Creation


on-the-seventh-dayWhen it comes to the opinion of the secular scientific community regarding evolution and creation, one of the constant phrases you hear thrown around is “All scientists agree that……” In reality, since views are always changing with the advancement in scientific discoveries and there are often numerous scientific theories supporting these discoveries and their implications, scientific consensus is not always as much of a consensus as we are led to believe.

When you do some digging you will begin to realize that there are numerous credible scientists and academics who are Christians that do not accept evolution as a viable theory of origins and the like. Though contrary to popular belief, their lack of belief in evolution does not impede their ability to do their jobs as scientists and experts in their fields.

On the Seventh Day: Forty Scientists and Academics Explain Why They Believe in God edited by John F. Ashton is a small collection of short accounts from Christian scientists and academics telling us how they became Christians and why they believe in creation.

The accounts are broken into two categories. First, there are accounts under the label reason and faith. These are accounts of people who were brought to faith in Christ through their scientific and academic studies. As they studied they were brought face to face with the truth that evolution is not a credible explanation for life and all it encompasses. Whether in school or working in their field of study, these Christians were hit with the truth of God as creator. There are aerospace engineers, doctors, physicists, educators, psychologists and more.

The second category of testimonies is under the label faith and experience. These conversion accounts are a little different in that they focus not on how each person was brought to faith in Christ because of their professional work but, rather, these testimonies tell the story of how they were brought to faith in their everyday lives. The focus here is on how they experienced God working in their lives through a miraculous healing, Gods presence through traumatic life experiences, God’s provision through other believers and other similar type experiences.

The value of a book like this is that it points to the reality that faith (as secularists and atheists want to define it) is not belief in something in spite of the evidence or because of the lack of evidence, but rather, it is belief because of the evidence. These testimonies contribute to the reality that Christianity is an intellectually defensible and reasonable belief. This book might be good for those who are doubting their faith (both Christian and non-Christian alike) and for those who are looking for some further confirmation of their faith in Christ as the maker and sustainer of the universe. These testimonies are encouraging to read. I suggest reading one chapter a day with your devotions to help the book have the most impact on a persons life.

NOTE: I received this book for free from Master Books in exchange for my honest review. The words and thoughts expressed here are my own and I was under no obligation to provide a favorable review.

If you found this review helpful can you take a minute to give it a positive vote on Amazon?

Advertisements

In the Beginning We Misunderstood by Soden & MillerWhen it comes to interpreting Genesis 1 within the last few hundred years, much of the debate for Christians has centered on the interpret the days of creation. Are they literal 24 hour periods of time as we experience them now? Are they undefined long periods of time? Or, are they a literary device used to communicate a theological message? Everyone rightly proclaims that context is the key and yet there are varied interpretations based on each person’s understanding of what exactly the context is. Herein lies the problem – what is the context of the creation account in Genesis 1? Is it just the exegesis of the Hebrew text or is it to include the Ancient Near Eastern (ANE) background as well? How far do we extend the immediate context?

As the debate carries on currently the center of discussion has moved to focus on the ANE cultural background. ANE studies have been on a rise for the last several decades and their findings have caused numerous Christians from the scholar to the layman to question some of the long standing and popular interpretations of Genesis 1. The view that has been questioned the most in light of these ANE findings is the literal 24 hour view which sees the days of creation as 24 hour periods of time as we experience them today. This view is held by those described as Young Earth Creationists (YEC).

One of the most recent books to hit the shelves seeking to question this view is In the Beginning…We Misunderstood: Interpreting genesis 1 in Its Original Context by Johnny V. Miller and John M. Soden. Both are graduates of Dallas Theological Seminary and have been or are pastors and teachers.

