seminary theologians take?  Being caught between a rock and a hard place, eventually they will have to make up their minds.  It sounds like, for now, our seminary faculty are willing to stick with mystery, or is that superstition?

It is wonderful that we have an eyewitness account of creation that is completely accurate. Since God has the power, wisdom and intelligence to create the universe, it is reasonable to believe He understands it perfectly. He therefore is not waiting for man to advance scientifically to explain to Him what happened, since He designed it.

We can understand the reality God disclosed in His Word. Morning and evening make up each day. Plants produce plants, fish produce fish, and humans produce humans. Just like God said. God makes believing Him, easy! Glory to God! 

 

Kevin, it’s just too bad that there’s such a discrepancy between what science reveals and the Bible reveals, including the talking snake.

Roger,

You are right. it is too bad there is a discrepancy between what really is pseudoscience and God's word. If God allows a talking snake to slither around to beguile mankind, or Balaam's talking donkey to rebuke him, is that so hard for God. God said."I am the Lord God, the God of all mankind, is anything to hard for me?" (Jeremiah 32:27) "Jesus looked at them and said, with man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." (Matthew 19:26)

Can science explain the virgin birth, or the ressurrection of Christ from the dead? Do scientist with all their supposition really know who they are dealing with here? What does this all say about those who put their trust in them (man) rather than God? Do we really think we can make God out to be a liar with out a shred of evidence or proof to back it up? Shall we prove to God a snake and donkey can't talk?

"He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord scoffs at them." (Psalm 2:4)

 

Kevin, I think you may be on to something.  As you point out, many of the tenets of Christianity are irrational, they stand in conflict with human logic and science.  Talking snakes and donkeys, virgin births, a three person God.  The list of irrational beliefs is endless.   And yet somehow rational humans are to believe they are true?  Children may be convinced of talking animals after watching the Disney production of “Jungle Book,” but logical adults know this is just fantasy.  Primitive civilizations made up their own fantasies to explain what they couldn’t understand in nature.   And these fantasies became their religion, setting their fantasies in stone.  They lived in a pre-scientific age.  With science came the logical explanations of what was previously misunderstood and unknown in nature.  The same holds true for today.  But somehow, Kevin, you expect rational adults, today in a scientific age, to believe in the fantasies of the past?

Today, there are a multitude of religions, that are based on irrational fantasies and miracles, that make little sense to the rational mind.  Even Christians look over the fence at these other religions and say they are simply unbelievable.  The tents of the Muslim religion, Hinduism,  Mormon faith, Buddhism, and an untold number of other religions are not logical and are quickly dismissed, even by Christians.  And yet, they all, like Christianity, claim that their holy Scriptures are inspired by God and are therefore absolutely true and beyond doubt.  The angel Gabriel personally dictated the complete Koran from God to Mohammed and is therefore unquestionably true.  How is that any different than the claim by Christians that only the Bible is inspired by God?  To a rational person, the irrational tenets of Christianity, make no more sense than the irrational tenets of these other religions.  Are scientists today to pick Christianity out from the host of religions that teach unbelievable stories of origins, as though Christianity is more true than all these other irrational religions? 

My guess, Kevin, is that you believe in a subjective reality when it comes to your faith, that is not grounded in objective reality.  It’s real to you but has no substance in reality.  Science does not deal with such a reality. 

And this is the difficulty for our theologians and seminary professors today.  How do we make sense of the faith stories of Christianity in a way that doesn’t deny the objective realities that science is increasingly uncovering today.  Your solution is to deny the objective work of science and to hold fast to the mystery (and superstition) of religion.  That may work in less developed and rational cultures but doesn’t cut the mustard here in Western culture.

Kevin and Roger,

There is an excellent book called "Science and Its Limits" by Del Ratzsch, a philosophy professor at Calvin College. I reccomend it to you both. Science is a powerful tool that humans can use to understand God's creation, the universe in which we live. Evidence for this power is all around us in our modern era. Right now, we are communicating remotely via computers linked to a global system. Wow!

To ignore scientific findings, including those that appear to rule out some potential approaches to reading the Bible, would be to reject our reason, a gift from God. BUT science itself is founded on critical philosophical assumptions:

1) objective reality exists
2) this reality is shared by everyone
3) we can learn about this reality through scientific methods

These assumptions cannot, themselves, be evaluated using the tools of science. The additional assumption made by some that whatever exists is that which can be observed scientifically is a belief rooted in faith, not evidence.

The God of Christianity is not limited by the constraints of the universe as humans experience it. Why limit that God to, for example, six 24-hours days of creation or so-called miracles that actually have a physical explanation? The bodily resurrection of Jesus transcends normal physical limits. Even pre-scientific people recognized that. Yet they and we believe that the resurrection really happened and gives us a glimpse of a New Creation, where some things will be different and all things will center on Christ. We believe this not as a matter of science, but faith. Hallelujah!

Steve, thanks for the tip in regard to Del Ratzsch’s book, “Science and It’s Limits.”  Of course this is written from a Christian perspective.  That being the case, he doesn’t assume the validity of other religions, but only (mainly) Christianity.  Sure, there is a philosophy of science, even as you point out in your comment. And maybe Ratzsch (I would agree with him)  argues for a theistic view of origins.  But an “intelligent design” view does not support Christianity any more than any other religion.  He doesn’t take into consideration the variety of religious views that there are in regard to origins.  All religions, like Christianity, claim inspiration from God for their Scriptures, but all religions claim a different theistic perspective for creation or origins, different from other religions, including Christianity.  That’s where the problems come in.  Logically, they can’t all be true, or logically there is no more validity to one than to any other.  All claim the same basic presupposition, “that our Scriptures are God inspired and therefore true.”  That’s the starting point for all religions. And so, Christianity has no more certainly than any other religion. 

When looking at the claims for Christianity, they are no more reasonable than the claims of other religions.  In fact, as pointed out in a previous comment, most of our claims for Christianity do not stack up to human logic.  The idea that the second person of God, Christ, (are there really three persons) stepped down from heaven (is heaven even reasonable) and took on a human form, becoming fully human, while at the same time, remaining fully divine, lived a sinless life, was crucified and died, but after three days was raised from the dead, ascended to heaven, and someday is coming back to earth in victory and power to establish a new kingdom:  is that logical or reasonable to believe?  Especially, is it reasonable, when no other religion suggests anything near similar to this for the character of God, and when these other religions present completely different perspectives on God and his persona?  Why should anyone believe the Christian perspective any more than a Hindu perspective or the Muslim perspective?  None of them have any historical precedence or make logical sense.  And, of course, our Bible claims that there is no other way to God than our way.  All other faiths are false, as Kevin would point out.  If Christianity was the only religion, it might have a fighting chance.  But it isn’t.  In fact there are hundreds of other religions and thousands of varieties (denominations, sects, and cults) of Christianity.  So as Ratzsch might argue, that there is a reality beyond what is logically explainable, why is there so much diversity and disagreement when it comes to religion and explanations of God and his workings?

