First Plenary Session: The Bible’s First Word (Derek Thomas)

The text is Genesis 1:1-2. The centrality of God in the very beginning teaches us that our hermeneutical human-centeredness (“what does this passage say to me?”) is fundamentally wrong-headed. We need to ask, “What does this passage teach about God?” Leibniz says that a great question to ask is, “Why is there something, and not nothing?” For the Big Bang theory to happen, there has to be something before that. But the Bible states that the Triune God created by His powerful Word.

The creation account exalts God. Our culture seems to exult in the weightlessness of God (a la David Wells). The vastness of space ought to give us an inkling of how great God is. He notes the apologetic slant to Genesis 1 (vis-a-vis the Egyptian cosmologies, which worshiped the created sun and moon). The creation is Trinitarianly created. All the external operations of the Godhead are indivisibly the work of all three persons of the Trinity.

If someone says that the creation happened through a singularity, then we ask, “What was there before the singularity?” Nothing at all. Out of nothing everything came. (Why then can’t they believe in the resurrection?) This is irrational. Some people say that gases existed before the singularity. Some claim that electro-magnetism existed. This also is absurd. Science can be trusted when it comes to airplanes, cars, and surgery, but when science attempts to invade theology and philosophy, it becomes absurd. Before creation, there was God. Why is there something and not nothing? Because God is.

The creation account emphasizes the Creator-creature distinction. One of the best things that we can learn is that there is a God, and then we are not Him, or the fourth person of the Trinity, contrary to human tendencies. The biggest problem with the Egyptians gods is that they don’t exist (!).

The biblical doctrine of creation teaches the essential goodness of creation and matter. The constant refrains of God’s approval “God saw that it was good” militates against a Platonic rejection of matter as inherently evil, or of the body as the prison-house of the soul. This world will be restored, not obliterated. There are some things more beautiful (“good” versus “very good” in Genesis 1). God is the judge of what is truly beautiful. Grace is always restorative.

The biblical doctrine of creation is the basis for morality and ethics. What God has separated (genes, for instance) let not man join together. When we forget we are creatures, then we make our own morality.

The biblical doctrine of creation is the basis, ground, and motivation for worship. We were made to worship God.

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Futility, What Futility?

by Reed DePace

Let’s label it D3. The Bible teaches that in some manner the historical Fall of Adam brought about the introduction of three things as a curse-judgment on Adam and Eve’s sin: death, decay and destruction – D3.

If you believe in a historical Adam and a historical Fall, what does it mean for God to judicially administer these as judgment for sin? (If you do not believe in a historical Adam or a historical Fall, no disrespect, but this post is not addressed to you.)

If you think the death, decay and destruction existed before the fall:

Do you believe these things were in some manner also introduced in response to sin? If so, how are pre-fall forms of D3 different from post-fall forms of D3?

Do you think there is no difference between the pre-fall and post-fall forms of D3? If so, then what does God’s judicial administration of these on sin actually consist of?

If you want to limit the extent of God’s judicial administration of D3 on sin to just man, then what is the nature of the futility that the created order has been subjected to on account of sin (Rom 8:20)?

Do you believe God uses actual physical things to both picture and apply the gospel? If so, did God actually use a rainbow as a physical picture for a story that didn’t happen? Did God provide a real tree for a mythical test in a mythical garden? Etc., how do you determine where history ends and myth begins?

Sincerely, it does not appear that we are thinking through the necessary ramifications of affirming some sort of theistic evolution position.

by Reed DePace

POSTSCRIPT: these and the last two posts on this topic were written at the same time, last week. Nothing I’ve said in these may be construed ad specific responses to any discussion on these previous threads.

My focus in these posts has not been to make a positive argument for a specific pre-fall death scheme. Instead my focus has been ask my theistic evolution persuaded brothers to think about what this position does to the reality of a historic fall and God’s curse-judgment response to it. I do not believe theistic evolution enables an adequate explanation of sin and death. Please disagree. Please do not take personal offense.

POST-POSTSCRIPT: here is a good starting article to consider problems evolution: What Are the Top Ten Problems with Darwinian Evolution? This is a scientific perspective, not a biblical perspective. For those interested in an informed and reasonable critique of evolution from a science perspective, I recommend this site.

Fall, What Fall?

by Reed DePace

Theistic evolution maintains that the natural processes currently seen in the physical world are part of God’s original creation. That is, these are the processes he has used to bring into being all that we see.

