Creationism

This category contains 39 posts

Ken Ham Rescinds Alien Damnation?

mars-1I wrote very recently about Ken Ham declaring aliens eternally doomed. Now, however, Ken Ham is claiming that headlines like my post (or those declaring aliens are going to hell) are mistaken. I just want to briefly look at this claim. In his most recent blog article, he states:

So, “is there intelligent life in outer space?” After reading the Huffington Post article and the other items on secular websites responding to my article, my answer is this: “there doesn’t seem to be much intelligent life left here on earth—let alone to find any in outer space!”

Well, that’s all well and good, but I’m curious as to how someone could say that I would be mistaken for thinking that this would somehow make invalid the analysis I made of his site regarding aliens being doomed. But it seems Ham is responding by simply saying that there are no intelligent beings elsewhere, and so we are supposed to conclude that that somehow means aliens would not be doomed (because there are none). But that doesn’t really meet the analysis of some of those who are critiquing Ham’s position.

What it comes down to is Ken Ham’s own words:

You see, the Bible makes it clear that Adam’s sin affected the whole universe. This means that any aliens would also be affected by Adam’s sin, but because they are not Adam’s descendants, they can’t have salvation.

Thus, according to Ken Ham himself, if aliens do exist, “they can’t have salvation.” I’m not sure exactly what distinction is to be made between this and going to hell, but it seems that Ham’s only answer is that there are no aliens, so this doesn’t apply. Again, that doesn’t meet the critique I’ve already leveled against his view.

But, perhaps I’m mistaken and Ham is merely trying to assert that only certain headlines are mistaken. He cites these specifically: “Creationist Ken Ham Says Aliens Will Go To Hell So Let’s Stop Looking For Them”; “Creationist Ken Ham: Aliens are going to hell so just stop looking for them.” I think it’s fair to say that these headlines are not exactly accurate representations of Ham’s view. Instead, Ham seems to be saying 1) Aliens don’t exist; 2) Because they don’t exist, we shouldn’t bother to spend time looking for them; 3) a theological reason for thinking they don’t exist is that they “can’t have salvation.”

It is point 3 which I took issue with in my post, but the headlines Ham cites seem to combine all 3 points into one without any clarity. Thus, I appreciate Ham clarifying his position. The points I brought up in my critique, however, still stand.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Ken Ham Declares Aliens Eternally Doomed- I analyze Ken Ham’s statements about aliens and the possibility for their salvation.

Alien life: Theological reflections on life on other planets- I engage in some [highly] speculative theology related to the possibility of aliens.

Did God Create the Universe for Humans?-Some Thoughts on God’s purposes for creating-  I argue that God’s purposes in creating are needlessly limited when people object that God created the universe [only] for humankind.

Aliens that believe in God: The theological speculations of Robert Sawyer’s “Calculating God”- I reflect on a science fiction book, Calculating God, which has aliens that believe in God.

 

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

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Book Review: “Death Before the Fall” by Ronald Osborn

dbf-osborn

I eagerly anticipated the release of Ronald Osborn’s book, Death Before the Fall: Biblical Literalism and the Problem of Animal Suffering, as it is a topic of great interest to me. The work is divided into two major sections: “On Literalism” and “On Animal Suffering.”

The first part occupies the bulk of the book (100/179 pages of text). In it, Osborn first offers his interpretation of the creation account in Genesis 1. His take on it is that is fairly open to being taken in a number of ways. For example, having creatures come forth “from the earth” may be direct special creation, or a linguistic device aimed at describing the “open” status of creation–its ability to change and self-correct (see esp. 27-28).

After laying out the interpretation, Osborn sets out to show how “literalism” is a mistaken hermeneutic. He argues that literalism has been brought to the forefront due to Enlightenment ways of thinking. That is, biblical literalists are influenced by modernism and their readings tend to be highly reliant on that kind of rationalist epistemology (42ff). A major difficulty with literalism, he notes, is that it seems to ultimately lead to fideism: one’s view of what the “plain sense” reading of the Bible is must be taken as normative for all areas of inquiry (44; 45-46). Another difficulty is that literalism tends to actually go far beyond what the text says in order to defend a preferred interpretation of the text (56-57).

Scientific creationism, Osborn argues, is flawed because it isn’t a “progressive research program” but rather a “degenerative” one. That is, scientific creationism is simply adjusted in an ad hoc way to meet new challenges rather than predicting them (63ff). He rounds out this first part with a discussion of how literalism ultimately leads to circling the wagons and an “enclave mentality,” alongside various representatives of historical interpretation of Genesis–Barth, Calvin, Augustine, and Maimonides.

The second part focuses on animal suffering and approaches it from a number of angles. He begins the section with three difficulties with a “literalist” view of animal suffering and the Fall. Briefly, these are the notion that a flawless creation as put forward by some seems to simply be the winding up of a watch; that God is made to be a deceiver; and difficulties with how the curse is to be applied to animals (126ff). These are presented briefly but cogently and each offers a unique challenge to typical creationist readings of the text. Next, Osborn turns to explanations other than the Fall as reasons animals suffer. He turns to the book of Job and argues both that God may have created nature with predation and death and also that God’s answer to Job out of the whirlwind may be applied to animal suffering (154-155). Moreover, God’s choosing to participate in the world in the Incarnation helps to consummate all creation and bring it to completion (165).

A difficulty with the book is the sustained polemic against literalism/YEC. At times, Osborn shares great insights in the movement. Moreover, pointed criticism is surely needed in some form. Unfortunately, after some helpful introductory comments, he seems to degenerate into posturing against those with whom he disagrees. For example, after admitting that Gnosticism is rather ill-defined, he nevertheless goes on to compare literalism to Gnosticism and simply state that they each share certain features in common (86ff). I like to call this the “Gnostic fallacy” in which someone declares the ‘other’ to be a Gnostic in order to refute them. As Osborn himself notes, Gnosticism is hard to pin down, which also means it is very easy to twist various teachings into lining up with Gnosticism. I think this is honestly one example. [See comments for Osborn's clarifying comments on this section.]

This section is understandable, and it is easy for someone like Osborn–a former YEC (like myself)–to want to lash out against these formerly held, and sometimes damaging, beliefs, but it is not a very helpful. I suspect it will alienate any readers he would perhaps hope to engage in dialogue, which leaves one wondering about the audience for the book.

Another difficulty with Osborn’s sustained critique of “literalism” is that he never provides much insight into how and/or when texts are to be read literally. That is, would the Gospels need to be read literally when they speak of Jesus dying on the cross and rising again? Osborn clearly affirms this, but doesn’t provide mechanisms which distinguish between “literalism” and simply proper exegesis which would allow for and engage with literal readings of the texts.

One further problem is that the book, despite purporting to be about Death Before the Fall, only briefly addresses this issue. The book really doesn’t provide anything more than most basic non-young earth literature does when it comes to the issue. As such, it is difficult to determine exactly how useful the book is when compared to other works.

Ultimately, Death Before the Fall: Biblical Literalism and the Problem of Animal Suffering does not contribute much new to the debate over whether animal death could occur before the fall. Osborn presents many interesting points–particularly in his heavy critique of literalism as a method–and the book is worth the read, but its limited treatment of the title is a disappointment.

Readers who are interested in the topic of animal suffering and death before the fall are better served to pick up Michael Murray’s excellent and enthralling book, Nature Red in Tooth and Claw: Theism and the Problem of Animal Suffering. Murray’s work is superior in both tone and treatment. It focuses entirely on the topic of animal suffering from a philosophical perspective (and is thus more academic than Osborn’s work, for better or worse). The work has a lengthy (33 pages) chapter dedicated explicitly to philosophical issues with animal suffering and the Fall, which makes it far more in-depth than the work reviewed here. Finally, it provides much greater depth on various theodicies when it comes to animal suffering. Those interested in that topic and the topic of death before the Fall or how the Fall relates to animal suffering would be better served to pick up Murray’s work.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Sunday Quote!- Do Trilobites Yield a Greater Good?- I discuss a very minor point in Murray’s work which shows how diverse its threads are for thinking on this topic.

Source

Ronald Osborn, Death Before the Fall: Biblical Literalism and the Problem of Animal Suffering (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsit, 2014).