The Goal of the Book

The title of the book clearly communicates to the reader that the church by in large has misunderstood Genesis 1 and therefore misinterpreted it. After briefly explaining both of their journeys in their understanding of Genesis 1 and creation, Miller and Soden state their purpose in writing the book clearly as their effort to challenge

The belief that the six days of creation were literal twenty-four-hour days and that believing the Bible requires holding this interpretation. It also includes questioning the assumption that Genesis 1 is primarily about the physical origins of an ancient universe. The assumption that a scientific reading of Genesis 1 is the only way, or even a necessary way, of reading the Bible has to be challenged. And the assumption that the people who read it any other way don’t believe the Bible has to be challenged. (p. 31-32)

For Miller and Soden (and no doubt others like them), the problem they have with what they would term a ‘literalistic’ interpretation of Genesis 1 is that it is seen through  the eyes of a modern person and not that of the original readers (p. 21 & 37). This is where we begin to discuss the context of Genesis 1. Did the original readers think in terms of material creation like we do today? If not, then how did they think about creation and how does their thinking of creation effect our interpretation of the creation account in Genesis 1?

The Exegetical/Hermeneutical Considerations

With context in mind Miller and Soden make the following statements that guide their interpretation:

To understand it fully, one must read it first in its original language and try to understand it in relation to its original author (Moses), in relation to its original readers (Israel recently released from slavery in Egypt), and in relation to the culture, worldview, and literary genre of the text.

We believe that understanding Genesis 1 in its original language and setting leads us to conclude that it is a broadly figurative presentation of literal truths; it is highly stylized and highly selective. It does not report history as a journalist might do. (p. 48)

With the aforementioned statements as a foundation, the authors then show from their perspective how the text of Genesis 1 does not exegetically support what the YEC interpretation purports it does (p. 49-57). Amidst a number of exegetical considerations there are two that would garner the most attention. First, the authors point out that while in most English translations of the Hebrew text the word “the” is placed before each day (“on the first day”, etc.) this is to add what is not there and take away from the importance of the sixth and seventh days which does have the article “the”. Adding it in English distracts the reader from what is happening on the sixth and seventh day (p. 49-50). To Miller and Soden this indicates exegetically that the view is not on a sequence of creation but the object of creation on those given days. Second, while their perspective is not necessarily new, Miller & Soden see the phrase “evening and morning” not as referring to literal days since they appear at day one which is three days before the sun is created (p. 52). Further, the Egyptian texts indicate that they believed a battle occurred between gods for the rising of the sun, and thus, the beginning of a new day. To Miller & Soden this sheds light on the significance of the phrase “evening and morning” as showing a lack of struggle between gods since there is only one God who has all creation under control. They state,

The transition between days shows no struggle, but instead exhibits a sequential building of order, effortlessly moving from day to day, from one to seven, without any reference to a time lapse. (p. 108)

Another question that provides some hermeneutical guidance is, what is the purpose of Genesis? Why did Moses write it? The authors rightly point out that the literary phrase “the generations of….” provide us with the structure of Genesis through which we are to see its purpose. The eleven toledoths show us that the purpose of Genesis is to provide Israel with their identity as the people of God. This in turn leads them conclude that Genesis

Was written for the people of God after their exodus from Egypt to (re) acquaint them with the God of their fathers – Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – and with His calling on their national life, giving them a purpose (to bring blessing to the nations) and a future in a land (the physical platform from which to show the nations the source of blessing; Gen. 12:1-3). (p. 64)

ANE Background as Context for Genesis 1

The second part of the book deals with the ANE creations accounts as the historical and cultural context of Genesis 1. This is the real meat of the book. The authors cover the Egyptian, Mesopotamian and Canaanite creation accounts. The authors walk through each ANE account of creation by both comparing and contrasting them with the Genesis account. They deal with topics such as how they account for the beginning of everything, the initial conditions of creation, the means of creation, the sequence of the events and the purpose of creation.

If these three ANE creations accounts form the background into which Moses wrote Genesis 1 then we see each having a purpose for which it is responded too: (1) Canaan because it was the home of Israel’s fathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, (2) Egypt because it was where Israel had just been freed from and (3) Mesopotamia because it was where Israel was going to. No doubt, God and Moses knew these other creation accounts would have influenced Israel’s understanding of God and His creation. Given the three ANE cultural influences upon Israel, the authors rightly contend that the Egyptian cultural context is the one which would have had the most influence on Moses as he wrote Genesis and on Israel as they grappled with their identity as God’s people. After all, they had just come out of Egypt.

