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Friday, August 29, 2008

Who is this Kauffman?

I just found this sitting on my hard drive, and thought it worth putting up...not endorsing, of course, but a number of great thinking points are raised by K. (not the K of Kafka's novels, of course :-o ).

" "If no natural law suffices to describe the evolution of the biosphere, of technological evolution, of human history, what replaces it? In its place is a wondrous radical creativity without a supernatural Creator. Look out your window at the life teeming about you. All that has been going on is that the sun has been shining on the earth for some 5 billion years. Life is about 3.8 billion years old. The vast tangled bank of life, as Darwin phrased it, arose all on its own.

It is important to the Western Hebraic-Hellenic tradition that the ancient Greeks relied preeminently on reason to seek, with Plato, the True, the Good, and the Beautiful. The ancient Jews, living with their God, relied more broadly on their full humanity. The ancient Jews and Greeks split the ancient Western world. The Jews, as Paul Johnson wrote in his History of the Jews, were the best historians of the ancient world, stubbornly commemorating the situated history of a people and their universal, single God, our Abrahamic God.

Is it, then, more amazing to think that an Abrahamic transcendent, omnipotent, omniscient God created everything around us, all that we participate in, in six days, or that it all arose with no transcendent Creator God, all on its own? I believe the latter is so stunning, so overwhelming, so worthy of awe, gratitude, and respect, that it is God enough for many of us. God, a fully natural God, is the very creativity in the universe. It is this view that I hope can be shared across all our religious traditions, embracing those like myself, who do not believe in a Creator God, as well as those who do. This view of God can be a shared religious and spiritual space for us all.

I believe it is important that this view is wrong. Science itself is more limited by the un-prestatable, unpredictable creativity in the universe than we have realized, and, in any case, science is not the only path to knowledge and understanding. Science cannot explain the intricate, context-dependent, creative, situated aspects of much of human action and invention, or the historicity that embraces and partially defines us. These, however, are just the domains of the humanities, from art and literature to history and law. Truth abides here, too.

The French existentialist philosophers struggled with the same issue, the view that the real universe is devoid of values. Our lives are full of value and meaning, yet no single framework offers a secure place for these facets of our humanity to coexist with fundamental science. We need a worldview in which brute facts yield values, a way to derive ought from is, just the step that Scottish Enlightenment philosopher David Hume warned against. Agency, values, and “doing” did not come into being separately from the rest of existence; they are emergent in the evolution of the biosphere. We are the products of that evolution, and our values are real features of the universe. " "

Thursday, August 28, 2008

K-D: Genesis Commentary Part 5

Genesis 1:20-23

And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven.
The Fifth Day. - "God said: Let the waters swarm with swarms, with living beings, and let birds fly above the earth in the face (the front, i.e., the side turned towards the earth) of the firmament." yishªrªtsuw (OT:8317) and yª`owpeep (OT:5774) are imperative. Earlier translators, on the contrary, have rendered the latter as a relative clause, after the peteina' (NT:4071) peto'mena (NT:4072) of the LXX, "and with birds that fly;" thus making the birds to spring out of the water, in opposition to Ge 2:19. Even with regard to the element out of which the water animals were created the text is silent; for the assertion that shrts (OT:8317) is to be understood "with a causative colouring" is erroneous, and is not sustained by Ex 8:3 or Ps 105:30. The construction with the accusative is common to all verbs of multitude. sherets (OT:8318) and shaarats (OT:8317), to creep and swarm, is applied, "without regard to size, to those animals which congregate together in great numbers, and move about among one another." chayaah (OT:2416) nepesh (OT:5315), anima viva, living soul, animated beings (vid., Ge 2:7), is in apposition to sherets (OT:8318), "swarms consisting of living beings."

The expression applies not only to fishes, but to all water animals from the greatest to the least, including reptiles, etc. In carrying out His word, God created (v. 21) the great "tanninim," - lit., the long-stretched, from taanan, to stretch-whales, crocodiles, and other sea-monsters; and "all moving living beings with which the waters swarm after their kind, and all (every) winged fowl after its kind." That the water animals and birds of every kind were created on the same day, and before the land animals, cannot be explained on the ground assigned by early writers, that there is a similarity between the air and the water, and a consequent correspondence between the two classes of animals. For in the light of natural history the birds are at all events quite as near to the mammalia as to the fishes; and the supposed resemblance between the fins of fishes and the wings of birds, is counterbalanced by the no less striking resemblance between birds and land animals, viz., that both have feet.

The real reason is rather this, that the creation proceeds throughout from the lower to the higher; and in this ascending scale the fishes occupy to a great extent a lower place in the animal economy than birds, and both water animals and birds a lower place than land animals, more especially the mammalia. Again, it is not stated that only a single pair was created of each kind; on the contrary, the words, "let the waters swarm with living beings," seem rather to indicate that the animals were created, not only in a rich variety of genera and species, but in large numbers of individuals. The fact that but one human being was created at first, by no means warrants the conclusion that the animals were created singly also; for the unity of the human race has a very different signification from that of the so-called animal species. - (v. 22). As animated beings, the water animals and fowls are endowed, through the divine blessing, with the power to be fruitful and multiply. The word of blessing was the actual communication of the capacity to propagate and increase in numbers.

Monday, August 25, 2008

It's about time...

From Yourgrau, P., A World without Time: The Forgotten Legacy of Godel and Einstein (Allen Lane, 2005)

p. 122

"Appearances, however, can be deceptive. The universe, for example, as everyone knows, is very old. Its exact age is a matter for debate, but there is no disagreement that it runs to billlions of years [setting aside, that many do disagree]. We marvel that as frail and isolated a species as we are can have achieved such impressive wisdom about the origins of everything that is. In truth, however, it is more than marvelous to have discovered the age of the universe. It is impossible. For if the universe is n years old, its present state comes n years after the moment when it all began. In 1905, however, Einstein had demonstrated in the special theory of relativity that there is no such thing as "the present state of the universe," that is, what would be revealed by a snapshot of the universe as it exists at this very moment. The relativity of simultaneity implies that what is taken to be "now" relative to one inertial frame will differ from what is "now" in another frame if the second frame is in motion relative to the first. It follows immediately that if the theory of relativity is correct, there simply is no such thing as "the present state of the universe" of four-dimensional space-time. Einstein himself said this quite clearly: "The four-dimensional continuum is now no longer resolvable objectively into sections, all of which contain simultaneous events; 'now' loses for the spatially extended world its objective meaning." "

For a cosmos that was made by being 'stretched out' as is mentioned about 17 times in the Bible, the response to claims about its age might well be: how interesting; where and when is it such and such an age? On earth we have biblical history taking us back about 6,000 years; but it may be that nowhere else in the universe is there commensurate space-time. We may be left with the assessment above: "it is impossible." to tell!!

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Children naturals at "God"

Recent article on the naturalness with which children theologise...but it's mainly about God as 'creator'!

From the mouths of babes...

I just don't need to say anything about the SAD being out of step with even the most junior of theologians, now do I?