Perhaps creation is the revelation of God on its own, and all the religions of the world are feeble human attempts to explain the God of creation.  And that is why there is no agreement among religious formulations.  They are simply primitive feeble human attempts to explain what people could not understand about nature or their world.  These primitives made up fantasies about God and creation and then called it religion.  And, as always has been (even in Old Testament times), our religion is better than yours.  Ours is right, and yours is wrong.

So why choose Christianity over any other religion?  Seeing, as logic and reason is what sets us apart from all other creatures and makes us most like God, what is logical about choosing Christianity over any other religion?  What makes the Bible’s story of origins any more reasonable than any other story, especially when it doesn’t come close to the consensus of the scientific study of our objective world?  It seems, Steve, that a person can believe anything he chooses to believe, and for him/her, it is true, as long as there is faith.  But then that comes down to subjectivism, in other words objective reality doesn’t really matter, but only the subjective reality of faith.  If I believe it, then it is true for me.  Is that what Christianity comes down to?

Roger,

You raise a variety of important questions that certainly are much broader than a discussion of Genesis; more general apologetics, really. My previous post was written with the assumption that my fellow conversants shared a Christian worldview; your questions make me unclear on your own perspective, which I think is helpful to know when having a conversation like this. Since it seems you are starting from pretty base principles (regardless of whether that's where your worldview currently stands or you are merely doing so for rhetorical purposes), I'll offer a short, general response to your question: "Why choose Christianity over other faith systems or any faith at all?" This is just what I find helpful personally; others will answer the question quite differently of course.

1. Human reason/scientific understanding is growing all the time but our most important questions (e.g. "Why does anything exist at all?", "Do I have a purpose in life?") are outside the scope of scientific inquiry. Humans have a driving need to answer these questions but necessarily turn to non-scientific methods of inquiry to answer them.

2. I experience a world that is broken. I feel things are not as they SHOULD be. I could turn to human action/reason as the solution to the problem, but humanity fails to make things right time and time again. I do not believe that humans could ever "fix" the problem because the problem seems to be human nature itself.

3. In order to address observations #1 and #2, I need some kind of worldview that extends beyond science and beyond human capabilities. Sounds like religion.

4. So which religion to choose? Rather than go into the depths of comparative religion, I'll just observe that Christianity is really quite unique. Like many religions, it offers "big question" answers but the biggest answer given is GRACE. God extends this grace to us, not because we can ever earn it but because of God's love. That's great news for someone like me who recognizes the limits of human reason and a broken human nature. And a God whose primary affect is love makes a lot of sense--the best of human experience is love, so if God is anything, God should be love.

I freely acknowledge that the central story of Christianity, a cruxified, died, risen savior, is radical. I'd go so far as to say wildly offensive to human reason. But this isn't about human reason, is it? There is plenty more to say, but many people much more perceptive than myself have said it better (and in writing). So I'll just leave it at that.

P.S. I am a professional scientist, so that explains a lot of my approach (nerdy) to these topics!

Thanks, Steve, for responding to my comments.  I appreciate your willingness to be engaged on this topic.  I realize that most people, Christian or not, have no interest in getting involved in such discussions, especially at this level.  “Just give me something to believe in and say it with authority, and I will be satisfied.”  But it does seem important (in my mind) for our seminary professors and seminary students to be deeply involved in these kinds of discussions.  Being a scientist, it must be important to you, as well.  The question of origins seems to go deep in answering a lot of our foundational questions of existence, and if God is involved, how and why?  If God is involved, what might be our responsibilities toward him, as well as his creation?  This article, “Understanding Genesis,” by Mary Vanden Berg contributes to answering these deeper questions.  But the article offered more fluff than substance.

You questioned where I was coming from (my perspective) because, indeed, that makes a difference.  I call myself a Christian.  But realize there are a multitude of people that think they fall into that perspective. I’m also a bit (maybe more than a bit) of a religious skeptic.   As I pointed out in my last comment there are thousands of varieties of those who call themselves Christian.  There are so many different so-called Christian denominations, cults, and sects that all want to fall under the umbrella of being Christian, and under this umbrella the differences are night and day.  Certainly this adds to my skepticism.  My Baptist parents used to look over the fence at Reformed, Lutheran and Catholic church members and dismiss them from Christianity because they baptized their infants and drank alcohol.  Is there a brand of Christianity that comes closest to the truth?  All claim the Bible as their authority, but all interpret that so-called authority (the Bible) differently.  Among Reformed Christians, I think we might generally say (at least in our present age, not so much in the past) that falling under the umbrella of the Apostle’s Creed, would provide enough of a border by which to define Christianity (a basic statement of faith).  And that would be enough to provide what we (as Reformed Christians) would consider basic Christianity.  That would provide a much smaller umbrella by which to define the Christian faith, and would weed out a lot of wannabe Christians.  But even under this umbrella, there are huge differences as to how we might define God or perceive of him.  And this will make a tremendous difference as to the basic issue of existence, and why and how we might perceive of God.  So saying that I am a Christian or that you are a Christian is very slippery.  Whose brand are we talking about.

Let me do a little comparison test (maybe not so little, I’m sorry) of the Baptist perception of God and the Reformed perception.  Both would confess the Apostles’ Creed.  Of course our three forms of unity help us to define our Reformed thought and seeing as the Baptists are less confessional, they have more diversity in their thinking (hundreds of Baptist groups and denominations).  My point in doing this is to show how radically different Christian thought can be in regard to the nature of God, while still remaining under the umbrella of the Apostle’s Creed.  And this will help you, maybe, in understanding why it is difficult to pigeon hole where a person falls as to their Christian faith (or where you or I  fit).

So first, the Reformed point of view.  One of the most basic underlying principles of a Reformed theological perspective is the “sovereignty of God,” hence the title of our contemporary testimony, “Our World Belongs to God.”  In other words, this is God’s world, and his purposes will be accomplished according to his design or purpose.  And seeing as the creation of humanity is the crowning achievement of God’s creation, much of what happens in this world rides piggyback on the elevation, fall, and rising of humanity (the fall of man also necessitates the fall of nature).  So the Bible deals most fundamentally with the human relationship to God.  And at the center of that relationship is the salvation of a fallen humanity. 

Salvation can be looked at from two perspectives or vantage points, like looking at the same auto accident from different sides of the street and seeing it differently.  From the “human” perspective, Reformed people see the necessity of human choice.  From this human perspective of salvation we could say we have a free will and responsibility to choose for Christ, and for everyone there are consequences for the choice we make, whether those consequences be eternal salvation or eternal damnation.  So one perspective on salvation looks at it from the human vantage point and the choices we make.

