Origins Debate

This page provides links to my series on the debate between Young Earth Creationism, Old Earth Creationism, Intelligent Design, and Theistic Evolution (entitled “The Life Dialogue”). It also provides brief descriptions of the posts’ content. There is no need to read the posts in order, as they are almost entirely independent. Interested readers can choose topics they desire. My views have changed since I started this series, and one can ask me on any post to clarify if they desire.

THE MOST IMPORTANT POST

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.

Young Earth Creationism: Analysis, expositions, and critique

Answering Common Young Earth Creationist Arguments- I analyze a number of arguments from the Young Earth perspective.

Young Earth Creationism and Presuppositionalism- I evaluate the use of the presuppositional method of apologetics in the defense of the young earth creationist position. I argue that the use is epistemologically problematic.

Animal Death?- A Theological Argument Against Young Earth Creationism- I put forward an argument based upon YEC presuppositions to show that the position entails absurdities.

Young Earth Creationism Does Not Have Historical Pedigree- I argue that, contrary to popular appeals, Young Earth Creationism is not the historical position of the church.

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.

Young Earth Creationism 1 -I examine the YEC position. It seems like catastrophism (cataclysmic events like the flood) is central to a developed young earth view.

Young Earth Creationism 2 – Examines some methodological issues and grants that the YEC position is at least coherent, based around a worldwide Flood, which has good Scriptural evidence.

Young Earth Creationism 3 – Shows that it seems as though the YEC position is the most theologically sound.

Young Earth Creationism 4 – Argues that YEC may be the only way to coherently hold to original sin.

Old Earth Creationism: Analysis, exposition, and critique

Old Earth Creationism 1 -Outlines Hugh Ross’s “Reasons to Believe” testable model for Old Earth Creation. Very interesting stuff.

Old Earth Creationism 2 – Examines the origins of mankind. Seems like it could go either way.

Old Earth Creationism 3 – Issues regarding the age of the universe and scripture.

Old Earth Creationism 4 – A theological argument for an old earth.

Intelligent Design: Analysis, exposition, and critique

Intelligent Design 1 – Brief outline of some of the ideas within Intelligent Design.

Intelligent Design 2 – Methodological considerations–can we find intelligence in nature?

Intelligent Design 3 – More considerations about detecting intelligence.

Intelligent Design 4: Information in the Cell- I briefly discuss Meyer’s argument in Signature in the Cell.

Theistic Evolutionism: Analysis, exposition, and critique

Theistic Evolution 1 -Examines the idea of God working in the world via theistic evolution. Also examines the Christology of TE.

Theistic Evolution 2 -Examines some of the scientific points of theistic evolution, including answers to problems with the fossil record.

Theistic Evolution 3 -Discusses Theistic Evolution’s view of original sin.

Theistic Evolution 4 – Focuses on the possibility of self-organization within evolution. Seems to me like it makes more of a case for Intelligent Design.

Debates

Ken Ham vs. Bill Nye- An analysis of a lose-lose debate- I outline and critique a major debate between the young earth creationist Ken Ham and Bill Nye “The Science Guy.” This debate was seen by over 3 million people.

Gregg Davidson vs. Andrew Snelling on the Age of the Earth- I attended a debate between an old earth and young earth creationist. 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.

Other Views and Topics

Is the Historical Adam a “Gospel” Issue?- I analyze the notion that the historical Adam is a “Gospel” issue from a few different angles, and discuss the implications for our faith.

Book Review: The Biblical Flood- I believe this book is one of the most important books on the subject of Noah’s Flood available. In it, Davis Young analyzes the historical Christian responses to extrabiblical evidence. The work is profound, and the sheer breadth of its scope is astounding.

Resource Review: “In the Days of Noah: A Deeper Look at the Genesis Flood”- I review a video Reasons to Believe released about the Noahic Flood. I found this resource very thought-provoking.