One Small Speck

New site added to the list of sites:

One Small Speck
, the website for the book of the same name.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

K-D: Genesis Commentary Part 4

Genesis 1:14-19

And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years:
The Fourth Day. - After the earth had been clothed with vegetation, and fitted to be the abode of living beings, there were created on the fourth day the sun, moon, and stars, heavenly bodies in which the elementary light was concentrated, in order that its influence upon the earthly globe might be sufficiently modified and regulated for living beings to exist and thrive beneath its rays, in the water, in the air, and upon the dry land. At the creative word of God the bodies of light came into existence in the firmament, as lamps. On yªhiy (OT:1961), the singular of the predicate before the plural of the subject, in v. 14; Ge 5:23; 9:29, etc., vid., Gesenius, Heb. Gr. §147. mª'owrot (OT:2974), bodies of light, light-bearers, then lamps. These bodies of light received a threefold appointment:

(1) They were "to divide between the day and the night," of, according to v. 18, between the light and the darkness, in other words, to regulate from that time forward the difference, which had existed ever since the creation of light, between the night and the day.

(2) They were to be (or serve: wªhaayuw (OT:1961) after an imperative has the force of a command) - (a) for signs (sc., for the earth), partly as portents of extraordinary events (Mt 2:2; Lk 21:25) and divine judgments (Joel 2:30; Jer 10:2; Mt 24:29), partly as showing the different quarters of the heavens, and as prognosticating the changes in the weather;-(b) for seasons, or for fixed, definite times (mow`adiym, from y`d to fix, establish) - not for festal seasons merely, but "to regulate definite points and periods of time, by virtue of their periodical influence upon agriculture, navigation, and other human occupations, as well as upon the course of human, animal, and vegetable life (e.g., the breeding time of animals, and the migrations of birds, Jer 8:7, etc.);-(c) for days and years, i.e., for the division and calculation of days and years. The grammatical construction will not allow the clause to be rendered as a Hendiadys, viz., "as signs for definite times and for days and years," or as signs both for the times and also for days and years.

(3) They were to serve as lamps upon the earth, i.e., to pour out their light, which is indispensable to the growth and health of every creature. That this, the primary object of the lights, should be mentioned last, is correctly explained by Delitzsch: "From the astrological and chronological utility of the heavenly bodies, the record ascends to their universal utility which arises from the necessity of light for the growth and continuance of everything earthly." This applies especially to the two great lights which were created by God and placed in the firmament; the greater to rule the day, the lesser to rule the night. "The great" and "the small" in correlative clauses are to be understood as used comparatively (cf. Gesenius, §119, 1). That the sun and moon were intended, was too obvious to need to be specially mentioned. It might appear strange, however, that these lights should not receive names from God, like the works of the first three days.

This cannot be attributed to forgetfulness on the part of the author, as Tuch supposes. As a rule, the names were given by God only to the greater sections into which the universe was divided, and not to individual bodies (either plants or animals). The man and the woman are the only exceptions (Ge 5:2). The sun and moon are called great, not in comparison with the earth, but in contrast with the stars, according to the amount of light which shines from them upon the earth and determines their rule over the day and night; not so much with reference to the fact, that the stronger light of the sun produces the daylight, and the weaker light of the moon illumines the night, as to the influence which their light exerts by day and night upon all nature, both organic and inorganic-an influence generally admitted, but by no means fully understood. In this respect the sun and moon are the two great lights, the stars small bodies of light; the former exerting great, the latter but little, influence upon the earth and its inhabitants.

This truth, which arises from the relative magnitude of the heavenly bodies, or rather their apparent size as seen from the earth, is not affected by the fact that from the standpoint of natural science many of the stars far surpass both sun and moon in magnitude. Nor does the fact, that in our account, which was written for inhabitants of the earth and for religious purposes, it is only the utility of the sun, moon, and stars to the inhabitants of the earth that is mentioned, preclude the possibility of each by itself, and all combined, fulfilling other purposes in the universe of God. And not only is our record silent, but God Himself made no direct revelation to man on this subject; because astronomy and physical science, generally, neither lead to godliness, nor promise peace and salvation to the soul. Belief in the truth of this account as a divine revelation could only be shaken, if the facts which science has discovered as indisputably true, with regard to the number, size, and movements of the heavenly bodies, were irreconcilable with the biblical account of the creation.

But neither the innumerable host nor the immeasurable size of many of the heavenly bodies, nor the almost infinite distance of the fixed stars from our earth and the solar system, warrants any such assumption. Who can set bounds to the divine omnipotence, and determine what and how much it can create in a moment? The objection, that the creation of the innumerable and immeasurably great and distant heavenly bodies in one day, is so disproportioned to the creation of this one little globe in six days, as to be irreconcilable with our notions of divine omnipotence and wisdom, does not affect the Bible, but shows that the account of the creation has been misunderstood. We are not taught here that on one day, viz., the fourth, God created all the heavenly bodies out of nothing, and in a perfect condition; on the contrary, we are told that in the beginning God created the heaven and the earth, and on the fourth day that He made the sun, the moon, and the stars (planets, comets, and fixed stars) in the firmament, to be lights for the earth.

According to these distinct words, the primary material, not only of the earth, but also of the heaven and the heavenly bodies, was created in the beginning. If, therefore, the heavenly bodies were first made or created on the fourth day, as lights for the earth, in the firmament of heaven; the words can have no other meaning than that their creation was completed on the fourth day, just as the creative formation of our globe was finished on the third; that the creation of the heavenly bodies therefore proceeded side by side, and probably by similar stages, with that of the earth, so that the heaven with its stars was completed on the fourth day. Is this representation of the work of creation, which follows in the simplest way from the word of God, at variance with correct ideas of the omnipotence and wisdom of God? Could not the Almighty create the innumerable host of heaven at the same time as the earthly globe?

Or would Omnipotence require more time for the creation of the moon, the planets, and the sun, or of Orion, Sirius, the Pleiades, and other heavenly bodies whose magnitude has not yet been ascertained, than for the creation of the earth itself? Let us beware of measuring the works of Divine Omnipotence by the standard of human power. The fact, that in our account the gradual formation of the heavenly bodies is not described with the same minuteness as that of the earth; but that, after the general statement in v. 1 as to the creation of the heavens, all that is mentioned is their completion on the fourth day, when for the first time they assumed, or were placed in, such a position with regard to the earth as to influence its development; may be explained on the simple ground that it was the intention of the sacred historian to describe the work of creation from the standpoint of the globe: in other words, as it would have appeared to an observer from the earth, if there had been one in existence at the time. For only from such a standpoint could this work of God be made intelligible to all men, uneducated as well as learned, and the account of it be made subservient to the religious wants of all.

(Note: Most of the objections to the historical character of our account, which have been founded upon the work of the fourth day, rest upon a misconception of the proper point of view from which it should be studied. And, in addition to that, the conjectures of astronomers as to the immeasurable distance of most of the fixed stars, and the time which a ray of light would require to reach the earth, are accepted as indisputable mathematical proof; whereas these approximative estimates of distance rest upon the unsubstantiated supposition, that everything which has been ascertained with regard to the nature and motion of light in our solar system, must be equally true of the light of the fixed stars.)

