Posted tagged ‘creation’

Apparently, Only Atheists Can Argue Theology

March 9, 2009

Awhile ago I saw a post over at Daniel Florien’s Unreasonable Faith that caught my eye.  Daniel was responding to a video of a creation vs. evolution discussion when he made a few interesting comments.

Apparently the proponent of creation admitted to having presupposed beliefs (presuppositions).  These beliefs are admittedly unscientific.  This is how Daniel summarizes his presuppositions:

(1) God exists, (2) that this God is the Christian God, (3) that this God wrote a book, and (4) that book is the Protestant Bible as we have it today.

Whatever discrepancies we can find in Daniel’s summary we’ll ignore because they are besides the point.  The point is Daniel’s reaction to these presuppositions.

Nothing big there — just everyday presuppositions that we all have. Completely rational starting points of a scientific worldview. Ugh.

I believe some explanation may be due here.  What Daniel is saying that the Christian presuppositions are not conducive to a scientific worldview, therefore they are invalid.  A scientific worldview, the worldview that Daniel holds to, is superior because it is scientific and the Christian worldview is inferior because it is not based upon science.  Would we all agree that this is Daniel’s position?

In fact, it would be more accurate to say that the Christian argument is a theological one.  That is, the Christian presuppositions are about what God would do and did do (created the world, wrote a book).  That’s what makes a belief in the Bible unscientific, because it’s about what God did, which, although it may be observable, is unrepeatable by science. 

Negative Theology

To the atheist, the fact that Christians make theological arguments at all disqualifies them from any rational discussion.  After all, the only thing that can be verified is science, right?

Unfortunately, at the end of his article, Daniel inadvertently gives the atheistic “Secrets to Denying God” away.

Just after he finishes chastising the Christian for making a theological argument, Daniel says:

I thought Peter Atkins makes a great point that if evolution is true and God exists, he chose a “particularly nasty” way of going about creating the world.

Oh the hypocrisy!  That God created the world in a “nasty” way is a theological argument as well!  It’s just a negative one.   In fact, the belief that Daniel is displaying is that “If God created the world, then He did a nasty job of it, therefore it’s unlikely that God created the world”.  That’s the definition of negative theology!

But does Daniel chastise Peter Atkins for making a theological argument just as the Christian did?  Of course not. 

Is Atkins theological argument rejected because it is unscientific, just as the Christians’ theological arguments are?  Of course not.

To science, what’s the difference between Atkin’s theological position, and the Christian one?  None except that Daniel agrees with Atkins.

It’s a perfect tactic.  It allows the atheist to make all the negative theological arguments they want, while rejecting any Christian rebuttal on the basis it is “unscientific”, denying the whole time that their original argument was unscientific theology as well.

Apparently, only atheists can make theological arguments.

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The Ghost of Darwin

February 12, 2009

 Two hundred years ago, in Shrewsbury England, Charles Darwin was born.  Today is Darwin’s birthday. 

Ken Ham wrote a great article that he posted today on the Answers Magazine website. 

The article is in regards to Darwin’s legacy, the world that he left behind. 

The sad part is that his legacy, Darwin’s ghost, had permeated the Church. 

Hundreds of thousands of churches around the world have adopted Darwinian evolution and reinterpreted the history in Genesis to fit with Darwin’s anti-Christian beliefs. Theistic evolution (the belief that God used evolution) has become a dominant position in much of the church in England and has spread from there around the world.

Darwin’s evolution rejects the plain, literal truth of Genesis.  The compromise the church has made has led to subsequent generations rejecting the truth of the Bible.  And can we blame them?  If we can’t trust the Bible when it comes to Genesis, can we trust it with anything?

Observers note that whereas England’s church attendance before World War II was 40–50 percent, by 2003 “only 7.5 percent of the population went to church on Sundays and that, in the past 10 years—billed by the churches as the ‘Decade of Evangelism’—church attendance dropped by an alarming 22 percent.” (“Church will be dead in 40 years’ time,” The Independent, April 16, 2000.)

The Darwinian worldview can be seen in the textbooks of academia and in the humanist thinking of Western society in general.  As a result, Christian morality has disappeared from the Western mind. 

I can’t put in any better than Ken does:

Christians should pray that the Lord rebuilds the foundations of His house that shifted from the firm ground of His Word and compromised because of the works of a man.

As Christians, did we really think that the knowledge of man would “work better” than the knowledge of God?  If you are a Christian who believes in evolution, if you think that Darwinism is compatible with Christianity, read on.