The other Reformed perspective on salvation is to see it from God’s perspective. This is what stands out in Reformed thought (hence the Canons of Dort).  We would quickly admit that God is sovereign in administering salvation.  God sovereignly chooses who he wishes for his own from out of the sea of fallen humanity.  It is a “limited atonement,” in other words, Christ’s atoning sacrifice is limited only to those whom God has chosen.  And his choosing does not depend on any qualities that he sees in his chosen ones, in other words it is “unconditional.”  God is the one who initiates and accomplished his salvation apart from human effort from start to finish.  And so we sing songs such as, “My Lord, I Did Not Choose You” or “Not What My Hands Have Done.”

But from within this Reformed perspective of seeing salvation from God’s vantage point we certainly want to ask, what about those not chosen?  And that includes the majority of people, which we understand from Jesus’ teaching of the narrow road leading to salvation and the wide road leading to destruction.  It’s also obvious that most people are not chosen by God, as seen from the historical record of human civilization.  So what about those not chosen by God?  The Reformed faith quickly points to the sinfulness of the human race.  Knowing in their hearts, right from wrong, people have willingly chosen sin and now are held accountable to God and deserving of his judgement and damnation.  As a sovereign God it is his right to judge sinners with his condemnation.  

Within the Reformed perspective, our theologians also speak of God, not only predetermining the ends but also the means to the end, not only the salvation of the chosen but the means leading to such salvation.  Even here God is sovereign.  And according to the apostle Paul, that is also true for those who are not chosen by God for salvation.  God determines the means by which the lost are damned or chosen for damnation.  One such means, used by God, is the sin of Adam and Eve or original sin (as Reformers call it).  God credits Adam’s sin to every individual, even before they are born.  So everyone comes into this world a guilty sinner, from the time of conception.  No one asks for this sin to be credited to them. And there is no escape, even for babies (unless you believe in the Catholic understanding of infant baptism) from God’s condemnation.  This crediting of Adam’s sin to everyone is God’s doing, not ours.  But also, as another means to insure the condemnation of all humanity, God imputes Adam’s fallen nature or sinful nature to all people.  Everyone comes into this world, from day one, with a natural tendency to sin.  No one asks for this sinful nature at birth, it is simply imputed or attributed to all human beings from birth by God.  If you doubt the apostle Paul’s thinking in regard to original sin or our sinful nature, check out Romans 5.  Reformers, such as John Calvin and Martin Luther, as well as our Canons of Dort speak volumes in regard to this sinful nature.  Luther dedicated a complete book, “The Bondage of the Will” to this topic.  The apostle Paul speaks of his bondage to his sinful nature in Romans 7 and concludes that he is one miserable and helpless man.  Paul is speaking of the sinful nature attributed to all people without exception. And this fallen nature has been given to all from conception on by God.  Paul was one of the lucky ones, though.  He was chosen by God in Christ, for which he is eternally thankful.  But of course, not everyone is chosen.  We may think this is all rather unfair, attributing the salvation and damnation of all people to God, even attributing the means to God, by which they are either damned or saved.  But Paul proclaims in Romans 9,  “Well then, you might say, “Why does God blame people for not responding?  Haven’t they simply done what he makes them do?”  No, don’t say that.  Who are you, a mere human being, to argue with God?  Should the thing that was created say to the one who created it, “Why have you made me like this?  When a potter makes jars out of clay, doesn’t he have a right to use the same lump of clay to make one jar for decoration and another to throw garbage into?  In the same way, even though God has the right to show his anger and his power, he is very patient with those on whom his anger falls, who were made for destruction.  He does this to make the riches of his glory shine even brighter on those to whom he shows mercy, who were prepared in advance for glory.  And we are among those whom he selected, both from the Jews and from the Gentiles.”  So what can we say about God from this Reformed perspective?  In deed, God is sovereign.  Nothing happens apart from his will and purpose, even the damnation of the human race, as well as the salvation of those chosen from among the damned.  Everything comes about by his sovereign will and purpose.  It is his creation and he has a right to do with it as he pleases, whether it makes sense to us or not.  And he doesn’t look to humanity to help him make his decisions.  So much can be said as to this Reformed view of God, but I won’t.

But you can be sure that such a view of God doesn’t meet with the approval of Baptist Christians. They take a basic stand that God is a loving God who desires the salvation of all people and makes the means of salvation available to everyone.  Although humans have fallen into sin (by their own doing), that fall is not so encompassing (partial depravity) that people still have the ability or will, so that anyone hearing the gospel can respond and accept God’s gracious offer of love in Christ.  Baptists, generally, do not deny the sovereignty of God in salvation, but (in their minds) those chosen by God are the ones he foresees, who will choose him of their own free will. The chosen are those who choose God.  People meet God halfway on the road of salvation.  He offers and we accept.  The Canons of Dort were originally written to refute such a view, as proposed by Jacob Arminius (Arminianism), and taught that  his views were a total misrepresentation of God.  And still today, we officially refute strongly such a view of God, as held by the Baptists, when we require conformity to the Canons of Dort.  Arminius and his followers held that the Reformed view presented a cruel and sadistic view or perspective of God, and refused to teach or acknowledge such a view as representing a valid Christian perspective.

The Baptist view of a loving God who strongly encourages and enables all people to respond to his love stands in stark contrast to the Reformed view of a sovereign God who predestines, not only the election of the chosen but also the damnation of the lost.  Although there was a time that I had a great appreciation for the Reformed view, I can no longer see why such a view of God can appeal to anyone.  Of course, Reformed people suggest that such a view is not meant for our personal approval or appreciation.  We believe it because it is taught in the Bible.  But Jacob Arminius and Baptists say the same thing when it comes to their interpretation of the Bible, as do the huge variety of Christians who fall under the umbrella of confessing the Apostles’ Creed, all with their differing perspectives on God.  There was a time when our fathers in the faith would have denied not only such false teachings (Baptist teaching) but said things like, “this teaching is the opiate of the devil and such teachings lead people to the gates of hell” (because such teaching was an expression of salvation by works).  The point I’m making is that there is no or little consistency within Christian teaching.  Even Thomas Jefferson who greatly appreciated the teachings of Jesus, but denied the teachings of Paul, considered himself a Christian and a follower of Christ.  So claiming to be a Christian can mean almost anything you want it to mean.  And the differences among such Christians cut to the very significance and meaning of God.