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

The Signficance of History

From "The Significance of History", by FJ Turner, 1891, p. 203, in Stern, F., in "The Varieties of History from Voltaire to the Present" (Random House 1972), which I'm reading at the moment.

In the past of the European world peoples have grown from families into states, from peasantry into the complexity of great city life, from animism into monotheism, from mythology into philosophy; and have yielded place again to primitive peoples who in turn have passed through stages like these and yielded to new nations.

Here I think is a clue to the SAD view of Genesis 1: accepting the counter-biblical history that religion 'evolved' from animism to monotheism. For which, of course, you first have to deny the entire historical flow of the OT and which makes God an invention, at best...come on down Karen Armstrong.

Turner also indicates a cyclical view of history which is probably counter-biblical. Historical cycling was a feature of paganism and even cropped up in Hutton's work (Hutton being far from an empirical geologist, but a deist apologist). Its impact on neo-orthodoxy would make a wonderful study.

And, a couple of quotes from The Science of History John Bury 1902, in the same book:

"That intense expression of a new detached wondering interest in man, as an object of curiosity, gives us the clue to the inspiration of Herodutus and the birth of history. More than two thousand years later human self-consciousness has taken another step, and the "sons of flesh" have grasped the notion of their upward development through immense cycles of time. This idea has recreated history"

"The principle of continuity and the higher principal of development lead to the practical consequence that it is of vital importance for citizens to have a true knowledge of the past and to see it in a dry light, in order that thier influence on the present and future may be exerted in right direcctions. For, as a matter of fact, the attitude of men to the past has at all times been a factor in forming their political opinions and determining the course of events. It would be an instructive task to isolate this influence and trace it from its most rudimentary form in primitive times, when the actions of tribes were stimulated by historical memories, through later ages in which policies were dictated or confirmed by historical judgements and conceptions. But the clear realisation of the fact that our conception of the past is itself a distinct factor in guiding and moulding our evolution [not organic evolution, but mere social change, I think he means], and must become a factor of greater and increasing potency, marks a new stage in the growth of the human mind. And it supplies us with the true theory of the practical importance of history."

Putting aside his transparent historicism, I think Bury shows the significance of history in forming a social conception of a group...we could apply this to the significance of History in OT for Israel and Gds relationship with his creation, reinforcing the self conception we might form if we accept God's revelation, versus teh self conception we might form if we reject it at its surface meaning, and accept the materialist conception that is so exclusive of divine action, that outside of Christ, it is largely an incentive to atheism, and its attendant self-destructiveness.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Undoing paganism

In my post on science in Genesis, I linked to Eric Snow's article on “Christianity a Cause of Modern Science?: The Duhem-Jaki and Merton Theses Explained”. In this is a fascinating quote from a 14th century scholar, John Buridan.

The remarkable thing here is that, as I read it, Buridan [Perhaps the most influential Parisian philosopher of the fourteenth century, according to the Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy] starts his reflections on the created world with God’s revelation: he therefore uses Genesis 1 directly as a ‘scientific’ textbook. By this Buridan made the great break away from paganism and opened the path to the development of modern ‘natural’ sciences. Note, the Bible is directly used to illuminate this break and make the created world intellectually available for rational examination!

““The first key steps in totally discarding Aristotle's physics were done by…the medieval Christian Catholic [Jean/John] Buridan, [who] in a crucial passage, anticipated the idea of inertia...through his discussion of impetus. Notice the reference to God not directly making the laws of nature operate:

Also, since the Bible does not state that appropriate intelligences move the celestial bodies, it could be said that it does not appear necessary to posit intelligences of this kind, because it would be answered that God, when He created the world, moved each of the celestial orbs as He pleased, and in moving them He impressed in them impetuses which moved them without His having to move them any more except by the method of general influence whereby He concurs as a co-agent in all things which take place; 'for thus on the seventh day He rested for all work . . .' [Gen. 2:2] And these impetuses which He impressed in the celestial bodies were not decreased nor corrupted afterwards, because there was not inclination of the celestial bodies for movements.

Also note this additional statement as a nascent form of the idea of inertia:

But because of the resistance which results from the weight of the [waterwheel of the] mill, the impetus would continually diminish until the mill ceased to turn. And perhaps, if the mill should last forever without any diminution or change, and there were no other resistance to corrupt the impetus, the mill would move forever because of its perpetual impetus.

While these passages are only halting steps on a long road to repealing Aristotle's physics, they do show a move to break out of his conceptions of how moving bodies move. These men show that the Church never uncritically accepted the Greek classics as many in the Islamic world had done earlier. True, it tied itself and lent its authority to the Greek classics excessively, which set the stage for its eventual disaster resulting from it using force that made Galileo recant his belief that the earth moved. With the later discoveries of Galileo, Hooke, Kepler, Torricelli, Boyle, Newton, and others, Europe's science took a vast qualitative leap, but we should not overlook its origins and these men's predecessors in the Middle Ages.””

Thursday, August 14, 2008

K-D: Genesis Commentary Part 3

Genesis 1:9-13
And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so.
The Third Day. - The work of this day was twofold, yet closely connected. At first the waters beneath the heavens, i.e., those upon the surface of the earth, were gathered together, so that the dry (hayabaashaah (OT:3004), the solid ground) appeared. In what way the gathering of the earthly waters in the sea and the appearance of the dry land were effected, whether by the sinking or deepening of places in the body of the globe, into which the water was drawn off, or by the elevation of the solid ground, the record does not inform us, since it never describes the process by which effects are produced. It is probable, however, that the separation was caused both by depression and elevation. With the dry land the mountains naturally arose as the headlands of the mainland. But of this we have no physical explanations, either in the account before us, or in the poetical description of the creation in Ps 54.

Even if we render Ps. 54:8 , "the mountains arise, and they (the waters) descend into the valleys, to the place which Thou (Jehovah) hast founded for them," we have no proof, in this poetical account, of the elevation-theory of geology, since the psalmist is not speaking as a naturalist, but as a sacred poet describing the creation on the basis of Ge 1. "The dry" God called Earth, and "the gathering of the waters," i.e., the place into which the waters were collected, He called Sea. yamiym (OT:3220), an intensive rather than a numerical plural, is the great ocean, which surrounds the mainland on all sides, so that the earth appears to be founded upon seas (Ps 24:2). Earth and sea are the two constituents of the globe, by the separation of which its formation was completed. The "seas" include the rivers which flow into the ocean, and the lakes which are as it were "detached fragments" of the ocean, though they are not specially mentioned here.

By the divine act of naming the two constituents of the globe, and the divine approval which follows, this work is stamped with permanency; and the second act of the third day, the clothing of the earth with vegetation, is immediately connected with it. At the command of God "the earth brought forth green (deshe' (OT:1877)), seed yielding herb (eiowe`eeseb), and fruit-bearing fruit-trees (pªriy (OT:6529) `eets (OT:6086))." These three classes embrace all the productions of the vegetable kingdom. deshee' (OT:1877), lit., the young, tender green, which shoots up after rain and covers the meadows and downs (2 Sa 23:4; Job 38:27; Joel 2:22; Ps 23:2), is a generic name for all grasses and cryptogamous plants. `eeseb (OT:6212), with the epithet zera` (OT:2233) mazªriya` (OT:2232), yielding or forming seed, is used as a generic term for all herbaceous plants, corn, vegetables, and other plants by which seed-pods are formed. pry `ts: not only fruit-trees, but all trees and shrubs, bearing fruit in which there is a seed according to its kind, i.e., fruit with kernels. haa'aarets (OT:776) `al (OT:5921) (upon the earth) is not to be joined to "fruit-tree," as though indicating the superior size of the trees which bear seed above the earth, in distinction from vegetables which propagate their species upon or in the ground; for even the latter bear their seed above the earth.