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Dinosaurs, Noah’s Flood, and Creationism- An ecological challenge

SuchomimusI recently visited the Science Museum of Minnesota to check out the exhibit “Ultimate Dinosaurs” which features a number of dinosaurs which aren’t typically displayed in North America. I heard one other museum-goer talking about how they always thought that dinosaurs just were dinosaurs–that they were the same all over the Earth. But they weren’t! In fact, there is great diversity in the types of dinosaurs found in different parts of the world. Some are found all over North America; others are restricted to small parts of Africa or South America.

That got me thinking on creationism. A standard young earth creationist account of the history of the world would state that dinosaur fossils are found where they lay because the Flood put them there. Many YEC accounts are catastrophic in nature, arguing that the Flood recreated the surface of the Earth and left most or all of the layers of sediment we now observe. The dinosaurs (and other creatures) we find were swept up in the Flood and then laid down once the water had settled.

Pictured above and left, there is a fossil of a Suchomimus. Suchomimus was a fish-eating dinosaur which has only been found in Niger, Africa. According to standard scientific explanations, it lived in the Early Cretaceous period, about 121-112 million years ago. According to a young earth creationist account, this dinosaur died either during the Flood or migrated to the location it was found after the Flood. Either way, this was no more than a few thousand years ago. Pictured below and to the right, there is a fossil of a Tyrannosaurus Rex. It lived in the Late Cretaceous period, about 66-67 million years ago and ranged across what is now North America. Again, a young earth creationist account would have it dying during the flood or going extinct afterwards.

Tyrannosaurus-Rex-mn-sciThe Young Earth Creationist Explanation- A problem?

The young earth creationist (YEC) account is once more generally based upon the notion that the Noachian Deluge deposited these fossils where they are now found. The Flood is to explain how these fossils ended up in their present locations.

The fact that dinosaurs are found in different parts of the planet–and only in those parts–suggests an interesting problem for YECs: How is it that such a catastrophic event managed to destroy the surface of the Earth and then remake it through layers while creating the illusion of localized ecosystems at different points in history?

Such a challenge should not simply be dismissed. YEC literature sometimes suggests that the fossilized ecosystems which are proposed in different parts of the world at different (millions of years ago) times are merely products of the Flood depositing the fossils where they now lay. For example, according to YEC literature, many scientists believe that there was an ancient sea over North America merely because the Flood happened to deposit a bunch of mosasaur fossils and other marine life in a certain layer of the sediment it laid down.

The observed evidence, however, goes against this notion. Consider the Suchomimus (pictured above, left) once more. It has been found only in a localized area in what is now Africa. It is nearly certain it was a fish eater. This notion is not a mere product of accidental laying down of fish fossils near and around where Suchomimus has been found. Instead, it is based upon observational evidence. First, its large claws seem perfectly adapted to snagging large lungfish along the shore (large lungfish fossils have been found in the same area). Second, its narrow skull lined with extremely pointy teeth suggest a fishy diet, as it is once more adapted to eating them. Third, and most telling, fish fossils have been found with tooth marks from Suchomimus on their bones.

So what? How does this bring up a problem for YEC? Well, to put it simply, it demonstrates that the localized ecosystem found near and around Suchomimus is not a mere random product of fossils being jumbled together and then deposited during the Flood. Instead, predator and prey are found in a localized environment with other fossil specimens that fit neatly into the same ecosystem. But on the YEC account, how could this happen? Surely it would be an astounding happening if an entire ecosystem were swept away by the Flood, jumbled up with others along with sediment and the like, subjected to tidal waves across the surface, and then neatly deposited in a localized area, preserving that same ecosystem.

cretaceous-mapA Possible Alternative

Some YECs (such as Kurt Wise) have instead suggested that the Flood did not destroy the whole surface of the Earth but was rather providentially brought about by God along with catastrophic plate tectonics. On this scenario, water rapidly rose and covered the face of the Earth, bringing with it sediment and the like which rapidly buried such localized ecologies.

Setting aside difficulties with such a scenario related to the means by which it would have allegedly occurred, it should be clear that this explanation is at least somewhat more palatable. It doesn’t turn ecosystems into mere fictions. However, this scenario doesn’t solve everything. For example, why are there separate and distinct ecosystems, one atop the other, in the same place? Going to North America, Tyrannosaurus Rex has been found across much of what is now North America. Again, we find prey with T-Rex tooth marks in their bones and the like. We have preserved ecosystems from this time. But different places (like the inland sea I discussed here) feature what appears to be a marine environment. Moreover, different layers, like those exposed through glaciation in the upper Midwest, show entirely different (and seemingly more primitive) marine lief. This raises a number of issues, most of which are relevant for any alleged Flood scenario.

First, if the Flood was a sudden event which covered the face of the Earth and thus preserved ecosystems in place, how did it manage to kill off and bury so much marine life? It seems like it must have been gentle enough to preserve the fossil evidence, so why did the marine life not simply swim away and get scattered across other layers as it died? Second, how do we have distinct and separate ecosystems preserved in different layers, one atop the other? Again, the suggestion was that ecosystems were preserved in place–so why do some places have different ecosystems above one another? Third, why are the types of sediment laid down distinct for each ecosystem? If the sediment was all due to one event, then why does the sediment type match the ecosystems which it buries?

herrerasaurusThe Balance of Evidence

At this point, I think we must remember that we may evaluate such claims from a number of angles. First, the YEC explanations seem very ad hoc–that is, they are invented  by adjusting the Flood scenario (or some other device like distant starlight moving faster)–in order to explain away the difficulties rather than pursuing the evidence. It is reactionary rather than investigative. [I edited this line after some insight from a comment below.]

Second, realistically, which portions of the YEC explanation might be found in the Bible, if any? Having read the accounts of the Flood and Creation many times, I have to say I have never once spotted a place wherein it discusses the distribution of dinosaurs, the way the Flood laid down sediment, or any number of things put forward by YECs.

Third, when YECs and others are offering alternative scientific explanations–i.e. an explanation for “how did this [dinosaur] get here?”–they must deal with the fact that we’re looking for the most likely explanation. As I discussed in another post on dinosaurs and creationism, the proposed alternative YEC explanation is very clearly more complex and less likely than that of the one already offered–that the dinosaurs simply existed at different times and/or in different places over the course of history. We should be honest in our evaluations of evidence and look to see which explanation is more likely. Remember, we should be investigating the evidence while trying to stay free of any a priori assumptions about what must have happened and instead look at the evidence to see which explanation best fits. As I pointed out in the post linked above, proposing a global catastrophic Flood as the alternative hypothesis demands an enormous burden of proof.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

“Oceans of Kansas,” Unexpected Fossils, and Young Earth Creationism- I discuss the alleged findings out out-of-sequences fossils in the fossil record and how YEC explanations fail to show they are attributable to a global catastrophic Flood.

What options are there in the origins debate? – A Taxonomy of Christian Origins Positions- I clarify the breadth of options available for Christians who want to interact on various levels with models of origins. I think this post is extremely important because it gives readers a chance to see the various positions explained briefly.

The photographs in this post were taken by me at the Science Museum of Minnesota with permission. Any use of these pictures should be only with express, written consent. The map is an image created by BBC and I do not claim any rights over it but use it through fair use.

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Sunday Quote!- The Desperate Lights of Genesis?

readinggenesis1-2-CharlesEvery Sunday, I will share a quote from something I’ve been reading. The hope is for you, dear reader, to share your thoughts on the quote and related issues and perhaps pick up some reading material along the way!

The Source of Light: A Desperate Bid?

One of the heated questions about the age of the Earth of course concerns the meaning and length of the days of creation. Of the questions related to that, one which persists is where from and why, on a literal reading, is there light before the bodies which produce light (stars, sun, etc.) are apparently created (though this is also debated) on day four? In Reading Genesis 1-2: An Evangelical Conversation, Tremper Longman III offers the following comment on one path that some creationists take to explain the light prior to the sun:

The counterargument [to the fact that the solar bodies were not created until day 4] that God could provide an alternative light source is an act of desperation. Of course, God could provide light and darkness in some other fashion in a twenty-four-hour period, but that would still not constitute a literal evening and morning that is defined by the setting and rising of the sun and the movement of the other celestial bodies. (105, cited below)

Although I’m not sure I would qualify this move as “desperate,” I do still wonder how, exactly, one is to define the days of creation and a “literal” evening and morning without the actual solar bodies. I mean, realistically, what does it mean to say there is “evening” without such a reference point? Interestingly, some concordist positions (concordist meaning views which seek to explain the Bible in light of science or vice versa–and would encompass both young and old earth creationists of various types [see my taxonomy of positions]) actually take this to show that the days are not indeed 24 hour periods.