The Argument Within Christianity: Evolution, Intelligent Design, or Creationism?“- Evaluates the issues at hand. Note that my view morphs throughout the series, so this introductory post serves as a jumping point for my exploration.

Christian Presuppositions and Science – Christians and use of science. I argue that both theology and science should cohere.

The Interaction of Science and Faith – Outlines 4 options for Christians to take in regards to science.

Guest Post 1: Matt Moss Part 1 – Part 2 – Part 3 – Part 4 – Part 5 – A series by Matt Moss discussing the Creation accounts through the lens of temple theology.

Guest Post: Mike on Geocreationism Part 1Part 2Geocreationism and Original Sin-A series of posts by Mike Trutt about Geocreationism. See Part 1 for the outline of this view. The subsequent parts develop this intriguing idea.

Book Reviews:

“The Cell’s Design” by Fazale Rana.

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Discussion

59 thoughts on “Origins Debate

  1. All of these scientific theories on how the world began is nothing more than a scientific hypothesis. Man did not exist at the beginning of the world’s creation, so how can anybody prove it? God said it, and the world came into existence as explained in the first chapter of Genesis.

    Posted by Steve Crosmer | July 14, 2012, 9:26 PM
    • I agree, the world did come into being as described in Genesis. What is the question, however, is the good Lutheran question: “What does this mean?”

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | July 15, 2012, 10:30 PM
      • Dear Mr. Wartick!
        My name is Aleš and i’m from Middle – European country – Slovenia. I’m a philosophy student currently working on my bachelor’s degree which is on the case for dualism. Perhaps i should explain my background and my religious believes: i’ve been brought up without any religion, without god and until my 20’s i’ve grown to be a classical naturalist and self proclaimed atheist. Through philosophy and theology i’ve slowly become “atheism and naturalism sceptic”. I’m still what you would say a “conffessional” atheist but a great admirer of christian philosophical thought and contemporary christian philosophers…Would you be interested in helping me with my paper via email? My email is ernecl.ales@gmail.com

        Posted by aleš | August 10, 2012, 4:11 PM
      • Please feel free to utilize my contact form if you’d like to ask any questions via that. I can’t guarantee a timely response due to other obligations, but I would try to be helpful. Again, the form is found here.

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | August 10, 2012, 4:17 PM
  2. Looks as though you’ve researched the position from multiple angles and done quite your homework. I’d love to have a dialogue with you. My site (gracewithsalt.com) defends the YEC view which I believe you have rejected if my skimming of the above was correct. I did not have time to read all that you wrote, but I have two starting theological issues with evolution: the meaning of death, and the existence of thorns before the curse. Beyond that I believe the presuppositional stances of uniformitism vs. catastrophism can never be settled. Both sides have fairly convincing evidences. So how do we settle this? I think if there is a question about such a truth issue, we need to defer to the scriptures as the final authority. I would say the scriptures support catastrophism. Therefore if I am not willing to support catastrophism, then I have no right defending the rest of scripture. Your thoughts?

    Posted by Tim | January 2, 2013, 9:17 AM
    • Tim,

      Thank you for your gracious comments and willingness to dialogue.

      First, I would like to make a minor correction. Based on what you said here:

      I have two starting theological issues with evolution

      It sounds like you think my view is theistic evolutionism, which it is not. I would say that I’m a kind of indeterminate old earth creationist. However, your two issues are still objections to the view I hold, so this is a very minor point. Regarding the objections themselves:

      the meaning of death, and the existence of thorns before the curse.

      A full explanation of my position on these issues would take too long for me to write out. However, I must first note that I’m confused as to what you mean by “the meaning of death”–could you explain? Second, regarding thorns before the curse, I have yet to see any reason why that should be a problem. Could you explain your argument?

      Then you rose this argument:

      Beyond that I believe the presuppositional stances of uniformitism vs. catastrophism can never be settled. Both sides have fairly convincing evidences.