It is appended to tadªshee' (OT:1876), as a more minute explanation: the earth is to bring forth grass, herb, and trees, upon or above the ground, as an ornament or covering for it. lªmiynow (OT:4327) (after its kind), from miyn (OT:4327) species, which is not only repeated in v. 12 in its old form lªmiyneehuw (OT:4327) in the case of the fruit-tree, but is also appended to the herb. It indicates that the herbs and trees sprang out of the earth according to their kinds, and received, together with power to bear seed and fruit, the capacity to propagate and multiply their own kind. In the case of the grass there is no reference either to different kinds, or to the production of seed, inasmuch as in the young green grass neither the one nor the other is apparent to the eye.

Moreover, we must not picture the work of creation as consisting of the production of the first tender germs which were gradually developed into herbs, shrubs, and trees; on the contrary, we must regard it as one element in the miracle of creation itself, that at the word of God not only tender grasses, but herbs, shrubs, and trees, sprang out of the earth, each ripe for the formation of blossom and the bearing of seed and fruit, without the necessity of waiting for years before the vegetation created was ready to blossom and bear fruit. Even if the earth was employed as a medium in the creation of the plants, since it was God who caused it to bring them forth, they were not the product of the powers of nature, generatio aequivoca in the ordinary sense of the word, but a work of divine omnipotence, by which the trees came into existence before their seed, and their fruit was produced in full development, without expanding gradually under the influence of sunshine and rain.


The reading of the Jerusalem Declaration at the Global Anglican Future Conference (GAFCON) in June this year was "greeted with enthusiastic applause and an outpouring of emotion that was truly remarkable." So the August 2008 edition of the Sydney Anglican newspaper "Southern Cross' described the occasion. Our Sydney Diocese was strongly represented at the conference.

At last some future was seen for Anglicanism worldwide. A solution was offered to those pesky Archbishops and Bishops of the Anglican Communion who were acquiescing the culture of the world (and not the Word of God) by ordaining practicing homosexuals.

So there we were, the Sydney Anglican Diocese, expressing our assent to the 14 points of The Jerusalem Declaration, standing there shoulder to shoulder with other evangelicals of worldwide Anglicanism, our Archbishop delighting in it all.

But, we were imposters, wolves in sheep's clothing.

Look no further than Point 2 of the Jerusalem Declaration which, according to "Southern Cross", reads: "We believe the holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the word of God written and to contain all things necessary for salvation. The Bible is to be translated, read, preached, taught and obeyed in its plain and canonical sense, respectful of the church's historic and consensual reading."

What? What was that again ... "The Bible is to be translated, read, preached, taught and obeyed in its plain and canonical sense, respectful of the church's historic and consensual reading."

Again and again on this blogspot Biblical Creationists have asserted the plain reading of Genesis 1, its integrity with other canonised Scripture and the church's historic and consensual reading of Genesis 1 (up to the 19th Century). Yet again and again apologists for the 'Name' of the Diocese have come on here urging a-historical, intricate even mystical reading of Genesis 1 - all designed to harmonise Scripture, or more specifically Genesis 1, with the culture of the world.


Neil Moore

Monday, August 11, 2008

Not a Science Book…Not

Our neo-orthodox friends puff on about Genesis 1 giving us ‘religious’ information but denying that it has either historical or physical information, or if there is, it is at best accidental and is unimportant and surely not part of the scriptural communication of Paul’s 2 Tim 3:16.

We are told, insistently, that Genesis (1, particularly) is not a “scientific text book”, to presumably imply that it has nothing to say to the natural world, or us in it; that God’s intention is not to teach us “how the heavens go, but how to go to heaven”. It seems that God’s physical creation has nothing to do with his relationship with his people…strange!

But the very point of God telling us about his physical creation is to give us information that is important. It is how we understand our life, our relationships, our position before God and our connection with the whole created order.

The glib assertions quoted above are simply wrong! They both come, not from the Bible, but from a way of thinking that is alien to it. They represent pagan beliefs being read back into the Bible to remove it from the real and into the ‘unreal’; to where it can do no ‘harm’ to pagan practices or thinking.

Adopting pagan practices and beliefs has lead to problems in the past which have been left at the Bible’s doorstep. For instance, the erroneous belief that life forms were fixed at the species level, rather than at the ‘kind’ level: Aristotelian ideas were conflated with the Bible. Darwin, and indeed the Christian (‘creationist’) Edward Blyth some time before him showed that natural selection operated. With this helpful correction to an unbiblical view, Darwin undertook a wild extrapolation, and said that organisms were infinitely mutable at and above the ‘kind’ level. This, of course, has never been shown, only assumed, but used to throw Genesis 1 out of the scientific ring.

IRONY 1: Genesis 1 is claimed to be not scientific because of an unscientific mistake where a pagan idea was read back into it, despite its words aligning with observations that organisms do reproduce after their kind!

The rejection of Genesis as anything but the vaguely defined ‘religious’ or ‘theological’ must assume that there is some kind of fissure between the everyday and the sacred that rejects the biblical doctrine of creation. But no! Genesis teaches us that the world in its physical fullness is God’s very good creation; this fact must therefore be significant for our occupation of that world. And this points to the possible purpose of Genesis 1 ff, as not merely religious, but providing the basis for our understanding of the world.

The restriction of the application of Genesis 1 seems to be more like a move of Platonic deception where idealism regards the mere appearance as less important than the imagined ‘form’ behind it; or the Gnostic framework where material is bad, spiritual is good; to the extent that the material world was created in Gnostic fantasy by a lesser god, a ‘demiurge’. Either way, this represents non-biblical thinking being used to restrict the application of the Bible. That is, taking a pagan philosophical frame and applying it retroactively to the Bible, instead of using the Bible to interrogate pagan philosophical frames.

IRONY 2: The SAD in suppressing Genesis 1 is doing today exactly what the Roman church did to Galileo when it applied an Aristotelian frame to the Bible.

That is, the neo-orthodox view of Genesis and its vast body of commentary is fatally infected with and radically biased against the ‘world-frame’ of Genesis on the basis, not of biblical data, but on the remnant of idealistic thinking, of pagan influence on the neo-orthodox (and today’s most prevalent) reading of scripture. It takes a branch of pagan philosophy and reads it back into the Bible, to make the Bible silent where it would disrupt commitment to a materialist frame of understanding!

God is by this restricted contrary to the Bible, and it fails to admit the comprehensive historical footing of the biblical revelation, the primal goodness of the creation and the radical brokenness introduced by sin, a brokenness that is not something inherent in the creation or consistent with the God who is love and therefore our saviour.

