Christian Doctrine

This tag is associated with 66 posts

Sunday Quote!- Genre and Genesis 1-11, does it matter?

3vgen-1-11

Every 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!

Genre and Genesis 1-11, does it matter?

The central question of Genesis: History, Fiction, or Neither? is the question of the genre of Genesis 1-11. But does this question really even matter? Gordon Wenham argues that shouldn’t trump interpretation:

[U]ltimately we must recognize that how we define the genre of Gen[esis] 1-11 is a secondary issue: our primary concern must be the interpretation of the stories and their application today. The definition of genre refines and clarifies the message of Genesis, but disagreements about genre should not obscure our substantial agreement about the theological teaching of these stories. Whether one calls Gen[esis] 1-11 doctrine, history, fiction, or myth, it is clear that these chapters are making profound statements about the character of God and his relationship to mankind. Elucidating these truths must be the goal of every interpreter. (74,cited below)

Later in the book, Sparks argues that Wenham is mistaken and genre does determine much more about the text–even what might be considered binding to believe. What are your thoughts? How important is it to determine the genre of Genesis 1-11 in order to properly interpret it? Can we focus instead on the texts themselves?

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– If you want to read more Sunday Quotes and join the discussion, check them out! (Scroll down for more)

Source

Gordon Wenham, “Genesis 1-11 as Protohistory”  in Genesis: History, Fiction, or Neither? Charles Halton and Stanley Gundry, eds. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2015).

SDG.

Sunday Quote!- Gender Dysphoria and the Bible?

udg-yarhouseEvery 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!

Gender Dysphoria and the Bible

In Understanding Gender Dysphoria, Mark Yarhouse seeks to provide ways for Christians to think about gender dysphoria and transgender issues. Regarding the use of biblical passages in this discussion, Yarhouse urges caution:

There is a need to balance between two hazards when we turn to the Bible to inform our discussions about gender dysphoria. The one hazard is to look to Scripture for answers it is not prepared to provide. The other hazard is to fail to critically reflect on the sociocultural context in which we live and make decisions about gender identity and dysphoria. (30, cited below)

He goes on to comment on several biblical passages (like 1 Corinthians 6:9-10) which are frequently cited in contexts of discussions about gender dysphoria.

What do you think? Do we need to exercise more caution when we cite “proof texts” related to issues like gender dysphoria? Is 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 best applied to issues of transgender identification? Are these categories valid at all?

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– If you want to read more Sunday Quotes and join the discussion, check them out! (Scroll down for more)

Source

Mark Yarhouse, Understanding Gender Dysphoria (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2015).

SDG.

 

Sunday Quote!- Genesis as Sui Generis (Its Own Genre)?

3vgen-1-11Every 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!

Genesis as Sui Generis (Its Own Genre)?

I’ve been reading through Genesis: History, Fiction, or Neither? It is part of the Zondervan Counterpoints series in which authors with different views present essays and (usually) interact with each other’s views. In it, there is much debate over the genre–and thus in part the meaning–of Genesis 1-11 in particular. In his response to Gordon Wenham, Kenton Sparks argued that Genesis could not be its own genre or sui generis because:

…all intelligible discourse must conform to a significant degree with existing modes and patterns of discourse, else readers would not understand it… (102, cited below)

Thus, he asserted, we cannot see these early chapters of Genesis as standing apart or unique as a completely separate genre. To do so would be to make it unintelligible.

It seems to me that this is on-point. We shouldn’t just throw up our hands and separate Genesis from the rest of the Bible as its own genre, distinct from any other human writing. God would not have communicated in a way that we cannot understand.

What do you think? Is Genesis 1-11 completely unique? Should we give up on trying to discern its genre, or is it clearly discernible?

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– If you want to read more Sunday Quotes and join the discussion, check them out! (Scroll down for more)

Source

Kenton Sparks, “Response to Gordon J. Wenham” in Genesis: History, Fiction, or Neither? Charles Halton and Stanley Gundry, eds. (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2015).

SDG.