What are your thoughts on this issue? Do you see this move as desperate or do you think its perfectly reasonable? Somewhere in between? Why?

Source

Tremper Longman III, “What Genesis 1-2 Teaches (and What It Doesn’t)” in Reading Genesis 1-2: An Evangelical Conversation edited J. Daryl Charles (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2013).

“Oceans of Kansas,” Unexpected Fossils, and Young Earth Creationism

ook-everhartRecently, I reviewed the debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham. In that debate, Bill Nye challenged Ken Ham to come up with just one fossil that was in the wrong place in the fossil sequence. In that review, I mentioned polystrate fossils as one possibility for the YEC rejoinder. Strictly speaking, these fossils are not “out of sequence” in a formal sense and so do not qualify as such evidence. Are there other possibilities? Michael J. Everhart’s fascinating look at the natural history of the Western Interior Sea brings up another possibility which may draw some looking for out-of-sequence fossils. After an introductory narrative about how a mosasaur (pictured on the cover of the book getting chomped by a shark) fossil could end up broken up in the middle of the sea, he wrote:

“Bloating and Floating” is certainly the case in many instances and is the only reasonable explanation for how the remains of large dinosaurs, such as Niobrarasaurus coleii…could have found their way into the middle of the Western Interior Sea… (48)

There have been, he noted, discoveries of dinosaurs in the middle of what should have been fossils of only aquatic creatures in the chalk and limestone that covers much of the central states–what was in ancient times the Western Interior Sea. His proposed explanation is that a dinosaur might die on the shore and get swept out to sea, bloated and floating until coming to rest at the bottom and becoming fossilized. Though not necessarily the “only reasonable” explanation, Everhart’s scenario provides an interesting test case for rival hypotheses.

Young Earth Creationists (YECs) tend to view evidences like these as proof of the Flood. That is, given a catastrophic global flood, one would expect that different life forms, all killed together by the flooding of the whole Earth, would be mixed together. Thus, a dinosaur in the middle of what should be sea creatures is alleged to provide evidence for the YEC Flood hypothesis.However, Everhart’s scenario does seem to be more plausible than a young earth account for several reasons.

First, Everhart’s proposed scenario is much simpler an explanation than the hypothesis that a global flood swept the dinosaur(s) into the position they are found among so many aquatic remains. This point is not to be understated; on a purely historical level, without any a priori assumptions of what should be the case given a specific reading of Genesis, it seems more reasonable to suppose that a dinosaur died and had its carcass swept out to sea before it was scavenged and sank to the bottom of the sea to be deposited than to suppose that a global catastrophe led to the dinosaur being found in its present location.

1scene

A picture I took at “Castle Rock” in central Kansas. This beautiful formation has huge amounts of deposited limestone and shells layered atop each other. One can walk to the walls and literally pull slabs of fossils out of the sides. If the YEC account of the flood were correct, one would expect to find multiple varieties of creatures found throughout these layers.

Second, and perhaps more problematic for the YEC position, is the fact that such finds as these are extremely rare, when, given a global flood, the expectation should be to constantly find such mixing of types of fossils. Simply finding one dinosaur fossil (or even several) among countless numbers of mosasaurs, icthyosaurs, fish, and of course limestone deposits from sea life (alongside shells of all sorts of varieties, etc.) does not actually provide sufficient evidence for the YEC account of the flood. We should instead find primates, dinosaurs, mosasaurs, trilobites, mammoths, and archaeopteryx fossils jumbled together. What we do find is a stunning uniformity of fossils such that the find of a dinosaur is means for speculation regarding how it got there rather than a commonality which demonstrates a planetwide flood.

Third, the dinosaur in question was contemporaneous with the aquatic life. That is, it lived at the same time as the creatures in the chalk in which it was deposited. Again, on a YEC scenario, one would expect instead to find all sorts of mixing of fossils from different time periods. The fact that these dinosaurs lived on land in the same time in which we find them at the bottom of the sea does not suggest a massive global flood which mixed all life (which all lived at the same time) together in one death pool; instead, it counts as direct evidence for the gradual diversification and extinction of life. The finds are consistent with what one would expect with longer periods of time instead of a global flood. Thus, it does not seem that fossils found in unexpected places may serve as evidence for Young Earth Creationism. Indeed, given the second point in particular (and in conjunction with the third), it seems that they serve as yet another evidence against the notion of a young earth and global flood. There are better options for Christians than Young Earth Creationism.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

What options are there in the origins debate? – A Taxonomy of Christian Origins Positions- I clarify the breadth of options available for Christians who want to interact on various levels with models of origins. I think this post is extremely important because it gives readers a chance to see the various positions explained briefly.

Shells and the Biomass of Earth: A serious problem for young earth creationists- I argue that the sheer amount of living organisms we can discover weighs against a young earth position.

Michael Everhart has written more on the specific find related to the dinosaur in the Smoky Hill Chalk at the Oceans of Kansas site.

My thanks to fellow blogger “The Natural Historian” for some comments on the topic of this post prior to publication.

Source

Michael J. Everhart, Oceans of Kansas: A Natural History of the Western Interior Sea (Indiana University Press, 2005).

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

What options are there in the origins debate? – A Taxonomy of Christian Origins Positions

Trilobites_in_the_Mineral_Museum_in_SiófokThe origins debate within Christianity is often viewed through the lens of a very narrow spectrum. Most recently, this was demonstrated in the debate between Ken Ham and Bill Nye.  I also demonstrated this recently by answering questions for old earth creationists (see the first and second parts): some people tend to see the only options available for Christians as either young earth creationism (the earth was made in six 24 hour days 6-10 thousand years ago) or theistic evolutionism (God set it up, then evolution accounts for diversification). These perspectives, though showing a few of those available to Christians, do not actually reflect the whole realm of possibilities for Christians.

More thoughtful Christians tend to think of the perspectives as threefold. There are theistic evolutionists, young earth creationists, and then in between there is a kind of amorphous glob of people who hold to an “old earth” without expressing it in strictly evolutionary terms. Here, we’ll explore this amorphous glob (as well as the extremes) to show that there really is a range of options. I’m writing this mainly to clarify for many some of the difficulties in commenting on creation issues without such a taxonomy.

Gerald Rau’s Mapping the Origins Debate

If I could recommend one book to anyone who is going to get involved in creation issues, I would have to say I’d recommend Gerald Rau’s Mapping the Origins Debate: Six Models of the Beginning of Everything. I’m not recommending it because I think it is the best book on creation issues. Rather, I’m recommending it because I think anyone who is going to interact with these issues must be able to make distinctions between positions. Rau’s work is helpful because he has laid out many of the main categories for belief. There is, however, a downside to his work: it is necessarily simplified. He did an adequate job showing the major positions available, but the fact remains that even within each position he dilineated there are more divisions to be explored. Moreover, there are views which simply don’t fit into any specific group. That said, I think his work is extremely useful and so I’ll start with his organization as a way to introduce the taxonomy.

Rau’s Taxonomy

Rau divided the major positions on the origins debate into a sixfold division (see Rau, 41):

Naturalistic Evolution- On this view, there is no God and no purpose in origins. The process for the origin of species and its diversity is “spontaneous.”

Nonteleological Evolution- On this view, there is a creator, but there remains no intervention in the natural process which yield life and its diversity. Thus, the “conditions necessary for life” were “established at creation.” However, evolution is still without purpose and the creator did not specify its parameters.

Planned Evolution- On this view, there is a creator who had a purpose for life and its origin. This purpose is through a “perfect creation” which “naturally fulfills God’s purposes.” Thus, the purpose which the creator had was essentially front-loaded in at the moment of creation. There is no direction during the process.

Directed Evolution- On this view, there is a creator with a purpose for the diversity of life. Unlike the previous view, the creator doesn’t merely front-load design and purpose but rather intervenes throughout the course of history to bring about purpose: “changes in universe and life” are “subtly directed over time.”

Old-Earth Creation- On this view, the process by which the diversity of species came about is not through directed evolution but rather through creation over time: “major body plans” are “created over millions of years.” New diversity of life is through God’s direct creative act.