From the Bible’s perspective, the comprehensive truth of Genesis 1 is necessary because we live in a physical creation in which we participate spiritually. It is simply puerile to suggest that the words are mere decoration to convince us, in the face of their alleged errors of detail, that God is an orderly creator! This assertion of course fails if the details are denied (see my earlier post). It can only be sustained on the assumption that Genesis 1 contains no concrete truth aligned with actual events; but it uses this very assumption to claim that Genesis is void of concrete fact: a classic circular argument!

The points of necessity are threefold, in my view.

1. Adam was instructed to ‘look after’ the creation. To do this properly, he needed information about the general arrangements in creation that would not be available to observation. That is, what God had done, as the basis for Adam’s exploration of and understanding of the creation. Adam’s first act under this charter was on day 6, when he gave names to all the cattle, and to the birds of the sky, and to every beast of the field as God brought them before him (Gen 2:c.20): a great demonstration of creator and creature joined to advance the creature (Adam’s) understanding (note Adam did not name all organisms, only a subset of the animal kingdom, namely, livestock, and possibly, game animals, as well as birds).

2. God made a unified creation where our thoughts will have real outcomes, with physical effect in many cases, and he revealed this in Genesis 1. So it provides us confidence that our thoughts and actions will be congruent with and meaningful within that creation (for philosophers, it gives us a noetic structure in both ontological and epistemological terms; which, as Darwin rightly concluded, leads only to uncertainty if material is all there is). The incarnation underwrites this.

It provides us with an historical setting; in this connection a quote from Marx and Engels’ “The German Ideology” is interesting:
“The first premise of all human history is, of course, the existence of living human individuals. Thus the first fact to be established is the physical organization of these individuals and their consequent relation to the rest of nature….The writing of history must always set out from these natural bases and their modification in the course of history through the action of man.”

I don’t agree with their historical materialism, but they put their finger on the material circumscription of our historical circumstance, particularly writ large in God’s covenants.

3. The practical outcome of (2) is that the instruction in Genesis 1, is beneficial. A classic example of this is that modern natural science flowered through the thinking of many scientists who were convinced ‘creationists’ as we would say today. These people started with a firm belief in the creator’s work over 6 days; this told them that creation was available for examination, and that such examination would bear fruit. See Harrison, for example. Stanley Jaki (also here) and others insist that without this level of certainty other cultures, those without the Biblical revelation, have seen natural science still born and wither to ineffectiveness.

DOUBLE IRONY: those who deride the facticity of Genesis 1 on the basis of ‘modern’ science can only do so because of that very modern science which came into existence by the work of thinkers who delved into the created order on the basis of God’s revelation in Genesis 1. Thus taking Genesis 1 at face value has been vastly productive and beneficial for all of mankind.

In short, the Bible has been successfully used as textbook of natural science by Adam (named animals), by Jesus (from the beginning human sexual reproduction was operative), Moses (in the Decalogue) and the early modern natural philosophers, giving rise to modern natural science!

On the other hand, consistent Darwinist naturalism has lead either directly or indirectly to the murder of hundreds of millions of people by their governments, eugenic suppression of people’s right to reproduce, injustice on a grand scale on the basis of skin colour, subjecting countless children to unnecessary, painful and sometimes fatal surgery to rid them of so-called ‘vestigial’ organs and abortions in staggering numbers (either directly or indirectly).

So, I contend, that the Bible can be used, in this sense, as a ‘scientific text book’ and I would ask those who say that it cannot be not to explain why. Mostly, they will have to explain away the Bible to keep oxygen up to their materialist preferences; but we know where materialism leads: death and deprivation! Or they will have to sever what God has not severed: the creation, and the covenantal history that plays out in it.

I am reminded to two Bible verses in this connection:

Romans 12:1-2: "Therefore, I encourage you brothers to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, which is your appropriate worship. And do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you can demonstrate the will of God--the good and pleasing and complete will of God."


Col. 2:8: “See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.”

And while we are on philosophy, two articles are worth a look:

Philosophical Naturalism and the Age of the Earth, by Mortenson

Beware of Philosophy: A Warning to Biblical Scholars by Norman Geisler

Thursday, August 7, 2008

K-D: Genesis Commentary Part 2

Genesis 1:2-5
And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.
The First Day. - Though treating of the creation of the heaven and the earth, the writer, both here and in what follows, describes with minuteness the original condition and progressive formation of the earth alone, and says nothing more respecting the heaven than is actually requisite in order to show its connection with the earth. He is writing for inhabitants of the earth, and for religious ends; not to gratify curiosity, but to strengthen faith in God, the Creator of the universe. What is said in v. 2 of the chaotic condition of the earth, is equally applicable to the heaven, "for the heaven proceeds from the same chaos as the earth."

"And the earth was (not became) waste and void." The alliterative nouns tohu vabohu, the etymology of which is lost, signify waste and empty (barren), but not laying waste and desolating. Whenever they are used together in other places (Isa 34:11; Jer 4:23), they are taken from this passage; but tohu alone is frequently employed as synonymous with 'ayin (OT:369), non-existence, and hebel (OT:1893), nothingness (Isa 40:17,23; 49:4). The coming earth was at first waste and desolate, a formless, lifeless mass, rudis indigestaque moles, hu'lee a'morfos (Wisdom 11:17) or cha'os.

"And darkness was upon the face of the deep." tªhowm (OT:8415), from huwm (OT:1949), to roar, to rage, denotes the raging waters, the roaring waves (Ps 42:7) or flood (Ex 15:5; Dt 8:7); and hence the depths of the sea (Job 28:14; 38:16), and even the abyss of the earth (Ps 71:20). As an old traditional word, it is construed like a proper name without an article (Ewald, Gramm.). The chaotic mass in which the earth and the firmament were still undistinguished, unformed, and as it were unborn, was a heaving deep, an abyss of waters (a'bussos (NT:12), LXX), and this deep was wrapped in darkness. But it was in process of formation, for the Spirit of God moved upon the waters, ruwach (OT:7307) (breath) denotes wind and spirit, like pneu'ma (NT:4151) from pne'oo (NT:4154). Ruach Elohim is not a breath of wind caused by God (Theodoret, etc.), for the verb does not suit this meaning, but the creative Spirit of God, the principle of all life (Ps 33:6; 104:30), which worked upon the formless, lifeless mass, separating, quickening, and preparing the living forms, which were called into being by the creative words that followed. rchp in the Piel is applied to the hovering and brooding of a bird over its young, to warm them, and develop their vital powers (Dt 32:11).

In such a way as this the Spirit of God moved upon the deep, which had received at its creation the germs of all life, to fill them with vital energy by His breath of life. The three statements in our verse are parallel; the substantive and participial construction of the second and third clauses rests upon the whyth of the first. All three describe the condition of the earth immediately after the creation of the universe. This suffices to prove that the theosophic speculation of those who "make a gap between the first two verses, and fill it with a wild horde of evil spirits and their demoniacal works, is an arbitrary interpolation" (Ziegler).