Book Review: “John Newton on the Christian Life” by Tony Reinke

newton-reinkeNewton on the Christian Life presents the theology of John Newton (more on that later) in light of Christian living. Central to Newton’s theology is the notion that “to live is Christ.” We as Christians are to continually rely upon Christ in all things.

The book has only parts of Newton’s biographical information found throughout the various chapters, but there is enough there to get a picture of the mighty fall the man had and the depths from which God plucked him. Here is the man who wrote the hymn “Amazing Grace” and who was friend of such prominent persons as William Wilberforce, yet who had worked on a slave ship and taken place in the vulgarities thereof. It is truly a story of grace, but Reinke emphasizes throughout the book Newton’s own commitment to “to live is Christ.”

The concept of living as Christ or “being Christ” is central to the book, which highlights again and again. Newton’s belief in, description of, and application of this concept are each drawn out in detail. Admittedly, this emphasis became a little overmuch by the end of the book as it seemed some themes were touched on over and over. However, there are many other insightful points throughout the book which are intertwined with Newton’s emphasis.

For example, the chapter on “Christian blemishes” utilizes examples of how we might live our life as Christians in ways which are largely commendable, but which lend themselves to certain sins. Another chapter highlights the effects of indwelling sin from Newton’s perspective (himself a Calvinist) and applies this to the Christian life. The chapters on spiritual weariness and battling insecurity are extremely pastoral and applicable in their content and tone and, I think highly valuable. Yet another deeply insightful section was chapter 9, which speaks about how trials in our lives can be used as spiritual discipline. Finally, the section on “Victory Over Mr. Self” that spoke of theological controversies had profound insights into how we should treat others with whom we disagree. I should note that I’m a Lutheran and at no point felt that I was not getting value for my time out of this book, despite Newton’s own strong Calvinism. I would say that anyone could benefit hugely from these chapters.

There is a wealth of firsthand quotations from Newton himself in the book, which makes it well worth engaging for that purpose alone. The pastoral tone and care that Newton had shines through in these quotations and Reinke himself does an excellent job summarizing points in a way that lends itself to the same tone as the man about whom he is writing.

One critique may be my own obtuseness coming through, but I think it’s worth mentioning. When I first got the book I saw some guy with a wig on the cover and thought–reasonably enough, I think–that “Newton” probably referred to Isaac Newton. It wasn’t long into the book before I was disillusioned, but I think that although it might make sense to leave books in the series consistent, given that not everyone may immediately think of John Newton instead of Isaac Newton, it might have been a better choice to include first names across the board. I asked a few friends who they thought the book was about based on the cover or title and every single one said Isaac Newton. It’s not a substantial critique, but I think it was worth a mention.

Another criticism I have is that there is virtually no use of women as examples in the discussions. Much of this is because Newton himself did not use women as examples in his letters and Reinke worked closely with Newton’s own writings. However, it would have been nice to have some counter-balancing examples to show that women struggle with the same problems. Here and there this is brought out in a letter, but it is very rare and noticeably so.

Newton on the Christian Life is an excellent read worthy of a thorough study. The examples he used can be applied in all kinds of pastoral contexts, and the emphasis on life in Christ is commendable. Moreover, the last several chapters are completely full of deeply impactful and applicable insights into the Christian life. The book comes highly recommended.

The Good

+Great insight into the pastoral theology of John Newton
+Extensive quotes from the letters of Newton
+Filled with insights

The Bad

-Sometimes repetitive
-Title could stand to be clearer
-Almost every single generic person used as an example is masculine

Disclaimer: I was provided with a review copy of the book from the publisher. I was not asked to give any specific kind of feedback whatsoever.

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!

Luther on the Christian Life by Carl Trueman– I review another book in this series, this one focusing on Martin Luther.

Book Reviews– There are plenty more book reviews to read! Read like crazy! (Scroll down for more, and click at bottom for even more!)

Source

Tony Reinke, Newton on the Christian Life (Downers Grove, IL: Crossway, 2015).

