Ol’ Charlie

Does belief in any of Charles Darwin’s theories, such as that the one taught in your child’s school, pose a problem for your faith?

Thank God for Darwin

Churches Celebrate Darwin

If so, why? If not, then what is a proper hermeneutic for reading Genesis?

31 Comments

  1. Bev

    The biggest problem I have with Darwin is ….
    If there was truly the evolution that Darwin talked about, then there would be the “in-betweens.” Things that aren’t quite monkeys and are not quite humans. To my knowledge they haven’t been found.

  2. I think that anyone that does an honest appraisal of the evidence accumulated thus far can see the overwhelming likelihood that we live on a very, very old planet and that evolution is the most plausible explanation of “how” we were created (a question that the Bible doesn’t set out to answer). Here’s a couple links to get you started:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_evolution
    http://www.becominghuman.org/

    Perhaps I didn’t phrase the question well. If Darwin’s proposed theories on the origins of man (survival of the fittest & evolution) are indeed the most plausible answer for the evidence we observe, does that pose a problem for your faith/theology? If so, why? If not, then what is a proper hermeneutic for reading Genesis?

  3. My struggle with Evolution is many fold. On of the top struggles is the fact that a large portion of our society holds it out as fact. It never has been.
    Doesn’t mean that some day it could be proven… But it hasn’t been. Yet those who believe it deeply, will look at you and roll there eyes as if you still believe in a flat earth if you don’t say that evolution is valid.

    No good scientist would ever hold valid something that’s an unproven theory.

    It simply tells me that the devil wants to stuff anything up God’s nose he can get his hands on. The fact that God created human beings [Ps 5] a little
    lower than God himself [not angels] really ticked Lucifer off! That means that God has always held humans above in rank, priority, and love over
    angels. It’s another reason why angels are never seen to have the possibility of repentance and salvation.

    Peole can wax eloquent and enjoy their erudite stance on evolution and believe that a certain category of Christians are anti-intellectual if they want. I will not enter into mindless squabbles with people who want to treat theory as truth.

  4. Ben

    Matt:

    Man, this stuff is right up my alley!

    I will not simply dismiss your question. If you were trying to be argumentative, then I would dismiss it. If you were being a “progressive” neo-christian trying to undermine the position of the church and the work of creation, then I would dismiss it.

    Instead, I recognize that this is the kind of issue that some non-christians really struggle with. And the better we as Christians can work through and have a solid answer for this issue, the better off we are in our discussion with them. It is not satisfying to a thinking unbeliever to merely say, “God said it, I believe it, that settles it!” Might God have an answer to the seeking unbeliever that says, “How did the earth get here and why are science and religion so different on this issue?” This is what I think you are trying to get to in your question. That is why I will not dismiss your question.

    Now, I’m not saying that the rest of you have “dismissed” Matt and his question; please don’t think that. What I’m saying is that many Christians DO dismiss this kind of discussion. I realize that not everyone has a passion for this kind of thing, just like not every unbeliever has an issue with it. But might God give passion to a believer on this issue so that the believer is better equipped to address this with an unbeliever?

    What an opportunity for all of us to challenge and encourage our brothers and sisters in Christ to pursue their passions, whether we have those same passion or not, knowing that many of these passions are God-given and for His greater purposes!

    So, Matt: I challenge you and encourage you to keep asking the hard questions that occasionally ruffle feathers. To keep asking questions that many evangelicals don’t wish to discuss. And as long as you are not trying to be argumentative or spread heresy, and if I’m also passionate about the same issue, I will attempt to dialogue with you.

    Enough for now, but I hope to actually take a stab at answering your question in a post later this evening.

  5. Good start, Matt. 🙂

    I’m not an evolution expert, but I have read some. Anyone, feel free to correct me if I am mistaken. From what I understand, macro-evolution is still a theory. A provocative one to most Christians, but still ONLY a theory. However, micro-evolution has been proven scientifically. The question is, does this knowledge then compromise my faith?

    Without getting so deep into Mr. Darwin’s theories that I can’t dig myself out by the end of this decade, I would have to say “No”. Somewhere, somehow, matter had to be created to spark that first life, however small. The question still remains of where that came from. What generated that “spark”? Macro-evolution, at least to my admittedly limited understanding, does not provide a satisfactory explanation to this question.

    Evolution does not explain our character, either. Why we are searching; why we want such a communal relationship with others. Why so many regions of the world have a “god(s)” that they worship. Animals (at least to my knowledge) do not worship anything. We do. Why are we different, and can evolution explain that?

    That being said, I was taught evolution in High School from a die-hard evolutionist. (You remember Mr. Bendelow, right, Matt?) I somehow survived the terrible ordeal, and here I am, a Christian. The question of evolution doesn’t have to be one that is anti-Christian. I believe that we are supposed to search out the secrets of the Earth and the Universe; some of what we theorize may be right, some may be wrong. Until it is proven wrong, it is just that. A theory that we need to examine more closely to find it’s truth or error.

  6. Pingback: Keith & Martha Crawford » Matt & Jen Simerson » Ol’ Charlie

  7. Ben

    This is not a position I would go to the stake for, but I have given it a lot of thought over the years.