Such vast differences among Christians is only a small contribution in the different perceptions of God when you take into consideration the huge variety of religions that exist today.  So although Ratzsch can argue philosophically for a reality beyond the objective reality discovered by scientists today, who gets to define what that other reality (religious reality) really is?  When there is absolutely no or little consensus among religious views who do we look to to define what a theistic origin of the world looks like?  It’s the creation or world itself (in my opinion) that speaks to the authorship of our world and universe. That is God’s self revelation.  It seems to me that religions, in trying to identify and define God, have contributed little other than creating superstition in regard to God and his relationship to humanity.  Common sense or logic, as given by God, would suggest that the lack of consistency in religious thought makes any specific religious system questionable.  I didn’t see where Ratzsch addressed this concern (the variety of religious belief) at all.  In fact his argument, being from a Christian perspective, only looked at a Reformed Christianity, or his own brand of Christianity, as the only viable expression of religion that gives perspective and balance to the objective reality of science.  He misses the point, as I see it.  His brand of Christianity or a Reformed expression of Christianity is only one small expression of Christianity and even a smaller expression of religion in general.  Is it any wonder that those in the differing fields of science have serious doubts as to what, if any contribution, religion can make to the question of origins?  Ratzsch makes the point that science cannot speak to the issues of ultimate origins or ultimate purpose.  But neither can religion, at least with any consistency.  Both the Baptist and Reformed expressions of Christianity speak very differently as to God’s purposes and these are but two propositions among hundreds (probably thousands) of differing ideas afloat among the religions of the world.  In my thinking Ratzsch’s thesis has a basic flaw.  He writes as if there is only one valid religion (which is his).  But science doesn’t have the luxury of choosing only one religion to contribute to the objective or empirical work of science. 

Thanks, Steve, for your personal testimony of why Christianity makes sense to you.  I really mean that.  Of course, that same testimony could be made by any serious adherent of any or all religions, and is probably made daily throughout the world.  In the middle east we see extremists (suicide bombers) living out their testimonies of radical commitment to their God daily.  But we say such faith is irrational. In other words, believing it doesn’t make it true.  Obviously they don’t agree with us.  And isn’t that the point in a nut shell?  Religion boils down to the various (thousands) of opinions of who God is and how he relates to us and the world.  But believing it doesn’t make any of it objectively true. There is no or little consistency, even among Christians.  Thanks, Steve, for the conversation.  It’s been enlightening and worthwhile.  I wish you the best and am more than willing to continue the conversation.  I’m really sorry for the length.  Oh, and by the way, my Christian faith is also meaningful to me and brings a lot of satisfaction and comfort to me.  Blessings.

Roger,

Wow, that was an impressive response! I agree with your use of the Apostles Creed as a good working delineation of "real" Christianity, while recognizing the remarkable diversity that exists within that sphere. Too often Christians use other theological documents as a basis to divide and judge, rather than use the Apostles Creed to unite. I also empathesize with your discomfort regarding exclusive truth claims of religion; my wife feels much the same way.

While I certainly enjoy deep theological discussion and heavy duty academic approaches to reading the Bible, at the end of the day any truly honest inquiry of faith arrives at a point of uncertainty that we must accept. And then, maybe, we are a little more ready to roll up our sleeves and get to work on the New Kingdom, as Christ taught us to do.

Regards,
Steve

P.S. I also highly recommend Surpised by Hope by N.T. Wright, a book that has done more to shape my theological worldview in the past few years than any other.

Roger,

With a smorgasbord of religious beliefs and factions within the church, confusion can set in. The Bible teaches that there are those in the church not acquainted with the teachings about righteouness. They have not trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.(Hebrews 5:14) Unfortunately many people are not spending time reading the Scriptures for themselves, and have become vulnerable to all kinds of false teachings. They don't check or screen all of life's decisions against the Word of God to see if its got God's approval. 

"For a time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit there own passions." (2 Timothy 4:3) If a person does not look to the God breathed Scriptures for teaching, reproof, for correction, and training in righteouness the people will be deceived "while imposters will go from bad to worse." Like Israel when there was no authority.- "In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes." (Judges 21:25)

Today the Scriptures is the final authority on all life's matters. But people don't want to come under its authority, right? Then they would have to give up their lust, adultery, lying, coveting, homosexuality, drunkeness, thieves, bitterness, evilution, witchcraft, hatred, addictions... you name it. The pleasure of sins. Everyone wants to bypass the cross to get to heaven, because the cross is an offense. "If I were no longer preaching salvation through the cross of Christ, no one would be offended."(Galations 5:11)

"For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God." (1 Corinthians 1:18)

"This is the verdict:Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of the light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their evil deeds will be exposed."(John 3:19,20)

"But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies... Many will follow their depraved conduct and will bring the way of truth into disrepute.(2 Peter 2)

"Now the Holy Spirit tells us clearly that in the last times some will turn away from the faith, they will follow deceptive spirits and teachings that come from demons. These people are hypocrities and liars, and their consciences are dead." (1 Timothy 4:1,2) 

Timothy was warned to, "Focus on reading the Scriptures to the church, encourage the believers, and teaching them...Keep a close watch on how you live and on your teaching. Stay true to what is right for the sake of your own salvation and the salvation of those who hear," ( 1 Timothy 4:15,16)

In light of all the different beliefs in the world and in the church We all should be asking ourselves this question. If God gives me justice when I die. Will I go to heaven or hell? Does this concern me?

"Why do you call me good? Jesus answered.  "No one is good-except God alone." (Mark10:18)

"Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?-unless indeed you fail to meet the test!" (2 Corithians 13:5)

"Have you no wish for others to be saved? Then you're not saved yourself, be sure of that!" -Charles Spurgeon

Thanks Kevin for your comment. I appreciate the concern expressed in your latest comment.  At the same time I’m also a little frustrated.  Your comment doesn’t address the original article by Mary Vanden Berg in the least, as I see it.  What I think I hear you saying, Kevin, is that those who don’t believe in a literal understanding of the Genesis creation account (including talking snakes) and also those who don’t dismiss the work and understanding of science completely are without exception condemned by God and are going to hell.  Of course that includes everyone else who has commented on this article as well as the author of the article, in fact everyone other than you.

 I hear things in your comments like, “those who have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil,” or “imposters who will go from bad to worse,” or “people who don’t want to come under the authority of God’s word,” or “wanting to bypass the cross to get to heaven,” or the “people who have loved darkness because their deeds were evil,” or “many will follow deceptive spirits and teachings that come from demons, these people are hypocrites and liars.”

And then you ask, “If God gives me justice when I die. Will I go to heaven or hell? Does this concern me?”  If God gives only justice, then I imagine there is hope for no one.  But don’t we believe in a God of grace and mercy?  Thanks again, Kevin, for your concern.