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!- Sanctification and Vocation

sanctification-kapicEvery 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!

Sanctification and Vocation

I’ll admit at the outset that I have read very little on the topic of sanctification. Thus, Sanctification: Explorations in Theology and Practice was a kind of blessing–a book that introduced some major topics and debates related to the doctrine of sanctification. Among the many insights, one offered by Oliver O’Donovan was particularly striking. He notes that Christians often see sanctification as a process-over-time and thus assume that believers will come to be more sanctified over time. Against this, he argues:

Sanctification understood biographically has given encouragement to a belief in progressive and incremental moral improvement, to be attained with maturity and age… The map [of constant progression towards final sanctification over one’s life] was indeed wrong. It confused the work of God, who sanctifies old age as he sanctifies childhood, youth, and maturity, with the more attractive features that may decorate the progress of years through unaided nature… why, one wonders, has indulgence been accorded to the doctrine that the elect commit only venial sins after the age of fifty? (155)

I think this question is spot-on. The notion that we as Christians simply are automatically on a linear path to complete sanctification does not match reality and indeed can be extremely damaging to the life of faith. We are sinner-saints who struggle with sins throughout our lives and we must cast our cares on God, ever trusting in the blood of Christ and work of the Spirit to cleanses us from sin and unrighteousness.

What thoughts do you have on sanctification in the life of the believer? How might we be sanctified?

Whatever your views, Sanctification: Explorations in Theology and Practice was a very insightful read well worth the time. I recommend it highly.

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– If you want to read more Sunday Quotes and join the discussion, check them out! (Scroll down for more)

Source

“Sanctification and Ethics” by Oliver O’Donovan in  Sanctification: Explorations in Theology and Practice edited Kelly Kapic (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2014).

SDG.

Sunday Quote!- Sanctification by Faith Alone?

sanctification-kapicEvery 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!

Sanctification by Faith Alone?

Sanctification: Explorations in Theology and Practice is a thought-provoking collection essays on, well, sanctification. This is a topic I find very interesting and one which seems to need more focus and development in systematics.

One of the chapters, Richard Lints argues that sanctification is something that we receive by faith alone–in contrast to views which argue that it is some later co-operation between the Spirit and the believer to do good works. I hope I’m not misrepresenting his view, as I admit I have read very little on the topic. Thus, I’ll let him make his argument for himself:

The gospel is received rather than achieved by believers, and thus all the benefits given in the gospel are received by faith. The gift of the Holy Spirit is one of those “benefits” and no less than other gifts given in the gospel, so the Holy Spirit is received by faith… And therefore sanctifying faith is not different in its orientation than justifying faith. (44)

What do you think? Is this a good argument for the view that sanctification comes through faith alone? If so, how are works involved in sanctification? What is your view of sanctification overall?

Sanctification: Explorations in Theology and Practice was a welcome read that introduced me to a host of topics, some of which I wasn’t even aware of before. I recommend it highly.

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– If you want to read more Sunday Quotes and join the discussion, check them out! (Scroll down for more)

Source

“Living by Faith–Alone?: Reformed Responses to Antinomianism” by Richard Lints in  Sanctification: Explorations in Theology and Practice edited Kelly Kapic (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2014).

Book Review: “Faith, Freedom, and the Spirit” by Paul Molnar

ffs-molnarPaul Molnar’s Faith, Freedom and the Spirit is an extremely ambitious project. Its main thrust is the exploration of Trinitarian theology–particularly a distinction between the economic and immanent Trinity–in light of Torrance, Barth, and others.

The book is packed with insights into numerous topics, whether readers are interested in learning more about Barth and Torrance (and Rahner) or the relations within the Trinity, Molnar sweeps broadly but takes the time to dissect many topics in helpful ways.

A primary topic is how we relate to God, and through Barth (though alongside other theologians), Molnar argues that God is perfectly free in relation to us and frees us through grace. It is not our work that saves us but rather God entirely and miraculously revealing Himself to us through Christ by the power of the Spirit.