    I am a mathnerd, but I also love the study of science, specifically physics and astronomy. And one thing I know is that most scientists that hold to evolution are not out there to make a statement. They are not big jerks whose purpose in their study is to make fun of Christian thought concerning Creation. They are unbelievers who have looked at the evidence. And as you said, Matt, there is a *lot* of evidence that points to an old universe.

    Take this example: Through basic and provable science, it can be determined that most stars we see in the night sky are millions of light years away. That means that it takes millions of years for light to get from those stars to us. So, if the universe is only 6,000 to 8,000 years old, how could light have gotten from them to us? It couldn’t. But that is okay, because God certainly could not only have created the stars, but also the light from them already on its way to the earth. So He created the stars and the beams of light coming from them.

    So far, so good.

    But astronomers have observed stars “burning out” in the night sky. Stars that were there are no longer there. They have also observed phenomena like a super nova. This is when a star blows up. Fasinating things.

    But wait a minute. If a star has burned up, and it is 6,000,000 light years away, and we saw it burn up, that means it burned up 6,000,000 years ago. Which means if the universe is only 6,000 to 8,000 years old, what exactly did God create to give us the illusion of a star burning up? Did He only create a light beam 6,000 light years long so that we could observe it going out? This doesn’t logically make sense to me as a solid Bible-believing Christian, much less to an extremely logical thinking scientist. Call him a Bible-hating atheistic man-with-an-agenda scientist if you want, but I just don’t think that’s the case.

    These are facts that scientists deal with. They set their world-view accordingly. And we certainly don’t get brownie-points by telling them that they are closed-minded God-hating activists.

    What about for me? Do these facts affect my faith? No. Do they affect how I read Genesis? Perhaps.

    How about this. Let’s say I like to garden. I work hard to break up the soil on an unfarmed field. I pick out all the rocks. I sow some seed. I wait a season or two for all the weed seeds to germinate and grow. I sow more seed the next year. I get an okay crop, but not the best crop for whatever reason. So it may take a couple of seasons to get this garden just the way I want. Then, when I have toiled for years in satisfaction, I reap the first real harvest.

    Or, let’s say I like to eat vegetables. I go to Meijer and buy some and take them home.

    In both cases I eat vegetables for dinner. Which might I enjoy more?

    Is it plausible to think God may be the same way? Might He have taken years to get the universe just right? Might He have planted a star here and a tree there. Might He have had a bird eat a berry and deposit a seed somewhere else and have a new tree grow? Might He have extinguished a star or blown one up? Might He have had the animals procreate over time to populate the earth? And when it was *just right*, He said, “Now… I’m ready for the greatest creation I will ever create! The time is just right! I’m ready to make man in My own image!”

    Not only does that make sense with what facts science has discovered, it would also seem to show God as the patient and loving creator that wanted to let His creation do what He created it to do! Grow and mulitiply!

    Did He use evolution? I wouldn’t think so. Was Adam the first man? Yes. When? About 6,000 to 8,000 years ago. Does this change any thing else in the Bible? No, except that it accentuates God’s patience and creative will.

    But again, it’s not something I would go to the stake for. He could also have done it in 6 literal days.

  8. Ben, my man! You actually know a little bit about the evidences for an ancient earth, but far more important is that you actually answered part of the question I posed. The question was two part, asking if evolution and an ancient earth poses a problem for your faith. You wisely said, “it’s not something I would go to the stake for.” I think you understand where I was going with this.

    Whether or not we believe the earth is 4.7 billion years old should not matter to our faith because it’s not a matter of salvation. Charles Swindoll states this principle eloquently in his excellent book, The Grace Awakening. He says, “I had a position that was so rigid I would fight for every jot and tittle. I mean, I couldn’t get enough things I’d die for. The older I get, the shorter that list gets, frankly.”

    I’ll tip my hand here and posit that if an ancient earth and evolution is a problem for your theology or faith, then you have a few issues to wrestle with.

    The first is that you must come to grips with the simple fact that you are reading a translation of the Bible. Understanding often gets “lost in the translation” and that is more likely to happen when the the distance between the author and the reader increases. That distance is a function of language and culture and we are extremely removed from the author of Genesis. We are products of western civilization and do not think or live in the same manner as eastern countries where the Bible was written.

    As products of modern and post-modern culture, a concept as simple as “the ends of the earth” has an entirely different meaning to you than to an eastern man standing on a mountain top 5,000 years ago. You think of a big ball with a few continents on it and without even considering it you can zoom from space to the place where you live. To Adam, Moses and Noah, a hike up to the top of Mt. Horeb or Ararat would allow them see “to the ends of the earth”. This is thousands of years before the first telescope was invented. If you don’t factor this difference of cultural perspective into the text, then you aren’t terribly likely to deduce an accurate meaning from it.

    Then there’s the issue of language. Many ideas simply do not translate well, with idioms being particularly troublesome. As one learns the original languages, this becomes infinitely more apparent. What exactly does the greek preposition εκ mean in Koine Greek? We have a half dozen meanings for it, all derived from how it is being used, and how we’ve seen it used elsewhere. In other words, we aren’t entirely certain. Nobody has spoken Koine for a couple thousand years so we must choose a meaning based on the textual evidence.