Verse 3. The word of God then went forth to the primary material of the world, now filled with creative powers of vitality, to call into being, out of the germs of organization and life which it contained, and in the order pre-ordained by His wisdom, those creatures of the world, which proclaim, as they live and move, the glory of their Creator (Ps 8). The work of creation commences with the words, "and God said." The words which God speaks are existing things. "He speaks, and it is done; He commands, and it stands fast." These words are deeds of the essential Word, the lo'gos (NT:3056), by which "all things were made." Speaking is the revelation of thought; the creation, the realization of the thoughts of God, a freely accomplished act of the absolute Spirit, and not an emanation of creatures from the divine essence.

The first thing created by the divine Word was "light," the elementary light, or light-material, in distinction from the "lights," or light-bearers, bodies of light, as the sun, moon, and stars, created on the fourth day, are called. It is now a generally accepted truth of natural science, that the light does not spring from the sun and stars, but that the sun itself is a dark body, and the light proceeds from an atmosphere which surrounds it. Light was the first thing called forth, and separated from the dark chaos by the creative mandate, "Let there be," - the first radiation of the life breathed into it by the Spirit of God, inasmuch as it is the fundamental condition of all organic life in the world, and without light and the warmth which flows from it no plant or animal could thrive.

Verse 4. The expression in v. 4, "God saw the light that it was good," for "God saw that the light was good," according to a frequently recurring antiptosis (cf. Ge 6:2; 12:14; 13:10), is not an anthropomorphism at variance with enlightened thoughts of God; for man's seeing has its type in God's, and God's seeing is not a mere expression of the delight of the eye or of pleasure in His work, but is of the deepest significance to every created thing, being the seal of the perfection which God has impressed upon it, and by which its continuance before God and through God is determined. The creation of light, however, was no annihilation of darkness, no transformation of the dark material of the world into pure light, but a separation of the light from the primary matter, a separation which established and determined that interchange of light and darkness, which produces the distinction between day and night.

Verse 5. Hence it is said in v. 5, "God called the light Day, and the darkness Night;" for, as Augustine observes, "all light is not day, nor all darkness night; but light and darkness alternating in a regular order constitute day and night." None but superficial thinkers can take offence at the idea of created things receiving names from God. The name of a thing is the expression of its nature. If the name be given by man, it fixes in a word the impression which it makes upon the human mind; but when given by God, it expresses the reality, what the thing is in God's creation, and the place assigned it there by the side of other things.

"Thus evening was and morning was one day." 'echaad (OT:259) (one), like ehi's (NT:1520) and unus, is used at the commencement of a numerical series for the ordinal primus (cf. Ge 2:11; 4:19; 8:5,15). Like the numbers of the days which follow, it is without the article, to show that the different days arose from the constant recurrence of evening and morning. It is not till the sixth and last day that the article is employed (v. 31), to indicate the termination of the work of creation upon that day. It is to be observed, that the days of creation are bounded by the coming of evening and morning. The first day did not consist of the primeval darkness and the origination of light, but was formed after the creation of the light by the first interchange of evening and morning. The first evening was not the gloom, which possibly preceded the full burst of light as it came forth from the primary darkness, and intervened between the darkness and full, broad daylight.

It was not till after the light had been created, and the separation of the light from the darkness had taken place, that evening came, and after the evening the morning; and this coming of evening (lit., the obscure) and morning (the breaking) formed one, or the first day. It follows from this, that the days of creation are not reckoned from evening to evening, but from morning to morning. The first day does not fully terminate till the light returns after the darkness of night; it is not till the break of the new morning that the first interchange of light and darkness is completed, and a heemeronu'ktion has passed. The rendering, "out of evening and morning there came one day," is at variance with grammar, as well as with the actual fact. With grammar, because such a thought would require 'echaad (OT:259) lªyowm (OT:3117); and with fact, because the time from evening to morning does not constitute a day, but the close of a day.

The first day commenced at the moment when God caused the light to break forth from the darkness; but this light did not become a day, until the evening had come, and the darkness which set in with the evening had given place the next morning to the break of day. Again, neither the words `rb (OT:6153) wyhy (OT:1961) bqr (OT:1242) wyhy (OT:1961), nor the expression bqr (OT:1242) `rb (OT:6153), evening-morning (= day), in Da 8:14, corresponds to the Greek nuchthee'meron (NT:3574), for morning is not equivalent to day, nor evening to night. The reckoning of days from evening to evening in the Mosaic law (Lev 23:32), and by many ancient tribes (the pre-Mohammedan Arabs, the Athenians, Gauls, and Germans), arose not from the days of creation, but from the custom of regulating seasons by the changes of the moon. But if the days of creation are regulated by the recurring interchange of light and darkness, they must be regarded not as periods of time of incalculable duration, of years or thousands of years, but as simple earthly days.

It is true the morning and evening of the first three days were not produced by the rising and setting of the sun, since the sun was not yet created; but the constantly recurring interchange of light and darkness, which produced day and night upon the earth, cannot for a moment be understood as denoting that the light called forth from the darkness of chaos returned to that darkness again, and thus periodically burst forth and disappeared. The only way in which we can represent it to ourselves, is by supposing that the light called forth by the creative mandate, "Let there be," was separated from the dark mass of the earth, and concentrated outside or above the globe, so that the interchange of light and darkness took place as soon as the dark chaotic mass began to rotate, and to assume in the process of creation the form of a spherical body. The time occupied in the first rotations of the earth upon its axis cannot, indeed, be measured by our hour-glass; but even if they were slower at first, and did not attain their present velocity till the completion of our solar system, this would make no essential difference between the first three days and the last three, which were regulated by the rising and setting of the sun.

(Note: Exegesis must insist upon this, and not allow itself to alter the plain sense of the words of the Bible, from irrelevant and untimely regard to the so-called certain inductions of natural science. Irrelevant we call such considerations, as make interpretation dependent upon natural science, because the creation lies outside the limits of empirical and speculative research, and, as an act of the omnipotent God, belongs rather to the sphere of miracles and mysteries, which can only be received by faith (Heb 11:3); and untimely, because natural science has supplied no certain conclusions as to the origin of the earth, and geology especially, even at the present time, is in a chaotic state of fermentation, the issue of which it is impossible to foresee.)

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The beginning of the end?

Is this the beginning of the end, or only the end of the beginning as science absorbs itself up the vortex of modelling instead of observation and substitutes advocacy for criticism?
The following sets of quotes from recent articles do set one to pondering!

(Now, I know that plenty of good science is done, and published in places like Science and Nature; although…maybe not:

“A 2004 paper in Nature using the species-area model to predict species distribution in response to modelled climate change (in turn based upon emissions scenarios) concluded its abstract with a call to action: ‘These estimates show the importance of rapid implementation of technologies to decrease greenhouse gas emissions and strategies for carbon sequestration.’ The paper itself presented neither reason nor evidence for such conclusions….”


“Science, for example, not only published the fraudulent research on cloning of Dr Woo Suk Hwang, but rushed it into print after short review so that it appeared in an electronic version, accompanied by a press release that ensured media coverage, on the eve of a key vote in the US Congress to overturn an administrative order of the Bush Administration prohibiting the use of federal funds for cloning research. Not only did it seem such research was more promising than was the case at that time, but South Korea was seemingly passing the US by.”)