Roger,

In a previous post you seem to basically dismantle christianity and the Bible by throwing it into the ring with all other religions. But why is christianity and the Bible right and the others wrong? With evolution and the Bible we see things as God said, and can scientifically back it up. We don't have to deny a literal Genesis and say, plants don't produce plants, humans don't produce humans, fish don't produce fish. Deny the literal interpitation of "In the beginning God..."  and say, "yeah right." in unbelief. If there is no literal Genesis, then there is not a literal you, or a sun, moon nor planets. It is illogical not to believe a literal Genesis account of creation.

Those passages in the Bible really don't mean what they say, right? Do you believe the Bible never means what it says? if it sometimes means what it says, how do you know when it does and when it doesn't? What is clear to me on nearly all issues I have seen you write on, from homosexuality to evolution, you are using outside ideas and opionions to be the driving force behind your understanding of Scripture, rather than "exegesis", which focus on the text itself to drive your comprehension.

Roger you realize you can't accept a talking snake and six solar days of creation. My starting point is the Word of God, I believe your starting point is the world. I think this dimissal of the Bible allows you to think what you want to think, live how you want to live, without anyone using the Bible to make judgements. I guess there are those who can be counted among the smart people, believing in evolution. While I blindly believe the Bible, not living in the real world and know nothing about science.

But donkeys do talk. "They have left the straight way and wandered off to follow the way of Balaam son of Bezer, who loved the ways of wickedness. But he was rebuked for his wrongdoing by a donkey-an animal without speech-who spoke with a human voice and restrained the prophet's madness." (2 Peter 2:15,16)

I wholeheartly believe evolution is an assult on the authority of God's Word, therefore a false teaching being introduced to the church. That is why I try to contend for the faith. That is why in my previous post so many passages of the Bible warning against false teachers.

"But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God's curse!" (Galations 1:8)

 

Kevin, thanks for speaking to the issue.  As I understand your comments now, it sounds like a literal understanding of the Bible is the only revelation of God and authority that you will acknowledge.  Human knowledge and understanding of our world reveals nothing of God, if it stands in contrast to a literal interpretation of the Bible. Thanks for clearing this up.  And yes, we are on different pages.  But in my mind, both Christian.  Thanks for your comments.

Atheist statement: Evolution is a proven fact.

"The burden of proof lies with the believer in evolution, but there is no proof because nothing can be observed. How can that which supposedly happened over millions of years be observed? It is all founded on faith in men's ideas, old bones, and fallible dating methods."- Ray Comfort

"I believe it all happened way back there...where we can't see anything!"- from a cartoon

Message from the moderator: As per our comment policy, comments that have nothing new or positive to contribute to the discussion will be deleted.

I'm curious what is new or positive about Roger's comment attacking the Bible.

There seems to be a lack of evenhandedness regarding the comments.

Anti-creation / attacks on the Word of God (Bible) are allowed to remain but comments defending the Word of God and pointing to resources confirming the Word of God are constantly being removed.

 

Thanks Gayla for your work of being our moderator.  Not only have a couple of my recent comments been removed but also a couple taking a contrasting viewpoint.  I guess that shows evenhandedness. Maybe we got too personal.  I’m not sure what the offense was, but I’ll try to be more careful in the future.

Getting back to the original article by Mary Mary Vanden Berg (“The Fabric of Creation: Understanding Genesis”), I think that the author touches on a serious point of contention for Christians and non-Christians alike.  She states that the Bible is an ancient book written by people under the guidance of the Holy Spirit and therefore every other teaching must submit to this God-breathed Word.  Outside of Christian circles, the Bible is no different than any other book and carries no more weight than the religious writings of any other religion.  To the non-Christian, empirical teachings do not have to submit to the Bible to be true or relevant. The Bible to them is a non-factor.

Within Christian circles, the Bible carries considerably more weight, but how much weight it carries varies greatly from denomination to denomination and from individual to individual.  The definition of infallibility also varies within Christians circles, and even varies within the readership of the Banner magazine, as we can see from various comments. 

In regard to this God inspired character of the Scriptures, some Christians use the Bible as a straight jacket to bind fellow Christians to a literal reading of the Bible and therefore even the objective study of science is often considered false by Christians because it violates the literal teaching of the Bible.  I see that in several of the comments to this article.  But seeing as the natural world is also a revelation of God, and a more objective revelation, we need to loosen our grip on the idea of infallibility.  The God breathed character of Scripture is for the purpose of equipping Christians for maturity, not for the purpose of the Bible to be a scientific fact book.  But some Christians use infallibility or the God breathed character of Scripture, to bind Christians (as well as non-Christians) to a narrow minded way of thinking.

So when teaching about creation and the book of Genesis, our seminary would do well to leave the work of science where it belongs and to recognize that the teaching of Genesis was not a factual revelation of how our world began, even though such an account satisfied the Bible’s early readership before the scientific study of origins began. 

In regard to Kevin’s latest comment, there may be some atheists who claim that evolution is a proven fact.  But those who work in the area of scientific research, whether atheist or theists, do not consider evolution a proven fact, but rather a theory in the making, and a theory that has substantial scientific evidence to the point of suggesting that evolution is the most valid and likely of the various other theories of origins (including Biblical creation).

It is narrow thinking Christians who think that Biblical creation is an established fact based on a literal interpretation of the Genesis account.  Most Christians have doubts or questions in regard to the origin of our world but will admit that the Genesis account, at the least, gives God the credit for the origin of our world, regardless of the manner or means that he used to bring it about.  Add the contribution of science, the likelihood points to evolution as his means.

Mary mentioned looking at the text in Genesis.  The normal order for a Hebrew narrative sentence is:

Conjunction--Verb--Subject--Object.

The order in poetic writing is:

Subject--Verb--Object

Genesis is in the Hebrew narrative.  Hebrew scholars concur that Genesis was written as history. 

For example, the Oxford Hebrew scholar James Barr wrote:

‘ … probably, so far as I know, there is no professor of Hebrew or Old Testament at any world-class university who does not believe that the writer(s) of Genesis 1-11 intended to convey to their readers the ideas that:

·   creation took place in a series of six days which were the same as the days of 24 hours we now experience

·   the names contained in the Genesis genealogies provided by simple addition a chronology from the beginning of the world up to later stages in the biblical story

·      Noah’s flood was understood to be world-wide and extinguish all human and animal life except for those in the ark.’

I don’t take being referred to as narrow, as an insult because our Lord Jesus Christ mentioned that the way is narrow, not broad. 

Jesus referred to the Genesis narrative a number of times, and always as literal truth.

Exodus 20:11, written by Almighty God, states: “For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.”