    The Hebrew language of Genesis poses another problem in that it lacks the verbal precision of Greek and English. It is a very pictorial language, often conveying meaning in word pictures where words don’t exist. Because of this difference, the Greek and English translations are often more precise than the original language. A prime example of this is the word for day used in Genesis. It has several meanings including a 12 hour day, a 24 hour day, and an age (indefinite period of time). It may have more! Thus, if you try to derive meaning from individual words instead of the context you are likely stretching the texts too far. The context of the Bible is not just the surrounding words but also the language, culture, and knowledge of God at the time of authorship.

    Half of the reason there are dozens of English translations of the Bible is because our language (English) has also evolved. The King James Version was a great translation, 400 years ago when Elizabethan English was spoken. Today it is as hard to read and understand as Shakespeare. It’s not because the Bible changed, but because our language did. Many of our words have very different meanings than they used to. That is why it’s important to be using a modern translation or better yet, the original languages.

    In addition to our language evolving, we have also discovered much older texts in the original languages (Greek and Hebrew) to base our translations off, such as the Qumran scrolls. They correct all sorts of problems in the Textus Receptus that the KJV was based on. More reliable and complete texts are the foundation for a better translation.

    Another help is finding other evidence of how words are used. The Koine texts found in Egypt 150 years ago contained everyday items like grocery lists and invoices. Those texts provided us with a much better picture of how many Koine words were commonly used at the time of New Testament authorship. Based on these advances, in this century a number of excellent modern translations (NIV, NASB, NLT) have arrived which make it much easier for us modern products of western civilization to understand.

    Thus, we know far more today about the Greek and Hebrew texts than we did 150 years ago. However, we will never know all there is to know about ancient Hebrew and Greek cultures. There will always be a large gap of knowledge there. I expect to be sitting around chatting with Paul and he will be apalled at some of what we believed he meant in his letters. He’ll share a little insight and a whole group of us will smack ourselves on the foreheads and say, “oh, that’s what you meant.”

    Because of our lack of complete knowledge about the culture and languages of the Bible, it seems appropriate that the more one knows and studies the Bible, the more aware they should be of this inherent lack of certainty. Instead, of being certain of a passages meaning, we should be gracious with others who derive a different meaning. With this corresponding reduction in certainty should come a sense of humility, making it easier to fellowship and witness with those who hold different views and interpretations of Scripture.

    For example, I disagree with Pastor Dave’s interpretation, where he cited Ps 5. He claims that, “…God has always held humans above in rank, priority, and love over angels.” I’m pretty sure he meant to cite Psalms 8:5 which says, “[What is man…] You have made him a little lower than God…” (NASB). I don’t believe that means there is nothing else between us and God. Further, the word for God used there is Elohim in the Hebrew, which is also translated as a heavenly being as the NIV does. The KJV translates the word as angels.

    I think that Heb. 2:7-9 plainly states that man and Christ, when incarnate as a human, was made lower than the angels. Angels are also referred to as Sons of God, just as we are. Does God love us more than His other sons? What evidence supports that? Other passages plainly tell us that angels are superior to us in knowledge, power, and rank. We won’t outrank them until after we’re glorified (1 Cor 6:3). Here’s an excellent article on Angelology that goes into much greater detail and cites all the relevant Bible passages.

    This is an excellent example of where grace and humility is in order. I don’t believe the text supports Dave’s assertion but he obviously does. Is such a difference worth parting fellowship over? Not a chance! Are we likely to agree on it? Probably not.

    This is why we must be careful with what we know the Bible says. There is a good chance that what we believe it says is quite different from what another believes. There’s also a good chance both of us are right, or wrong! We have used the Bible to support slavery and oppression and that was wrong. We’ve used it to condone genocide and that was wrong. We used it to prove the world was flat, and that was wrong.

    We knew the Bible told us the sun revolved around the earth until Galileo proved that wrong as well. That scientific progress caused a real problem for the church and the Aristotelian view of the universe it had embraced. Rather than accept that their theology was errant, they persecuted, censured, and imprisoned those with the integrity to deal honestly with the evidence. In 1633 Galileo was censured and forced to recant. A devout Christian, he agreed with the church father Augustine that scripture should not be read too literally. “The intention of [the Bible] is to teach us how one goes to heaven, not how the heavens go.” The Pope didn’t agree so Galileo was labeled a heretic and sentenced to house arrest.

    When one says they know that earth is 6,000 years old, they are saying that their interpretation of their translation is fact and that the Holy Spirit, working through human authors, had intended to provide a precise scientific explanation of the earth’s age. They are equating their interpretation of Scripture with the very word of God. Such a position appears to be either ignorant or arrogant. We are welcome to believe that the earth is about 6,000 years old but we must realize that it is a position based on faith in our interpretation.

    Of Evidence, Fact, and Science

    To call the Theory of Evolution fact would not be science, at least not in a modern scientific usage of the term. Science is characterized by the scientific method (observation, hypothesis, prediction, test). After the test results match the predictions a sufficient number of times and are reviewed by peers, a hypothesis graduate towards theory.