Thus stars and planets evolved over billions of years through processes involving death, decay and destruction. The ecosystems of our planet (geology, meteorological, biological, etc.) similarly evolved over millions of years through processes involving death, decay, and destruction. And God was in charge of it all.

O.k., got it.

So what does that mean for God’s claim that He made everything good, very good, that is perfect? What does it mean that God created everything without the reign of death to be found anywhere in the created order?

Well, the deadly poison of theistic evolution can be seen in the kinds of arguments that are being offered by young folks raised to believe both that God created everything and that He created everything perfect. Watch the Q&A discussion Doug Wilson has with such young folk at the Indiana University, Bloomington. Their arguments demonstrate that they hold to the following convictions:

  • God created everything, including me.
  • God created everything perfect, including me.
  • God created the capacity to love as a part of this perfect creation, including in me.
  • I was born with the desire to love members of my own gender.
  • Therefore Christians who say homosexuality is wrong are acting wickedly – they are sinning!

It is not a surprise at all to find young folk raised in:

  • Schools teaching them that everything came about via evolution,
  • Communities that protect and promote their self-esteem,
  • Churches that tell them God loves them and has a wonderful plan for their lives, and
  • A Culture that says God (if He actually exists) doesn’t make mistakes,

Would reach the conclusion that their same gender sexual attractions are pure and holy.

Now, as Theistic Evolution has already affirmed that death, decay, and destruction are a normal, good, wholesome, beneficial part of God’s original creation,

How are we ever going to be able to justify the idea of sin and judgment?

It is no surprise when such folks, acting consistent with the necessary conclusions of Theistic Evolution, want to shut us up when we tell them the gospel.

“Fall, WHAT FALL! There is nothing wrong with me. You’re just a judgmental jerk!!”

by Reed DePace

POSTSCRIPT: For those who think I’m making ridiculous connections in this post, here is another example:

The Little Boy Who Wanted To Be a Girl

So how do you explain to these folks that the problem is the fall? How do you explain to them that God did not create this child this way? After all, mankind keeps evolving, right? If you follow theistic evolution you have no alternatives here.

POST-POSTSCRIPT: here is a good starting article to consider problems evolution: What Are the Top Ten Problems with Darwinian Evolution? This is a scientific perspective, not a biblical perspective. For those interested in an informed and reasonable critique of evolution from a science perspective, I recommend this site.

Theistic Evolution – PCA

by Reed DePace

Some of you already know this, but it may be new to others. Please do not think I am writing against theistic evolution because I want to drive adherents to it out of the PCA. As men formally acknowledged to be called by the Spirit to undershepherd Christ’s Church, the teaching and ruling elders of the PCA are already in agreement that theistic evolution is inconsistent with the gospel that we are to preach and teach.

A number of items demonstrate this:

One, while not as explicit, the PCA Creation Report does provide exceptional nuancing into the issues surrounding this whole topic. It is a must read starting point for discussing this topic within our circles. At the very least this report is unfriendly to theistic evolution.

Two, one of the decisions at this year’s PCA General Assembly makes it clear that at least in regard to a theistic evolution understanding of Adam and Eve, this is already out of bounds for the PCA. In response to a number of overtures to issue an in thesi statement on the historicity of Adam and Eve’s creation, the PCA GA went with an overture that rejected issuing such a statement. Among the reasoning for this was that the Westminster Larger Catechism already provides sufficient clarity to deny a theistic evolutionary model for Adam and Eve’s creation. In other words, the GA decided that there was no reason to issue a statement saying what we already say we believe. The PCA is already on record as saying that any teaching that Adam and Eve were created through evolutionary means is contradictory to what we believe the Bible to teach.

Three, the teaching of theistic evolution in the PCA has already been explicitly denied in a previous judicial case involving this question. This was a matter that eventually found its way into the hands of our Standing Judicial Commission, where the decision to declare theistic evolution out of bounds was upheld. As all such SJC decisions must be accepted or rejected by the GA, and this one was accepted, this is a formal and explicit declaration on the part of the PCA –

The teaching of theistic evolution is contrary to the Bible and not to be taught in our churches.

If someone believes this is wrong there are reasonable biblical-ecclesiological options to address this and see the (supposed) error corrected. Among those options IS NOT to ignore the decision of our fathers. Brothers, let us not be among those who takes vows lightheartedly.

by Reed DePace

POSTSCRIPT: here is a good starting article to consider problems evolution: What Are the Top Ten Problems with Darwinian Evolution? This is a scientific perspective, not a biblical perspective. For those interested in an informed and reasonable critique of evolution from a science perspective, I recommend this site.