There are several similar verses in Genesis that indicate literal narrative:

Genesis 1:4 These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens,

Genesis 5:1 This is the book of the generations of Adam. In the day that God created man, in the likeness of God made he him;

Good point, Joy.  The original readers took the Genesis text as a factual accounting of what originally took place at the beginning of time.  So have most Christians within the framework of Christianity until more recent history.  It doesn’t really matter whether the original script was narrative or poetry, it was understood as fact.  In primitive (pre-scientific) society, people understood little of their environment and the games that nature seemed to play on them.  So the more thoughtful people of that ancient and primitive society made up stories that they thought explained their difficult but also, at times, good circumstances.  Most of those stories’ main characters were the Gods or God who acted behind the veil of human experience.  And life became a matter of appeasing or satisfying the Gods of heaven, and how to live in submission to the Gods or to God.  We, as Christians, recognize the mythical character of these many ancient religions, other than Christianity.  Other ancient religions are just myth, but ours is true.  When listening (or reading) these stories as recorded in Genesis any objective historian will recognize the mythical character of much of Genesis, just as with other religions.  When these mythical stories get incorporated into a religion (as with Christianity) it becomes difficult for these religious adherents to take these stories as anything but literal and established fact.  Saying that our Scriptures are God breathed or inspired by God means little to those outside of Christian circles, because all religions say the same.  Saying they are God breathed doesn’t make it so.  And there is nothing to confirm such a belief other than faith.  There is no reason for those outside of the Christian faith (including scientists) to assume the stories of the Bible are any more reliable than the stories of any other religion.  Apart from a God given faith, the Bible’s story of origins contribute little to the objective story of beginnings.

For Christians who recognize the Bible as our book of faith, we have to be careful of reading too much literalism into our ancient stories of faith, because reason and scientific research tell us clearly that such stories are more myth than reality. 

Joy, you have jumped into this particular dialogue late (already over 20 comments).  If you have read the previous comments, you realize that this material has already been covered in one way or another in the responses.  Hopefully we don’t get accused of saying the same things over again or getting too repetitive, by our moderator.  So it may be good to go back over previous comments.  Nice chatting with you.  I wish you well.

Actually, more recent scientific discoveries are showing the Word of God to be true.  For example, carbon 14 found in dinosaur bones -  August 15, 2012 presentation by Dr. Thomas Seiler at the AOGS-AGU (WPGM) 2012 conference in Singapore.

The reality is that 'early man', i.e. was not actually 'primitive;.  Already in Genesis 4 we read: "21 And his brother's name was Jubal: he was the father of all such as handle the harp and organ.

22 And Zillah, she also bare Tubalcain, an instructer of every artificer in brass and iron: and the sister of Tubalcain was Naamah.” 

In Job 28:1 Surely there is a vein for the silver, and a place for gold where they fine it.

Iron is taken out of the earth, and brass is molten out of the stone.

 

Genesis 1:31 And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day. 

Adam didn’t have any mutations like humans today, i.e. brand new. Adam was made directly by Almighty God who regarded everything that he had made as very good.  Adam lived for over nine hundred years.  He was probably much smarter and stronger than people today.

Thanks, Joy, for your input, by which you support a Biblical creation account.  I notice in your comments that you go to great lengths to support scientists who support your view, as well as discount evolutionary theory as being false.  You begin with the premise that a literal interpretation of the Bible is the only viable possibility, and seeing as the Bible is inerrant, therefore all other views are false.  This is not what anyone would call “objectivity.”  You have a very biased approach, based on your uncompromising beginning assumption that anything contrary to the Bible (a literal translation of Genesis) is false.  So your goal is simply to disprove anything that would go contrary to your beginning premise, and this includes, especially, evolution.

That is the same approach that this Dr Thomas Seiler, which you refer to, also takes.  His approach to his research as a physicist is simply to disprove evolution.  So hence, his participation in the conference, “The Scientific Impossibility of Evolution.”  His approach to the subject of origins is very biased, and his work as a scientist follows that bias. 

The work of secular scientists is not to disprove Christianity or any other religion which have various religious views in regard to origins.  It is to take an objective view using the scientific method of discovery without considering any religious bias or beginning assumptions, to be led where the evidence leads.  And the overwhelming evidence leads to evolution, not as a forgone fact but, as the most likely possibility of all possibilities.  The preponderance of evidence leads the large majority of scientists to such a conclusion.

Of course there are scientists who disagree with the vast majority, such as Dr. Seiler, but his view is a small minority opinion, and is based on a beginning premise that removes objectivity from his research.  Starting with a weak beginning premise only leads to weak conclusions.  So the quoting of various Bible verses, by scientists or by you, only reveals the bias with which you approach the subject of origins.  I’d say that your opinion (and Seiler’s) in regard to origins is definitely a religious opinion rather than an objective scientific opinion, and such a view stands alongside all the other religious opinions of how our world came into being.  Thanks Joy, for the opportunity to chat.  When we all get to heaven someday, you will see that I was right all along.  But until then, let’s keep up the conversation in a good spirit.  Blessings.

I’ve never claimed to be objective regarding the fact that the Word of God is true.  Almighty God is also biased in favour of His Word:

Psalm 138:2 I will worship toward thy holy temple, and praise thy name for thy lovingkindness and for thy truth: for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name.

Neither are secular scientists objective as we see in Richard Lewonstin’s amazing admission of bias by scientists regarding origins:

‘Our willingness to accept scientific claims that are against common sense is the key to an understanding of the real struggle between (evolutionary) science and the supernatural. We take the side of (evolutionary) science in spite of the patent absurdity of some of its constructs, in spite of its failure to fulfill many of its extravagant promises of health and life, in spite of the tolerance of the scientific community for unsubstantiated just-so stories, because we have a prior commitment, a commitment to materialism.

It is not that the methods and institutions of science somehow compel us to accept a material explanation of the phenomenal world, but, on the contrary, that we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations, no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door. 

Dr. Mary Schweitzer, who discovered soft tissue in dinosaur bones said:

“I had one reviewer tell me that he didn’t care what the data said, he knew that what I was finding wasn’t possible … . I wrote back and said, ‘Well what data would convince you?’ And he said, ‘None.’”

If one doubts that Almighty God told us the truth in Genesis as well as when he wrote it directly on the tablets that Moses brought down from the mountain, in Exodus 20:11, how can one be sure of the message of salvation?

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

John 5:

46 For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me; for he wrote of me.

47 But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words? 

 

The truth is never determined by majority vote. The majority is not always right.

Suggest that you see the Expelled documentary to see whether scientists are really free to follow where ever the evidence leads.  It's available on YouTube (4HErmp5Pzqw).