Young-Earth creation- on this view, “each ‘kind'” is “created in one week, within the last 10,000 years. All diversity of life is due to God’s creative act; any changes since then are only among the “kinds” represented on the ark.

162283main_image_feature_693_ys_4A Larger Picture

Rau’s division of these groups is extremely helpful because he hits on the major positions represented within the spectrum. Of course the only options which are available to Christians are those which do not exclude God from the picture. Thus all but naturalistic evolution remain open to the believer. Now,  the debate over how these might fit into the teaching of the Bible is not what I’m trying to dive into here. Instead, I’m simply pointing out there is diversity of views greater than the YEC/Theistic Evolutionism divide. One can see from the above that even within theistic evolutionism there is some diversity. Does evolution take place nonteleologically or did God plan it from the beginning? Perhaps God directed evolution along the way. There also is the option of Old Earth Creationism which shares many features with young earth creationism but radically diverges from the latter in many respects.

However, the spectrum opens up even more than Rau’s taxonomy depicts. The views he discusses focus primarily upon the science; that is, they are distinctions among views on the specifics of a scientific account of origins. Other views may be listed which may be distinguished by the reading of the Bible. Now, there is of course much overlap between these and Rau’s list, but I wanted to highlight a few views of interest.

First, there are interpreters like John Sailhamer in his book Genesis Unbound who hold that the text of Genesis is most specifically talking about the creation of the Garden of Eden. C. John Collins also holds to this view. They each hold that Genesis 1:1 is a kind of statement about the creation of the universe (though Collins does question whether it is explicitly about the ex-nihilo creation of the universe) and what follows as a continuous creation narrative of the land for the inhabitants. Thus, the text in Genesis does not explicitly affirm any sort of creation account and so people would be free to hold to essentially any position above apart from naturalistic evolution.

Second, John Walton’s view reads the creation account within the Ancient Near Eastern context and so he views Genesis not as a literal creation account but rather as an account showing how God is enthroned over the entire creation as King. Again, such a view would be amenable to the spectrum of views possible for a Christian as I noted.

It is worth noting that either of these is distinct from the spectrum Rau lists. They are distinct because they do not require commitment to any of the creation models. Thus, for Collins, Sailhamer, and Walton, one may simply remain open to the evidence rather than filtering the evidence through specific readings of the Genesis text. Of course, one could hold to this view and remain a young earth creationist; but none of these readings explicitly forces someone to hold to any position on the actual means of creation and speciation.

Third, there are positions related to the scientific origins which would further subdivide Rau’s categories as dilineated above. For example, young earth creationists often hold that the Global Flood can account for the fossil record and stratification. But some YECs have historically held that the Flood would have been tranquil and essentially had no impact on the Earth. Other YECs simply hold that the universe and the Earth have an appearance of age because God would have known at what age it would have needed to be in order to sustain life. There is much diversity about the mechanisms related to the Flood as well. Similarly, Old Earth Creationists exist upon a spectrum, though Rau’s principles about what unites them are correct. However, OECs are often confused with other views along the spectrum such as directed evolution. Strictly speaking, an Old Earth Creationist will not hold to the notion that speciation occurs on such a broad scale through evolution.

Conclusion

I have utilized Rau’s work to demonstrate there is a spectrum of beliefs related to the origins debate. The spectrum, I have argued, is even broader than Rau showed. Within each category he listed, there may be subdivisions. Moreover, there are some views which eschew attempts to dilineate the scientific truths but simply ascribe to reading the text. These latter views would fit with essentially any along the spectrum of beliefs so long as God is involved.

The purpose of this post is not to sow confusion for those interested in the topic of origins. Rather, it is to demonstrate that there really are more options on the table than either Young Earth Creationism or Theistic Evolutionism. Within either of those views there is much diversity, and there is a whole range in-between. Thus, let us hope that when we discuss origins we avoid falsely portraying the positions as being so limited that we fail to account for the range. Hopefully, this taxonomy will prove helpful.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Source

Gerald Rau, Mapping the Origins Debate: Six Models of the Beginning of Everything (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2012).

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Ken Ham vs. Bill Nye- An analysis of a lose-lose debate

bnye-kham-debateToday, Ken Ham, a young earth creationist, debated against Bill Nye an agnostic famous for “The Science Guy” program, on the topic: “Is creation a viable model of origins in today’s scientific era?” The debate was watched by over 500,000 people and generated a huge amount of interest. Here, I’ll review the debate section by section. Then, I’ll offer some thoughts on the content as well as a concluding summary. If you watched the debate, you may want to just skip down to the Analysis section. The debate may be watched here for a limited time (skip to 13 minutes in to start debate).

Ken Ham Opening

Ham began by noting that many prominent scientists argue that scientists should not debate creationists. He wondered aloud whether that might be because creationism is indeed a viable model and some don’t want that to be shown. He then showed a video of a creationist who was a specialist in science and an inventor, noting that creationism is not mutually exclusive from science.

The three primary points Ham focused on were 1) the definitions of terms; 2) interpretation of the evidence; and 3) the age of the universe is not observational science. Regarding the first, Ham noted that science means knowledge and so evolutionists cannot claim to be doing science. Regarding the second, he argued that both creationists and evolutionists observe the same evidence; they simply interpret that evidence differently. Regarding the third, Ham observed that “We weren’t there” at the beginning of the Earth and so we can’t know through observational science what happened.

Bill Nye Opening

Nye noted that the primary contention of the topic was to see whether the creation model lined up with the evidence. Thus, we must compare Ken Ham’s creation model to the “mainstream” model of science (his word). There are, he contended, major difficulties with Ham’s model, including the fossils found in layers in the Grand Canyon. He noted that there is “not a single place” where fossils of one type cross over with fossils of a different type or era. Yet, on a creation model, one would expect vast amounts of mixing. Thus, the creation model fails to account for the observational evidence.

Nye also noted that there are “billions of people ” who are religious and do not hold to creation science.

Ham Presentation

Ham again emphasized the importance of defining terms. He then presented a few more videos of creationists who are active scientists in various fields. One, a Stuart Burgess [I think I typed that correctly] claimed that he knew many colleagues who expressed interest in creationism but were afraid for their careers.

Non-Christians, Ham alleged, are borrowing from the Christian worldview in order to do science. The reason for this is because their own worldview cannot account for the laws of logic, the uniformity of nature, or the laws of nature. He asked Nye to explain how to account for these aspects of reality without God.

The past cannot be observed directly, he said, and concluded that we can’t be certain that the present is like the past. Thus, we must only deal with the observed facts that we can see now. On this point, the disagreements are over the interpretation of the evidence. That is, there is a set of evidence that both people like Nye and Ham approach. According to Ham, it is their worldviews which color their interpretation of the evidence such that they use the same evidence and get entirely contradictory conclusions.

The diversity of species which is observed is only, Ham argued, difference in “kind.” Thus, it cannot be used as evidence for evolution. The word “evolution” has been “hijacked” and used as evidence for unobservable phenomena extrapolated from that which is observed. The various species demonstrate a “creation orchard” as opposed to an “evolutionary tree.” One may observe different creatures, like dogs, each stemming from an a common origin, but none of these are traceable back to common descent, rather they exhibit discontinuity in the fossil record.

There is a major difference, Ham alleged, between “observational sciences” which looks at the things we can see in repeatable events now and “historical sciences” which extrapolates from the evidence gathered what happened in the past. We can never truly have “knowledge” regarding the historical sciences.

Nye Presentation

Nye began his presentation by noting that the debate took place in Kentucky and “here… we’re standing on layer upon layer upon layer of limestone.” The limestone is made of fossils of creatures which lived entire lives (twenty or more years in many cases) and then died, piled up on top of each other, and formed the limestone underneath much of the state. The amount of time needed for this is much longer than just a few thousand years.

Nye also turned to evidence from ice cores, which would require 170 winter/summer cycles per year for at least a thousand years to generate the current amount of ice built up. In California, there are trees which are extremely ancient, and some trees are even older, possibly as old as 9000 or more years old. Apart from the difficulty of the age of these trees, one must also wonder how they survived a catastrophic flood.

When looking at a place like the Grand Canyon, one never finds lower layer animals mixed with higher level animals. One should expect to find these given a flood. Nye challenged Ham to present just one evidence of the mixing of fossils of different eras together; he said it would be a major blow to the majority sciences.