By comparing and contrasting the three ANE creations with Genesis the authors are trying to help contemporary readers of Genesis appreciate the historical and cultural context of Genesis 1. Thus, they are arguing that a true exegesis of the text will take into account the ANE cultural and historical context in which Genesis 1 was written and to which it was written against. In regards to the parallels between the biblical and ANE accounts the authors are not suggesting that Moses was simply borrowing from them. Rather, he was using similar language, concepts and motifs that the Israelites would have been familiar with and recast the events of creation in order to correct Israel’s theology of creation and its God. They are a reference point rather than the foundation.

Since it is the Egyptian context that would be the greatest target for Moses there is naturally the most comparisons and contrasts. It is here that YEC’ers will have to grapple with the most. The authors provide very compelling cases for how Israel would have understood the days, evening and morning and sequence of events in creation. The comparisons and contrasts are both striking and revealing as to how the original audience of Israel would have read Genesis 1. The authors are not trying to argue against God having created all material existence. They heartily agree that He did. Rather, they are trying to properly interpret Genesis 1 in context, allowing it to say what God and Moses intended – no less but also no more.

Conclusion

I have always interpreted Genesis 1 as describing creation in material terms. I am not ignorant of some of the difficulties of this interpretation both exegetically and contextually in regards to the ANE accounts. I am not of the stripe that all of the creation interpretations by Christians are mutually exclusive. There are clear literary patterns in the text and even more clear theological considerations in light of the ANE accounts. They have given me much to think about.

What Miller and Soden have done is give a compelling case for another way of reading the creation account in Genesis 1 that is contextually aware and honest through both exegesis of the Hebrew text and proper consideration of the ANE cultural and historical backgrounds.

I highly recommend In the Beginning….We Misunderstood. It is written at the lay level without sacrificing depth and scholarly analysis of the relevant material. The authors are under no illusion that their book will end the debate but they have certainly given us something to think about. Greg Koukl always says that his goal is not to convert everyone to his position that he meets. Rather, he has a more modest goal of putting a rock in a person’s shoe and giving them something to think about as they go their way. That is what Miller and Soden have done. They have given us something compelling to think about.

NOTE: This book was provided for free from Kregel in exchange for an honest review. I was under no obligation to provide a favorable review and the words and thoughts expressed are my own.

If you found this review helpful can you take a minute to give it a positive vote on Amazon?

Lie, The by Kan Ham

In 1979, after having been a public school science teacher and part-time speaker on creation during the weekends, Ken Ham retired from teaching to start a ministry that would later become what many today know as Answers in Genesis (AiG). Not even a decade after Ham began his now world famous creation ministry he published his first book in 1987, The Lie. This book encapsulates the message that lies at the heart of everything AiG stands for and teaches. This message is that God has given us a record of how He created everything in the book of Genesis and that the scientific theory of evolution as everything was an accident and all life evolved over millions and billions of years from a single cell, is a lie.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of The Lie and Master Books has published an
updated version. While the core of the book is the same, Ham has added new more contemporary examples with a few additional appendixes and has updated the cover of the book. Some of the diagrams in the book have been updated as they have been changed to more accurately reflect how Ham presents the creation/evolution debate (see castle diagram in Appen. 1, p. 197).

The basic content of the book is a compilation of lectures Ham was doing, and continues to do to this day, in churches and schools while teaching on creation/evolution. If you have watched any of his videos or heard seen him speak then some of the material will sound familiar. The basic thrust of the book is to call Christians back to the book of Genesis as our starting point for understanding origins rather than following the evolutionary teaching of secularism. For Christians, Genesis is to shape our worldview. If the church accepts evolution as the basis for origins then it will naturally produce a contrary worldview which it at odds with Scripture. If evolution is true, Ham points out, then we are left with a worldview that has no room for God and will naturally result in the moral and spiritual degradation of society.

