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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Guest Post from Charles Wood

I am trying to do too much at once and realized that I need to catch up on work.  I did in fact post the wrong Kevin blog post (although it is a good one) and I have too many work responsibilities so rather than screw up again I am giving the day over to a friend who speaks to the issue raised towards Highboy and myself about Genesis and the veracity of the Creation account.

FRIENDLY FIRE? PROBABLY NOT! The on-line version of Christianity Today (August, 2011) featured a lengthy article on the questions surrounding the current debate over the many issues involved in the current controversy between the claims of modern scientific “fact” and the credibility of the Genesis account of origins.

     The article was largely devoted to an organization which I have mentioned before, BioLogos. New emphasis has been lavished on the organization since its founder has been appointed to a significant job in the Obama administration. BioLogos in composed of professed Christians and appears to have as its primary goal “educating” believers to accept the claims of science over the literal interpretation of the Bible, especially in certain areas.

What started out as a declaration of war on the opening chapters of Genesis has now spread into a much deeper controversy over the claims of geneticists that the findings of modern genetic research make it impossible to believe that the human race has spring from one original couple. I am admittedly not a scientist, and I may be tending to oversimplify, but I see the efforts and claims of BioLogos as presenting a choice between accepting the claims of modern science (which they appear to do “whole hog”) and accepting the literal interpretation of the Bible and the historicity of its earliest characters. 

The editors of Christianity Today don’t go nearly that far, but they recognize the latent decision involved and have written an article apparently designed to modify the teaching of BioLogos (and to mollify their more conservative readers). In typical CT fashion, they take no clear stand but rather advocate that the level of expressed disagreement be lowered and that all parties with interest in the issue sit down together and try to amiably work out a solution. [This is just a personal opinion, but I am inclined to think that if CT had been around in 1517, it would have urged Martin Luther to reduce his theses from 95 to some “more manageable number” - like forty five or fifty - and to sit down with the Pope and seek to work out some kind of agreement (compromise?) regarding them.]

     Actually the debate itself is not new. It is only the introduction of the genetic “evidence” and arguments about a single ancestry for the human race that has turned up the heat somewhat. The debate really began with the spread of French and German rationalism to the U. S. around the turn of the last century. The Graf-Wellhausen theory sought to demonstrate that Moses could not have written the Pentateuch, thus undermining confidence in its inspiration and historicity. Other aspects of the current discussion have long roots. I can remember quite clearly that at least three of my professors in Seminaries with unassailable orthodox positions either held or allowed for what was then called the “long day” theory, the idea that the “days” of creation were actually periods of indeterminate length or even that if they were literal days, there may have been long periods of time between them.

      The late Leon J. Wood stirred considerable controversy in the General Association of Regular Baptist Churches over his willingness to allow for “long days,”‘ and His influence and that of R. Laird Harris caused me to tentatively accept the concept. I held to it for some years, but as I began to develop my hermeneutics, I gradually turned away from long days to twenty-four hour periods in order to accord with my core belief (which I still hold) that the basic interpretation of any Scripture must involve what those to whom it was originally written would have believed it said and meant. Thus, the claims regarding the length of the creative days and such does not bother me particularly as I can see how interpreters might come to adopt that viewpoint. I also - and this might shock many of my raiders - believe in a young earth but tend to reject the date of 6,000 B. C. for the creation because I believe it is based on a “genealogical” record that begins as a simple record of individual ancestry but them morphs into a “table of nations.” I reject millions and billions of years in regard to creation but am not really satisfied with 6,000 years either.

     The recent developments bother me on several scores. Some of them are probably peripheral, but I am convinced that many of the “facts of science” actually are not such. Much of the “factual” background of Al Gore’s book of lies about man-made climate change was stated as “scientific fact,” but it has been disproved or even shown to be deliberately misleading since he gained fame and a premature Nobel Prize for his mental machinations. I also continuously read that some new "discovery” has proved some previous discovery to be false or questionable, and even the headlines in supposedly reliable news sources continue to de facto admit that there are holes or missing pieces in the “fact” of Evolution. If I had a chain with as many “missing links” as Evolutionary theory appears to have, I don’t know any use to which I could put it.

