Thank you for your kind comments.
First, you have enabled me to better understand where “you are coming from” and see more clearly how you view the creation/evolution issue. That background is so important for the both of us so we don’t (even unwittingly) talk past each other.
As I see it from your most recent posting, there are four major topics I need to address:
1. Philosophical issues
2. Ultimate authority
3. Biblical interpretation
As best as I can in the short space we have agreed to for these postings, I will attempt to deal with all four.
1. Philosophical issues: I believe this is really at the heart of the debate, which is outlined so well by you in the last two major paragraphs of your posting. In regard to this, I would like to pose a question (and please understand I am honestly not trying to come across as sarcastic–it is a sincere question which I believe gets to the heart of the matter) about your comment: “I don’t believe we have absolute certainty anywhere …”. My question, with respect, is: How can you be absolutely certain about this? To me–that is the point. The only way we can be absolutely certain about anything is if we have a basis in an absolute authority–which is what the Bible claims for itself and as I openly state is my starting point!
The philosophical issues tie in very strongly with what we take as our ultimate authority – the standard by which we evaluate evidence. You have indicated that we cannot understand the Bible unless we first understand God’s revelation in nature. But I would suggest that the opposite is true: we cannot consistently understand God’s general revelation in nature apart from God’s special revelation in the Bible. The reason is that evidence (e.g., in regard to the origins issue) doesn’t “speak for itself.” Physical evidence (by which I mean things like fossils, DNA, rock layers, galaxies, and so on) is not propositional truth. It’s not something that can be read like a book.
But the Bible is propositional truth – it is clear and can be understood right away. The clear propositional teachings of Scripture provide us with the correct framework to understand the evidence in relation to the past. Even the idea that the biblical God has revealed Himself in nature is something we could only know for sure from the Bible (Romans 1:18-20, Psalm 19:1-6)! Now obviously those who deny the Bible are able to understand many aspects of the universe – but they are being inconsistent. Allow me to clarify:
Many secular scientists do not realize that they are actually borrowing from the Christian worldview when they do science. The underlying order and uniformity in nature required by the methods of science only make sense ultimately in a biblical worldview. It is only because God upholds the universe in a consistent and logical fashion that scientists are able to make successful predictions about the future – such as the positions of planets or the outcome of various experiments.
If we read the Bible in a natural way, we learn that Christ upholds all things by His power (Hebrews 1:3), and that we can therefore count on certain things in the future to be true (Genesis 8:22), which makes possible the principle of induction upon which all science depends. It is therefore irrational to use science to undermine a natural reading of the Bible, when science depends upon a natural reading of the Bible. Many people simply take the tools of science for granted, as an arbitrary starting point, without realizing the foundation of such tools. One of our staff scientists, astrophysicist Dr. Jason Lisle, has written on this topic here.
2. Authority: My position regarding the authority of the church fathers is best summed up in a statement by the great reformer, Martin Luther. Dr. Luther stated:
“…Whenever we observe that the opinions of the fathers disagree with Scripture, we reverently bear with them and acknowledge them to be our elders. Nevertheless, we do not depart from authority of Scripture for their sake.”
I certainly respect the church fathers, as well as theological and scientific experts. But as I indicated in my first post, I do believe God’s Word is the absolute authority, which, if I am correctly understanding it (and that’s one of the other issues we will address), will not be in error, and is the foundational starting point for my worldview philosophy.
If we take the majority opinion of secular scientists as our ultimate authority, we could not really consistently believe, for example, that Christ was resurrected–or that there was a virgin birth over 2000 years ago. After all, scientists have never been able to verify such events. As far as secular science is concerned, dead things stay dead. I believe that Christ rose from the dead (and that we will, too) on the basis of what the Bible teaches – even though it goes against the majority opinion of scientists.
Karl, it seems to me that you have an inconsistency in your worldview. Please clarify something for me. On the one hand, you embrace what secular scientists teach about the history of the universe (the big bang, evolution, and so on) while rejecting the natural reading of the Bible. On the other hand, you reject what secular scientists teach (that dead people do not come back to life) in favor of what the Bible teaches. What is the ultimate standard by which you decide when the word of secular scientists is to be taken in place of the Bible, and when to do the reverse?
Although we agree on some things, our ultimate standards are mutually exclusive. My position is that the Bible is the ultimate authority providing the general framework by which all claims and evidences should be evaluated–and yours is apparently that the Bible is not the ultimate authority. Obviously these are non-overlapping positions. So, I think the answer I asked previously still needs to be answered; to paraphrase: “Which worldview can rationally account for the things necessary for knowledge in general, and Christian doctrines specifically?” I suggest that apart from the foundation of the Bible, we couldn’t really know anything for certain.