Theistic Evolution and the PCA

by Reed DePace, TE, PCA

O.k., I know this is a touchy subject. Yet it is important. I’m not going to name names, as to do that with the respect owed to brothers would take up much more space than I have here. I am however, going to say that I am persuaded that the teaching of theistic evolution is occurring within the PCA.

Some of this is overt; those involved know that this is what they are teaching. Some of this is under layers of rationalizing that hides the connection to theistic evolution (sometimes even from those supporting the rationalizations). Either way, there is support for theistic evolution going in our denomination.

So what! Right? Well, mark me as a trouble maker if you wish, but theistic evolution is deadly. It is a doctrine that presupposes the validity of an origins theory that fundamentally denies the Biblical origins doctrine. And in doing so, it proves a fatal poison to the gospel.

We can spend our time trying to parse out what “death” is, but we doomed to fail up front because evolution in theistic evolution is antithetical to the Bible. Evolution is fundamentally opposed to the Bible’s explanation of death. We may think we can wall off some limited form of death that protects the historic credibility of the Fall into sin and the ensuing curse of all creation. Yet beginning from a position that affirms that in any manner, to any degree, the reign of death now being experienced throughout the created order is actually how God created things in the first place leaves us with no hope.

Evolution calls good everything the Bible says is God’s judgment on Man’s sin. It truly is a matter of darkness denying the light. There is no compromise with it that will succeed. We don’t have a choice if we are to maintain the Bible’s integrity. Whatever the natural processes before the fall (biological, geological, astronomical, et.al.) they cannot partake of what God calls the reign of death. They cannot be a variation of it or a perfected form of it.

To so argue makes biblical interpretation no more than metaphor. If first Adam is nothing more than a metaphor, then last Adam is likewise nothing more than a metaphor. You agree in even a small way that the reign of death IS NOT exclusively a result of the fall and you lose the gospel. No fall, no judgment; no judgment, no atonement; no atonement, no gospel.

It is that simple.

by Reed DePace, TE, PCA

POSTSCRIPT: here is a good starting article to consider problems evolution: What Are the Top Ten Problems with Darwinian Evolution? This is a scientific perspective, not a biblical perspective. For those interested in an informed and reasonable critique of evolution from a science perspective, I recommend this site.

Contending for Creation

by Reed DePace

I’ve both enjoyed and been frustrated at the various origins discussions we’ve had here at GB. I’ve enjoyed them because I’ve found my own understanding and confidence in a straightforward reading of Genesis 1-2 strengthened and deepened. I’ve been frustrated because I’ve not seen that result shared across the board by all those commenting on these origins posts.

I want to ask those of us who do find our confidence in the straightforward reading of Gn 1-2 (from 6/24 YEC to those who essentially buy this is what the Bible requires but don’t want to make any positive scientific affirmations) to think about the nature of this debate. I agree we get how serious it is. I may be saying something that you already get, yet just in case not, I’m asking you to take a moment to consider again what is going on in this debate for the “other side”.

Begin by focusing on this question: what does it mean to assert the authority of special revelation (Bible) over general revelation (Science)? I’d argue that those posting here from the (supposed) other side do not disagree with this way of answering this question: the Bible RULES Science. In other words, I don’t see anything in what they’re saying which leads me to conclude that they are not sincerely affirming this necessary truth.

This being said, then how do we explain those areas, those comments from the other side where we believe they’re concluding things that require exactly the opposite belief? What do we do with those areas in which we’re convinced that they’ve just said something that is based on the Science RULES Bible perspective?

I’m not admonishing us, as if I think we’re doing something wrong. Instead I hope you hear me encouraging, even exhorting us to take our own explanations and make them better. Sympathetic with their concerns and patient in our explanation, yes, but we owe them even more!! We must pursue active, even graciously aggressive efforts to winsomely demonstrate how the Bible RULES Science.

I suspect that those commenting on blogs like this one who are pushing for an expanded understanding of Gn 1-2 (and then 3-11) are the brave ones, the confident-in-their-faith ones. While I do find some sympathy for them, even such as the “high priest” of the effort, Dr. Pete Enns (a former professor of mine), I am GREATLY more concerned for the potential legion of young professing believers for whom this debate is critical.