    Nobody argues if Einstein’s Theory of Relativity is a fact, or if gravity is fact. Yet, I don’t see many people stepping off skyscrapers because they don’t believe in gravity. There is an observable force attracting objects to each other and gravity is our theory that explains that force. Likewise, the term evolution describes “a process that results in heritable changes in a population spread over many generations.” The fact that a Chinese man, an Aborigini, and a Causasian have disparate features is an irrefutable proof that evolution happens.

    The issue with the Theory of Evolution is whether or not it is the best theory for explaining the origins of man. In 1842 Richard Owen found the first dinosaur bones. There were no dinosaurs in ancient records or cave art. How was he to explain the existence of such a fossil? More fossils were found and in 1859 Darwin published the Origin of Species, offering an explanation for the fossils. His research led him to later publish The Descent of Man which further galvanized the church against his views. It didn’t matter. The reformation was heating up and enabling people to think freely. The printing press allowed their works to spread faster than the church could condemn and destroy them.

    The environment that allowed Martin Luther to publish his 95 theses and escape with his life allowed not just the fracturing of the church but also the split between the church and science. Since then evidence has continued to pile up supporting an ancient (~4.7 billion years) earth and the theory of evolution. We’ve uncovered 3.5 billion year old rocks, dinosaurs, gravitational shifts in sedimentary rocks, observed light from planets millions of light years away, measured the cooling of the earth, the expansion rate of our universe, the background radiation present in space as predicted by the big bang theory, the annual layers in the ice shelves left from the last ice age, and much, much more. All this evidence fits the evolutionary predictions remarkably well.

    We reacted by challenging the dating methods. As a result, now there are more than a dozen extraordinarily accurate methods of dating artifacts. The tests are so reliable that when done correctly, precious few still dispute the results. As more evidence trickled in, it became obvious that evolution is continuous and still observable in nature. From there it was easy to prove beyond doubt. Faced with an untenable position, fundamentalists reacted by whacking the theory in half, “Sure, we believe in micro-evolution, but not macro-evolution”. That acknowledges that species do in fact evolve, but drawing a line and claiming that no speciation (macro-evolution) occurs.

    In additional to the other evidence for speciation, DNA is the latest arrival at the party. The stance against macro-evolution became much less tenable as advances in DNA and genetics research piled even more evidence onto the table. The same technology that lets a 15 year old boy track down his anonymous sperm donating father is lending even more evidence to the theory of evolution.

    Availability of Evidence

    Twenty years ago a person might not ever see the evidence. Today, the internet has made this data so accessible that anyone caring to appraise it can do so. The supporters of a young earth view are dwindling just like the Flat Earth Society. Today 95% of christians have no qualms with evolution. The Pope officially endorsed it in 1982. Nearly every scientist in every discipline including genetics, biology, archeology, astronomy, and the related disciplines believe that the theory of evolution is the most plausible explanation of the origins of man.

    As scientists worldwide continue to find more fossils of ancient hominids, more and more light is shed upon the existing evidence of mans origins. Evolution has made it into the courts on several occasions and has been soundly defeated in an environment where judgment is based on evidence. When one surveys the evidence of just the ancient hominids we’ve found, it is plainly apparent that men extremely similar to us were walking all over this terrestrial ball for at least 60,000 years.

    I believe fundamentalist christianity has created a false dichotomy, forcing people to choose between faith and science. One can either be intellectual or spiritual, but not both. As Ben points out, many of the believers in evolution are good honest people who have seen the evidence. Many are even Christians! A science teacher who teaches evolution at CAPS is also an attender at FBC. I know him personally and think very highly of him. Until recently I thought he was wrong, but I liked him none-the-less.

    What I find strikingly odd is that many who want to dismiss the argument as unimportant are the same ones that will send their kids to Christian schools so they can be taught creation science instead of evolution. What they deny with their mouth and brains they support with their pocketbooks. They cling desperately to their interpretation of Genesis and will (collectively) spend many millions of dollars supporting creation science proponents.

    I’ve been investigating the main proponents of creation science. Of the dozen on my list, I am convinced that half of them are hucksters. They use false credentials to lend themselves credibility and make a mint from love offerings on tours and Bible conferences. They sell books to evangelicals who will pay for anything that supports their theology. I concluded that if I could part from my values, an easy way to make a few million dollars is to buy a PhD from a diploma mill and then write a book to sell to evangelicals. The hucksters know that a passionate evangelical and his cash are soon parted.

    Since nearly everyone now agrees the earth is ancient, a new anti-evolution poster child was needed. Say hello to Intelligent Design. Michael Behe published Darwin’s Black Box and fundamentalists the world over snapped up copies. I still have mine. In the 2005 Dover School District trials it came out that Behe misrepresented the peers who supposedly had reviewed his work. Some of the work in his book misrepresented the findings of the scientist he cited. His first real peer review was in court and and the latest poster child of creation science was struck down by the evidence.

    Will it never end?

    Additional Resources

    If you would like to research this topic further, you’ll want to first consider that much of the creation science propaganda you’ve heard has since been abandoned or so soundly refuted in public that no self respecting creationist uses it. To save you the embarrassment of using defunct arguments, here are a couple good articles: Answers In Genesis – Don’t Use Arguments and Scientific Evidences for a Young Earth.