3. Biblical interpretation: It is true that many people over the centuries (including during the Crusades, and those people in the U.S. church who supported racism, etc.,) have used Scripture (incorrectly, I would assert) to justify all sorts of wrongdoings. But just because others have done that, doesn’t mean it’s the Scriptures’ fault–I would insist it is a human fault, as after all, we are sinful fallible creatures (Genesis 3) subject to error in our understanding of things. In that case, how can we be sure whose interpretation of Scripture is correct? That really gets to the bottom line.
I want to suggest to you that the basic reason for the problems of interpretation lies with us taking beliefs/interpretations/ideas to the Bible instead of taking God’s Word first in a natural way (as you are reading this posting, I trust!)–according to the type of literature and the context (grammatical/historical interpretive method), letting it speak to us as a revelation from God. In doing this, we need to ensure that to the best of our ability (and I know we all can fail in this) we let God’s Word speak to us, without us forcing our ideas upon it.
As I said previously, it is quite natural to take historical sections of the Bible as literal history, and poetic sections as poetic. So, it was never appropriate to take Psalm 93:1 as anything other than a psalm of praise, which indicates the stability of the world as God upholds it. After all, the Psalmist also states “I shall not be moved” (Psalm 16:8, Psalm 62:6), using the same Hebrew word for “moved,” which does not imply that he intended to convey that the Psalmist could be physically stationary. The Psalmist indicates that he will not deviate from the path the Lord created for him, and neither with the Earth.
Similarly, Romans 10:18 is poetic, since the author is quoting Psalm 19:4 which exhibits the synonymous parallelism which is typical of Hebrew poetic prose. When we read this verse in context, the meaning is clear – that the glory of God as seen in the heavens reaches to the entire Earth. And of course we should always check claims against what the Bible actually states – such as the supposed “curse of Ham” – a teaching that is not in the Bible at all. Please understand that my position is not based on what people claim the Bible says, but rather what the Bible actually teaches.
But Genesis is neither written in poetic style nor an example of hyperbole. Indeed, Christ and the Old and New Testament authors all refer to it as literal history. This in fact is the basis for Christian doctrines. Take, for example, Matthew 19 (quoted in my previous posting). Here Christ cites Genesis 1 and 2 as the historical basis for marriage. If Genesis were just a myth, then Christ’s argument here (and in Mark 10:6) would make no sense.
4. Evidence: You’ve challenged my assertion that “there is no rational reason to think that in all cases similarity implies common ancestry.” But it is easy to demonstrate. As I look out my window across the parking lot, I see vehicles that all have certain characteristics in common. They are similar, yet I do not conclude that they are biologically descended from a common ancestor. Nor would I conclude that the ones that have more similarities are more closely related. I would argue they all share certain features because they have a common purpose, and in some case, a common creator.
I understand that in some cases similarity can be the result of common ancestors – brothers looking alike, for example. But clearly it does not in all cases. Only if we already knew that all organisms are biologically related (which of course is the very point at issue) would it make sense to use similarities in traits or DNA sequences as a measure of their relatedness. So, to use similarity as an argument for evolution is to beg the question.
To use any scientific evidence when attempting to reconstruct the past, we must make some assumptions. And yes, sometimes those assumptions are quite reasonable. Your illustration of tree rings is one example where biblical creationist and evolutionists agree (for the most part) on the starting assumptions and therefore many of the conclusions. Of course, tree rings only indicate thousands of years anyway – they don’t support millions or billions of years.
However, as I said previously, a straightforward reading of Genesis is contrary to the assumptions of (1) naturalism, and (2) uniformitarianism. Genesis indicates that the universe was created by a unique act of God. God’s method of creating the universe is different from his method of sustaining it because Genesis 2:2 tells us that God ended His work of creation by the seventh day. Uniformitarianism, the idea that present rates and conditions can (in general) be used to extrapolate the past is contrary to, among other things, the global Flood described in Genesis 6-8.
So, evolution arguments that are based on the assumptions of uniformitarianism or naturalism are circular, because to assume naturalism and uniformitarianism is to dismiss the natural reading of Genesis in advance. I would suggest to you that there isn’t a non-circular argument for evolution. My argument for biblical creation is that it is the (1) the clear teaching of the Bible and (2) the Bible must be true because it is the only authority that can account for science and reasoning, morality, and human experience.
I appreciate the opportunity (which I don’t often get) to explain more fully why we as biblical creationists hold the positions we do. I trust those reading this post will understand that our position is not one of blind faith, but a thought-out, rational one.
I look forward to our final postings for this debate.