We tend not to recognize how true one of Ken Ham’s insights really is – every issue in some manner or form does come back to an origins question. Consequently, while not saying it is the only issue, I am saying that we must keep before us this point: the argument over origins is vital to all the other THREATS to the Church in our land.

Take for example the issue of the normalization of sexual fornication in the American Church. Let’s not be wheenies with our words here. Not believing in 6/24 creation might not mean you’re a heretic going to hell, but believing you’re a born-again, Holy-Spirit baptized, justified-adopted-sanctified, persevering-to-glory child of God who rejoices in the freedom of his sexual fornication IS a damning conviction. (Read 1Co 6:9-10, deal with what “no one who is a fornicator of any type” (vs. 9) and “such were some of you” must mean.)

What we believe about origins directly applies to this subject. If we agree that “being born this way” is true this means in the end that a propensity for what the Bible calls sexual perversion is actually a part of God’s original perfect creation. From this perspective perversion is a wicked label for these various fornication practices (i.e., those things we euphemistically label “lifestyles” to make them appear innocent and holy). I.O.W., a failure in our origins apologetic will support a state of atrocity, one that will do more than anything else to remove the Church in America’s lampstand from before the Spirit whose holiness will not allow Him to gaze with love on any wickedness.

All this to urge those of us for whom this all seems so much clearer: let’s double down on our patience, our love, AND our zeal. There is a Church to see restored and a Nation to see saved. The “other side” may exasperate us at times (as I’m sure we do them). Yet they are actually a gift from God in that they can help us proclaim the glory of our God clearer.

by Reed DePace

An Argument Against the Framework Hypothesis

During one of the panel discussions at the recent Ligonier Conference, R.C. Sproul, Jr. remarked that he believed the literal 6-day 24 hour view of the creation days based on sound exegetical principles. He emphasized the word “sound” in what I took to be a friendly jab at Michael Horton (who holds the Framework view), who was sitting right next to him. Horton laughed just as much as the audience did. Now, I agree with Sproul, Jr. on this one over against Horton. I believe that the exegetical evidence adduced by the Framework guys for their position admits of other explanations. I have explained this before, but I think it won’t hurt to rehearse this evidence again.

Just to remind us, the Framework view holds that the 7 days of the creation week are a non-literal but literary framework that has nothing to do with how long God actually took to create the world. So, in fact, a FH advocate could still be a young earth advocate. They tend to argue that Genesis 1 and 2 have nothing to say about the length of time God took to create the world. There are several arguments they use to support this position. Two of the most prominent are the following: 1. the statements in Genesis 2:5 concerning the lack of rain and the lack of a human being indicate that natural, not supernatural, preservation was initiated in the creation “days” of chapter 1. If there was light without the sun (as would be indicated by comparing day 1 and day 4, that would be supernatural preservation. Therefore, the FH argues, the only explanation that accounts for the natural preservation instituted by God is the non-literal interpretation. Secondly, the similarity of function of days 1 and 4 (they seem to do the same thing) are indicators that we are not to interpret the days literally.

The answer to the first argument is relatively simple: the natural preservation spoken of in verse 5 is limited to plants that are tied to human cultivation. See Keil and Delitzsch’s commentary on 2:5, where the commentary argues against the Documentary Hypothesis’ assumption of a contradiction with chapter 1, because the plants in question were not ALL plants, but only those that would not thrive without rain and human cultivation. Thus, natural preservation is certainly present in the creation week of chapter 1, but the only thing that 2:5 proves is that preservation was present in things related to human agency. It does not prove that natural preservation was present relating to all things in the created week.

The answer to the second argument concerning days 1 and 4 requires a bit of background explanation. In order to be a convincing argument for the Framework Hypothesis, the similarity of days 1 and 4 could have no other possible explanation than a non-literal interpretation of the days. If there is another possible explanation, then the similarity of days 1 and 4 ceases to be a convincing argument for the FH. I would argue that an apologetic intent explains the similarity of the days. Note, for instance, in Genesis 1:16, that Moses does not say “the sun and the moon,” but rather “the greater light and the lesser light.” The Hebrew word for “sun” is “shemesh,” which is also the name of the sun-god that ancient Near Eastern peoples worshiped. They believed that all things came from the sun, and that the sun was the source of all light. Moses, therefore, has an apologetic against the sun-worship by showing us that light originated outside of the sun. This explains not only the similarity of days 1 and 4, but also why Moses pictures light as existing independently of the sun. Only the one true God is the true source of light. Other authors have noted the apologetic intent of Genesis 1. However, no one of whom I am aware has tied the apologetic intent of chapter 1 and the order of days 1 and 4 to a rebuttal of the FH as I have done.