    If you want to see how the debate has fared in scientific circles, then talk.origins is the spot. If you are looking for an approach that takes into account the inspiration of the Bible but applies a hermeneutic that allows the accounts to be reconciled with our knowledge of our environment, Reasons To Believe is a good resource.

    If you’ve concluded that I’m a heretic and you want information that makes you feel warm and fuzzy with a prima scriptura and literal Genesis interpretation, the best site is Answers In Genesis. If you find other good reputable sites, please send them to me. Most of the other sites purporting creation science exist to sell you something. In many cases, the credentials of the proponents are misleading at best, and downright fraudulent in others. Kent Hovind is a great example of someone who you don’t want to base your faith or theology upon.

    Summary

    Now, after that brief introduction, I get back to the point, and my original question. If Darwin’s proposed theories on the origins of man (survival of the fittest & evolution) are indeed the most plausible answer for the evidence, does that pose a problem for your faith/theology? If so, why? If not, then what is a proper hermeneutic for reading Genesis?

    PS: This is NOT a position that DTS or any of their staff (that I know of) would posit or support. DTS is a evangelical school with a very high view of Scripture. I will be arguing the position I expounded on above and I do not expect a favorable response. Thus, if my arguments are weak, please poke holes in them.

  9. Ben

    I’m not exactly sure what your position is for me to poke holes in…

    Are you saying that you believe that God used evolution as we are commonly taught in secular textbooks, or are you saying that God took a long time to create each individual creature independent of one another? Or are you saying something completely different? Or are you not proposing anything except that whatever happened *didn’t* happen in just 6 days?

    I’ll wait for a clarification before I start poking 🙂

  10. Ben

    BTW, do you ever feel that we are in a time similar to when the church went through the difficult transition from “flat earth” to “round earth” or from “earth center of universe” to “sun center of solar system”?

    The church of that day appears a bit foolish looking back. I wonder if we will look the same (if the Lord doesn’t return) 500 years from now when science has many more answers than it currently has.

    There are many die-hards in the church today just like there were a lot of die-hards in the church back then. Your point about knowing some things for certain and others not for certain is well taken. They *knew* that the earth was flat, or they *knew* the earth was the center. Most (reasonable) Christians today never give a second thought to a round earth revolving around the sun. Might (reasonable) Christians 500 years from now not give a second thought to an old earth? Exciting times!

    The Bible is, first and foremost, a message from God to us, His greatest creation, communicating exactly what He wants us to hear about who He is and what He expects from us. It’s a message that will never contradict science, but it is not necessarily the best tool for discovering scientific truth.

  11. I’m not exactly sure what your position is for me to poke holes in…

    My position is simple. I don’t believe the Bible teaches, or intended to teach how old the earth is. I do not believe the Bible intended to answer the question of how man was created. Both are scientific questions with scientific answers. Science is very modern, and if you apply a post-enlightenment scientific mindset to a 3,500 year old document, you are probably not going to arrive at a meaning that the author intended. You’ll do much better if you can ask questions like, “What did this mean to the audience to which it was written?”

    Consider the perspective of the ancients and their miniscule knowledge of science. When Louis Pasteur proposed the idea of invisible little germs causing illness in the 1800s, he was universally scoffed at. Maybe it’s just human nature, or pride, but the simple fact is that people have a hard time letting go of things they believe, even when faced with overwhelming evidence. Before Pasteur, most believed it was evil spirits causing the illnesses.

    The problem with the battle against evolution is that it’s a huge stumbling block between evangelicals and the people they want to witness to. Anyone with a modest high school science education has some knowledge of the evidence supporting evolution. Most evangelicals choose to deny, dismiss, and avoid that evidence at all costs, even sheltering their kids from it. I’m sure the reasons are many and various. For me it was fear about what that meant for my faith. For some, it’s pride, “I didn’t evolve from no monkey!”

    Are you saying that you believe that God used evolution as we are commonly taught in secular textbooks, or are you saying that God took a long time to create each individual creature independent of one another? Or are you saying something completely different? Or are you not proposing anything except that whatever happened *didn’t* happen in just 6 days?

    I’ll wait for a clarification before I start poking 🙂

    Again, I don’t think Genesis tries to answer the question of when the earth was created. If you disagree, then you create a new problem to address. Did God deceive us by planting all the evidence to the contrary? I think that is contrary to the nature of God, don’t you? The God of the Bible is a God that’s been progressively revealing himself throughout history, not concealing. (Ps 19)

    If we assume the rate of our universe expansion has been roughly constant (and many tests since support that theory), then there was a big bang some 10 billion years ago. Where’d that matter come from? Was the matter eternal? Is it merely coincidence that the laws governing our universe and the composition of our solar system and planet exploded with conditions ripe for life to appear? Such a coincidence is beyond the scope of miraculous!

    Nobody knows the how of life’s origin or how the universe began. Nobody this side of eternity ever will because it’s the past. We can only survey the evidence and theorize. There are two popular faith based answers. The Judaism/Christian answer is God. We can’t see him in a scientific way but we can see the evidence of his actions. The science answer is evolution. Both are leaps of faith and there is no dichotomy. You can believe either, neither, or both.

    Regardless of what one believes, there certainly has been a well ordered pattern reflected in the evidence. I believe that the how question of mans origins is a scientific question best answered by science. The why question however, is best answered by theology (and some would add, philosophy).