      I often used this same argument when I was a YEC, however it is important to realize that this argument ins mistaken. Why? Simply because it assumes a false dichotomy wherein geological events are explained either through uniformity or through catastrophism. Unfortunately, this is perpetuated within YEC literature, but it is actually false. In fact, contemporary geology relies upon a both/and rather than an either/or regarding catastrophism and uniformity. You even note that both sides have convincing evidences. But of course saying these are “sides” is a bit of a misnomer, because I don’t actually know of any contemporary geology which is exclusively uniformitarian. Even YECs use uniformintarianism in their explanations of contemporary geological events. Thus, this starting point for debate is already skewed: there is no “presuppositional stance of uniformitarism [I believe the term more frequently used in the literature is uniformitarianism] vs. catastrophism”; that simply is not how geology is done.

      Regarding the following:

      I think if there is a question about such a truth issue, we need to defer to the scriptures as the final authority. I would say the scriptures support catastrophism. Therefore if I am not willing to support catastrophism, then I have no right defending the rest of scripture. Your thoughts?

      I agree that Scripture is the final authority, however, I disagree that it supports catastrophism as an explanation for the entire geological past of earth’s history, and I challenge you to show me in the Bible where it says “all geological features of earth’s past are explained by the flood.” Of course, it doesn’t say that. The YEC position is an inference from the text, it is not the text itself. The way you phrased your argument here is dangerously close to saying that your position is simply a rote quote from Scripture, which it is not. It is the interpretation of fallible human beings which you are defending.

      Thanks again for your kind words and open stance to having this dialogue.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | January 2, 2013, 2:11 PM
      • I was looking through your site and noticed this article: http://gracesalt.wordpress.com/2012/11/06/the-definitive-argument-creation-catastrophism-vs-evolution-uniformitarianism/.

        Unfortunately, this is where I think the real confusion on the age of the earth debate slips in. The notion that it is either-or with catastrophism and uniformitarianism is simply not reality.

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | January 2, 2013, 2:14 PM
      • “what you mean by “the meaning of death”–could you explain”

        Happily. The Bible describes death as “an enemy” and a result of man’s sin. Gen.1:29-30 seems to confirm that there was no death when man and beast was instructed to only eat plants. Christ came to free us from death. Why would he do that if death was a mechanism he used to create through (theistic evolution)?

        “Second, regarding thorns before the curse, I have yet to see any reason why that should be a problem. Could you explain your argument?”

        The Bible mentions that thorns are a result of God cursing the ground following man’s original sin, yet we find thorns deep in the geologic record well before man supposedly came on the scene. This is a contradiction. Either the Bible is wrong, or the interpretation of the rock record is wrong.

        As for the rest of your comments regarding the AND definitions of catastrophism and uniformitarianism in the secular geologic record, I can agree that they believe there is both… but that doesn’t solve the issue. If the rapid creation, the curse, and the flood did what we would expect them to do, then certain interpretations could be hindered. It’s still an authority issue. There is no reason to reject a catastrophic view, and a catastrophic view is MORE in line with scripture… especially when you couple that with the above concepts of death and thorns.

        Posted by Tim | January 2, 2013, 2:50 PM
      • Regarding death – where in the Bible does it say that no animal died before the fall? Furthermore, where does it say that the animals were not allowed to eat meat? It only says that plants were given, and animals were never given meat to eat, unlike humans (Genesis 9:3).

        Regarding the thorns: where in the Bible does it say that there were no thorns anywhere outside of the Garden prior to the fall? In fact, the text doesn’t even say that there weren’t thorns there. Furthermore, if there weren’t thorns, how did Adam understand what they were when God pronounced the curse?

        Regarding catastrophism/uniformitarianism- your initial comment clearly stated:

        Beyond that I believe the presuppositional stances of uniformitism vs. catastrophism can never be settled. Both sides have fairly convincing evidences. So how do we settle this? I think if there is a question about such a truth issue, we need to defer to the scriptures as the final authority. I would say the scriptures support catastrophism.

        This suggests a false either/or dichotomy, so are you now taking back that position?