Through the apologetical method of presuppositionalism, Ham does a good job of getting the heart of the issues within the creation/evolution debate. It needs to be pointed out that Ham employs a modified version of presuppositional apologetics from its more well known proponents like Cornelius VanTil, Greg Bahnsen and John Frame but this is not the place to tease this out. Presuppositionalism addresses ones starting point. For Christians it is the existence of God and his revelation to man in Scripture. To accept evolution as the explanation of human origins is to silence the voice of Scripture, and thus God, and therefore replace one set of presuppositions about life and reality for another. When it comes to the area of science and evidence ones presuppositions have a great impact on how a person interprets the data. Overall, Ham does a good job making the connection as to how accepting evolutionary thinking about origins leads to a worldview that is at odds with Scripture.

While there is much to commend Ham for in the book there were two things that stuck out to me that I had a hard time with. I only mention them because they are central to the books argument. First, I am not convinced about the hard line Ham draws between observational and historical science (see chap. 2 & 3). If one were to accept Ham’s premise that historical science can tell us nothing about the past because the evidence exists in the present, then we must throw out, possibly among other things, the whole field of archaeology which I know AiG engages in, and rightly so (see. pgs, 47, 49 & 57). Second, while I hold to the days of creation as being six 24 hour days, I do not see all of the creation day views as mutually exclusive like Ham does. While I hold to a young earth I do not hold to a young universe and I do accept part of the cosmic temple view as popularized by John Walton though I reject his functional ontology view of creation.

Those differences aside, The Lie is the go to book for the heart of AiG’s message. Readers will come face to face with the obvious differences between the worldview of Scripture and secularism/evolution. Ham is passionate about the truth and about Christians knowing the truth. Ham employs ample Scriptural support for Christians to consider and come to grips with. This is Ham’s clarion call for Christians to wake from their slumber of ignorance about the origins debate and arm themselves with understanding and truth about the issues at stake.

NOTE: I received this book for free from Master Books in exchange for an honest and unbiased review.

I am not a fan of either/or options. Often times when we are given two options to choose from we are mislead into thinking those are the only two options and that one of them contains the totality of known truth on that particular subject. Though often this is not the case, sometimes it is. One of the few areas in which I believe this is the case is the debate between macroevolution and microevolution as the explanation for the similarity and diversity we find within all of life. In short, this is an option between either Darwinian evolution (DE) by random chance purposeless natural selection or the creation of all living things by God through the initial creation of kind and the subsequent creation of the diversity within kind through microevolution. If macroevolution is the mechanism by which all living things came into existence then the Bible’s account of creation is not and vice versa. It is a truly either/or situation.

Following a long line of books seeking to refute the claims of DE is a new books by Dr. John F. Ashton, Evolution Impossible: 12 Reasons Why Evolution Cannot Explain the Origin of Life on Earth. Dr. Ashton is a proponent of creation science and written several books on the subject with Master Books. Ashton is an adjunct professor of biomedical  and applied sciences in Melbourne, Australia. Evolution Impossible follows two of Ashton’s previous works, In Six Days: 50 Scientists explain Why They Believe in Creation and On the Seventh Day: 40 Scientists and Academics explain Why They Believe in God, and seeks to summarize their content.

Evolution Impossible is a book defending creationism and the belief in creation in 6 literal 24 hr. days and a worldwide flood. It does this primarily by refuting the claims of DE that (1) life began through the process known as abiogenesis (life coming from non-life)  and (2) that, once started, all of the diversity of life we see came about by macroevolution over the course of millions and billions of years. The basic assumption of macroevolution is that everything originated from a single celled organism and evolved over vast amounts of time to the present. So, Ashton seeks to defend his position primarily by showing how DE is not a valid theory to explain the existence and diversity of life. In a way, Ashton is making the case that the burden of proof is on the side of DE proponents because their theory is indefensible and not as assuredly assumed as they would like to think.

Dr. Ashton accomplishes this task by addressing twelve lines of support DE proponents give in defense of their theory, only a few of which I will touch on.

Abiogenesis and Natural Selection

One of the most audacious claim of  DE supporters is that an original living cell, from which all of life evolved from, originated by chance. This is behind the teem aboigenesis which is the belief that life comes from non-life. What is perhaps worse is that, though there is no substantial or defensible proof for this, this theory is purported to be a scientific fact that is propagated in all science text books. What Ashton does first is show that based on all that we know about both the structure/makeup and formation/development of life as we observe it this is indefensible. Ashton states

If it can be shown that it is absolutely impossible for a living organism to arise by natural processes from nonliving matter, then the theory of evolution would be without foundation and unable to provide the complete mechanical-naturalistic explanation of how we came to be here. (p. 37).

