“There are always alternative answers”

Recently, I had the opportunity to attend a seminar by Dr. Nathaniel Jeanson of the Institute for Creation Research (ICR). His talk, “Not Enough Time,” is designed to answer challenges from evolutionary science on the age and origins of the earth. He laid out a three-part framework that he believes should be used whenever evaluating evidence in the origins debate. He pointed out that in the origins debate the question really is one of forensics. Since we can’t repeat events of the past and science is limited to the study of the present, then what we have in the question of origins is a forensic question: What does the evidence say happened? The evidence we have is the same no matter which side you are on in this debate. Each side is attempting to piece together what happened using the evidence at hand. Because forensics uses both evidence and eyewitness accounts, we should remember that the Bible, and Genesis in particular, should be considered eyewitness evidence. In considering the evidence, we should remember that there are always alternative answers to the ones given by evolutionary science.

Here are the three parts to Dr. Jeanson’s framework:

  1. Bible first
  2. Big effects
  3. Bounds of science

The first thing we should consider is what does the Bible say? Second, what physical effects do we expect to find based on what the Bible says? Third, what are the bounds of science, i.e. what assumptions are made on the part of evolutionary science in explaining the evidence?

Having laid out his framework, Dr. Jeanson then uses it to address three questions from the origins debate: what is the origin of the earth, what is the origin of the earth’s surface, and what is the origin of the fossil record.

First, what is origin of the earth? Evolutionary science, and Old Earth Creationists, believe that the earth is billions of years old. According to Dr. Jeanson, in considering what the Bible says first, the Bible teaches that the earth was created in 6 days 6,000- 10,000 years ago. The Big Bang theory, one of the most commonly accepted evolutionary origins for the earth, disagrees with the Biblical account of creation in the amount of time it took (thousands vs. billions of years), in the order of creation (earth before sun and stars vs. sun and stars before earth), and in the mechanism of creation (God spoke vs. evolution).
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Death is a “Stumbling Block” for Christians Accepting Evolution as the Way God Creates

Over at BioLogos, Dr. Dennis Venema has written an article on how death is both a destructive and creative force in evolutionary history. In “Death and Rebirth: The Role of Extinction in Evolution,” Dr. Venema addresses what he sees as a stumbling block for many Christians in accepting evolution as the way in which God creates:

When they imagine evolution, many Christians picture novelty: new species arising over time, or speciation events. But as the most recent Southern Baptist Voices exchange makes clear, many Christians also focus on the role of death in evolution—something that can be a stumbling block to seeing it as a means by which a good God creates. This is especially true when we imagine the death of individual creatures in fierce competition for limited resources, whether such struggle takes place on the savanna or elsewhere.

Dr. Venema goes on to explain that humans have extinction to thank for our existence now:

For mammals at the KPg boundary, small body size and an omnivorous diet (including the ability to scavenge detritus) were the “winning” combination of traits that allowed them to survive where larger, more specialized animals (think Tyrannosaurus rex) could not. From this rather humble station, mammals would come to dominate the world’s ecosystems over the coming eons – including a lineage that would someday lead to our own species. Far from only a destructive force, extinction is a powerful mechanism to allow evolutionary innovation, and one that was of significant importance to us.

While I can certainly appreciate Dr. Venema’s attempt to help remove a perceived “stumbling block,” his view of death and extinction as beneficial and creative forces just doesn’t fit with what Scripture teaches about death. Death is the last enemy. Death is the wages of sin. Death is to be mourned. Even our Savior wept when told of the death of Lazarus, and He knew what He was about to do. Only a need to accept evolution as the “way God creates” would drive Christians to reject the clear teachings of Scripture on death.

Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all. 1 Corinthians 15:12-28

Why I’m Not Using Susan Wise Bauer’s Curricula: A Review of Peter Enns’ Bible Curriculum

It’s that time of year again. Homeschool conferences are taking place all over the country this summer as homeschoolers gear up for a new school year. Last year, there was a big controversy over comments made by Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis about Dr. Peter Enns and his theistic evolutionary views. As a result of that controversy I reviewed the Bible curriculum that Dr. Enns had written. Telling God’s Story is a multi-year Bible curriculum aimed at children of all ages. It is published by Susan Wise Bauer’s Olive Branch Books, a division of Peace Hill Press. Given all of the controversy over Dr. Enns and his well-published views on Scripture and evolution, it is Susan Wise Bauer’s defense and support of Dr. Enns that has convinced me that her curricula are not what I want to use. (The link is for a positive review that she wrote for Dr. Enns’ book, Inspiration and Incarnation.)