As a further argument against the FH, we can note the biblical-theological way in which the Bible ends: there will once again be a time when light exists apart from the light-givers. This is a hint that the order of light before lights is reversed at the end of all things. Revelation is explicit in saying that the light of the city is the Lamb. There will be no more need of sun and moon (Revelation 21:23). This is more than a hint that the book of Revelation interprets the days of Genesis as, at the very least, chronological in order, and not a mere literary framework.

Frankly, then, there is no need for the FH. It does not explain Genesis 1 and 2 any better than the literal interpretation does. Indeed, I would argue that it falls under the strictures of Occam’s razor: it is too complicated an explanation, when a simpler explanation works better. The FH has plausible arguments for it. However, as I have attempted to show, it is not forced from the text. The features of the text that the FH uses to prove its validity have equally plausible, simpler explanations.

A Critique of “Creation, Evolution, and Christian Lay People,” by Tim Keller

Guest post from Dr. Adrian Keister (Ph.D. in mathematical physics from Virginia Tech). The article from Tim Keller is found here.

What’s the Problem?

The first paragraph sets up the tone for the entire piece: the supposed antithesis between orthodox Christianity with a high view of the authority of the Bible, and evolution. Keller challenges that antithesis in the third paragraph. However, in that third paragraph, Keller evidently equates “evolution” with “science” when he writes, “However, there are many who question the premise that science and faith are irreconcilable.” So Keller has shifted the debate now, and this is a point I would not grant him. It is my firm belief that evolution is not science, any more than the theory of mature creation is science. They are both faiths, because the very method of science, being inductive and absolutely dependent on experiment, excludes questions of origin. Let us suppose, via Karl Popper, that scientific statements are statements that can, in theory, be falsifiable by observation. If that is the case, then questions about origins simply do not fall into that category, as there are no repeatable experiments available to settle such questions. The fact that evolution is considered science by mainstream scientists is neither here nor there. 10,000 Frenchmen can still be wrong. If the mainstream scientists have a vested interest in writing God out of their equations, as it says the natural man wants to do in Romans 1, then we should not be surprised when they come up with theories that exclude God! People do science, not machines, and people are always biased. People can always have a vested interest in achieving certain outcomes, even if they are scientists and the desired outcomes are supposed scientific statements.

Keller writes:

However, there are many who question the premise that science and faith are irreconcilable. Many believe that a high view of the Bible does not demand belief in just one account of origins. They argue that we do not have to choose between an anti-science religion or an anti-religious science.

I could certainly agree with the last sentence, but I would agree for different reasons than Keller appears to hold. I would agree because the very nature of science and the scientific method means that the questions science can attempt to answer have nothing to do with the supernatural. Here, I mean that the supernatural is God working through extraordinary means, and the natural is God working through ordinary means. Science excludes itself from questions about the supernatural, precisely because such events are not repeatable and thus there are no experiments. However, for scientists to make the additional leap of logic and claim that the supernatural does not exist, or that supernatural occurrences never happen, is a non sequitur of the first order. Just because the naked eye cannot see past a certain point does not mean there is nothing beyond that point. Keller, on the other hand, appears to hold to this non-antithesis because he believes evolution and orthodox Christianity are compatible. Again, he is placing evolution within science.

Keller’s fourth paragraph, including the van Inwagen quote, seems to me to be irrelevant to the main discussion. Keller’s claim at the end of the paragraph that “This is just one of many places where the supposed incompatibility of orthodox faith with evolution begins to fade away under more sustained reflection” seems to me a bit of a straw man. God is, of course, free to use any means He pleases that do not contradict His nature. However, the main topic of discussion here is whether macro-evolution is compatible with orthodox Christianity. Orthodox Christianity does not need evolution to explain its own existence; it depends for its existence on the Bible and God working to help men understand the Bible.

Keller’s fifth paragraph excludes the possibility that there really is an antithesis, and that those who claim there is an antithesis might be louder and more prominent because they are correct. Yet again, in the second sentence of this paragraph, Keller has equated evolution with science.

Pastors and the People

In this section, Keller lays out four difficulties that he sees laypeople having with evolution. The first is the literalness of Genesis 1, and biblical authority in general. The second is evolution as a Grand Theory of Everything, as per Richard Dawkins. The third is the historicity of Adam and Eve. The fourth is the problem of violence and evil. Keller proposes to “lay out” the first three of these difficulties. To Keller’s credit, he takes on himself and other pastors the hard work of interpreting the Bible, scientists, and philosophers in order to make things real to their parishioners.