    I submit that it doesn’t matter if the world is 6,000 years old or 4.7 billion years. It doesn’t matter if the process of making me out of dirt took millions of years and included a monkey. Neither offends me.

    All the knowledge we have gained about our origins and the universe we owe to science. The reason we average 78 years of life now instead of 30 is thanks to science and improvements in medicine. The reason we live in comfortable houses with heat instead of huts with animal skins is thanks to science. I don’t hear anyone clamoring for a return to blood letting, cold huts, and the belief that our hearts contain our thoughts because the brain was nothing but a huge ventilator used to keep the heart cool.

    Science is not the enemy, just a scapegoat for poor theology.

  12. Ben

    Ready for the pokes? 😉

    Previously in your post you said this:

    “This is why we must be careful with what we know the Bible says. There is a good chance that what we believe it says is quite different from what another believes. There’s also a good chance both of us are right, or wrong!”

    Yet in your last post you said this:

    “Again, I don’t think Genesis tries to answer the question of when the earth was created. If you disagree, then you have a problem.”

    Are you contradicting yourself here? You have called for a patience and understanding for one another’s views, but then tell us that if we hold a position different from yours, then we have a problem. If this is what you are going to propose to a seasoned staff of DTS professors, they will eat you up! 🙂

    Or, which I see as a very likely possibility, did I take this out of context. If you meant I “have a problem” if I try to explain both the Bible teaching a young earth, yet science showing a very old earth, then I concede; you and your point are solid and well taken. If I hold to a young earth, yet there is so much (very possibly indisputable) evidence to the contrary, then I have a problem with why God would be so deceiving with His creation. This, though, is not a problem to many creation-scientists today; they have no trouble explaining these issues (away).

    Next poke. You said this as well:

    “It doesn’t matter if the process of making me out of dirt took millions of years and included a monkey. Neither offends me.”

    Does this mean that it’s *possible* that there was no first man named Adam? Because Luke 3:38, in discussing the geneology of Jesus, seems to make it pretty clear that there was a first man, and that he was directly from God. Note that this New Testament discussion concerning the first man is to a different audience, in a different time, for a different purpose than Genesis. And there are certainly other parts of scripture that discuss the importance of Adam and his actions. All of these are foundational to the Bible and its message, whereas the “stuff” created before Adam is not.

    While it may be true that the Bible is not in the business of talking about the details of the creation of the world, it is in the business about the start and foundation of sin. The Bible seems pretty clear that Adam was the person who started it; that he was created perfect in the garden, but blew it. How does your *possible* monkey ancestor fit with this?

    (You know, this has been one of the most fun times I’ve had on a blog. I can’t say *the* most fun, because that would probably offend Deb. So Deb, if your listening, you still remain my favorite Diet-Blog hostess!)

  13. On Feb 21, 2006, at 10:48 PM, Ben wrote:
    Ready for the pokes? 😉

    Yup.

    “It doesn’t matter if the process of making me out of dirt took millions of years and included a monkey. Neither offends me.”

    Does this mean that it’s *possible* that there was no first man named Adam?

    “Hey, can someone run out back and look around? I think Ben just threw the baby out with the bath water.” 🙂

    Asking if there was no first man seems to be asking for a theological conclusion from scientific data, which is as fallacious as drawing scientific conclusions from theological data. The comments in my wife’s NIV Study Bible say it well, “Students of the Bible must be careful not to make the Bible say what it doesn’t say, and students of science must not make science say what it doesn’t say.”

    I think the better question would be, “In what sense was Adam the first man?” Any attempt to answer that will have to deal with the notion of first and the definition of man as those seem to be the central issues. In Genesis, the Hebrew word for man has extremely wide meaning. It is the same word as Adam, but it also bears the meaning of mankind, human, mortal, and everyone. I don’t possess enough knowledge of Hebrew to address that question in any more detail.

    Scientifically, it is known that Homo Erectus, Homo Neanderthalensis, and other ancestors of modern man were not yet Homo Sapiens. Exactly when they became Homo Sapiens is guessed at about 30,000 years ago, depending on who you ask. Once that happened, why did Cro-Magnon Man, the early Homo Sapiens found in Europe, die out about 10,000 years ago? Why did the Woolly Mammoth and other species die out during that time period as well? Until we have more evidence, we can’t say for certain. What we do know is that something changed.

    So, is there a necessary conflict between Science and religion? I propose that it is not unreasonable to think that the scientific definition of “man” and the Genesis definition vary. After all, when Genesis was written, there were no scientific classifications such as Kingdom, Phyla, Class, Order, Family, Genus, Species as now exists. In Genesis, there were tribes, plants, winged creatures, beasts of the field, and fish. We must avoid applying modern science paradigms (and precision) to the ancient texts.

    Further, I think the Bible supports the idea that other peoples were on the earth that are not accounted for. Although it’s certainly not conclusive, I like the KJV translation of Genesis 1:28, “Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth…” Further, the Bible does not explain the origins of the Nephilim in Genesis 6:4, “The Nephilim were on the earth in those days…” (NASB) Where did they come from?