What follows is the review that I wrote last year.

If you aren’t a homeschooling family, you may not be aware of the debate raging over a new Bible curriculum by Dr. Peter Enns. Here is a brief summary of the issues.

Dr. Peter Enns, formerly of Westminster Theological Seminary, has written a curriculum, Telling God’s Story, to help parents teach their children about the Bible. As part of the release of Telling God’s Story, Dr. Enns has been speaking at some of the homeschool conventions held around the country. At one convention, Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis expressed his concern about Dr. Enns “compromising” views, especially as it relates to Genesis, an historical Adam, and an historical Fall. One convention decided to uninvite Ken Ham because they didn’t like the “divisive spirit” of his comments about Dr. Enns. Concern was raised within the homeschooling community over Dr. Enns connection with BioLogos, a foundation that promotes evolution. Further concern was raised over the fact that the publisher, Olive Branch Books, is part of Peace Hill Press which is directed by Susan Wise Bauer and Jessie Wise. Susan Wise Bauer is well-known and well-respected within the homeschooling community for her history series, The Story of the World, and book, The Well-Trained Mind. Olive Branch Books has released a statement in which it begs parents to read the curriculum for themselves instead of relying on secondhand accounts.

So, that is what I’ve done. I received my copy of the parents’ guide to Telling God’s Story, and I have now finished reading it. I also read Dr. Enns’ book, Inspiration and Incarnation, to help me understand his views.
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Even Evolutionists Know: There is No Reconciling Evolution with Christianity

Last week, Dr. Darrel Falk announced his upcoming resignation as President of BioLogos. Dr. Falk became President of BioLogos after Dr. Francis Collins stepped down to take the position of Director of the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Falk’s resignation follows the departures of Dr. Karl Giberson, formerly Executive Vice-President of BioLogos, and former Senior Fellow Dr. Peter Enns.

What is interesting is Dr. Jerry Coyne’s take on Dr. Falk’s resignation and on the purpose of BioLogos. Dr. Coyne writes at the blog, Why Evolution is True, and is a professor of Ecology and Evolution at the University of Chicago. Here’s what Dr. Coyne had to say:

Do have a look at Falk’s account of BioLogos‘s “accomplishments,” none of which actually include converting science-averse evangelical Christians to evolution. They’ve had workshops, meetings, and a big website for three years, as well as tons of funding from the Templeton Foundation and, I suspect, wealthy evangelicals. But they have no record of actually doing what they set out to do: reconciling science with evangelical Christianity.

The reason is palpably clear of course: those “ways of knowing” are incompatible. But Falk seems cluelessly puzzled by BioLogos‘s failure:

But as thankful as I am for that support, no straddling ought to be required. Science studies God’s creation, which places it on sacred ground, not foreign territory. And if it is sacred ground, then Christians ought to be right there providing tours of the landscape, not out on the fringes looking in. True, there are sections of the science landscape that need to be redeemed from the scientism Richard Dawkins and others use to surface-mine and subtly rearrange the terrain for their own philosophical purposes, but the fact that they have been able to do this may be partly due to our near-absence from the territory. We have been far too hesitant to enter this world, and sometimes it seems we have simply preferred to cast stones from the outside.

Elaine Eklund has shown that Evangelicals are fourteen-fold under-represented among the scientists at the nation’s leading universities. Is this a result of what Mark Noll (almost twenty years ago) described as a scandal—“the scandal of the evangelical mind?” Could it be that the territory seems foreign because we have stayed away and failed to adequately understand how science works and why it is such a dependable way of revealing truth about the physical and biological world that God has created?

Oh for crying out loud! Evangelicals and other hyper-religious people are underrepresented in science because it threatens their faith. It’s not an inadequate understanding of how science works, but a realization that the findings of science, if taken seriously, make the idea of a god superfluous. And, in the end, this is why all efforts like those of BioLogos will fail.