Few scientists seem to heed the warning: “In science, the best kind of quality assurance is to celebrate sceptical dissent and to reject any attempt to tell us that we should bow to a consensus, that ‘the science is settled’ on principle— not just even, but especially when it supports our preferences. Because as Carl Sagan once put it, ‘Where we have strong emotions, we’re liable to fool ourselves.’ ” Oh, how so true on the question of origins!

(all quotes from Kellow, see below)
Then, there’s Ross Gittins, an economic commentator, in a recent Sydney Morning Herald article:

“The more important thing to say, however, is that whenever you hear the word "modelling", your bulldust detector should go into overdrive. In the debate about the Rudd Government's carbon pollution reduction scheme, I've been amused to see the Opposition and various business groups clamouring to see "the Treasury modelling". “How can we know what the scheme involves before we see the modelling?” they ask.
A better question would be, what makes you think seeing the modelling results will make you any the wiser? To me, demanding to see modelling is akin to crying, "con me, baby, con me". Blind me with science.
The simple truth is that human behaviour is extraordinarily hard to predict. And the modellers' use of computers and sets of fancy equations doesn't change that fact. Don't forget the sterling efforts of those modellers who predicted how many motorists would use the Cross City and Lane Cove tunnels.

Before you take much notice of any modelling results, you have to know all about the many hidden assumptions that have been made to produce them, and which particular variables are doing most to drive them. In the case of economic models, you have to decide whether you agree with the particular economic theory on which they're based

From his speech “All in a good cause: Framing science for public policy” by
Professor Aynsley Kellow

“The history of science is replete with error and fraud. Environmental science is no exception. Indeed, this area of science provides a hyperabundance of examples, thanks to the presence of two factors: a good cause and extensive reliance upon modelling, especially that involving sophisticated computer models.

“Modelling for the Bald Hills wind farm on the Orange- bellied Parrot assumed the birds spent time at most of the sites of wind farms in Victoria, despite the fact that the birds had not been recorded at 20 of the 23 sites along the coast of Victoria, and despite active searches having been conducted. Only one or two sightings had been made at the other three sites.

“The authors then assumed that the birds would remain present within a single wind farm location for six months—the longest possible period the migratory species could remain at a winter site, and longer than any bird had been recorded at any site. They also assumed the parrot would make two passes through the Bald Hills site. They did all this to err on the side of caution.

“So, while no parrot had been sighted within 50 kilometres of the proposed site, the minister then acted in accordance with the precautionary principle (and an election promise) to block Bald Hills on the basis of cumulative impact—compounding the precaution already embedded in the assumptions underlying the modeling.

“I have proposed in what I call Kellow’s Law that sightings of endangered species are clustered around the sites of proposed developments. This reflects not just the cynical uses of endangered species for political purposes, but partly also the fact that research for environmental assessments frequently finds species because the site has never previously been surveyed.

“Computer models fed by scenarios based on economic models are the norm in climate science, and when we are dealing with climate impacts on biodiversity, we are often dealing with species-area modelling fed by the modelled results of the impact of climate models on vegetation. It is important to understand the way in which the revolution in information technology has transformed the conduct of science. Its impact has come not just in the ability to model complex phenomena of which scientists a decade or so ago could only dream—though that is part of the problem. Computer models are always subject to the Garbage In – Garbage Out problem and they can never be a substitute for hypotheses tested against the cold, hard light of observational data.

“Many of the scientists working with models appear to have forgotten that science is about testing predictions against data. They seem to have fallen victim to the trap long-recognised at IBM, where it used to be said that simulation was like self-stimulation: if one practised it too often, one began to confuse it for the real thing.

“One problem with observational data in areas like climate science is that they themselves are subject to substantial massaging by computers before they are of any use. Even data collection, therefore, provides opportunities for subjective assumptions to intrude into the adjustments made to data to make them useful.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

K-D: Genesis Commentary Part 1

Genesis 1:1
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.
Verse 1. "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth." - Heaven and earth have not existed from all eternity, but had a beginning; nor did they arise by emanation from an absolute substance, but were created by God. This sentence, which stands at the head of the records of revelation, is not a mere heading, nor a summary of the history of the creation, but a declaration of the primeval act of God, by which the universe was called into being. That this verse is not a heading merely, is evident from the fact that the following account of the course of the creation commences with w (and), which connects the different acts of creation with the fact expressed in v. 1, as the primary foundation upon which they rest. bªreeshiyt (OT:7225) (in the beginning) is used absolutely, like en (NT:1722) archee' (NT:746) in Jn 1:1, and meeree'shiyt (OT:7225) in Isa 46:10. The following clause cannot be treated as subordinate, either by rendering it, "in the beginning when God created..., the earth was," etc., or "in the beginning when God created...(but the earth was then a chaos, etc.), God said, Let there be light" (Ewald and Bunsen).

The first is opposed to the grammar of the language, which would require v. 2 to commence with haa'aarets (OT:776) watªhiy (OT:1961); the second to the simplicity of style which pervades the whole chapter, and to which so involved a sentence would be intolerable, apart altogether from the fact that this construction is invented for the simple purpose of getting rid of the doctrine of a creatio ex nihilo, which is so repulsive to modern Pantheism. ree'shiyt (OT:7225) in itself is a relative notion, indicating the commencement of a series of things or events; but here the context gives it the meaning of the very first beginning, the commencement of the world, when time itself began. The statement, that in the beginning God created the heaven and the earth, not only precludes the idea of the eternity of the world a parte ante, but shows that the creation of the heaven and the earth was the actual beginning of all things.

The verb baaraa' (OT:1254), indeed, to judge from its use in Jos 17:15,18, where it occurs in the Piel (to hew out), means literally "to cut, or new," but in Kal it always means to create, and is only applied to a divine creation, the production of that which had no existence before. It is never joined with an accusative of the material, although it does not exclude a pre-existent material unconditionally, but is used for the creation of man (v. 27; Ge 5:1-2), and of everything new that God creates, whether in the kingdom of nature (Nu 16:30) or of that of grace (Ex 34:10; Ps 51:10, etc.). In this verse, however, the existence of any primeval material is precluded by the object created: "the heaven and the earth." This expression is frequently employed to denote the world, or universe, for which there was no single word in the Hebrew language; the universe consisting of a twofold whole, and the distinction between heaven and earth being essentially connected with the notion of the world, the fundamental condition of its historical development (vid., Ge 14:19,22; Ex 31:17).

In the earthly creation this division is repeated in the distinction between spirit and nature; and in man, as the microcosm, in that between spirit and body. Through sin this distinction was changed into an actual opposition between heaven and earth, flesh and spirit; but with the complete removal of sin, this opposition will cease again, though the distinction between heaven and earth, spirit and body, will remain, in such a way, however, that the earthly and corporeal will be completely pervaded by the heavenly and spiritual, the new Jerusalem coming down from heaven to earth, and the earthly body being transfigured into a spiritual body (Rv 21:1-2; 1 Co 15:35 ff.).