        Regarding your continued defense, you wrote:

        If the rapid creation, the curse, and the flood did what we would expect them to do, then certain interpretations could be hindered. It’s still an authority issue. There is no reason to reject a catastrophic view, and a catastrophic view is MORE in line with scripture… especially when you couple that with the above concepts of death and thorns.

        What do we expect them to do? Where do you get this expectation? Where in the Bible does it say that earth’s geological history is completely explained by the flood? Can you show me that verse?

        I do reject the catastrophic view because it continues to rely on a false dichotomy. That false dichotomy is, unfortunately exactly what you’re continuing to press. It is not an either/or issue.

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | January 3, 2013, 3:55 PM
    • Also, I went and looked through your site and noticed that comments were closed on a number of the posts. I was hoping to comment on several, but all of them had closed comments. You have some good stuff up there.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | January 2, 2013, 2:30 PM
      • I’m sorry I did not feel comfortable allowing comments for the first year until I felt more confident in my ability to accurately respond. I’d be happy to respond to any questions you have.

        Posted by Tim | January 2, 2013, 2:52 PM
      • That’s fair! My biggest area of concern so far is with this continued misunderstanding of ‘catastrophism vs uniformitarianism.’ So far as I can tell, the posts on your site do not actually reflect how geological research is done. Looking at this post, I’ll go over a few problematic areas.

        Creationists and evolutionists have the same evidence

        This is not actually true. YECs say that certain evidences are not actually evidence (such as radiometric dating). That is problematic for this first point in your post, because it is mistaken. They are not using the same evidence.

        Evolutionists have a starting assumption of uniformitarianism of geology and biology.

        Again, this is mistaken. I hate to say it, but this is actually badly mistaken. If you look at the history of geology and how the age of the earth was determined, you’ll find that researchers actually began with catastrophism for quite some time, but the evidence itself forced a change in their position. That is, catastrophism alone could not account for the body of data.

        Not only that, but this comment once more shows that you are perpetuating the false dichotomy of either catastrophism or uniformitarianism. The fact is that this is simply not how the geology that you are critiquing is done. Geologists do not assume uniformitarianism at the outset, because that would lead to all kinds of impossibilities in interpreting the evidence. Earthquakes, floods, and other catastrophes are frequently used as explanations for geological phenomena. Frankly, this statement that you made is just false.

        Thus:

        This basically means that the rates and processes we measure today have remained constant and unchanged for all of history.

        Again this is mistaken. I don’t know of any modern geologist who says that the rates and processes we measure today are unchanged for all of history. The definition you are using is one that is perpetuated in YEC literature, but the quotes are all from the 1800s. Unfortuantely, YEC argumentation has to rely on these quotes because claims like the one you just made simply do not apply to modern geology. It is an outdated, updated theory. It is not either uniformitarianism or catastrophism. It is both. Your entire post falls apart on this point.

        Therefore, if the Bible is true – uniformitarianism fails, and so do all conclusions (macro-evolution, old-earth) that flow from that assumption.

        This sentence is actually a non sequitur. If you look at the argument that you have outlined it goes like this:

        1) Same evidence
        2) One starts with uniformitarianism
        3) The other starts with catastrophism
        4) Therefore, catastrophism is true.

        This argument is not well-formed in the philosophical sense. Its conclusion does not follow from its premises.

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | January 3, 2013, 4:06 PM
  3. I take it that your view is consistent with that of the BioLogos Foundation; is that right? (I understand this position to be theistic evolution.)

    What do you think of ID (Stephen Meyer, William Dembski, Discovery Institute, etc.)?

    Where do you stand on the historicity of Adam? (My understanding is that some of the BioLogos folks accept it while others don’t; please correct me if I am wrong about that.)

    Posted by Mike Gantt | January 18, 2014, 10:38 AM
    • I do not ascribe to the view of BioLogos. I just thought that particular article was quite well written. I advocate ID, as I think it makes the most sense of the data we have. I am no scientist, but I do say that having read a rather large number of books on either side of the ID/theistic evolution divide (as well as OEC and YEC, etc.).