If the flood explains animal life and its survival, one should observe the migration of animals across the earth in the fossil record; thus a Kangaroo should be found not just in Australia but along the way from wherever the Ark rested. However, these finds are not observed. Finally, the Big Bang has multiple lines of evidence which confirm it as the origin of the universe.

Ham Rebuttal

Ham argued that we can’t observe the age of the Earth. No science can measure it through observational evidence; rather it falls under historical sciences. One should add the genealogies in the Genesis account in order to find the age of the Earth. Whenever a scientist talks about the past, “we’ve got a problem” because they are not speaking from observation: they were not there.

Various radiometric dating methods turn up radically divergent ages for artifacts from the same time period and layer of rocks. The only infallible interpreter of the evidence is God, who provided a record in the Bible.

Nye Rebuttal

Rocks are able to slide in such a way as to interpose different dated objects next to each other.

Nye noted that Ham kept saying we “can’t observe the past,” but that is exactly what is done in astronomy: no observation of stars is not observing the past. Indeed, it takes a certain amount of time for the light to get to Earth from these various stars. The notion that lions and the like ate vegetables is, he argued, preposterous. Perhaps, he asserted, the difficulty is with Ham’s interpretation of the biblical text.

Nye then compared the transmission of the text of the Bible to the telephone game.

Ham Counter-Rebuttal

Ham again pressed that natural laws only work within a biblical worldview. There only needed to be about 1000 kinds represented aboard the ark in order to represent all the current species. Bears have sharp teeth yet eat vegetables.

Nye Counter-Rebuttal

Nye asserted that Ham’s view fails to address fundamental questions like the layers of ice. The notion that there were even fewer “kinds” (about 1000) means that the problem for Ham is even greater: the species would have had to evolve at extremely rapid rates, sometimes even several species a day, in order to account for all the differences of species today.

Q+A

I’ll not cover every single question, instead, I wanted to make note of two major things that came up in the Q+A session.

First, Nye’s answer to any question which challenged him on things like where the matter for the Big Bang came from was to assert that it’s a great mystery and we should find out one day. Second, Ham’s response to any question which (even hypothetically) asked him to consider the possibility that he would be wrong was to assert that such a situation was impossible. In other words, he presupposed he was correct and held to the impossibility that he could be wrong.

Analysis

Ken Ham

Ken Ham’s position was based upon his presuppositional apologetic. He continued to press that it is one’s worldview which colors the interpretation of evidence. The facts, he argued, remained the same for either side. It was what they brought to the facts that led to the radically different interpretations.

There is something to be said for this; it is surely true that we do have assumptions we bring to the table when interpreting the evidence. However, apart from the problem that Ham’s presuppositional approach with creationism is unjustified, Ham failed to deal with facts which really do shoot major holes in his theory. For example, it simply is true that, as Nye noted, when we observe the stars or distant galaxies, we are observing the past. Ham was just wrong on this regard. Moreover, other observational evidence (though not directly showing the past) does demonstrate that the Earth cannot be so young as Ham supposes. Furthermore, his hard and fast distinction between historical sciences and observational sciences is more of a rhetorical device than anything.

Ham’s position, I would argue, fails to account for the evidence which Nye raised (along with a number of other difficulties). Moreover, he continued to paint a picture of the Bible which rejects any but his own interpretation. In other words, he presented a false dichotomy: either young earth creationism or compromise with naturalism. However, I did appreciate Ham’s focus on the Gospel message. It was refreshing to have him present a call to belief in Jesus Christ as Lord and savior in front of such a massive audience.

Bill Nye

Nye did an okay job of trying to show that there may be more to the debate than simply creationism-or-bust for Christianity. Indeed, he actually went so far as to say there is “no conflict” between science and faith. Instead, he argued that Ham’s position is the one which generates such a conflict. His rebuttals provided some major reasons to think that Ham’s creationism could not account for the evidence. In particular, the difficulties presented by the proliferation of species after the flood and the fossil record were solid evidences.

However, Nye’s presentations had a couple difficulties. First, he failed to account for polystrate fossils: the very thing he challenged Ham to present. There really are such things as fossils which are found out of sequence (thanks to ElijiahT and SkepticismFirst on Twitter for this). That’s not to say they prove young earth creationism. Far from it. So Nye seems to have been mistaken on this point. Second, he presented the Big Bang theory as though Fred Hoyle somehow came up with the hypothesis, yet Hoyle is well known for denying the Big Bang. Third, the notion that the interpretation, translation, and transmission of the Bible through time is anything like the telephone game is a tiresome and simply mistaken metaphor.

Both

Both men were extremely respectful and I appreciated their candor. Each had several good points; each had some major flaws in their positions. The dialogue as a whole was interesting and helpful.

Conclusion

Readers by now should realize that I have to confess my title is a bit misleading. I was impressed by the tone of both speakers, though I thought they each made major gaffes alongside some decent points. The bottom line is that I find it unfortunate that we were exposed to a false dichotomy: either creationism or naturalism. There is more to the story. As far as “who won” the debate, I would argue that because of this false dichotomy, neither truly won. However, it seemed to me Ham had a more cohesive 30 presentation. That is, his presentation stayed more focused. Nye’s presentation jumped around quite a bit and had less directness to it. So far as “debate tactics” are concerned, one might chalk that up to a win for Ham. However, Nye successfully dismantled Ham’s presentation in the rebuttal periods. Thus, one was left with the impression that Ham’s view was indeed based upon his presupposition of its truth, while Nye was more open to the evidence. Again, I think both are wrong in many areas, but I hope that Nye’s tearing down of Ham’s position will not demonstrate to some that Christianity is false. As Nye noted, it may instead be Ham’s interpretation which is wrong.

There was much more to cover here than I could get to, so please do leave a comment to continue the discussion.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Naturalis Historia- This site is maintained by a biologist who presents a number of serious difficulties for young earth creationism.

Gregg Davidson vs. Andrew Snelling on the Age of the Earth- I attended a debate between an old earth and young earth creationist (the latter from Answers in Genesis like Ken Ham). Check out my overview of the debate as well as my analysis.

Debate Review: Fazale Rana vs. Michael Ruse on “The Origin of Life: Evolution vs. Design”- Theist Fazale Rana debated atheist Michael Ruse on the origin of life. I found this a highly informative and respectful debate.

Reasons to Believe- a science-faith think tank from an old-earth perspective.

Other Reviews of the Debate

Ken Ham vs. Bill Nye post-debate analysis- The GeoChristian has a brief overview of the debate with a focus on what each got right or wrong.

Ken Ham vs. Bill Nye: The Aftermath- Luke Nix over at Faithful Thinkers has another thoughtful review. His post focuses much more on the topic of the debate as opposed to a broad overview. Highly recommended.

Ken Ham vs. Bill Nye: The Debate of the Decade?- Interested in what led up to this debate? Check out my previous post on the topic in which I urged Christians to write on this debate and also traced, briefly, the controversy leading up to this debate.

The image used in this post is was retrieved at Christianity Today and I believe it’s origin is with Answers in Genesis. I use it under fair use to critique the views. I make no claims to owning the rights to the image, and I believe the image, as well as “The Creation Museum” are copyright of Answers in Genesis.

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Ken Ham vs. Bill Nye- The Debate of the Decade?

bnye-kham-debateWhy care about something written about a debate that hasn’t happened yet? Well frankly, because you need to be prepared for whatever happens afterwards, and the best way to do so is to reflect upon the issue at hand. I decided to do a little research, and I put together this post to help frame the upcoming debate. I also have a few comments on it throughout.

Be Prepared

Fellow Christians, we need to be prepared for this debate. We need to be posting on it beforehand, during, and afterwards. Why? A simple look at Google Trends shows that the search traffic for Ken Ham has spiked hugely since the debate was announced. Side-by-side comparison of Bill Nye and Ken Ham shows both have seen an increase of search traffic from it. To put it simply: people are talking and thinking about this. We need to have a response ready throughout so that the we may demonstrate the reason for the hope within us.

Bill Nye Starts the Fire

The origins of this debate go back all the way to the 17th and 18th century, but we’ll go a bit more modern here and start with Bill Nye’s strong words against creationism. In a video, he began by saying that “Denial of Evolution is unique to the United States…” Such a denial is like “trying to do geology without believing in tectonic plates.” A worldview which denies billions of years, which explains much of the data we see, becomes “untenable” and “inconsistent.” He then addressed the “grown ups” and said “if you want to deny” the scientific evidence for the age of the universe… “that’s fine, but don’t make your kids do it… we need scientifically literate voters [for the future].” Regarding the case for a young earth “there’s no evidence for it.” Nye noted that he believes the young earth worldview won’t exist within a couple centuries.