After a short discussion on how cells form and how many would have to form in the right pattern (among other things) Ashton concludes that

For the first life to start from nonliving matter, thousands of specialized large complex molecules must somehow be synthesized in very large numbers from simple small inorganic molecules. These molecules then have to come together randomly over and over again until somehow the structure of the cell is formed. This remarkable and complex structure would still, however, not be alive. To become alive, hundreds of metabolic reactions wold have to be initiated, with the metabolic intermediaries already in place at just the right concentrations so that the reactions went the right way. (p. 43)

One does not have to be a scientist to realize that DE is asking for more than life itself can give. There is so much required, that is not present, in order for DE to be possible that it is highly statistically impossible.

But the improbability of DE’s case is further seen when we move from the beginning of life to the continuation and development or the diversity of life. Here we run into the belief that all of the diversity of life that we see came about by the process of natural selection. In this discussion Ashton overviews the three types of evolution:

  1. Type 1 Evolution – This “involves no new additional genetic information being formed. It commonly involves the loss of preexisting genetic information that results in changes to the inherited genetic code in the offspring, making it different from the parent” (p. 51) Here we have changes within the same kind of organism and thus the loss of the genetic information does not produce a new kind of organism but rather a variation of the same kind of organism.
  2. Type 2 Evolution – This “involves the transfer of new genetic information from one organism into another organism. That is, additional new genetic information enters the DNA of an organism via, for example, virus-like proteins or by plasmids that can carry specific genes.” (p. 55) This is not the creation of a new organism but rather the transfer of genetic information from one to another thus creating a new strain – not type.
  3. Type 3 Evolution – This would require “the generation of totally new useful genetic information within the DNA code of an organism by some supposed process in nature, which results in a completely new function that has never occurred before.” (p. 56) This is the creation of completely new organisms from previously existing organisms of a different kind.

Ashton rightly points out that the examples used in text books to to prove type 3 evolution are actually examples of type 1 evolution. This fits with the fact that we do observe type 1 evolution and have never observed type 3. Further, type 3 evolution has never been observed by anyone neither is it probable for it to occur and develop all of life within the 4 billion years of supposed evolutionary time (p. 60).

Fossil Record

Within the DE theory of millions of years is a connection between macroevolution and the fossil record. Over the course of several chapters Ashton discusses various theories and assumptions held by DE proponents such as uniformitarianism and the geological time scale (see also pgs. 136-37). Ashton thoroughly discusses the contents of sedimentary rocks and how they are formed by “the action of water.” (p. 67) One of the key points Ashton brings out time and time again is how sedimentary rocks are formed by water – massive amounts of it. With this in mind, there are four basic lines of evidence concerning the fossil record:

  1. Virtually all of the fossils used by DE supporters to support macroevolution are found in sedimentary rocks. These are fossils that “are mainly found in rocks formed under water.” (p. 73
  2. These sedimentary rocks are found all over the world.
  3. In order for this fossilization to occur, the plants and animals contained in the sedimentary rocks “had to be buried rapidly so that they would not rot or decay, or be eaten or break up under weatherizing conditions.” (p. 73)
  4. The fossil record clearly shows that there were a large number of plants and animals that existed in the past which no longer exist today. It is agreed on by both sides of the issue that 98-99 percent of all animals that have ever existed are now extinct. Thus, the fossil record is a record of extinction of preexisting lifeforms rather than transition from one to another.

One contemporary example of rapid and massive sedimentary rock formation is Mt. St. Helen’s. After her eruption in May of 1980 massive amounts of strata formed in just a few hours. This would normally be interpreted by DE as having happened over thousands of years. In order for the worldwide and massive amounts of fossils we see today to have occurred there had to be a universal event requiring water. Contrary to the claims of DE of all the fossil beds taking millions of years to develop, the fossil record (based on how we know sedimentary rocks form) could only have been laid down several thousand years ago.