You do pretty well with your quotes, Joy.  But really, all one needs to do is google a controversial figure in any field (like Lewontin) and the controversy is presented in red letters with little or no information about the guy other than the quote, filtered out from all his life work, as though that is all you need to know about him.  This is what makes you less than objective (as you said of yourself), that you can take comments out of context without regard to what else he might have said.  It might be interesting to know why he comes to his conclusion of denying the element of miracle or the supernatural in his research of origins.

It is only religion (and there are thousands) that try to impose the supernatural on the material and objective world.  Christianity is only one of thousands of religions, and nearly all have different schemes by which their supernatural gods brought into existence our present world.  All appeal to their god inspired Scriptures (like Christians) to affirm the truthfulness of their own religious scheme of origins.  Each says only their scheme is true, while all others are false.  They all sound like Christianity in vying for truthfulness.  But none is more convincing than the other as to being
the one true religion, including Christianity.

So which religion does the scientist listen to as he does his research?  From an objective point of view, there is none that is more true than the other in the fact that they all start from a religious perspective involving unbelievable miracles, rather than an objective starting point.  All that a scientist, such as Lewontin, can do is throw up his hands and deny them all, because none of them are believable.  All involve unbelievable miracles (including Christianity), and if you take any one of the religious perspectives as being true, then there is no need for science.

And of course, within any religion there are a multitude of perspectives on its own scheme of origins, such as within Christianity, some Christians claiming a literal day for the six days of creation, some counting creational days as periods of time, some claiming long periods of time inserted between the actual days of creation.  The variety of Christian views is very large, and this adds to the difficulty of secular scientists trying to pick any religious view as being a correct view.  The quoting of Bible passages does nothing to convince the scientist of any particular view.  So as scientists (such as Lewontin) stand before the onslaught of religions (all different) it is logical to deny them all.  In fact, the onslaught of religions is the reasonable evidence for denying all religions.

Even Christianity claims for itself that it is unbelievable.  Apart from the empowering of the Holy Spirit, it’s teachings are foolishness, and cannot be accepted.  Only the elect are apparently enlightened by the Holy Spirit.  So how can you possibly expect a secular scientist to consider Biblical creation when its starting point is to consider that which is impossible (creation by miracle), which needs no other explanation (than to say God did it).  But yet there are so-called Christian scientists trying to explain the impossible.  Sounds like an oxymoron, to me.

Of course, by loosening one’s definition on infallibility, and leaving the work of science to real scientists, it is easy to be a Christian and still believe in evolution.  Thanks again, Joy, for the dialogue.  Always a pleasure chatting.

If you would like to see the quote ‘in context’ you will find it in the New York Review of Books:

Billions and Billions of Demons by Richard C. Lewontin

 

Did you actually watch the Expelled documentary, as you still seem to believe that the scientific establishment is objective?  It’s not that they are simply not sure who to listen amongst all the religions, they despise even the mention of intelligent design.

 

For example, Smithsonian’s top officials permitted the demotion and harassment of scientist skeptical of Darwinian evolution.

BTW, is your last paragraph that refers to ‘real scientists’ showing your bias against real scientists who publish creation articles, i.e. ‘no true scotsman’ fallacy.

"In January 2005, an article in the Wall Street Journal first raised public awareness about disturbing allegations that officials at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) had retaliated against museum Research Associate (RA) Richard Sternberg because he allowed publication of an article favoring the theory of intelligent design in a biology journal. A well-published evolutionary biologist with two doctorates in biology, Dr. Sternberg claimed that after publication of the article, his colleagues and supervisors at the NMNH subjected him to harassment and discrimination in an effort to force him out as a Research Associate. 

In November of 2004, Dr. Sternberg filed a complaint with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC), the agency charged with “protecting federal employees and applicants from prohibited personnel practices, especially reprisal for whistleblowing.” The OSC found evidence to corroborate Dr. Sternberg’s complaint, concluding that a hostile work environment was created with the ultimate goal of forcing” Dr. Sternberg out of the Smithsonian.”

Joy, I have no problem with intelligent design, as many evolutionists also affirm.  My problem is with a young earth Biblical creationist view accomplished in six literal days.  What makes you think Christianity is any more valid than any other religion?  I haven’t heard a response to that concern, which seems to be Lewontin’s concern, as well.  There is nothing that seems to verify the miracles of Christianity (including the creation miracles) any more than the miracles of any other religion, other than faith, which all religions also claim, as well as infallible God inspired Scriptures?  I don’t think you are arguing for intelligent design because you don’t agree with the many other views of creation within the Christian perspective, nor do you agree with any other view of origins that other religions offer.  I don’t hear you arguing for intelligent design, but for a literal interpretation of Genesis as the only possibility for creation or origins.

I think our world itself testifies to the reality of God.  Our world and universe is God’s own revelation.   Religions (all of them) are feeble attempts to explain the God of creation.  All religions use illogical miracles performed by their gods from behind the veil of human experience to explain what they don’t understand, or to give a further perspective on God than what he, himself, has given in creation.  If God has established the laws of nature, there is no reason that he can’t use those laws to bring about this world as we know it.  So the question I have of Christianity is, what validates our religion any more than any other religion?  Why should someone like Lewontin recognize a literal six day creation by God over all the other miraculous options offered by other religions?  I would imagine you have an answer.

 There is also no reason why Almighty God didn't create everything exactly as He said he did, within 6 days.

Suggest that you read a great defense of six-day creation by Pastor G. I. Williamson:

I am now in my sixty-first year as a Reformed Pastor…”

“Only God knows all there is to know, and he has spoken to his people. He has said that it only took him six days to create the universe that we inhabit. And I do not believe that there is, or ever will be, any scientific discovery that will be able to discredit what God has spoken. Yes, [current] scientific theories do appear to discredit that creation account. But be patient. In time it will be seen that those humble Bible believers were right all along: it was a six-day creation....”

 38 Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.

This is where the article can be found: theaquilareport[dot]com/a-defense-of-six-day-creation/

"I am now in my sixty-first year as a Reformed Pastor, and I am very much aware of the fact that I am not likely to have many more years of service. So, before the Lord calls me to come to his dwelling place I want to bear faithful witness concerning one of the foundational doctrines of the Bible. It is so foundational that it is the very first thing affirmed in the oldest creeds of the church: “I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth,” and “of all things visible and invisible.” The Greek word translated in English as ‘maker’ is ποιητην. In Latin it is creatorem. And the Bible itself, before it says anything else, says “in the beginning” God “created” (Hebrew bara“the heavens and the earth.” It also clearly says that he did so “in the space of six days, and all very good.”"