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | January 18, 2014, 10:46 AM
      • Sorry, I forgot to answer the rest of the questions- I believe in the real existence of two humans as the source of the human race. I believe that they were created ex nihilo by God. I am not sure where the other humans came from (i.e. wives for their children) and remain open on that to some extent; but I would state that the proposition: “Humanity comes from two human persons named Adam and Eve” is a true proposition.

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | January 18, 2014, 10:49 AM
  4. Thanks. That’s helpful.

    You seem to have invested significant time in studying the various creationist positions (including Ken Ham, Heny Morris, Hugh Ross, theistic evolution, YEC, OEC, ID, etc. – not that these are mutually exclusive or collectively exhaustive). Does it seem to you that ID is the easiest of them to mesh science with the biblical account? Stated slightly differently, do you think that ID results in the least amount of tension between creationism and evolution?

    And, if so, what are the key remaining tension points in that position…at least for you?

    Posted by Mike Gantt | January 18, 2014, 11:02 AM
    • Well that depends upon what you mean by “ID.” ID can fit into pretty much any of the Christian positions on origins other than full theistic (indeterministic) evolutionism. A helpful book for seeing some of these distinctions is “Mapping the Origins Debate” by Gerald Rau.

      However, I have a post I’m working on in which I argue that even that book doesn’t really do justice to the breadth of positions within the Christian community.

      So to put it more simply: I’m not 100% sure what position you are referencing when you say “ID,” as ID itself tends to be more a method than a specific position.

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | January 18, 2014, 11:08 AM
      • I am not science-oriented. Since the various creationist positions are in essence differences in science, I am not able to easily distinguish them. Sounds like your taxonomy will be quite sophisticated.

        My understanding of ID is that it seeks to fill certain holes in Darwinian or Neo-Darwinian theory by demonstrating how “design” (versus random mutation and unguided natural selection) better explains reality. Therefore, I see ID as a tweaking of evolutionary theory while YEC is a rejection of it (at least at the macro level). Now what I”ve just said may be incredibly naive, but I hope you will tolerate it in order to accept the following question.

        Given where you are personally on the science, what tension remains for you, if any, with the biblical account in its entirety. That is, I’m not just asking about Gen 1-2, but rather also about Gen 6-9 (The Flood), Gen 10 (Babel), the Exodus, the historicity of Adam, and any other major point of tension that evolution generally evokes when brought up in the context of the Bible.

        Posted by Mike Gantt | January 18, 2014, 11:37 AM
      • If you’re asking on an existential level, I would say I don’t really feel much tension at all. Having gone through multiple passages from various angles, I feel as though I can fairly say that if I can’t reconcile a passage it may be my interpretation rather than the passage itself which is having the difficulty.

        Again, we are both making caveats here: I am no scientist. I explored these issues as an interested lay person in the science fields.

        Posted by J.W. Wartick | January 18, 2014, 11:42 AM
  5. I have been reflecting today on our exchange regarding J. Warner Wallace’s “glass half full” description of the spectrum of positions believers can take on creation (theistic evolution, YEC, ID, etc. – all the many positions you are in the midst of documenting). His point is true and I have no quarrel with it. However, there is a downside and it is that widespread adoption of evolution has fractured the biblical interpretive practice. Believers have lost their confidence in understanding the Scriptures. That can be good if prior understandings were wrong, but where are the certain new understandings to take their place?

    If the net result of evolution’s acceptance is less confident understanding of God’s word by Christians, then the enemy has had his way.

    Your thoughts?