Throughout the entire book, the aforementioned theologians are highlighted, often providing readers with lengthy quotes and expositions of their positions in order to lend more detail and analysis to topics related to the Trinity.

There seems to be a bit bit too much discussion of various other scholars’ dissent from Molnar’s position or misunderstanding it. At times it reads as though there are journal articles put into the book rather than developing as a book itself. Responses to specific authors seem to often be esoteric rather than helpful, though I’m sure in the broader project Molnar is tracing, it makes sense.

Another downside is that it seems that at a few points the “low hanging fruit” is that which is engaged. For example, Molnar’s discussion of eternal subordination was interesting–in particular his insight from Barth and Torrance about how such a position confuses the immanent and economic Trinity–but then he went on to focus on specific views of select scholars which were blatantly subordinationist in the Arian sense rather than on some of the more nuanced approaches of others. Another example is his discussion of natural theology, which did not seem to take into account the various ways in which Barth’s attack on the notion are undermined by other considerations.

Overall, Faith, Freedom and the Spirit is worthy of careful consideration. Readers may not always find it helpful in its discussion of specific scholars, but the broader theme of the economic Trinity and the channeling and condensing of the thought of several important theologians makes it well worth the time and effort to read it.

The Good

+Insight into many aspects of the economic and immanent Trinity
+Deeply thought-provoking
+Solid critique of some views of the Trinity which (potentially or actually) stray from orthodoxy

The Bad

-A few too many rabbit trails make it feel like pieced-together journal articles at times
-Fails to distinguish adequately between types of apologetics
-At times feels repetitious

I received a review copy of the book from InterVarsity. I was not required to give any kind of review whatsoever. My thanks to the publisher for the book.

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!

Book Reviews– There are plenty more book reviews to read! Read like crazy! (Scroll down for more, and click at bottom for even more!)

Source

Paul D. Molnar, Faith, Freedom and the Spirit (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2015). 

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.

Debate Review: Al Mohler vs. Chris Date on “Should Christians Rethink Hell?”

IMG_0691

Not hell. But it is a pretty picture I took with a kind of intriguing/ominous path.

I want to preface this post by saying I am by no means an expert on the topic of hell. I’ve only read two books on the subject and listened to several lectures. I approach this as one who is still learning and seeking understanding. I hold to what would be called in this debate the “traditional” view of hell as opposed to a literalist view of hell. That is, I believe hell is a place (spiritual? physical?) that is eternal; but I am unconvinced that the fire references made in the Bible are to be taken literally (i.e. how are they literal flames and yet the place is in darkness? – seems to me to be metaphorical language).

I was very interested in listening to this debate between the traditional view, as espoused by prominent conservative theologian Al Mohler and the conditional view (that of annihilationism–those who are unsaved are annihilated at the judgment [typically–please correct me if I have misportrayed this) as put forward by Chris Date. Here, I’ll offer a brief summary of major statements in the debate, followed by my own analysis. Note that these are my summaries of what was said, not necessarily direct quotes. I welcome critique and comments. Let me know if you listened to the debate, and feel free to offer your own thoughts! The debate may be found here.

Summary

Justin Brierly asked Mohler to speak on what he thought about the biblical basis for conditionalism.

Mohler- Anyone who speaks on a doctrinal question sees their side as more biblical, and I find the evidence for conditionalism wanting. We must also present the picture of hell which is that which should be presented to others–we have to see what the biblical picture of hell is. The biblical “meta-narrative” points to dual everlasting destinies–eternal life in a New Heaven and New Earth–and also for eternal punishment. The unified consensus reading of Scripture for the history of Christianity has been the traditional position.

Date– Regarding Matthew 25, the question is not the duration of the punishment but the actual nature of the punishment. The context suggests that the wages of sin is death, physical death and not living any more. At judgment, the conditionalist holds that the second death will be just that–death. Moreover, the alleged consensus opinion on hell has not been completely on the side of traditionalism, and in the last few centuries conditionalism has gained support. [Outlines the biblical evidence for conditionalism while citing a huge number of texts.] The preponderance of Scripture points to conditionalism. The concept of eternal punishment is correct; the question is what the nature of this punishment is.