Answers in Genesis Responds

The young earth creationist group, Answers in Genesis, was quick to respond to Nye’s comments. In a video entitled “Ken Ham Responds to Bill Nye ‘The Humanist Guy,'” Ham was quick to denounce Nye’s attack on creationism. First, he called out Nye for having an “Agenda to teach children not to believe in God…” He went on to say that Bill Nye doesn’t actually understand science. Tying evolutionism to engineering, Ham argued, is nonsensical. Ham felt that Nye’s comments made creationism seem equivalent to child abuse. Instead, he said one should view the teaching that children are “just animals” and there’s no God is the real child abuse. “It’s really people like Bill Nye that are damaging kids. Creationists are telling children that they’re special… made in the image of God.”

Ham alleged that if evolutionism were true, then people should just be able to see it. Instead, he argued that people like Nye have to protect children from hearing any alternative theories so that they don’t question what they’re being taught. “You don’t teach them to think critically… you just want to make sure they only hear about evolution.” Creationists, Ham said, should be happy to teach their children about evolution so that they are able to think critically about it.

False Dichotomy

My primary issue with this debate is that it seems both sides are putting forth a false dichotomy: the only two options, it is alleged, are either naturalistic evolutionism or young earth creationism. However, this does not even begin to exhaust the range of possibilities regarding the origins debate. There are theistic evolutionists, old earth creationists, progressive creationists, and more.

The problem is that when the average person on the street sees a debate like this, they’re going to assume the options they observe are the only positions out there. Suppose Ken Ham gets beaten badly in this debate; in that case, Christians who now think young earth creationism is the only option will believe that it cannot stand up to scrutiny, and–by extension–their faith cannot stand up to scrutiny either. Similarly, suppose Bill Nye gets beaten badly; in that case, Christians may attach their belief to young earth creationism, a position which does not seem viable.

Other Problems

Bill Nye’s comments regarding what parents should or should not do sounds quite a bit like indoctrination. That is, he urged creationist parents not to teach their parents creationism. Now, even though I disagree with Ham’s form of creationism, I do think that parents should be allowed to pass their beliefs on to their children. To say otherwise seems to me an affront to freedom of expression.

As far as Ken Ham’s comments go, I’m not convinced by his assertion that one’s desire to teach evolution must be linked to a desire to teach kids not to believe in God. After all, later in the same video he urges creationist parents to teach their kids about evolution. Surely he’s not saying that creationist parents are trying to teach their children there’s no God when they teach them about evolution!  Ham’s comments seem to do the same thing Nye’s did: paint a picture of a false choice between naturalism and his brand of creationism.

Conclusion

I’m not secret about my views regarding young earth creationism. I simply do not think it accounts for the biblical text or the natural record. Neither do I think a naturalistic perspective is capable of dealing with all the data at hand. However, whatever your view, I still strongly encourage you to consider 1) writing on this topic from your perspective. The more Christian voices we have talking about this, the better. Also, 2) don’t fall victim to the false dichotomy offered by this debate. The extremes are not the only options.

Links

Be sure to check out the page for this site on Facebook and Twitter for discussion of posts, links to other pages of interest, random talk about theology/philosophy/apologetics/movies and more!

Check out the live stream of the debate here (the debate is on 2/4/14 at 7PM ET).

The image used in this post is was retrieved at Christianity Today and I believe it’s origin is with Answers in Genesis. I use it under fair use to critique the views. I make no claims to owning the rights to the image, and I believe the image, as well as “The Creation Museum” are copyright of Answers in Genesis.

SDG.

——

The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Answering “More Questions for Old Earth Creationists”

800px-Orman

One of my primary areas of interest revolves around the debate over origins, specifically within Christianity. Is the universe “young” (~6-10k years) or “old” (about 13.79 billion years)? How do we look at creation texts in the Bible? What do they teach us?

Last week, I wrote on an article in which a young earth creationist on a radio show I enjoy asked a number of questions of old earth creationists. I noted that many of these questions were off-base because they don’t actually address something that is an issue for old earth creationists. For those who follow this debate within Christianity, I want to make it clear that it is extremely important to accurately represent your opponents’ views. It is all well and good to engage in dialogue with and critical examination of other views, but in doing so you should represent those other views accurately.

Pastor Todd Wilken recently wrote a follow up to the article I responded to last week. The first thing of note is that Wilken does nothing to expound on his previous questions. The assumption seems to be that they are left unanswered. But, as I demonstrated before, Wilken’s questions for “old earth creationists” were wildly off-base in a number of ways. The question is, has Wilken now (as he notes, more than a decade later) come to an understanding of the distinctions between views on origins? Do his questions reflect this?

Old Earth Creationism?

One immediate hint at an answer to my questions here is found in the introduction to his paper. He writes:

The Old-Earth Creationist wants to keep the idea of a Creator. But, he also wants to accommodate the latest theory of the age of the Universe, about 15 billion years. The Old-Earth Creationist wants to keep the Genesis Creation account. But, rather than read that account as a record of seven consecutive days of God’s miraculous creation, the Old-Earth Creationist wants to read it as a record of those 15 billion years. Thus the name “Old Earth Creationist.”

There are a number of distortions which already hint that Wilken has not attempted to understand the view he opposes. First, the number of “15 billion years.” Certainly, that date was accurate… many years ago. As the old earth creationist think-tank Reasons to Believe notes (the link will immediately begin playing audio), however, direct measurements place the age at around 13.79 billion years of age. To be fair, Wilken may just be rounding up. However, he says it is the “latest theory.” His number does not reflect that.

More importantly, Wilken misrepresents what old earth creationists think of the text. This is very serious problem. He writes, “…rather than read that account as a record of seven consecutive days of God’s miraculous creation, the Old-Earth Creationist wants to read it as a record of those 15 billion years.” In the broadest sense this may be correct (other than the number), but old earth creationists (hereafter OECs/OEC) such as Hugh Ross specifically read the account as seven daysThe question, of course, is what the days are. But Wilken begins his definition of OEC with this question-begging statement. Before even attempting to interact with the view he criticizes, he misrepresents their position.

After this introduction, though, Wilken confidently states that his previous article–which, as I argued, totally misrepresents old earth creationists–was so powerful that it demonstrated that “[The OEC] is reading into that text considerations outside the text. He must go outside the text of Genesis, and of Scripture as a whole to support his 15 billion year reading of the Genesis account.” demonstrated beyond a reasonable doubt that at least some of Wilken’s questions don’t actually address OEC at all. He quite seriously had no idea what the positions were for OECs related to human origins, the actual dating of processes, and the like. Yet he continues to allege that he has somehow single-handedly demonstrated the project of OEC (which he doesn’t seem to understand) is unbiblical.

162283main_image_feature_693_ys_4The Questions

I skipped through the next section of Wilken’s paper, in which he basically just argues that OECs cannot be exegetically consistent. What I want to jump to is Wilken’s questions once more. They reflect what he must think OECs actually believe, so if his questions once more show that he is mistaken, I think it is fair to say that Wilken cannot fairly think that he has done anything to refute OEC. Unfortunately for him, his questions do portray exactly that: he again demonstrates that he has little understanding of what OECs actually believe. I will write his questions here in bold/italics. The wording is exactly the same as in the paper. I do not take credit for anything he wrote. My responses will be immediately after each question.

1. How do you reconcile the sequence of events recorded in the Genesis account with the prevailing theories of the formation of the Universe –In particular, the formation of the Earth first before the rest of the Universe, including the Sun, Moon and stars; and the assertion that the early Earth had both liquid water and plant life before the formation of the Sun?

My mouth literally dropped open as I read this question. Why? Well, the fact is that this question is the one that OECs have directly addressed time and again. There is no attempt by Wilken whatsoever to acknowledge that many OECs have written, nor does he attempt to engage with or refute these interpretations.

That said, Wilken’s question here shows that he is spot-on in understanding that this is a project for OEC. But the fact that he asks the question makes me wonder whether he has ever even interacted with any of those works which answer the question. Representative is Hugh Ross’ work, A Matter of Days in which he directly addresses these questions.