Three Questions of Christian Laypeople

Question 1: If God used evolution to create, then we can’t take Genesis 1 literally, and if we can’t do that, why take any other part of the Bible literally?

Answer: The way to respect the authority of the Biblical writers is to take them as they want to be taken. Sometimes they want to be taken literally, sometimes they don’t. We must listen to them, not impose our thinking and agenda on them.

The above question and answer are quoted verbatim from Keller. At first blush, I would react by saying that while I think the answer is a true statement, I do not think it answers the question.

Keller then launches into an examination of whether Genesis 1 is prose or poetry or something else. Keller does not appear to want to take Genesis 1 literally. His first argument is that “…Genesis 1’s prose is extremely unusual. It has refrains, repeated statements that continually return as they do in a hymn or song.” (emphasis original) So far as I can see, this argument is inconclusive. No one, I think, would argue that Numbers 7 is narrative, and yet it definitely has a refrain. His second argument is that “the terms for the sun (‘greater light’) and moon (‘lesser light’) are highly unusual and poetic, never being used anywhere else in the Bible, and ‘beast of the field’ is a term for animal that is ordinarily confined to poetic discourse.” This could be true. However, even if we grant the term “exalted prose narrative” as being descriptive of Genesis 1 (which I do not necessarily grant), this does not imply automatically that “we must not impose a ‘literalistic’ hermeneutic on the text.” (Keller is quoting Francis Collins here.) How is exalted prose narrative supposed to be interpreted? What clear examples do we have of interpreting such narrative?

Keller then claims that Genesis 1 and 2 cannot both be taken literally because there would be incompatibilities. The examples Keller brings up seem quite weak to me. Keller’s first example is that there is light before any natural sources of light. My brother Lane thinks that this may be a polemic against the Egyptian sun god Ra. Of course there can be light without the sun, moon, or stars: see Revelation 22:5. Then Keller claims that vegetation before atmosphere or rain is impossible. I would divide that question into two. Vegetation before atmosphere might or might not be possible, but at the very least, Keller appears to claim that the atmosphere was created on Day 4, whereas in my reading, Day 1 seems a better candidate. As for vegetation before rain, Keller either does not know about canopy theory (Genesis 2:6 is relevant to that discussion), or dismisses it. However, canopy theory is quite plausible, although I would claim it is not science. As for Genesis 2:5, it by no means necessarily teaches that God followed a natural order, precisely because of Genesis 2:6. The entire creation was supernatural! God made the rules in creation, and He acted by following His own good pleasure. Finally, Keller claims that “evenings and mornings” are not natural, given that the sun is created on Day 4. However, this is a strange way to argue: that something is not natural means we can’t interpret a passage literally. Or even, giving Keller the benefit of the doubt, that if all the characteristics of one passage are not natural, and all the characteristics of another passage are natural, that we must then interpret them differently. Would he make the same claim about passages in Exodus, that alternate between supernatural and natural? I simply do not see any clash between Genesis 1 taken as literal history, and Genesis 2 taken as literal history.

Keller writes, in summary, that “Genesis 1 does not teach that God made the world in six twenty-four hour days.” In this paper, he appears to come to this conclusion because he thinks Genesis 1 is not meant to be taken literally. However, even if we grant that Genesis 1 is not to be taken literally (which I do not grant), that does not mean that a day is not a 24 hour day. Nonliteral passages can still have literal elements to them. Keller seems to point to non-literalness in every element of Genesis 1.

Question 2: If biological evolution is true – does that mean that we are just animals driven by our genes, and everything about us can be explained by natural selection?

Answer: No. Belief in evolution as a biological process is not the same as belief in evolution as a worldview.

Keller makes a distinction between evolution proper (the biological process) and “perennial naturalism”, which is Alvin Plantinga’s term. Perennial naturalism is clearly antithetical to orthodox Christianity, and I think Keller thinks that, too. However, it is not clear to me how this helps Keller’s overall case. Let us recall that Keller’s thesis is that biological evolution (not perennial naturalism) and orthodox Christianity are compatible. So, let EBP be the statement that macro-evolutionary biological processes occur. Let PN be perennial naturalism, and let OC be orthodox Christianity. Keller would agree that PN AND OC is false. Ah, but EBP does not imply PN, like the new atheists claim. Therefore EBP AND OC? The conclusion is not warranted. By that reasoning, we could say that anything that does not imply PN is compatible with OC, which is clearly false. Gnosticism does not imply PN, but it is antithetical to OC. As to whether EBP does or does not imply PN, I will defer to others, since I have not studied the matter.