Mohler– The normal Christian reading of Matthew 25 has been eternal conscious torment, not destruction. The infinite wrath and infinite grace of God are each being experienced. To say that eternal punishment is not an eternal state but just something that endures until it is taken away does not seem to be what the text itself implies. Humans have a life beyond this life–not an inherent right to immortality of the soul but because of the image of God in humanity–we are made for eternal life.

Date– Saying that Christ purchased eternal salvation for us in Hebrews does not imply a continued state of Christ forever redeeming; it was an act in time with eternal consequences. Eternal life is something only experienced by the saved–the punishment is death and its effect lasts forever.

Mohler– It is difficult to square this view with the actual texts. Rather than appealing to a different passage in Hebrews, Date must explain the parallelism in Matthew 25 regarding the phrase eternal–does it mean two things in the same context?

Date– Eternal means forever in both cases–eternal life and death which lasts forever.

Mohler– Substituting death does not explain away the parallelism in the text. The Christian church has long understood that this passage means eternal torment.

Date– That’s why it’s called the traditional view!

Mohler– The traditional view does not rest on isolated texts of Scripture but on the church’s understanding of the weight of the texts as a whole. There is no indication in various depictions of hell in which there is an end to the torment as spoken.

Date– Mohler’s interpretation is incorrect; the Greek can be taken in different senses in the places he cites.

Mohler– These interpretations are based on arguing that when we look at a text, we have to say it doesn’t mean what it looks like it means.

Date– Many Christians held to a conditionalist view in historic Christianity. Moreover, we should not forget that we come to the text with presuppositions, and such giants of the church as Augustine who held to the traditional view had a Platonic view of the soul which influenced their interpretation of the Bible.

Mohler– There was development of the doctrine of hell. Regarding Augustine, if we argue that Augustine’s view was due to Platonism, we have to see that his entire picture of reality was Hellenized and so his view of other important doctrines like the deity of Christ is undermined.

Date– Nobody is claiming that everything found in the Platonic view or the Hellenistic view is wrong. Scripture is the authority, however, not the culture. The Platonic view specifically imported mistakes into the view of the soul and its indestructible nature according to that view.

Mohler– Jesus held to what we call the traditional view. However, Jewish thought at the same time didn’t have much developed thought regarding hell, which is largely a distinctively Christian view.

Date– Jesus’ language speaks of destruction and seemingly endorsed the view of annihilationism through his use of language of destruction and burning up.

Mohler– Gehenna does not point to Jesus endorsing an annihilationist view because the use of that term was a reference to continued endless fire, despite being a distinct historic view. …Jesus spoke more about eternal punishment and hell than about heaven. Our understanding of the Gospel is impacted by a different view of hell. The urgency of the Christian message is undermined by the conditionalist position because it effectively removes any urgency for conversion because the materialist already believes they will just cease existing.

Date– Atheists often reject Christianity because they see the traditional view as unjust, which means that a conditionalist view has greater apologetic value. Moreover, the Gospel can continue to be presented as either the gift of life or the punishment of death. Conditionalism does not undermine urgency of spreading the Good News.

Analysis

It was edifying to listen to both presenters on this program and get a better idea about the differing views related to hell within Christianity. The speakers were each respectful and gracious–something that should be the case!

Chris Date cogently argued for and defended his position against major objections. I think one of the most pressing issues for the conditionalist/annihilationist remains the notion that, on their view, there really is no major difference between the end of the unsaved and that which the materialist believes will happen. However, it should be noted this is less a biblical challenge than it is a philosophical/theological one. Date’s defense of the biblical capacity for conditionalism was challenging to my paradigm as I think he presented some passages which do possibly read more easily on his view than on the traditional view.