2. What does the numbering of the days in the Genesis account signify, if not six, discrete, sequential days or time periods?

As I continued to read the article, my impression that Wilken is unaware of even the most basic tenets of OEC increased. Here is another major blunder. Nearly every major OEC of whom I am aware holds that the days of creation are six discrete time periods. So why even bother to ask this question? The answer for most OECs would be “I don’t know, because they are six discrete time periods.” Once more, Wilken betrays a lack of study in this area.

3. How should the six days of Creation in the Genesis account be rearranged to better reflect the actual events of the Universe’s 15 billion year history?

Again, OECs don’t rearrange the days. Framework theorists do–depending on what is meant by “rearrange”–but the vast majority of OECs today do not hold to the framework view. They hold to the “day-age” view. So again, Wilken shows he is not interacting with OEC.

4. How should the sequence of events within those individual days be rearranged to better reflect the actual events of the Universe’s 15 billion year history?

See above. OECs would answer almost unanimously: “They shouldn’t.”

Dark_matter_halo25. If the six days of the Genesis account are really six parts of the Universe’s 15 billion year history, how long was the seventh day described in Genesis 2:1-4? 

OECs tend to note that the 7th day seems to be continuing. Creation is done, and God is no longer creating. Therefore, the 7th  day has continued into the present. I am willing to see someone show any OECs who hold different views on this. I suspect there are at least some who may hold the 7th day is 24 hours or has ended at some point in the past, but those OECs of whom I am aware would say the 7th day continues.

6. To what specifically does the seventh day of Genesis 2:1-4 correspond in the Universe’s 15 billion year history?

The end of God’s creative activity. God is no longer creating distinct species ex nihilo.

7. What is the real chronological relationship between the events describing [sic] in Genesis, chapter one (the six days of Creation), and Genesis chapter two (the specific creation of man)? Is the second chapter a reiteration of the sixth day, focusing on man, or it is a event separate from and subsequent to the six days described in the first chapter?

Great care must be exercised in answering this question. I am trying to answer broadly from the consensus of OECs I have read. I realize there are a number of views OECs hold on these specific questions. I will answer what I think is the majority opinion, but feel free to comment and share other opinions. Genesis chapter two is a reiteration of the sixth day, zooming in on the creation of humankind. It is not a separate event.

8. What is the real chronological relationship between the events describing [sic] in Genesis, chapter one, and Genesis chapter three? Does the Fall described in the third chapter involve the same particular individuals created in chapter two? Are they the same particular individuals created in chapter one?

I admit that the first sentence of this question confuses me. I’m not entirely sure what Wilken is asking, so I will not try to answer it. The second question can easily be answered: “Yes.” OECs, again, hold to the special creation of Adam and Eve. They do not deny this. The insinuations of these questions that OECs hold some other view of human origins is startling, because it is so off-base. Regarding the third question, again the answer is “Yes.” As I noted in my previous response to Wilken’s other article, one of the distinguishing features of OEC is precisely that OECs hold to the special creation of Adam and Eve. It is telling that Wilken seems to be ignorant to this point. Gerald Rau in his work Mapping the Origins Debate explicitly cites this as an area in which young earth creationists and old earth creationists agree (as I noted in my previous response). Wilken seems to be unaware of his agreement with the side he so adamantly opposes (and misrepresents) on this issue.

9.Where in the entire book of Genesis is the transition to “real time”? What in the text itself specifically marks this transition?

I would note the subtle stacking the deck in this question. What is meant by “real time”? After all, we don’t have, in the rest of the Bible, a counting of days. It’s not as though, on the young earth view, one can reference the first week and then simply start adding individual days. The Bible has no running clock in it counting off days and weeks. So Wilken’s term of “real time” seems disingenuous or confused. I am not sure what is meant by the term. Presumably, Wilken means for it to connect to the young earth view of seven 24 hour days as “real time” and the rest of the Bible also using days to mean 24 hours. But again, this is mistaken, because the Bible doesn’t continue to count off days.

As for the transition, it is hard to answer because I’m not sure what the transition is supposed to be between. From “real time” to what? What is meant by “real time”? Would not several billion years be “time” and if it is time, is it not “real”?

10. When the word “day” means something other than 24 hours in Scripture, it most often means a period of less than 24 hours. Why ignore this possibility regarding the Genesis account?

OECs do not ignore this possibility. In fact, they frequently cite Augustine, who held (at one point) that God created the universe in an instant. Why do OECs cite this ultra-young earth interpretation? Because YECs tend to present church history as though everyone throughout history agrees with their interpretation of 7 24-hour days. They don’t. So the possibility is not ignored.

Conclusion

So we return, finally, to the question: Does Wilken’s paper reflect actual knowledge of the distinctions between views on origins? Frankly, the answer is no. It honestly seems to me that Wilken is either blissfully unaware of the actual positions of old earth creationists or he is intentionally misrepresenting them. This seems to be reinforced by the fact that he never once cites any major old earth creationist when representing the position. Instead, he simply reports what he thinks OEC is. But then he goes on to misrepresent OEC and confuse categories. I find this deeply troubling.

The surprising thing is that Wilken has actually demonstrated how much his own view agrees with OEC. In asking questions to try to distinguish himself from OEC, he shows that he and OECs agree on the sequence of days, the days representing distinct time periods, human origins, and a few other minor areas. Unfortunately, Wilken has continued–apparently for over a decade–to misrepresent old earth creationists. I call on him to stop doing so. Read some items from Reasons to Believe. Read Gerald Rau’s book, Mapping the Origins Debate so that one can make the distinctions between differing groups. But stop misrepresenting the views one may oppose. That is disingenuous, and it doesn’t help readers or listeners.

Source

Todd Wilken, “More Questions for Old Earth Creationists” Issues, Etc. Journal (Fall 2013). Accessible here: http://issuesetc.org/podcast/FALL2013.pdf.

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from quotations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited; images are often freely available to the public and J.W. Wartick makes no claims of owning rights to the images unless he makes that explicit) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

Responding to “Nine Questions for the Old Earth Creationist”

exoplanetOne of the podcasts I enjoy listening to is “Issues, Etc.,” a conservative Lutheran radio program that addresses a number of different views. As is the case with anything, however, once you talk to someone or listen to something long enough, you find things with which you disagree. Recently, I heard a podcast which was discussing Christianity and Science. During this podcast, the guest alleged that the Bible contradicts things like the Big Bang theory or any interpretation of millions or billions of years. As that is an area of great interest for me, I did a little more digging and found that Pastor Todd Wilken, one of the primary speakers on the radio program, had written a series of questions for Old Earth Creationists in an article titled “Nine Questions for Old Earth ‘Creationists.‘” [Note that he uses scare quotes around the word "Creationists."]

Here, I shall respond to the Nine Questions asked of Old Earth Creationists. Before I dive in, I want to offer one major disclaimer: these topics are far more complex than one blog post can cover. I fully realize I am leaving objections unanswered and some questions unasked. Feel free to comment to clarify. Second major disclaimer: I realize that there is diversity within old earth creationism. However, I have striven to answer the questions in as broad a manner as possible.

I will be leaving the questions from Todd Wilken in bold and italic  font and my answers in this standard font. The questions are direct quotes from his article, and I take no credit for their wording.

1. What in the text of Genesis 1 requires or suggests an old Earth?

I admit that I know of no Old Earth Creationist (hereafter OEC/OECs) who holds that Genesis 1 requires an old earth. I think the question is mistaken to even use that word, but I would be happy to be corrected should someone find an OEC who does allege that the text requires an old earth. Thus, the question must be what is it that suggests an old earth? Well, as readers of this blog may know already, I think this question itself is mistaken. The text is not referring to the age of the universe at all, anywhere. On this view, although an old earth may be permissible according to the text, it is not suggested; nor is a young earth suggested. The text just isn’t talking about the age of the universe.

Now, many OECs do hold that the text suggests an old earth. Hints of this, they argue, can be found in the fact that evening and morning occurs before there is a sun. Moreover, it is not until the fourth day that days may even be measured. Others hold that the terminology in Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” suggests that the creation occurred in that verse, and that the rest of the chapter (and chapter 2) narrow the focus to earth or even the Garden of Eden.