I hear what you are saying Joy, when you say, you have no reason for not believing that God created everything in 6 days, as he says in the Bible.  But that is the exact problem for most secular scientists.  Such a view is true only if you ignore or deny all other religions, other than Christianity. This shows your bias and lack of objectivity. Secular scientists don’t have the luxury of picking one religion over another. Within other religions, God told their adherents that the human race (creation) came about through a different deity, other than what the Bible suggests, or in other religions life came about  through an emergence of life from under the earth, or human life came about through a principle of primordial world parents, or creation from a cosmic egg, and the myths of creation and existence that belong to other religions is extensive.  All claim the same authority for their religion that you claim for Christianity, “our Scriptures are God inspired.” 

The adherent of any particular religion will be convinced of their own religion’s god given theory of origins.  But one will believe their religion’s theory only by staying within one’s own religious box.  There is no objectivity in looking at the world’s religions, by staying in one’s own box.  The only perspective for such people is to deny all other religions.  And every religion (including Christianity) does exactly this, denies the truthfulness of any other religion, as well as the multitude of other religious creation theories.  Secular scientists don’t have the luxury of picking any one religion over the other, especially when all claim the same basis for being true (the infallibility of their own Scriptures).  In contrast, Christian scientists do their scientific research from within their limiting box of Christianity, using foundational Christian premises or assumptions as their starting point.  Again, the secular scientist does not have that luxury of picking any one religion over another if they are objective in their research.  Your perspective would be to deny all other religions (other than Christianity), whereas the secular scientist will simply deny all religions (almost the same as you).

So Joy, you can tell me that there is no reason that the Christian God could not create the world exactly as the Bible and its God says, in six literal days, less than 8,000 years ago.  But saying so does make it so.  I suppose there is no reason that God couldn’t create the world in a thousand different ways, even through a cosmic egg.  But saying that does not make it true.  And your authority is no more sure than the authority by which the Muslim claims a different creation account.  Your quoting of Bible verses is no more convincing to the Muslim than his quoting of the Koran is to you.  And the quote from G.I. Williamson is a quote given from within the Reformed box of Christianity, and is anything, other than objective.

Taking all religions out of the picture allows an objectivity in looking at the scientific evidence, which leads the majority of scientists to see evolution as the most likely of all possibilities for the explanation of life on earth, including human life.  Secular science has not removed all the road blocks to this theory of evolution (even coming up with some crazy ideas), but in principle, most in the scientific research world agree that evolution is the most likely of all possibilities.  Thanks again for the chat time.  Always good to talk.

This is an example that demonstrates the fact that the scientific establishment is not objective.  They are vehemently anti creation / Creator:

“…when Chinese researchers wrote the “C” word in a paper, even though they themselves are evolutionists, the evolutionists went nuts, flooding the comments section with calls for retraction, etc.

In a paper exploring the capabilities of the human hand, they wrote:

The explicit functional link indicates that the biomechanical characteristic of tendinous connective architecture between muscles and articulations is the proper design by the Creator to perform a multitude of daily tasks in a comfortable way.

Hand coordination should indicate the mystery of the Creator’s invention.

In conclusion, our study can improve the understanding of the human hand and confirm that the mechanical architecture is the proper design by the Creator for dexterous performance of numerous functions following the evolutionary remodeling of the ancestral hand for millions of years.”

(I bolded the word Creator to highlight it)

See article at crev[dot]info/2016/03/creator-becomes-cussword

As mentioned in an earlier comment, many evolutionists, as well as myself, are not anti-theistic. Theistic evolution or intelligent design is a viable option for many evolutionists.  You suggest that all evolutionists are anti-creator, but of course that is not true.  It’s the creation itself that speaks for the Creator, not the thousands of religions that try to explain the Creator God or his mode of creation.  Even you would affirm that all religions, other than Christianity, are false in explaining a theory of origins. Most evolutionist do the same as you, discredit all religions as being false, only they also include Christianity as one of the numerous religions that they exclude.  Why would they keep only Christianity, out of the hundreds, if not thousands, of religions that attempt to explain God, especially when they all claim the same grounds for infallibility as Christians claim?  Like you, theistic evolutionists see purpose and function for the “hand,” as well as other parts of the body.  Your illustration falls short, again.

Job 38:Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding.

Job 38:21 Knowest thou it, because thou wast then born? or because the number of thy days is great?

There you go again, either quoting the Bible or some other source of so-called  authority.  Do you not realize that Job is considered the oldest book of the Bible according to many Bible scholars?  If many of your quotes come from outdated sources, you picked the most outdated with Job. It is definitely archaic.  People have learned a world of knowledge since the writing of Job, both about our world and about human nature.  I notice that you do a lot of quoting from sources outside of yourself.  I sometimes wonder what Joy, herself, is thinking.  It would be nice to hear your own thoughts and rationale for those thoughts.

A very interesting blog post by Scott Hoezee this morning on The Twelve: http://blog.perspectivesjournal.org/2016/05/24/the-bible-alone/

"Today as arguments continue to swirl on issues related to the age of the earth and as some in the wider Christian community work very hard to discredit any scientific teachings that contradict the clear authority of God's Word, we need to relax a bit and let things play out over time and by the Holy Spirit's guidance (who, as Jesus said in John 16, would continue to lead us into all truth).   We should also be cautious when making accusations that some are letting science take control in ways that mean the centrality of Scripture is getting diminished if not dismissed.   Letting science (and other fields of discovery) help us read the Bible better and more accurately has been going on from the beginning.  It is a conversation, not a competition."

 

Thanks, Gayla, for the post from Scott Hoezee.  I’m not sure what you intended by this post, except maybe to tell some of us  responders (meaning me) to back off a little.  If that is the case, I understand your sentiment. The need to relax and let things play out over time by the Holy Spirit’s guidance is perhaps good advice.  But such advice means different things to different people.  I find the dialogue in response to the Banner articles (including this one) very relaxing and helpful.  It helps me to shore up what I believe by allowing my thoughts to bounce up against the thoughts of others who may or may not agree with my opinions.  It’s through dialogue that we learn from each other and become confirmed in our own beliefs, or at times, even change our own perspective.  I don’t think this dialogue necessarily always changes the opinions of others, but it might help others to see there is more than one valid way to look at the challenges these articles present.  For instance, in my dialogue with Joy, I can follow the thought pattern that takes her in a particular direction. And even though I may not agree with her (or her with me) we both increasingly understand how the other thinks and understand the train of thought that leads to different conclusions.  And isn’t that possibly how the Holy Spirit works in our lives?  I’m never sure how many other people are watching in on these conversations, other than the responders.  So I hope our debates, when they become heated, don’t become offensive to others.  For me, I sure enjoy the opportunity that our Banner magazine offers.  Thanks.

If the Bible loses certain words in translation, wouldn't it be unreliable?

Why can the Bible be so easily misinterpreted if it was written under the guidance of an omniscient being?

Why is the description of the earth, in the bible, inaccurate?

These are some of the questions I'm having right now

X