    The Nephilim are also referred to as giants and the sons of Anak (Num 13:33). Regardless of exactly who they were, there is a clear distinction drawn between them and the sons of God (descendants of Adam). Some propose that they were the descendants of Seth, but I don’t find that a very satisfactory explanation. Where do we find evidence of giants in Adam’s family? I think it tells that there were other men on the earth in addition to Adam.

    Jewish tradition posits that with Adam, man was first given his soul. That was the nephesh, or “breath of life” that God breathed into him. At that point, man was no longer just a creature possessed by the cares of survival, man became spirit indwelled. About this time man begins making pottery, cloth, and developing language. Man begins to till the ground and become more agricultural instead of hunting and gathering. He ponders philosophical questions asking from whence he came and what his purpose in being is. What led to that dramatic change?

    Was it because God imparted something to man he did not have prior that that time?

    Because Luke 3:38, in discussing the geneology of Jesus, seems to make it pretty clear that there was a first man, and that he was directly from God. Note that this New Testament discussion concerning the first man is to a different audience, in a different time, for a different purpose than Genesis. And there are certainly other parts of scripture that discuss the importance of Adam and his actions. All of these are foundational to the Bible and its message, whereas the “stuff” created before Adam is not.

    While it may be true that the Bible is not in the business of talking about the details of the creation of the world, it is in the business about the start and foundation of sin. The Bible seems pretty clear that Adam was the person who started it; that he was created perfect in the garden, but blew it. How does your *possible* monkey ancestor fit with this?

    That depends on who you ask. 🙂

    I don’t see any conflict there. Yes, it does pose some interesting questions, but we won’t ever have all the answers. I would propose that a milestone along the path had to be crossed before Gen 1:30 and all that He had made was declared “very good.”

    My original question still stands: What then is a proper hermeneutic for reading Genesis?

  14. Deb

    HEY! Heard you two (Matt and Ben) have been enjoying the rest of your conversation via email. Not fair to the rest of us who were enjoying reading it. 😛

    I have sources that I find these things out. LOL

  15. Jay

    I’m not sufficiently intellectually armed to enter this conversation, but I *am* curious about one thing — I assume that Matt has his own opinion on the proper interpretation of Genesis; will we get to read it?

  16. Sorry Jay, but I must take you to task on your assertion. You *are not* intellectually challenged, and you are most welcome to enter the conversation.

    I didn’t begin this thread to provide entertainment but to challenge others to study the evidence, especially their Bible. One needs very little beyond a web browser and a couple modern Bible translations to become informed enough to avoid parking their faith under the wilted trees of hucksters such as the ICR. I want to help people avoid that. Since publishing The Genesis Flood in 1962, Henry Morris practically invented the Creation Science business, of which ICR is now a $5 million dollar/yr enterprise. He did so by labelling anyone that disagrees with his interpretation of Genesis as anti-Christian, and then selling his “scientific” ideas of a young earth and global flood to evangelicals.

    He supported his claims with all sorts of allegedly “scientific” data, most of which never had any scientific agreement and that no respectable scientist anywhere holds to. Nearly every idea he ever put forth has been soundly refuted in both the scientific community and the vast majority of Christianity as well. Yet many of those ideas are still in popular use today. The meat has long since spoiled and it’s time to toss it out!

    The real tragedy is that most fundamentalists aren’t even aware of what they are rejecting when they latch onto creation science and claim disbelief in evolution. What they really oppose is a straw man created by the creation science proponents. The best example of evolution has been the stream of ideas put forth by AiG and ICR to try and defend their assertions. They pit Christians against science, their school boards, and their government. Not only are the Creation Science arguments weak theologically but they have no scientific credibility.

    Now, it’s quite possible that I’m all washed up, or that my assertions aren’t clear, lack evidential citations, or have other problems. If you are reading with interest, surely what I have said has struck a chord somewhere in your mind, even if that chord is not in tune. I am particularly interested in hearing reactions, particularly those that see it differently than I do. The comments are open, speak up.

    Regarding whether I have an opinion on proper interpretation of Genesis. I do have an opinion that can be summarized in one word: catiously. We need to be a little more careful and a lot more humble about what we think we know the Bible says. If you have a familiarity with the difficulties that U.S. businesses encounter when working in eastern countries such as China or the Middle East, then you already have a notion of just how misled you can be if you apply a western world view upon an eastern culture. The Bible is ancient eastern literature.

    In summary, if someone else arrives at another conclusion from reading the Bible, be gracious. Demonstrate the love of our Saviour to them, even if you are certain that your interpretation of your translation is better than theirs. This stuff is not salvific so it is of little consequence in the grand scheme of things.

    Be content to know that God created the heavens and the earth. It is the goal of science to explain how. There is no conflict between good theology and science. Feel free to believe that those dinosaur bones you just saw in the museum are fossils of a beast that lived hundreds of thousands of years ago. Feel free to read National Geographic without being double minded. If someone teaches you something that seems to polarize you against other people, clutch your wallet and run! You don’t have to believe them.

    Matt. 11:28 ¶ “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

  17. Deb

    “I didn’t begin this thread to provide entertainment but to challenge others to study the evidence, especially their Bible.”

    Ouch, Matt, that sounds a little harsh and condescending. Where’s the love bro???