Hence, if in the beginning God created the heaven and the earth, "there is nothing belonging to the composition of the universe, either in material or form, which had an existence out of God prior to this divine act in the beginning" (Delitzsch). This is also shown in the connection between our verse and the one which follows: "and the earth was without form and void," not before, but when, or after God created it. From this it is evident that the void and formless state of the earth was not uncreated, or without beginning. At the same time it is obvious from the creative acts which follow (vv. 3-18), that the heaven and earth, as God created them in the beginning, were not the well-ordered universe, but the world in its elementary form; just as Euripides applies the expression ourano's kai' gai'a to the undivided mass (morfee' (NT:3444) mi'a (NT:3391)), which was afterwards formed into heaven and earth.

Friday, August 1, 2008

God's use of evolution

In his article "Darwin, Mind and Meaning" (a good read, I might add), Alvin Plantinga makes the following comment: "There is nothing in current evolutionary science to show or even suggest that God did not superintend evolution."

Now, it's part of a longer argument, so I won't take issue with it, but it got me to thinking: what of it if someone claims that 'evolution' was God's method of creating; what do we make of that; was it? (or more accurately, is it, as evolution, according to the standard theory, remains underway).

I do think there is ample material in the Bible to say that God did not use evolution.

A quick run down:

The obvious one: evolution requires that kinds of organisms derived from other kinds over great periods of time. God says he made them by speaking 'and it was so' on a day, which indicates the contrary.

Evolution requires that one kind of organism gave rise to another. In Genesis 1 we are told that to the contrary, God created each kind to reproduce after its kind: not after some other kind. (See also this article).

Evolution requires that what is was made out of what is seen. Hebrews 11:3 denies this: By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God's command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.

Evolution requires great globs of time between the start and man's appearance. Jesus tells us that God made us male and female from the beginning. Evolution also has it that the first few million years creatures were asexual.

Evolution tells us that the spectrum of animals came into existance over great periods of time, and not all together. Genesis 1 tells us they came all together: on day 6 (even if not in a 'day', it certainly portrays them as coming all together, as Adam named them all together).

Evolution tells us that first there was nothing, then everything: that's how Dawkins can be an 'intellectually fulfilled atheist'; God tells us he was, then he spoke, and light (energy) came to being.

Evolution tells us there is no purpose; God tells us his acts were purposeful.

Evolution starts and ends with the material; God starts and ends with love.

So, what was God's method of creation? Speaking!

“seriously but not literally”

This is a phrase that could be applied to the common approach taken within Christendom to the opening chapter of Genesis. It could also be applicable in some theological traditions to many other parts of the Bible. Of course, for those who sit outside the Christian church, Genesis 1 is not taken seriously at all, irrespective of its literalness.

It is typically held by contemporary theologians, and graduates of MTC, that while Genesis 1 is not, and does not even purport to be factual, or even representative of events, except in the most extenuated sense, that it should be taken seriously. It is said that, nevertheless, it teaches us a number of things: that God created, that he did so in an orderly manner, and that he did so with intention. Thus it is to be taken seriously because it teaches us about God; as Paul himself instructs, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness (2 Tim 3:16).

But this raises a rather obvious question: what does it mean in any real sense to take a text seriously if at the lexical and grammatical level its direct meaning is denied and therefore its connection with the world, while putatively central to the text, is severed, or not taken seriously! If no detail of Genesis 1 is objectively true to events that occurred, then how can the text as a whole be taken seriously, because the text only exists in its detail? This is real ‘newspeak’ of the most disingenuous variety, in my view.

Genesis 1, as it stands makes a number of assertions. The facticity of them all being rejected in preference to the claims of the naturalistic history of the world. The rejection starts with the time span of events, and goes on to include their order, the mechanism giving rise to the results described, and the outcome of a number of events. Thus, on the basis of naturalistic physicalism the world we experience was not made by direct fiat by God over six days, in the order given in Genesis such that organisms reproduce ‘after their kind’.

With this breadth of rejection, it is hard to see how any good can come from reading Genesis 1, what it would teach, or what it would correct; and indeed how it could ‘train in righteousness’, when at every point, every detail is denied.

Despite this, it is widely held that Genesis does teach those things I listed earlier.

But, does it?

How can a passage teach anything ‘in general’ when the basis of that generality is provided only by virtue of the very detail that is rejected! This is at the lunatic fringe of idealism at best; which itself is an obdurate philosophical rejection of biblical concrete realism (and gives us a philosphy that rejects the Bible being used to deny its teaching…no surprise there).

God’s orderliness in creating was that he stepped through the work in 6 days, doing a succession of making then dividing acts: that’s the order. If that didn’t really happen, then God did not in fact make in an orderly manner.

God’s authorship of creation is described in detail. God spoke, it happened, and God described it as ‘good’ or ‘very good’. But if this did not really happen, if something completely different would have been observed, then the words are worse than meaningless, they are deceptive and we can’t rely on a God who makes up self-serving stories to teach what did not occur. This doesn’t do anything for identifying the creator; but attempts like Aboriginal dream-time tales, to give the weak something to cling to in the face of the relentless dance of material.

Creation’s systematic nature is demonstrated in organisms being distinct and reproducing ‘after their kind’. But this is not what is believed today. It is believed that organisms do not reproduce after their kind, but after any old kind, ultimately. Thus, what God teaches about the products of creation cannot be correct, as what ‘really’ happened is entirely different.

The order that is presented in Genesis 1 is an order which defies naturalistic parallels: for instance, light bearers being made after plants: how would the plants survive (which for a day is no problem, but what if millions of years?). Counter-intuitively, light is made before anything else (and, ironically, how ‘modern’). But, and I border on the tedious, if this is not what actually happened, then it teaches nothing at all about God to assert that what did not happen is contrariwise what did happen.

According to the ‘world’ which appears to provide the SAD benchmark (in so many other things too…but there’s only so much heresy one blog can deal with) the origin of the world has a completely other explanation from that given in Genesis 1, but that origin does not result in the worship of God; rather, in Richard Dawkins words, it paves the way for an “intellectually fulfilling atheism”. On this ground alone, one would have to question the reliability of the SAD support for the story of Genesis 1 as not factual, as we know ‘factual’ but factual in some other way, presumably, that has nothing to do with facts, but nevertheless are purported to teach something desite the facts being not there. What they teach is the very opposite of what the ‘real events’ (according to them: evolution) results in. The disparity is so vast one has to question the soundness of the approach that regards Genesis 1 as something to be taken seriously but not literally, because, if not literal, there is no basis for seriousness! If not taken as it stands, proponents of the modern view seem to be subjects of Numbers 12:8. But then, if you’ve started off ignoring Jesus, Moses, and the voice of God, why stop?!

Then again, we can only know that Genesis 1 is not to be taken literally (Dixon's paperette notwithstanding) if we have reliable knowledge of what 'really' happened. We don't of course, we only have the suppositions of materialism dressed up as 'science' and brought to us as 'evolution'. But what credibility should be given to a story based on a world view that takes as its starting point that if God exists at all (which is typically denied by materailists), he is not involved with our world (deism, not Christian faith). Seems to have nothing to do with the Bible or Christian faith!

BTW, I got the phrase of the title from this paper on philosophy of science. I know its in an SDA journal, but let’s not commit the genetic fallacy.

Interesting occurance of the phrase on another Christian-run website.