Following discussion of the requirements for the formation of sedimentary rocks, Ashton discusses the absence of transitional fossils, pointing out that what we see is immediate presence of multi-cell organisms in the fossil record along side single-cell organisms. Even the late Stephen J. Gould admitted that the fossil record contains no transitional fossils (p. 94). Further, there is the reality that DNA and intact protein sequences contained in a fossil only last so long and would not be detectable millions of years later (p. 131).

Conclusion

While I have not read all of the books out there testing the claims of DE, I think Evolution Impossible is the best one I have read yet. Ashton is clear and concise. He is heavily footnoted and deals with the issues head on. Ashton lets the scientific evidence speak for itself. What becomes clear is that proponents of DE have an agenda to remove God from the picture. They need millions of years of life forming in order to do this.

Evolution Impossible is a book every Christian should read. It would make a great learning tool for school and can be the catalyst for further learning in the areas discussed. Ashton provides a good overview of the historical development of DE for readers to gain a better grasp of how it began. Contrary to the belief in God creating all things in six 24 hr days and a worldwide flood as being unscientific and a stopper for scientific inquiry, Ashton shows that it is very scientifically credible and respectable and is in fact the natural and reasonable belief to hold based on the evidence.

NOTE: I received this book for free from Master Books in return for an honest review. I was under no obligation to provide a favorable review.

I remember the first time I drove down the streets of Chicago. I was on a trip with the youth group I did a summer internship with. We drove a school bus and I had my window down. It was all I could do to keep my head in the window and my mouth shut. I was so stunned by the beauty and tall buildings that my mouth was hanging wide open. I kept saying, “Wow. Wow. Wow.”

I realize that cities have their downfalls such as being hotbeds for all kinds of sin. However, we cannot let what the world has done to culture, or to our cities, control our view of it. From Genesis 1:26-29 we see that God intended for cultural development to occur and that He commanded man to make it happen as part of his imaging God to the world.

Fast forward to Revelation 21:9-27 and the New Jerusalem. The picture we get here is simply stunning. Previously in verses 1-8 we see the return of heaven on earth. Then in verse 10 we see “the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God.” But the text does not stop there. What comes next is a beautiful description, as best as John can convey it, of what this new city of Jerusalem is like – the city of all cities:

[11] having the glory of God, its radiance like a most rare jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. [12] It had a great, high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels, and on the gates the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel were inscribed—[13] on the east three gates, on the north three gates, on the south three gates, and on the west three gates. [14] And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
[15] And the one who spoke with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city and its gates and walls. [16] The city lies foursquare, its length the same as its width. And he measured the city with his rod, 12,000 stadia. Its length and width and height are equal. [17] He also measured its wall, 144 cubits by human measurement, which is also an angel’s measurement. [18] The wall was built of jasper, while the city was pure gold, clear as glass. [19] The foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with every kind of jewel. The first was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, [20] the fifth onyx, the sixth carnelian, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth chrysoprase, the eleventh jacinth, the twelfth amethyst. [21] And the twelve gates were twelve pearls, each of the gates made of a single pearl, and the street of the city was pure gold, transparent as glass.
But nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those who are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

Isn’t that just beautiful! But notice something else that people tend to miss. Jumping from Gen. 1 to Rev. 21 we go from a garden to a city. The next few verses tell us something about what is in this city:

[22] And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. [23] And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. [24] By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it, [25] and its gates will never be shut by day—and there will be no night there. [26] They will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations.

Verse 24 and 26 tell us that “the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it” and “they will bring into it the glory and the honor of the nations.” This bringing in of glory by kings and the nations happens after the renewal of all things. Culture has been renewed and the kings and nations will bring into the new city the glory of their work.

Cities are the pinnacle of cultural development and grandeur. For all of their faults, they will be renewed and their redeemed glory will enter the new city of Jerusalem.

I say all of this to show you the video below. I am not trying to interpret Rev. 21 literalistically or make exact one-to-one comparisons. What I do want to do is read Rev. 21 and look at our cities today and allow them to give us a hint at the future glory of what redeemed man will bring from his redeemed cities into the city – the new Jerusalem. There is something about our cities here and now that will be brought into the new city there and then – the new Jerusalem.