The house where Darwin wrote his On the Origin of the Species, has become a museum of his life and work.  Above the final exhibit is mounted these words:

Many Christians believed that the world and everything in it, including mankind, had been created by God in the beginning and had remained unaltered ever since … . Darwin’s theory made nonsense of all of this. He said that the world was a constantly changing place and that all living creatures were changing too. Far from being created in God’s own image, Darwin suggested that human life had probably started out as something far more primitive—the story of Adam and Eve was a myth (emphasis added)

This is Darwin’s legacy.  As a church, should we really buy into it?

Darwin wrote, in his Autobiography:

I had gradually come, by this time, to see that the Old Testament from its manifestly false history of the world, with the Tower of Babel, the rainbow as a sign, etc., etc., from its attributing to God the feelings of a revengeful tyrant, was no more to be trusted than the sacred books of the Hindoos, or the beliefs of any barbarian.

Does the Bible Teach a Solid Firmament?

October 31, 2008

Critics of a literal Genesis interpretation will attempt to claim that the Bible teaches an erroneous Eastern Cosmology, therefore the Creation account must be taken figuratively.  Specifically, the Bible is said to teach a solid raqiya, which is Hebrew for firmament (KJV) or expanse (NIV, NASB).  Since we know that the sky isn’t really solid, we must therefore conclude that Genesis is meant to be taken figuratively.  Immediately, the astute Biblical scholar will ask, what DOES the Bible say about the raqiya?

Scripture Interprets Scripture

The methodology of Biblical interpretation is a completely different, and extensive, topic in it’s own right.  But it will suffice to say here that we will be looking for Scripture to interpret Scripture.  That is, since Scripture is the inerrant Word of God, and ONLY Scripture is inerrant, the only way to truly understand Scripture is through Scripture.  In more every day terms, we must take Scripture for what it says without forcing upon it what others say about it or what we think about it.  When we start forcing others’ ideas or our own preconceived notions upon the Word of God, we risk shipwrecking the Biblical message.

Where is the Raqiya Described?

Gen 1: 6-8: “Then God said, “Let there be an expanse (raqiya) in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters. God made the expanse (raqiya), and separated the waters which were below the expanse (raqiya) from the waters which were above the expanse; and it was so. God called the expanse heaven . . .”

God is describing the “expanse” as that which is “in the midst of the waters” and the waters are “above the expanse”.  So the raqiya is in the midst of and above the waters.  Let’s say I am attempting to describe the sky to someone who no scientific knowledge, as God was attempting with Moses, if I described the sky as an “expanse” (raqiya) that is in the midst of waters (clouds) and below waters, would I be wrong or figurative?  No, so God is neither erroneous in his cosmology nor figurative in his description.

Gen 1:14: “Then God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse (raqiya) of the heavens to separate the day from the night. . .”

Gen 1:17:  “God placed them in the expanse (raqiya) of the heavens to give light on the earth,”

Now it seems that the raqiya exists beyond our Earth since God placed the moon and the sun in it.  There is no distinction made here between the raqiya that is below and “in the midst” of the waters and the raqiya that the lights are placed in that is obviously beyond our Earth. 

Gen 1:20: “Then God said, “Let the waters teem with swarms of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth in the open expanse (raqiya) of the heavens.” “

This verse is saying that birds can fly “in” the raqiya.

There are, arguably, other references to the raqiya in the Old Testament, however since we are dealing with what Scripture has to say about the creation account specifically, I will end the references here.

What did the Jews Believe About the Firmament?

In describing why theistic evolutionists view the Bible as teaching a solid raqiya, I will quoting from the recent discussion with Thomas.  The main argument seems to be that since the people who lived back in the day, whom Thomas calls “the ancients”, believed that the raqiya was solid, then the Bible erroneously taught them this.  Thomas says:

When Elihu says that the skies are hard as a mirror of bronze (Job 37:18), he is giving us a clue to how the ancients, including the Jews, saw the skies. I think if you look at the ancient Greeks, Babylonians, Egyptians, and Mesopotamians, you will find similar ideas about the cosmos. You may disagree with Elihu, but I do not think the children of Israel who were reading Genesis did.

Firstly, we need to refrain from getting confused between to very distinct issues.  There is a hugedifference between a God inspired writer adapting to his own limited scientific knowledge and God accommodating His description to human error.  Let me say again, there is a HUGEdifference.  Such accommodations on God’s part leads us to question the inerrancy of all Scripture based on ancient scientific understanding.  A logical slippery slope ensues:  The ancient idea of morality regarding human responsibility were erroneously based upon a lack of scientific knowledge, we know today that brain chemistry is what decides the behavior of human beings.  That is not a far-fetched position, a growing minority of the scientific community argues this way.