Keller writes:

Many Christian laypeople resist all this and seek to hold on to some sense of human dignity by subscribing to ‘fiat-creationism.’ This is not a sophisticated theological and philosophical move; it is intuitive.

I am not sure whether Keller means to demean “fiat-creationists” by calling them unsophisticated (I would tend to think so, given the nature of Keller’s ministry, but I do not impute motives) or whether he is merely making an impersonal remark about the nature of “fiat-creationists”. Moreover, Keller does not define the term “fiat-creationist”. If by “fiat-creationist” he means simply someone who believes in a literal Genesis creation story, where God creates by divine fiat, then I would certainly place myself in that camp. I do not see either that such “fiat-creationism” is unsophisticated merely because it rejects all forms of macro-evolution, nor do I see that even if it is unsophisticated, that that is a bad thing. It is a rather puzzling comment, so I will refrain from further critique.

Question 3: If biological evolution is true and there was no historical Adam and Eve how can we know where sin and suffering came from?

Answer: Belief in evolution can be compatible with a belief in an historical fall and a literal Adam and Eve. There are many unanswered questions around this issue and so Christians who believe God used evolution must be open to one another’s views.

Since Keller takes a literal view of Genesis 2, and believes in a literal Adam and Eve, there is less in this section with which I would quibble. I probably would not have quoted N. T. Wright favorably, as his theology is highly problematic, although the statement in question seems unobjectionable. Keller certainly does argue for some of the more orthodox positions in this section.

However, in getting to the subsubsection entitled “A model”, Keller runs into some difficulties. It is not entirely clear to me whether Keller holds to Kidner’s views of a pre-Adamic race or not, but that is clearly what is in view here. And if there is a pre-Adamic race, then there was death before the Fall of Man. The difficulties of having death (really, of any animal, whether in the pre-Adamic race, or other animals) before the Fall of Man are several. One is that the wages of sin is death. That is, sin implies death. Can we say that not-sin implies not-death? That would be the converse. Equivalently, can we say that death implies sin? If we can, then death before the Fall flies in the face of God’s goodness. It is not that man inherently deserves life, and that God must, in justice, give it to him if he obeys. Instead, it is a matter of God’s Word. God said to Adam, “Do this and live, do that and die.” The antithesis seems to me to indicate that we can conclude the converse. Furthermore, in Isaiah 11:6-9, we see the picture of a restored earth. No animal seems to be hurting any other animal. If the restored earth is to be a return to the Garden of Eden, how can there be animal death before the Fall?

This “model” seems to give away much too much to the scientists. In fact, this is a general trend I noticed in Keller’s writing. As Gordon Clark once said, “Science is a collection of useful falsehoods.” Useful, but not “true”. That is, since science is based on the inductive method, which is technically a fallacy, science can really only ever make probabilistic statements. Science can never arrive at the truth, since its method is inherently flawed. That does not make science worthless, as it does have immense predictive value in its domain. But that’s precisely the point: questions about origins of the universe are not within the domain of science. You can hypothesize all day about origins, and scientists have, but the bottom line is there are no repeatable experiments to reproduce what actually happened. Therefore, science simply cannot contradict the Bible, at least in questions of origin. The Bible says something about origins, and science cannot. This is, in general, why I have not seen any tension between true science and Christianity. Science, while competent in its areas to say some things (subject to the limitations I mentioned before), cannot rise even to the level of addressing anything supernatural. And since what the Bible says about natural processes is perfectly accurate, and science corroborates it, there are no conflicts whatsoever.

Keller’s view is not technically one of the four accepted views that the PCA allows for TE’s. The Metro NY Presbytery has probably ruled that Keller’s views do not strike at the fundamentals of the system of doctrine taught in the Westminster Standards. That is a question I have not studied, but I believe there is cause for concern, and it warrants investigation.

Man – A Fiat Creation?

posted by Reed DePace

I intend this post to solely be a discussion of the biblical question posed. I am aware of the relevance of this question to some particular circumstances within the PCA at present. I am asking anyone who comments on this post to refrain from bring up those circumstances, expressly to refrain from mentioning names. Thanks for your consideration of my request. (Remember, I’ve got moderator powers if you don’t give it due consideration. ;-) .)