     But there are issues that are core as self-professed believers continue to press their case against the Bible. The primary cover under which they hide is the assertion that the Bible is completely accurate on matters of faith and practice but serious lacking in regard to science - after all, “it was not a designed to be a science textbook, you know”). This is both an unsatisfying and a dangerous claim as it appears impossible to neatly sort out the content of the Bible into three neat little packages. The starting point of my misgivings is the passage that clearly states that “all “Scripture’” is inspired” by God and therefore useful for certain purposes. If the places where the Bible touches on science are not included in the “all,” then Paul was either mistaken or prone to deliberate deception. Paul also makes a theological argument out of the “Federal headship” of Adam and its contrast to Christ in his explication of the Gospel in Romans, I Corinthians and I Timothy. Furthermore, if there is no historic Adam and Eve, we are left without any real explanation for the concept of a sin nature and the need for redemption. As I see it, it is impossible to segregate science from the rest of Scripture as the Bible is an integrated book, and I find it impossible to accept the idea that the basic truths of the Bible must be rewritten according to the dictates of some currently held “scientific fact.”
Interestingly enough, there has been - at least to this point - little “push back” on the incredibly significant claims made by people and groups such as BioLogos. Tim Keller, pastor of a large work in Metropolitan New Your City, presented a paper at a conference sponsored by the Biologism type people in which he raised the theological issues I have mentioned (and far more), the Christian Reformed denomination has placed two Calvin College professors under some kind of potential disciplinary process (but the CRC has already drifted so far from its historic orthodox roots that it is difficult to believe that it is in any position to do anything substantive about what it once would have considered heresy), a professor at Covenant Theological Seminary has written a book - evidently not widely publicized or circulated as I have seen or heard nothing about it - that seeks to refute many of the arguments of Biologism and Al Mohler posted an article on it yesterday on his blog site (the article was somewhat disappointing in that it detailed the problem but offered no solutions - probably he will offer solutions and rebuttals as he writes on the subject in the future).

     The most striking fact of all in the current controversy is that the “fire” of attacks is not coming from the theologically liberal or even the atheistic side, it is coming from professed “evangelicals.” Now I don’t know the bottom line criteria that God has for determining the point at which one passes from death into life (“Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom” surely doesn’t fit the typical fundamentalists version of “the saving prayer,” but it still won a thief the promise of a place in Paradise), so I don’t question whether or not these scientists who profess to be Christians are actually believers, but I will raise a large octagonal stop sign if and when I hear them described - as Christianity Today does - as “evangelicals. You may call me whatever you wish and consider me anything from stupid to locked into an archaic system of theology, but I am not willing to exchange my belief in historic orthodoxy, my knowledge of church history and my commitment to Biblical inerrancy simply to satisfy those who have embraced the religion of secular science, insisted that it is superior to the revelation of Scripture and also insisted that failure to follow their lead will render Christianity irrelevant and marginalized in an American culture where nearly half the population believes in some form of the Genesis account of creation. But then again, I am not a scientist, worried about how my peers might view me should I accept something that they have labeled as lying somewhere between irrelevant and nonsensical.

     We used to sing a little chorus (yes, “Virginia, there were choruses before Praise music) that went like this: “The B-I-B-L-E, yes, that’s the book for me. I stand alone on the Word of God, the B-I-B-L-E.” I’m not even a reasonable facsimile of Martin Luther, but I don’t hesitate to quote him in this current climate, “Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise.” And please, will those who are committed to the Bible and have the scientific knowledge to do so intelligently, begin to push back before this latest manifestation of diminishing belief in Biblical accuracy and authority seeps into our seminaries, colleges and - ultimately - local churches!