I probably don’t agree with much of what Dr. Coyne believes, but I think he’s absolutely correct about one thing: evolution and Christianity are completely incompatible. If BioLogos exists to make Christianity palatable for evolutionists, it doesn’t appear that they have removed the offense of the Gospel for those committed to an atheistic, evolutionary worldview. I hope that more Christians will realize that compromising Scripture to gain acceptance is dangerous and ultimately unsuccessful.

Declaration on Special Creation of Adam and Eve

The Session of Midway Presbyterian (PCA) of Powder Springs, GA met this week and voted to adopt a “Declaration on the Special Creation of Adam and Eve for Session/Presbytery.” The session gave their reason for making a declaration at this time:

Since in our present time there are attempts to redefine the teaching on the miraculous and direct creation of Adam and Eve, which would lead us back to a spirit of slavery instead of urging us to stand in the liberty that Christ brings (Gal. 5:1), we wish to joyfully reaffirm the biblical, historical, and confessional teaching, and also warn about the erroneous nature of this teaching which will be injurious to the peace, purity, and progress of the church—even to the gospel itself (1 Cor. 15:1, 20-22, 45-50).

Here is an excerpt from their declaration:

1. Affirms and preaches that the Scriptures (cf. Genesis 1-3; Romans 5:12-19; and 1 Corinthians 15:20-22) teach that Adam and Eve are as historical individuals as any of us, were immediately created by God through his direct and miraculous intervention, that God formed Adam, the first man, from the dust of the ground, and made Eve directly from Adam without the need of lengthy time nor a naturalistic process to create Adam and Eve in original righteousness and holiness (cf. also the actions of the 28th PCA GA [2000], 184, 200-201).

2. Denies that Genesis 2:7 or other Scriptures teach that Adam and Eve are the products of evolution from lower forms of life or previous species, or that God acted upon a group of humans or hominids from which he set apart the first couple (cf. Mt. 19:4).

They conclude by inviting other sessions or presbyteries to adopt the declaration. I hope that many other sessions and presbyteries will follow Midway’s example. It may seem like a small step, but it is an important one.

You can read the full declaration at the Aquila Report.

PCA General Assembly Votes NOT to Make a Statement on Adam and Eve

Today at the 40th General Assembly of the PCA, the majority of the commissioners voted not to make any statements regarding the historicity of Adam and Eve. Don Clements at The Aquila Report wrote a summary of the day’s actions:

Three Presbyteries had submitted overtures concerned with the topic of Theistic Evolution and the historicity of Adam and Eve.

Overture 10 from Rocky Mountain Presbytery asked that the General Assembly go on record (known as making an ‘in thesi’ statement that would reject all evolutionary views of Adam’s origins. Overture 29 from Savannah River Presbytery asked for a similar statement.

But Overture 26 from Potomac Presbytery asked for something different. They felt that the PCA had clearly stated their position on these topics, most especially in Larger Catechism Question 17, and anyone who wanted to know what the PCA’s position was could simply read the following statement from that answer:

“After God had made all other creatures, he created man male and female; formed the body of the man of the dust of the ground, and the woman of the rib of the man, endued them with living, reasonable, and immortal soul; made them after his own image, in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness; having the law of God written in their hearts, and power to fulfill it, and dominion over the creatures; yet subject to fall”

A minority of the committee brought to the floor their position defending the adopting of an ‘in thesi’ statement, staying that is was needed since there were a number of people and/or institutions that were claiming to uphold the Westminster Standards (i.e. LCQ 17) yet, at the same time, were claiming that Theistic Evolution or views that Adam and Eve were not truly newly created was within the bounds of understanding of the Standards.

When the votes were taken, the assembly voted by a 60-40% margin to approve the Potomac Overture and not make a statement.

While I appreciate the sentiment of the majority report that the PCA already has statements affirming the historicity of Adam, those who believe that there is not a significant group of theistic evolutionists within the PCA are kidding themselves. It was particularly telling that despite the many assurances by those in favor of the majority report one man spoke to say that he believed the minority report went beyond the Scriptures in what it affirmed about Adam. He said that Genesis 2:7 states that God created Adam from the dust, but not how. He thought there should be more latitude in interpretation there.

That is exactly why we need to address the issue of Adam and evolutionary origins.