I do think, however, some of Date’s claims were a bit of a stretch. For example, his assertion that Jesus endorsed conditionalist teachers perhaps goes beyond the evidence we have. Moreover, his style of argument in some sections was problematic because he simply through a number of texts out (without quoting the text, simply citing the locations) without giving any sort of context. Of course, this latter issue is more due to the format than a defect of his position.

One of the biggest problems with Al Mohler’s defense of the traditional view is how much he appealed to, well, tradition. It seems to me like the traditional view has a solid scriptural basis, and to appeal to the notion that the church as a whole has largely leaned towards the traditional view is inadequate as a defense. Thus, it was his method which I think was greatly problematic. However, towards the end he got deeper into the issues and I think made some solid points, particularly in regards to whether Gehenna necessarily entails the conditional view and on the seeming parity of the unsaved on the conditional view vs. their own position. That said, I think a stronger focus on exegesis would have been more compelling rather than a continued appeal to traditional church teaching.

Overall, I came out of this debate feeling challenged to consider my own position. I also think the conditionalist view is not, as some assert, clearly unbiblical. If one wants to continue asserting that, I think they must deal very closely with the texts Date and others cite for their position. One can’t just cite a single proof text and say that other texts must be reinterpreted in light of a single text.

What are your thoughts? Please let me know in the comments.

Links

Should Christians Rethink Hell?– The link for the audio of the debate along with some related links from Premier Christian Radio.

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!

*The image in this post was taken by me. I claim the copyright as noted below.

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.

Sunday Quote!- Is Adam Necessary for Christianity?

ec-lamoureuxEvery 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!

Is Adam Necessary for Christianity?

Not long ago, I wrote a post about the historical Adam in which I asked whether it was a “Gospel” issue. Unsurprisingly, there were many different voices raised talking about it, and I quite enjoyed the discussion. I also shared a different Sunday Quote! on how the doctrine of Adam is interwoven with others. I often read books that I know will challenge what I believe, because I think it is important to test your beliefs constantly in order to strengthen them and correct what is wrong. I read through Denis Lamoureux’s book, Evolutionary Creation and found it quite challenging and insightful on many points.

His central thesis is particularly striking:

Adam never existed, and this fact has no impact whatsoever on the foundational beliefs of Christianity. (367)

This thesis is very strongly worded, and I think there are a few problems with it. Key, of course, is the question of what is meant by “foundational” beliefs. Lamoureux does dive into that earlier in the book, but I think in some ways he doesn’t hit all the points he needs to. For example, the notion of original sin is one which is “foundational” in some theological traditions. Thus, for them, Adam’s non-existence would be extremely problematic. Lamoureux, however, does try to offer ways to even accommodate these traditions in the book. However, he ultimately has to settle for a “reformulation” of the doctrine in which:

[T]he entrance of sin was not a punctiliar event committed by two individuals. Instead, original sin was manifested mysteriously and gradually over countless many generations… (292).

I think this “reformulation” is unsatisfying. Moreover, as I have argued briefly elsewhere, federal headship seems to be a possible way around this for the evolutionary creation (read: theistic evolution) advocate. So, ultimately, I’m not convinced that Lamoureux’s central thesis can be carried. In fact, I think it is unnecessary for advocates of his position to even put forward.

What are your thoughts? How might we engage Lamoureux in a winsome way? What theological challenges might be offered to his position?

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– If you want to read more Sunday Quotes and join the discussion, check them out! (Scroll down for more)

Is the historical Adam a “Gospel” issue? – I discuss what impact it has on Christianity if Adam is not a historical person.

Source

Denis O. Lamoureux, Evolutionary Creation (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock, 2008).

SDG.

 

Do Young Earth Creationists Advocate Appearance of Age?

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Young Earth Creationists (hereafter YEC or YECs) sometimes make the claim that the reason the universe is found to be so ancient by modern science is because it merely appears to be that old. I myself actually held to this view for a while when I was holding young earth creationism in tension with the evidence I observed.

I have been challenged in the past (for example, in the comments here) to provide evidence to show that this a claim made by anyone other than the “YEC in the street,” so to speak. That is, some YECs have told me that no serious YECs (that is, those who are publishing or working with the larger creationist think-tanks) make this argument.