    Posted by Mike Gantt | January 19, 2014, 10:25 AM
    • I’m not sure that adoption of evolution has fractured interpretation. In fact, I see at least American variety of interpretation really starting to take off in the post-Civil War era. During the Civil War, on one hand there stood those who read the Bible rather literalistically and took individual statements out of context as proof texts in order to argue the Bible approved of or allowed for slavery; on the other hand there were abolitionists who viewed texts within broader frameworks and also looked to explicit affirmations to temper other proof texts. Each side claimed God was on their side. When the North won the Civil War and slaves were freed, it was–I would argue–a very real victory of one interpretive system over the other. Those who had believed God was on their side regarding slavery were forced to abandon that view in the face of the historical events which had undermined their view. Their interpretation itself had to be modified in light of the historical data.

      Whew, sorry, that was a major thesis of mine in an undergraduate paper. My general point is that I’m not sure we can just point the finger at evolution and say “that’s what got us into this mess”; frankly, we could trace it back to the Reformation and even before that.

      Sorry for the very lengthy response to a simple question! Here’s my much simpler answer: I don’t really think evolution is to be blamed for ‘fractured interpretive practice.’

      Posted by J.W. Wartick | January 19, 2014, 12:29 PM
  6. I appreciate your thoughts, but I may not have explained myself properly.

    With regard to the American Civil War and multiple “biblical” views of slavery, we see fracture leading to unity. In this case of evolution, we see unity moving to fracture. (I am using these terms in their broadest and relative senses; I know these terms don’t purely apply.)

    Let me be more specific about the fracturing I see. One of the ways that some Christians have biblically justified evolution is to invoke “genre” and label the account of Adam and Eve as “myth.” Not only are there evangelicals who now differ on the historicity of Adam and Eve (John Walton accepts; Tremper Longman does not), the introduction of myth genre into biblical interpretation brings with it no standard way of determining what else in the Bible might be of that genre (the tower of Babel? the Flood? the plagues and the Exodus? Balaam’s donkey? Jonah? on and on the list goes). I’ve heard Peter Enns go so far as to say that we have no true history in the Bible until well into Israel’s monarchy, about the time of King Omri. Thus, there has been a rupture in the view of what in the Old Testament can actually be considered historical, with various committed Evangelicals (I’m not even talking about liberals or mainstream Protestants) arrayed across a spectrum of where in the New Testament the myth-making stops and the history-recording begins. Recall that this is for a religion that distinguishes itself from all others on the basis of it rooting in history.

    I don’t know enough about church history to say whether or not such fracturing is unprecedented, but I there is certainly a disparity of Evangelical views about the historicity of the Old Testament that did not exist thirty years ago.. This can be attributed to the widespread acceptance of Darwin’s theory in the educational systems of the developed world and the rising to seats of power by the children taught in them.

    If evolution is true, there is the chance that all biblical views ultimately come together as they did about slavery. In the meantime, however, Evangelicals are being separated from each other. And, of course, it’s very much connected to the homosexuality and same-sex issues (Lady Gaga sings on behalf of the world when she says “Born This Way”) which are so vexing Evangelicals in our time.

    The thing that surprises me most is that I have yet to find any Evangelical who makes a clear-cut biblical case for accepting evolution. The primary argument used is that which says “the whole world says evolution is true; it must be true – so let’s accommodate wherever we have to.”

    For example, Kenton sparks says:

    “While there was perhaps a period in history when Evangelicals could deny the substance of these new theories because the available evidence seemed thin, it seems to me that we’ve now crossed an evidential threshold that makes it intellectually unsuitable to defend some of the standard dogmas of the conservative Evangelical tradition.”

    Whenever I ask for a biblical case, I’m usually given a reading list of science books – as if I don’t know what the science books are going to say. Denis Lamoureax tries to make a biblical case but it is fatally flawed by his “message-incident principle.” John Walton also tries, but his efforts are more on loosening the grip of a historical view of Genesis 1-2 rather than fixing a new and better grip on the Bible as a whole.

    I will stop here not because I’m finished but because I’ve gone on too long. Since you apologized for the length of your response, I’ll doubly apologize for the length of mine.

    Posted by Mike Gantt | January 19, 2014, 2:58 PM

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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