2. What are the referents of the words “morning” and “evening” in Genesis 1?

I find it extremely telling that Wilken decided to switch the order of these words around. It absolutely must be noted that the text says “evening” and morning.” Why is this? Well, if the first day is really the first 24 hour period in the history of all that exists apart from God, how is it possible for evening to come before morning? [One insightful reader noted that the Hebrews saw evening as the beginning of the day anyway... but my point is that the fact there is an evening implies there is a sun to set... which isn't created until later.] That is a question with which the literalistic young earth creationists must contend. If they choose to read the Bible literal[istical]ly, they must be consistent. The fact that they cannot when it comes to things such as evening coming first shows that their reading is self-referentially inconsistent.

Now, to answer the actual question, that really depends on which OEC you are referring to. I would tentatively suggest that most OECs hold that the referents are simply ways to mark the beginning and ends of creation periods.

3. What in the text of Genesis 1:26-27 requires or suggests the creation of man over millions of years?

I admit that this was where I really started to wonder whether Wilken understands the distinctions between OECs and other views of creation. In asking this question of OECs, Wilken betrays an apparent ignorance of the views of major proponents of OEC.

Representative is Hugh Ross, the founder of Reasons to Believe, which is itself the largest Old Earth Creationist organization. In his work, More Than a Theory, he writes regarding human origins: “God created humans in a deliberate, miraculous act” (182, cited below). In other words, Ross (and this is the position of the entire organization, along with every other OEC I know of) holds that humankind was specially created by God in a single miraculous act. “Ah, but wait!” one might cry. “That doesn’t deny millions of years for the creation of humanity.”

Very well, a very small amount of digging shows Hugh Ross again writing, this time with Fazale Rana (also of Reasons to Believe and another Old Earth Creationist) in their work Who Was Adam? “God created the first humans… both physically and spiritually through direct intervention… All humanity came from Adam and Eve… God created Adam and Eve relatively recently, between 10,000 and 100,000 years ago” (44-45, cited below). 

Therefore, it seems this question is nonsensical. OECs hold that humankind was created specially by God and not over the course of millions of years. I admit that I think just about any OEC would be scratching their head trying to figure out why this question is even being asked because it is so far off the mark of the actual views of OECs. It is particularly remarkable because this feature is one of the very things which distinguishes Old Earth Creationism from other, non-creationist models. Gerald Rau notes this distinction: “Although differing in the timing, both [Young- and Old- Earth creationists] believe God created two humans… without progenitor. This, of course, is a radically different perspective from the evolutionary models” (147, cited below). Note his wording: “of course”; “radically different.” Frankly, anyone who has done even a cursory study of varying Christian views about the timing and means of creation would know this.

4. Where in the text of the Genesis 2 and following is the transition from epoch-long days to 24-hour days?

This question seems to be a bit strange. The word “day” is only used in Genesis 2:2, 3, 4, and 17. In verse 4 even Young Earth Creationists (YEC) have to admit that the word is being used as more than one day (the text says “These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens” (ESV).

Verse 17 is also of great interest because it says, “…’but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die'” (ESV).

Did Adam die on the 24-hour day he ate of that tree? No. In fact, he and Eve went on to have children and raise them to some point. So again, we find that “day” is not referring to a 24 hour period.

But where is the transition? I don’t know. I think the question itself is confused because the word is used four times in the chapter, two of which cannot be 24-hour days.

5. What creative actions described in Genesis 1 require more than six 24-hour days to accomplish for a God Who creates ex nihilo?

The use of the word “require” is again extremely problematic. Of course any OEC would agree that God could create in any time period God wanted. God certainly could have created anything God wanted in any amount of time in which God wanted to. So no OEC that I know of would say that God required more time.

However, some OECs do argue that Adam may have needed more time to accomplish everything it is said he accomplished in the allotted times. Naming all the animals, given the untold thousands of species which exist, would have taken quite a bit of time. (Genesis 2:19 is still part of the sixth day because God is still creating and has not yet made woman.)

But, again, I do not think any OEC would say that the text “requires” God to use more than 24 hours.

dinofeeding6. Where else in Scripture is the word “day” used to designate billions of years?

Here we find yet another question that is just so incredibly off base that it is remarkable. Of course, the Bible does use the word “day” to denote that such a period, for the LORD, is like a thousand years. And the meaning of “like a thousand years” is debatable, but surely it is a long period of time [and much longer than 24 hours]. But the question of “billions of years” is just the wrong question. Again, the text is not trying to tell us how old the earth is.

If Wilken desires to dispute this, I would gladly ask him to present me with a verse in the Bible which sets the date of creation.

7. How are we to understand the connection between the six epoch-days of creation and the sanctification of a literal seventh day in Genesis 2:1-3 and Exodus 20:11?

I am often confused when YECs bring up this argument. Yes, Exodus 20:11 parallels Genesis 1-2 by having 7 days and denoting the seventh as a day of rest. Now, what about that somehow entails that they are exactly the same? I mean think about the Biblical categories of typology. Very often things correspond to each other but are not exactly the same. One might think of the use of Hosea 11:1 to Matthew 2:15. The passage in Hosea is clearly discussing the nation of Israel. In Matthew 2:15 it is applied to an individual, the Son of God. Does this automatically mean that in Hosea we must assume that “son” is being used in the same sense as “Son of God”? Obviously not. Then why ignore typological categories in other texts?

Okay, but how would an OEC answer this objection? By pointing out that the words “day” and “Sabbath” are used variably in the Pentateuch, so a direct 1 to 1 correlation is off-base. Sabbath, for example, may refer to the span of an entire year as opposed to just one day (Leviticus 25:4). Day may refer to a thousand years (Psalm 90:4).

8. Are there considerations outside the text of Genesis that require an old Earth?

I’m not sure if Wilken means to express the question of other texts, or whether he wishes to address the issue of extra-Biblical evidence.

Regarding the first possible meaning, again the answer would be “No.” I will continue to maintain that I know of no OEC who holds the Bible requires an old earth. Many would follow my own reasoning and note that the Bible isn’t trying to discuss time periods. That just isn’t a concern of the text.

9. According to the Old-Earth theory, what is the relationship between death and human sin? When did death enter the world?

Frankly, at this point it should be abundantly clear that Wilken has not interacted very much with the works of Old Earth Creationists. As was noted in the answer to question 3, many OECs hold to the special creation of Adam and Eve. Therefore, this question is similarly extremely easy to answer: human death entered the world because of sin.

A Major Issue

I think one of the main problems with Wilken’s comments are that he doesn’t seem to distinguish between Old Earth Creationists, Theistic Evolutionists, and the various varieties of design theorists. This leads him to a few confused questions which he directs towards OECs that make no sense when directed towards them. I admit that the series of questions here leads me to wonder whether Wilken is simply unaware of the distinctions between these groups or just over-simplifying and obfuscating. I suspect the former.*

Conclusion

I have endeavored to provide brief answers for the Nine Questions Wilken asks of Old Earth Creationists. I believe that some of the questions he asks demonstrate confusion about the actual category of Old Earth Creationism. Moreover, the questions that are on target have been answered repeatedly by various OECs. Whether these answers are taken as convincing is another story.

*It should be noted that Wilken’s article was published in 2002, which is prior to the works cited here. Therefore, Wilken could not have known about the works I have cited to show some of the difficulties with his paper. However, I cited these works specifically to show how mistaken these questions are. If one is going to attempt to educate concerned Christians about a topic like this, it is vastly important to be aware of the distinctions to be found within each group, and Wilken fails to show awareness of these distinctions. Moreover, we will explore Wilken’s very recent article next week, in which he continues to make these errors.

Sources

Hugh Ross, More Than a Theory (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2009).

Hugh Ross and Fazale Rana, Who Was Adam? (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2005).

Gerald Rau, Mapping the Origins Debate (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2012).

Todd Wilken, “Nine Questions for the Old Earth ‘Creationist,'” 2002.

SDG.

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The preceding post is the property of J.W. Wartick (apart from citations, which are the property of their respective owners, and works of art as credited) and should not be reproduced in part or in whole without the expressed consent of the author. All content on this site is the property of J.W. Wartick and is made available for individual and personal usage. If you cite from these documents, whether for personal or professional purposes, please give appropriate citation with both the name of the author (J.W. Wartick) and a link to the original URL. If you’d like to repost a post, you may do so, provided you show less than half of the original post on your own site and link to the original post for the rest. You must also appropriately cite the post as noted above. This blog is protected by Creative Commons licensing. By viewing any part of this site, you are agreeing to this usage policy.

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