Bluntly:  What “the ancients” believe about the Bible doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with what the Bible says.  The vast majority of the ancients, including all of those that Thomas mentioned, believed that the God of Jews didn’t exist; does that belief have merit just because they existed a long time ago?  Of course not.

Secondly, if today we say “the sky is blue” to a person who is a member of a “primitive” society, and they happen to define the “sky” as “the solid expanse over our head”, this does not make our original statement, “the sky is blue,” in error. Their thought-concept is indeed in error, but our original statement is not—even if we both happen to use the same word, “sky”, to describe different concepts.  So when God said “raqiya” and Elihu and the rest of the Jews took it to mean “hard as bronze”, does this make God wrong in his original description of “expanse”?  No.  Does it mean that God is teaching them a solid expanse?  Of course not.

Biblical Support for a Solid Firmament

There are two places in Genesis, where Thomas believes a solid raqiya is supported by the text.  He says:

It is no contradiction to say that the sun, moon, and stars are placed in a solid firmament. They are “placed” as in “fixed” or “attached.”

I am assuming that Thomas is referring to Gen 1:17:  “God placed them in the expanse (raqiya) of the heavens to give light on the earth,”.  What is this verse saying about the sun, moon and stars?  That God placed them.  That is all Scripture says.  Could we read here that the sun, moon and stars were placed into a solid firmament?  Of course.  But aren’t those heavenly bodies fixed in their orbits?  Were they not placed in their orbits by God? 

If I am attempting to describe to someone, with no scientific knowledge, why the moon keeps coming back, day after day and year after year, am I wrong to say that the moon is “placed” or “fixed” there?  Of course not. 

The ironic part about this argument is that Thomas puts all kinds of stock in how the ancients viewed cosmology in regards to a solid firmament, but ignores their cosmology in regards to the movement of heavenly bodies.  Being geocentric, the ancients certainly observed the continuous reappearance of the moon as “movement” of the moon.  Yet, I’m sure they would describe the moon as “fixed” since it’s reappearance is certain.  “Fixed” and “orbital movement” are not mutually exclusive ideas.  In fact, modern cosmology describes the moon as “fixed in it’s orbit”.  Are we really going to say the Bible is teaching erroneous cosmology just because God didn’t mention orbital movement?

Bluntly:  Scripture only says that the heavenly bodies were “fixed” or “placed” in the expanse.  It says nothing about what they were fixed in was MADE of.  So to read a solid expanse into “fixed” is to put your own preconceived ideas onto the text.

Thomas also says:

Also, you will notice that other translations have the birds flying “across” rather than “in” the expanse. You could also describe birds flying across the (inside) roof of a barn. No problem at all.

Thomas must be referring to the NIV translation of Gen 1:20, “And God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the expanse of the sky.”  So yes, you could say that birds could be flying across the roof of a barn, or across a solid raqiya.  But you could also, just as easily, say that the birds are flying across an open expanse of sky.  If am describing bird flight to you and I say, “That birds just flew across the sky”.  Was I wrong in my description?  No.  Am I trying to teach you that the sky is solid?  No.  So to attempt to argue that the creation account is describing a solid raqiya by describing birds as flying “across” it is again reading into Scripture what you have already decided is there.

Again, Scripture only says that birds fly “in the open expanse” or “across the expanse”, it says nothing about what they are flying across is MADE of. 

 Conclusion

To give credence to “the ancients” beliefs of a solid sky is in essence saying, “Well these people believed it, and they lived a long time ago, therefore it must be what the Bible taught them.”

Genesis says that God places the water “in the midst” and “above”, and then “places” or “fixes” the heavenly bodies in the raqiya.  That is the extent of the description of the “expanse”.  Therefore, I argue that the raqiya is intended to refer to that which serves to separate the earth from all that is beyond it.  We could, if we wanted to, read into Scripture that the raqiya is described as solid.  However, as we’ve seen, Genesis 1 was perfectly designed to allow that interpretation which is in agreement with modern science, for it says nothing more than that God created the expanse or its constituent elements while remaining completely silent about what those elements were. 

It only depends upon where one started: if one starts with the presupposition of a solid sky, one will read into the text a solid sky. If one starts with a modern conception, the text permits that as well.  Plainly, the Bible just doesn’t say what the raqiya is made of, and so any position that we take in that regard is mere speculation.  For one take the position, as Thomas does, that on the basis of a solid sky the entire Genesis account must be take figuratively, one must absolutely ignore all the other evidence from Scripture of a literal creation week.