Published Claim

In the past I appealed to various online sources to show that, for example, the Institute for Creation Research makes this claim. I recently finished reading Three Views on Creation and Evolution and found that the YECs in this book–Paul Nelson and John Mark Reynolds–do indeed defend the position of the “appearance of age.” Here’s a quote:

Some suggest God could have created starlight in transit to the earth. Perhaps most of cosmic history is apparent rather than actual. (52, cited below)

Initially this may not seem like a claim of “appearance of age,” but the authors go on to defend the plausibility of this “apparent” cosmic history and age of the universe:

…[Perhaps] God needed such a[n ancient appearing] creation to sustain life on earth. It might be necessary to have the universe the size and shape that it is in order for life on this planet to survive… God would have no real motive to ‘actualize’ most of cosmic history… ‘Apparent’ history in the mind of God could not be any different than ‘actual’ history… He would gain a fully functioning universe, but without the ‘waste of time’ needed to actualize the less interesting parts. (52-53)

From these quotes, it is obvious that Nelson and Reynolds are defending the notion of apparent age.

Problems for Young Earth Creationists

The notion of apparent age raises a number of issues for YECs. First is the common charge that this turns God into a deceiver. Nelson and Reynolds anticipated this objection and answered by using an analogy of someone’s mother refinishing an antique chair which would make it appear new. The only deception in this case, the authors argue, would occur if the mother failed to correct someone if they commented on the brand new chair. Similarly, God has provided a “label” to show the universe is not ancient: the Bible.

There are a number of problem with explanations like this one: first, in the case of the chair, further investigation would demonstrate it is not brand new. After all, antique dealers know the value of chairs which have not been tampered with by refinishing! We are able to discover whether additional layers of paint or finishing have been applied over the surface of a chair; similarly, we are able to discover whether things which initially appear young may indeed be quite old. The analogy itself breaks down. Second, the argument begs the question. After all, apart from YECs, those Christians who are asserting the universe is really billions of years old also claim that the Bible does not limit the age to only a few thousand years. This is the reason the challenge of “apparent age” comes up to begin with! So to turn around and say, no, it’s not deception because the Bible says it is young is to merely assert that which is being challenged.

Briefly, one might also wonder why Nelson and Reynolds think God “wasted time” in taking 7 days creating. Their dismissal of, say, star formation as something “less interesting” is frankly astonishing. Would that I could go back in time to see these “less interesting” events!

Another difficulty for the YEC comes in the form of a dilemma: Do you advocate a scientific understanding of young earth (and thus read science into the text) or argue for appearance of age (and thus grant that the Earth appears ancient)?

Think about that line for a moment. If YECs wish to affirm their position, they must either come up with a rival scientific understanding of the age of the universe and therefore read that scientific understanding back into the text (after all, where does Flood geology come from?–certainly not the text of the Bible!) or they must acknowledge the evidence that the universe is indeed quite ancient and merely assert that the evidence is trumped by their understanding of the Bible. The “appearance of age” argument grants that the universe indeed does provide evidence for being quite ancient.

Conclusion

Appearance of age is indeed part of the YEC quiver of arguments, as I have demonstrated. The question is, can this actually save YECs from an inconsistent view? I have argued that it does not. But even if YECs drop the “appearance of age” argument, they must still do that which they often attack others for doing: reading science back into the text of Genesis 1. If you’re a YEC, I hope you will think seriously before using the argument from “appearance of age.” But I also hope you’ll think seriously about whatever your alternative theory for the history of the universe might be. How much of it is actually derived from the pages of Scripture? How does your theory fit the Genesis account? Remember, there are other possibilities out there.

Links

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Origins Debate– Check out all my posts on the discussion within Christianity over the duration and means of creation.

Source

Paul Nelson and John Mark Reynolds, “Young Earth Creationism” in Three Views on Creation and Evolution edited by J.P. Moreland & John Mark Reynolds (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1999).

SDG.

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