PCA Seminar Speaker: No Difference Between Adam Specially Created from the Dust and a Hominid Adopted by God and Given a Soul

This morning at the 40th General Assembly of the PCA, Dr. Gregg Davidson gave a seminar on the age of the earth. Thanks to a couple of my friends who were able to be there, I have had the opportunity to listen to what Dr. Davidson had to say. According to some who were there, the seminar was full, and Dr. Davidson seemed a little nervous.

Dr. Ligon Duncan opened the session by discussing the Creation Study Report and the boundaries that were set in that report. While the report allows for a diversity of opinions on the meaning of the creation days, some issues, like the special and direct creation of Adam, are considered of “vital importance to our Reformed testimony.”

After this introduction, Dr. Davidson began by explaining that Dr. Ken Wolgemuth was not able to attend because he had been called away by his job to Saudi Arabia. Dr. Davidson laughed and said that Dr. Wolgemuth’s schedule changed before the issue of the seminar “went nuclear” on the blogosphere. He went on to promise that nothing that he said would be outside the boundaries set by the Creation Study Report. He also reminded everyone that the scope of the seminar was the age of the earth and not evolution. Anyone who was interested in his views on evolution were directed to his book, When Faith and Science Collide.

Before Dr. Davidson got into explaining the scientific evidence for an old earth, he took a few minutes to lay out his own Christian beliefs, including the inerrancy of Scripture and the death and resurrection of Christ. He was careful to emphasize his belief in an historical Adam and Eve and the doctrine of original sin.

The majority of his presentation was very similar to the material that he lays out in his book. He stated his belief that science can be useful in deciding between two plausible interpretations of Scripture. He gave the example of Galileo and whether the sun orbits the earth or the earth orbits the sun. This was an example of a time that the increasing evidence of science helped to show which interpretation of Scripture was best.

Dr. Davidson explained that his purpose in the seminar was to equip the pastors and elders so that they can better minister to their congregations. According to Dr. Davidson, there are many in the church who are taught that the evidence for an old earth is weak and that to be faithful to Christ one must hold to a young earth. This can become a stumbling block to the faith for many, especially young believers, who grow up and are then challenged when they discover that the evidence for an old earth is very strong. The evidence that Dr. Davidson presented in the seminar is designed to help prevent this potential crisis of faith.

In the same way as he does in his book, Dr. Davidson then addressed the problems that he sees in reading Genesis 1 and 2 in a straight-forward, literal way. These problems include the apparent differences in the two chapters on the order of creation and the problems with having light before the sun. Dr. Davidson used the parable of the mustard seed to give an example of a passage of Scripture that is completely true even though the statements about nature are not. Jesus says that the mustard seed is the smallest seed and that seeds have to die. According to Dr. Davidson, this is not technically accurate as there are many seeds smaller than the mustard seed and that seeds don’t actually die when they germinate. Using this passage, Dr. Davidson explained that Genesis 1 and 2 are best understood as completely true, but not as scientifically accurate statements.

Dr. Davidson then explained a handful of scientific evidences for an old earth. All were pretty straight forward and clearly outlined. He also explained why the most common Young Earth Creationist interpretations do not fit the evidence. In closing, he explained that his intention was not to change Young Earth Creationists into Old Earth Creationists. His desire was to have those who hold to a young earth at least understand that those who hold to an old earth do so for plausible reasons. He repeated his desire to remove a stumbling block to the faith that requires a belief in a young earth.

The audience was allowed to submit questions for Dr. Davidson to answer. The questions were challenging ones both scientifically and theologically. The most interesting questions were the last two. First, Dr. Davidson was asked about his belief in an historical Adam. The question asked if he believed Adam was specially and directly created by God from the dust or if Adam was a hominid adopted by God. Before answering, Dr. Davidson said that he hoped his answer to this question would not cause people to write off the evidence he had given in the seminar. His answer was that he doesn’t see a difference between Adam specially created by God from the dust and Adam as a hominid adopted by God and given a soul. Either way, according to him, Adam is the first human and the father of mankind. He pointed out that the wording of Genesis is that Adam was created by God from the dust of the earth and that science would say that Adam was created from the dust of the earth.

The last question asked was whether or not the session at Dr. Davidson’s church allows him to teach old earth. Dr. Davidson said that he is not currently under discipline and that he has never asked or been asked to teach on the subject.