I am aware of at least two current situations in which it appears that the following opinion is held by some PCA brothers. With reference to Adam’s creation, some maintain that God took a souless hominid and at some point gave him a soul, thereby creating the first spiritually living man. Intended to coordinate with an evolutionary scheme, this position argues for an intermediate creation by God.

This appears to be inconsistent with the PCA position. See this helpful summary provided by Wayne Sparkman at the PCA Historical Center. The key quote comes from the recommendations:

“We affirm God’s special creation of Adam and Eve as real, historical individuals (Romans 5:12-14; I Corinthians 15:21-22, 45-49), and deny that Adam and Eve were the products of evolution from lower forms of life.”

I am unclear, however, as to what force, this Study Committee recommendation has. Yet my question is more basic than this. Does the Bible teach that God created Adam directly, not via any intervening life forms? Is Adam, in other words, a fiat creation of God? Or, is it possible to properly interpret Gen. 2:7 as allowing for a intermediate creation, a creation which used an existing lifeform, elevated to a spiritual relationship with God?

I’ll admit my conviction is towards fiat and away from a intermediate creation. Yet I’m open to hear where I may be limiting Scripture.

How Trustworthy is That?

In these discussions on the supposed errors in the Bible there is an unacknowledged gorilla in the room. (See Incoherent Inerrancy, Who Ya Gonna Believe, There’s Accommodation, and then There’s …?, and Check Your Facts!, God.)

Specifically it is the question of Creation as reported in Gn 1:1-2:4. For those who affirm an error-laden-inerrancy, this is the really big error in the Bible. After all, Secular Science has all but proven that evolution, both biological and cosmological, is the unquestionable fact.

Sitting in classes at WTS, it was this problem that most exercised the “young evangelicals” around me (I was in my later 30’s when I went to WTS.) Enns’ solution (God’s accommodation to man’s errors) was the “cage” that finally contained this gorilla for a number of them. I daresay, caging this particular gorilla has been at the forefront of the “error-problems” of many of the errantists participating in this blog. (I could be wrong, but …)

I admit to appreciating the angst of younger evangelicals concerning this subject. Popular culture is a serious idol to go up against. One is foolish to do so with any weapon but the honest to goodness sword of truth. If in some way Gn 1:1-2:4 on the face of it acts to dull the sword of truth, by all means let’s fix this.

The problem again begins with one’s presuppositions. I for one am not ready to crown Secular Science with inerrancy and infallibility. Meteorologists still get it wrong, crops still fail, people still die. I.e., Secular Science has a long way to go before it can claim the inerrancy/infallibility that is inherent in God’s being and His word. Thus I see the seriousness of the challenge.

But there is something more important than being laughed at by a bunch of mocking unbelievers who think any of my convictions are just so much evidence of my weak mind and foolishness. I’m not ready to conclude that God has used error to communicate some of the most critical truths in the Bible.

Assume for the sake of discussion that God’s creation account accommodates itself to the errors of the ANE cosmogonies common during Moses recording of Genesis. That is, God had Moses not record a factually accurate account, but specifically used the erroneous ANE’s creation myths as the basis for his creation story.

O.k. then, let’s deal with the question of trustworthiness, of reliability. Assuming that the account is not all pure myth (error), how do we determine what parts are true? Not what parts are true, but what hermeneutical principle(s), found in the Bible itself, will enable us to reliably determine what parts are true and can be counted upon to be trustworthy?

I dare so you will search in vain for such hermeneutical tools.

The structure of Genesis (i.e., the waw-consecutive) requires that we read the succeeding stories as one whole cloth with the creation story. But let’s limit our questioning to Gn 2-3. If the creation story is error-laden, then on what basis are we to prove that Adam is historical? If we do not have a historical Adam, then what of the Fall? I.O.W., following the necessarily logic of the error-laden-inerrancy reading of Gn 1:1-2:4, we are left concluding that Adam and the Fall are nothing more than myth, and that God used these errors to rhetorically communicate some “truth” in these passages.

Take this to its next necessary connection, Romans 5:12-20. If Adam and the Fall are merely rhetorical, then Jesus’ atonement is as well. There is no other conclusion we can reach. Get this, beginning with the presupposition that Secular Science must be right, and the Bible’s creation account must be an accommodation with the ANE error-laden creation myths, we end up with nothing more than a rhetorical atonement.

How trustworthy is that?

– Reed DePace

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