  18. “I didn’t begin this thread to provide entertainment but to challenge others to study the evidence, especially their Bible.”

    Ouch, Matt, that sounds a little harsh and condescending. Where’s the love bro???

    Oops, my apologies. I really don’t want to offend but do want to err on the side of teach a man to fish instead of giving him a fish. I don’t think that how I interpret Genesis is as important as helping others interpret it for themselves. I believe that doing so is far more beneficial than simply tossing another opinion into the pool. So how do I communicate that without it sounding harsh and condescending?

  19. Deb

    I wasn’t reading the blog post for pure “entertainment” issues. Entertainment to me is more for brainless moments when I want to turn it off and not think much…like watching American Idol! ROFL

    I was really enjoying reading the conversation you and Ben were having and it was teaching me some things or at least making me think farther then I have.

    My #1 passion in life is to know God more and more, to know His Word more and more. But right now I’m not all that interested in doing research on creation vs. evolution because God has my interests flowing in a different direction: learning about women and how to teach them what His Word and thoughts are about them. I’m assuming that would not be your passion to study up on in Scripture? 😉

    Obviously, God is using other people, like you and Ben, to research other things about His Word and ways. We all can’t be involved in the same passion at the same time. There would be no balance to the body of Christ if that were the case.

    So, that’s why I thought it sounded a bit harsh when you said that about this not being for “entertainment”. Just because I’m not passionate about delving into more information (past this blog post) about creation vs. evolution at this point in my life does not mean I’m not a serious student of the Bible.

    That’s what I meant about “Where’s the love?”

    🙂

    Also, I appreciate your openness to wanting to hear other people’s opinions and the whole teach a man to fish thing…I’m right there with you. But I think your opinion to a question you posed here for everyone is important to your readers. At least it is to me.

    I know you’re a very strong person and have strong views. It challenges growth in me to read your posts.

    🙂

  20. Ben

    I’m back.

    It’s probably safe to say that, given the evidence of an old earth along with the belief that God wouldn’t set us up to deceive us, we live on an old earth.

    That doesn’t fit with a literal reading of Genesis. A literal reading of Genesis with a current Western translation and a current Western frame of reference makes it seem that the earth is only 6,000 years old.

    So, again, since the earth isn’t only 6,000 years old, our literal reading of Genesis must be in error.

    So maybe we need to rethink God’s purpose for the first few chapters of Genesis. Was it to show “how,” or was it to show “who” and “why”? If the purpose is the former, then we clash with science and common sense (which were both given and encouraged to be used by God). If the latter, then there is no conflict with science, and there doesn’t seem to be a weakening of theology, either.

    The danger is this: We need to be careful to avoid the appearance of evil. And to many (or most) Christians, the idea of an old earth is “from the devil.” Whether this is true or not is not the point. We must be careful not to cause our brothers and sisters to stumble. Challenge them, yes. Give them an opportunity to learn, yes. Give them something to trip on, no.

    How many weeks did it take the church to move from a “flat earth” position to a “round earth” position? Okay, maybe weeks isn’t the right unit of time. Perhaps years or decades would be better. That’s my point. We can sow seeds about our views of what is right, but this crop is a “slow grower.” Doesn’t mean we give up sowing. Just that it may be future generations that realize the next level of truth about God and His creation.

    Finally, I still don’t believe we came from monkeys. I like my view of the earth as a garden that God took His time planting, and then placed the exact people of Adam and Eve on the earth about 6,000 years ago. I acknowledge that this is only my opinion and that I can’t support this scripturally. I just like it better than thinking that I used to be a monkey.

    (I could probably believe that *you* came from a monkey. Just not me. I’m too cute to have come from a monkey!! 🙂 )

  21. Matt Bendelow

    This is in response to Martha’s reference (2/17) to
    her “die hard evolutionist” high school biology
    teacher, who I just happen to be. I am now a follower
    of Jesus Christ (praise God!) and I no longer believe,
    or teach evolution theory as “the” explanation of the
    origin of life/species. I would like to weigh in on
    this conversation, but will have to wait until I have
    time to read everyone’s remarks up to this point. I
    just wanted to set the record straight, however, and
    appologize to all those students of mine who I
    subjected to my secular humanist worldview at the
    time. I sincerely hope that you will forgive me…I
    was living in darkness. I have confessed this sin of mine before the Lord and I know I have His forgiveness…though I believe I will still have to account for this behavior (and all my other sins… past, present and future) when I meet Him.

  22. Beth

    Hi, I don’t know any of you but am a student at DBU doing some research on the Big Bang Theory and somewhere along the road I landed on your blog.

    OH HOW I HAVE ENJOYED IT!

    So Matt, wanna get married? ; )

    If not, I’m hoping Ben might step in…not many men can handle bible rattling questions while still understanding the questions aren’t aimed at rattling the bible itself, but at better understanding Truth

    Seriously how sweet to see a convo from here in my own bible-belted city and even sweeter among students from my own dad’s almamatar

    As for Matt’s entertainment concern, I must agree with Deb and say i’m not right there right now…um…or maybe I just need to internally process before I throw out thoughts, questions and concerns – I don’t chew as quick as Ben, but give me some time to digest and redigest again and I’ll be back

    *Beth

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *