How Should We Make Sense of Original Sin?

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I came across a very interesting blog series written by Edward Feser about five years ago. Feser’s purpose in writing these posts was to discuss how a Catholic (his tradition) understanding of original sin does not conflict with modern biology. This is an issue I have been wrestling with for about three years now, and I wanted to write out where I am at this time.

 

To start, I believe there is a serious difficulty with one common understanding of original sin. Often times, it goes like this: God’s original creation was perfect in every way. Adam and Eve were perfect in every way, experiencing no pain and suffering. Eve ate an evil fruit. Because Eve could not control herself, every human being born afterward is damned to hell and we all have to bear the effect of sin. The problem is fairly evident, and the solution seems unsatisfactory. Many will say we cannot blame Eve because anybody else would have done the same thing. So we are to expect that God created a fatalistic world in which ANYBODY would have sinned without exception? Also, it seems as though Eve had a stronger degree of free will than any of us do, being able to avoid sin to a greater extent than we do given the perfect nature of her condition. I find this implausible, but I do not expect everybody else to share my personal sympathies. I do think it says something about God’s character if this is true. As a Christian of the protestant tradition, I do want to emphasize the ultimate authority of Scripture and its revelation, but I also believe strongly in church tradition and extra-biblical evidences to fuel the Bible’s reliable authority. If all truth really is God’s truth, I would expect traditional socio-historical understandings of Scripture to bear heavily on how they should be read today. For the purposes of this post, I will assume two factors that will not be discussed in further detail here: Modern physical anthropology and evolutionary genetics do play a part in our discussion of original sin, and human beings do have a distinct metaphysical nature that cannot be reduced down to pure biochemical make up.

 

To start, there seems to be a group who assumes there is no death prior to the first sin. On the surface, this seems to be what Genesis 3:3 is referring to. However, from a contextual standpoint, this does not work with physical death, as God tells Adam and Eve that they day they eat of the fruit they will surely die. They did not actually die the day the fruit was eaten, so it seems that the emphasis was on spiritual death. I do not mean to blow this point off as unimportant, nor do I mean to suggest there are not any legitimate arguments in support that the text is referring to physical death. I am simply pointing out what appears to be a more clear understanding of the word “death” given the events that follow God’s command. From a practical standpoint, this does not seem to work either. Some animals are carnivorous by nature (lions, tigers, etc.) and their livelihood depends on the meat of other animals. In fact, every living organism on earth depends on the death of other creatures for their survival. A world without any physical death at all seems to violate the innate survival methods God created organisms to have.

 

From the outset, the fall narrative shows the creation to be imperfect. For one, the serpent is there. It is entirely feasible to assume physical death existed millions of years prior to the fall given demonic activity, which is clearly present in the Garden. The problem, however, is how do human beings who come afterward inherit this “original sin”? It would help to discuss what exactly happened to humanity upon this first sin. Human population geneticists have concluded that all of modern humanity descended from a group of about 10,000 individuals around 200,000 years ago. I feel uneasy to simply define a human being for the purposes of spirituality by mere biological classification. Homo sapiens, the classification to which modern humans belong, were what this group of 10,000 individuals belonged to. Let me be clear, what I am about to propose is a THOUGHT EXPERIMENT. I am in no way saying this IS what happened, but I am using this experiment to establish a basis for original sin that is more biblically sound than the doctrine is commonly understood, and one that is compatible with modern evolutionary genetics. Let’s assume these 10,000 individuals were human beings in a biological sense, but they had no distinct metaphysical nature. This would make humanity no ontologically distinct from other creatures. Let’s assume that God, for whatever reason, chose a pair of individuals from this group and instilled them with a new, immaterial, spiritual nature (call them Adam and Eve for simplicity sake). Has this pair experienced pain? Sure. They live in a world full of it. The difference is they have a special, spiritual connection to the glorified God with full and complete access to Him. Suppose God gave them a task and they failed (not eating a fruit, or at least the story is an allegory for this task). They failed because of the pressure of dark forces acting upon them, and so fell away from this perfect, glorified access to God. As a result, every one of their offspring will share the same nature. Assuming this, suppose that Adam and Eve in their distinct metaphysical nature reproduced at a much faster rate than other homo sapiens who did not share their same nature, and eventually, through reproduction with other homo sapiens the Adam and Eve lineage covered up the whole of the human species, resulting in every human thereafter being endowed with an immaterial nature. This is not to say evolutionary genetics will one day refute this claim, but as of now there is no reason to assume this cannot happen.

 

I believe the story is a bit richer than this, but it is a good illustration of how original sin can work in the context of modern biology without putting all the blame for every pain and strife that modern humanity experiences.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Our Modern Quest For Truth

Science continues to create theological problems that we have never been presented with before. This isn’t going to go away. We live in a scientific age where science is the dominant method for attaining truth.

Science is no conspiracy. While there is a degree of error, every scientific theory is under constant scrutiny and peer review. If someone were to find an alternative to, say, germ theory, they would instantly be famous. So how do Christians and other religious believers deal with our faith in light of such a science-dominated culture?

The Authority of Scripture

 

I recently had a dispute with a friend on Facebook. This individual (falsely) accused me of not accepting the authority of Scripture because of my views on Genesis 1-3. I have not doubt that this friend was well intentioned and was genuinely looking out for me as a fellow believer, but I think he missed the point. As Christians, our faith is centered on the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Anything that threatens those truths can rightly be seen as diminishing to the authority of Scripture. I do not see how one can say Genesis 1-3 affects that truth. This is not an issue of authority. It is an issue of interpretation. While an alternative to the literalism of Genesis 1-3 does present significant theological problems (death before the fall, historical Adam, etc.), none of them affect the authority of Scripture.

The History of Young Earth Creationism

While it is important to note that 7-day creationism was a view that some theologians had before the 20th century, it has not been, by any stretch, the dominant view. Ellen White, a Seventh Day Adventist in the 19th century, has been considered by many to have developed modern Young Earth Creationism. Later, Henry Morris and John Whitcomb wrote The Genesis Flood as a way to explain the fossil record. In 1925, we had the Scopes trial. Combine these three events together, and you have modern day Young Earth Creationism. Origen, John Calvin, Charles Spurgeon, and many others saw the Genesis account of creation as having a very poetic nature to it and did not see the creation of the world as being bound by seven literal 24-hour days.

The problem is that Ken Ham and many others today have made a literal interpretation of Scripture as being the only way to properly understand the Bible as the authority of God. This is not true. In fact, in some ways, this it is the opposite. True authority comes from God, who inspired certain men to write the biblical texts, which are communicated through a specific cultural context. If we are to take the authority of Scripture seriously, we have to understand what exactly the author of any given text is saying. To just assume post-Enlightenment literalism does a disservice to Scripture. Literalism is a hermeneutic, just like any other, and it has to be defended on the same grounds.

Galileo Galilei

 

Not only did Galileo provide sufficient evidence for a heliocentric solar system, but he also set a precedent for a particular kind of hermeneutic. It was widely accepted, without question, that the heavenly bodies did revolve around the earth, and the earth was fixed and could not be moved (Psalm 93:1; 1 Chronicles 16:30). It would not be seen as very sophisticated in this day and age to make a claim that these verses are literal, scientific texts that ought to overpower our basic understanding of astronomy. Galileo was vehemently accused of heresy in the Catholic church, but he stuck to what he believed is right, and now we have a proper understanding of the astronomy of our own solar system. “The Bible teaches us how to go to heaven, not how the heavens go.” We should listen to Scripture on the basis of how we are to be reconciled with Christ, not what the material world has to teach us.

Charles Darwin

 

Darwin was no Christian, but he did not see his theory and Christianity as being in conflict. He had many friends who were Christians, and none of them saw evolutionary theory as a threat to their faith. Darwin developed his theory based off of his own observations. It had nothing to do with his lack of belief in God. Asa Gray, a friend of Darwin’s who was a Christian, wrote him after he developed his theory and said that it actually helped him make better sense of his theology. Charles Kingsley, another theologian who was acquainted with Darwin, wrote “We knew of old that God was so wise that he could make all things; but, behold, He is so much wiser than even that, that he can make all things make themselves.” Charles Spurgeon, one of the most popular pastors of the 19th century, said in a sermon once that the notion of millions of years should not be a threat to biblical theology. YEC pastors and theologians were not widely known in the 19th century, and Darwin was seen as giving a rational method that God used to create.

Interpretation

The Bible is a very old book. It is easy to take it literally, and when any given literal statement contradicts objective reality to just assume it is literary or some sort of metaphor. People in the Ancient Near East really did think that the heart, intestines, and other body parts controlled intellect. People really did think hell was actually underneath the earth. People really did think there was a dome above the sky and the stars and other heavenly bodies were carved into it. This is ancient science, and nobody actually accepts it. Just because Ancient Near East writers had a false conception of what the cosmos actually looked like does not diminish the inspired theological truth of the Scriptures. The Bible is not a book to the universal truths of every field of study; it has a very specific message just like any other piece of literature.

The Quest For Truth

Literalism is easy. After all, if God wanted to convey truth to us through His Word, wouldn’t He make it easy to understand? Sadly, it is not that simple. Nobody, and I mean nobody, takes the whole bible literally (at least in the post-Enlightenment sense). Many only take the Bible literally when it doesn’t conflict with common sense or their prior convictions. This is not a consistent hermeneutic, however. Culture plays a huge part in how the Bible was written, and it plays a big part for us when we go about interpreting it. God speaks to cultures. There is not one objective way to speak to a human being, it is done differently depending on the understanding that person has about the nature of reality. In an age of science, where much of the data we acquire in the fields of biology, geology, physics, anthropology, etc. contradicts a literal reading of Scripture, we must be careful to take the Bible for what it is. The Bible is the Word of God, but it does not define every aspect of truth that can be discovered. God created the natural world, so it will not contradict His Word. Science and religion are not in conflict; they both point us toward truth.

Genesis 2-3: Adam and Original Sin

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I wrote a post a while back on Adam and the significance of his character in biblical history. In this post, I want to go a little bit deeper into who Adam is. I was reading a book a while back entitled Four Views on the Historical Adam. To some, a book like this may be crazy. Many may see Adam as a necessary being for the Bible to function properly as a whole. However, I would make the claim otherwise. One of the contributors to this book, Denis Lamoureux, argued for a non-historical Adam. In the book, he makes a very profound statement:

 

“Adam [and Eve] never existed, and this fact has no impact whatsoever on the foundational beliefs of Christianity.”

 

Now, I am unwilling to make this much of a profound statement. Why? Because I am unsure if I agree with the first part of it. Now, let me phrase it how I would:

 

“Adam [and Eve] may have never existed, but regardless of whether they did or not, this has no impact whatsoever on the foundational beliefs of Christianity.”

 

Now, do I think Adam existed? I would argue that the question is completely irrelevant. It’s not a question I’m even willing to answer. The reason why is because the truth of Adam’s function does not hinge on his historicity.

 

In my last post on Genesis 1, I wrote about the purpose of the creation story was not to give an account of material origins, but rather an account of functional origins. Carry that over into Genesis 2. Now, the focus in this chapter is on humanity. God creates man for the purpose of giving him a function. The Hebrew word, “man”, literally means “Adam.” (This just happens to be a strange coincidence that the Hebrew word for “man” is also an english name.) I would propose that Adam is simply a representation of mankind as a whole. The function of Genesis 2 is to give man a purpose on this earth. God created us to thrive on this earth in perfect harmony with his creation, but, as Genesis 3 points out, we messed up and sinned against God. The focus is not a woman eating from a tree because a snake told her to. The focus is on the fact that humankind is sinful and we disobeyed God.

 

Now, I’m often asked how we can reconcile original sin and the human soul with evolutionary history. Again, I don’t feel it’s worth answering. The reason why is because adding evolutionary history into the mix literally does nothing to our understanding of the emergence of the human soul or original sin. Evolution is telling a story. It’s telling a material story of how we arrived here. The narrative in Genesis 2-3 is simply telling us that man is created in the image of God, and that we fell. The difference here is that one is a scientific truth, while the other remains a theological one. Evolutionary history cannot answer questions about God’s image being in human beings. Nor can it tell us about how human beings fell away from God. That is left up to a whole different set of issues.

 

So, in a nutshell, what is Genesis 2-3 trying to tell us? God created man in His image. He gave mankind a set of commands to follow and, as long as man stayed within those commands, they could live in His creation free from the effects of sin. Man sinned against God by breaking these commands and turning our back on Him, we fell away from His grace, and now we are forced to live in a world infected with sin. The purpose of Genesis 2-3 is actually very simple. It is just overcomplicated if you take a scientific approach to it.

Genesis 1

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If I were to ask you what a computer is, what would you say?  For most people, a computer is a machine that you can use to surf the internet, type papers, play games, etc.  Suppose the computer was just a machine, with no purpose at all.  It didn’t work or anything, it was just a useless machine.  Would you call that a computer?  The reason why we call it a computer is because it has a certain function, one that gives a purpose to the machine.  This analogy ties in to the Genesis account of creation.  After the Enlightenment era, a much different way of viewing the world began to rise.  This view consisted of a much more materialistic worldview, and it definitely had an impact on how Scripture was being interpreted.  Biblical literalism started to become a major part of hermeneutics and the original meaning of certain biblical texts was ignored.  In this post, I will not try to answer the question of whether the creation account is “literal”, “metaphorical”, “mythical”, etc.  To do so would be a major oversimplification.  In this post, I will attempt to be answer the question “what does Genesis 1 mean?”

 

First of all, I will emphasize why it is very important to interpret this text properly.  We live in an age of science, and one may find it difficult to reconcile current mainstream scientific ideas with the biblical creation account.  Geology is a major field that has wrecked post-Enlightenment literalism.  There are two ideas that are withheld in the field of biology:  Catastrophism and Uniformitarianism.  Catastrophism is the idea that Noah’s flood created the geologic layers and even the fossil record that we see today.  It wasn’t until about 200 years ago that this was found to be very problematic.  Uniformitarianism quickly replaced catastrophism in the current scientific paradigm.  This is the idea that slow, gradual processes brought about the fossil record and the geologic layers over millions of years.  The main reason why this view has succeeded is because it’s testable.  Catastrophism is based off of radical assumptions that cannot be tested and have no scientific basis to them.  Uniformitarianism, on the other hand, can be tested and the evidence shows very little geomorphological change in the earth around the time of the flood.  This is a huge problem for the catastrophist, and on top of that, Darwinian evolution has dominated the field of biology.  These two factors go directly against post-Enlightenment literalism.  So, how do we interpret the creation account?  The truth is that the language of Genesis 1-11 is unapologetically folklore in its face-value reading.  However, I won’t focus on that too much.  I’ll start by discussing Genesis 1.

 

Verse 1

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

I have often been accused of claiming that this verse is true, but the other parts of the Genesis account are mythical.  At best, that is a perversion of the text and in no way do I advocate it.  Context is everything and, like I said before, Genesis is an account of functional ontology rather than material.  That being said, the word “beginning” is translated in Hebrew as bara.  This is giving the creation account a function from the very beginning.  It is used in the context simply to give a functional beginning for the rest of the creation account.

 

Verse 2

Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.

 

In Hebrew, “formless” means tohu and “empty” means bohu.  Again, both of these words mean simply something that is “unproductive.”  This is giving function to the text.  What’s interesting is Genesis 1 is the only text in the Bible where the words “formless” and “empty” are used in the context of not being material properties.  It is important to note that in this context, these words do not mean something that lacks material, rather it simply means that nothing was happening.

 

Day 1:  Verses 3-5

“And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.  God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness.  God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the first day.”

The ancients didn’t really have a clear concept of what “light” was.  This is important because it helps us to understand what the ancient function of light was.  Now, look at verse 5.  Notice how God calls the light “day.”  This is interesting, because the Hebrews had two distinct words for “day” and “light.”  So why not use them?  What the writer of Genesis was doing was using a rhetorical device called “metonymy.”  The Hebrews would have understood the text as a “period of light” as opposed to just “light.”  Essentially, it would make more sense for the text to say “God called the period of light “day,” and the period of darkness He called “night.”  This makes more sense because it takes care of the “light being day” issue and it gives a condition to “light,” which is how the Hebrews would have better understood it.  Not only that, but many people wonder why God would have created light before the sun.  If “light” is established as a period of time, as opposed to a material object, there is no contradiction between God creating light before the sun.  It just makes more sense.

 

Day 2:  Verses 6-8

And God said, “Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water.”  So God made the vault and separated the water under the vault from the water above it. And it was so.  God called the vault “sky.” And there was evening, and there was morning—the second day.

Many people thought that the modern science of evolutionary theory and the age of the earth contradicted the literal reading of Genesis 1.  This is true, but so should this.  The ancient hebrews thought there was a vault, or firmament (a solid dome) in the sky that held up the waters above the earth.  This is drastically problematic for the biblical literalist, because nobody believes this.  Man has traveled to the moon and our technology has gone even further.  To put it simply; the firmament does not exist.  However, the ancients thought it did.  This was part of their model of the universe, one that is 3-tier.

 

Day 3:  Verses 9-13

And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.”  And it was so.  God called the dry ground “land,” and the gathered waters he called “seas.”  And God saw that it was good.  Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.”  And it was so. The land produced vegetation: plants bearing seed according to their kinds and trees bearing fruit with seed in it according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.  And there was evening, and there was morning—the third day.

What’s interesting about day 3 is that it does not describe God actually creating anything.  He gives the land responsibility to produce vegetation.  This clearly shows function over anything else, because God is establishing a creative order for how plants and vegetation are supposed to work.  It is not a material creation, it is a functional description.

 

Day 4:  Verses 14-19

And God said, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years,  and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.” And it was so.  God made two great lights—the greater light to govern the day and the lesser light to govern the night. He also made the stars.  God set them in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth,  to govern the day and the night, and to separate light from darkness. And God saw that it was good.  And there was evening, and there was morning—the fourth day.

Again, more problems with the firmament.  The ancients thought that the stars and other celestial bodies were in the firmament, but, as we now know, the firmament does not exist.  The function focuses on the terminology of the “greater light” and the “lesser light” established times.  This is not God “creating,” but “establishing.”

 

Day 5:  Verses 20-23

And God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the vault of the sky.”  So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living thing with which the water teems and that moves about in it, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.  God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the water in the seas, and let the birds increase on the earth.”  And there was evening, and there was morning—the fifth day.

Fairly simple.  The function here is to establish the roles of living creatures, and one of their primary functions is to reproduce.

 

Day 6:  Verses 24-31

And God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: the livestock, the creatures that move along the ground, and the wild animals, each according to its kind.” And it was so.  God made the wild animals according to their kinds, the livestock according to their kinds, and all the creatures that move along the ground according to their kinds. And God saw that it was good.

 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals,[a] and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

 So God created mankind in his own image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
 God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

 Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.  And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.” And it was so.

 God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.

Again, establishing more function for creatures.  God then proceeds to instill His Image within mankind.  This is the most important functional aspect of the creation account because it establishes man’s role, which is the most important thing God has created.

 

This was just a simple overview of Genesis 1.  For the next post in this series, be watching Ryan Ellington’s blog = ryanwaitforitellington.wordpress.com

New Blog Series: A Deeper Meaning of Creation

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“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” If you have grown up in an evangelical church, you have more than likely heard this verse many times. This is the very first verse of the Bible and the starting point for the book of Genesis. However, I would argue that the opening chapters of Genesis argue a much more profound and creative view of our creation than what is commonly believed in our post-Enlightenment Christian world. In this series, my friend Ryan Ellington and I will tackle some of the most difficult literature in the Bible, Genesis 1-11. This will be in in depth study of the purpose and the meaning of God’s creative order. Some of it will make the average reader uncomfortable, but I encourage all to bear with me through it as we explore the oldest and some of the most interesting literature in God’s Word.

 

Check out Ryan’s blog at ryanwaitforitellington.wordpress.com

Genesis, The Problem of Adam, and the Function of Humanity

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Imagine just for a moment a restaurant being constructed from the ground up.  There would be many cycles that the restaurant would have to go through in order to become a fully formed building.  But, the question arises of when the restaurant actually becomes a “restaurant.”  Is it when the building is finished?  Is it when the sign is put up of the name of the restaurant?  No.  If these two things are true, then it is just a building with a name, not a restaurant.  It becomes a restaurant when a staff is hired, when a menu is made, and when food is served.  This gives the building a function, which then makes it a restaurant.  This is just a simple illustration of how the beginning account of Genesis works.  The purpose of the first few chapters is to give the world and humanity a functional, not a material scientific account of origins.  So, as I have described in my previous posts, the beginning of the Bible does not give us any indication over the age of the earth and how life arose.  The method to figuring those things out is not biblical, but scientific and historical.

 

So, moving on past the creation account, I want to investigate a character who has played a vital role in the Scriptures, Adam.  Now, I often feel as if we miss the point of who Adam is and what his role is.  First of all, the name “Adam” literally means “man” or “humanity.”  Many assume that Adam was the very first person who God created.  Now, we know that from research in fields such as archaeology and ancient DNA that Adam was most certainly not the very first person.  However, he is the first person that is mentioned in the Bible.  Adam is also by far the oldest character in the Bible, and there is a lot of mystery behind his existence.  So, a question arises as to whether Adam was even a real historical character or not.  But more importantly, does it matter if he was a real person or not?  I am not going to answer his historical validity because there is much debate over it, and I am reluctant to even take a stance on it.  My main concern is what Adam’s function is, and that is the real issue.  Adam plays a central role in the first three chapters of Genesis.  But, as I said above, the intention of Genesis is functional, not material.

 

So, what is Adam’s function?  First of all, whether a historical figure or a representation of humanity as a whole, Adam is given the role of living in harmony on the land, in God’s presence, and is told not to turn his back on God.  The biblical story is of him and his wife, Eve, who are living in the Garden of Eden exactly where God placed them.  They are told not to do one thing, and that is eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  God tells them that the day that they do this they will surely die (emphasis on the “spiritual” death).  Now, of course Eve eats the fruit after the devil in the form of a serpent tells her to, but something I notice is that God blames Adam for this event.  Why?  Because Adam was not doing his job by taking care of his wife.  The first sin, from a literal standpoint, is not Eve eating the fruit, but Adam not doing his job as a husband.  Now, to me this event points to something beyond the text, and that is that God did not just want them to stay away from the fruit, but there are many other things that he did not want us to do, also.  But, if this is true, why so much emphasis on the tree?  Again, I don’t take a full on stance on all of this, but whether Adam, Eve, the serpent, and even the tree are real or not, it doesn’t at all change the function of this story.  God gave humanity the role of following him, and we screwed that up by turning our backs on him.  Adam doesn’t matter, humanity matters.  We are fallen, sinful creatures not because Adam is real, not because there was a talking snake, and not because of a literal tree with evil fruit, but because WE turned away from God as a whole.  This is the true function of the beginning stories of Genesis.  In a way, we are all a part of Adam, for he is the representation of a man who brought sin into the world, and we are keeping this cycle going by doing the same exact thing as he did.  This is the real problem of Adam.  Not that he screwed up and sinned, but that HUMANITY screwed up and sinned.  God gave us a function, and we failed to use it properly, and now we have to pay the deadly consequences.  People often accuse Adam of bringing sin into the world and messing it up for the rest of us, and these people are missing the point.  Adam, being a real person or not, is a symbol of who we are as a human race:  weak, fallen, and in need of a savior.

 

However, God gave us a new function.  When Jesus came down to die for our sins, He gave His life for us and became apart of our messed up function in order that we gain a new function, and that is to accept his perfect gift of eternal salvation.  And that is the true function of humanity.

Deceptive Appearances

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Recently I’ve been doing some studying on what exactly God’s creation says about His character.  When talking about issues such as the age of the earth, we have to take something into consideration.  Did God create the earth with the appearance of age?  If He did, what does this say about Him?

I personally am unsettled with the appearance of age theory for many reasons.  I feel as if it makes God out to be a deceiver.  It prevents scientists and historians from doing their work in the field.  I grew up believing that this theory was valid, but a trip to Utah a couple years ago, seeing all of the arches and the canyons that were apart of God’s creation, caused me to rethink this view.  Thinking that all of this was created as some part of deceptive masterpiece just doesn’t seem right anymore.

 

And it isn’t.

 

One example of God doing this “appearance of age” miracle is in John 2, when Jesus turns water into wine, but he creates the wine with age.  This was done for a specific purpose, and that was to create the best kind of wine for the people.  However, what does it say about God when He creates the universe with the appearance of age?  Essentially, if the universe appears as having an age of around 14 billion years old, yet you claim that it is only 6,000 years old, you are basically saying that the mass majority of history is completely made up.  This makes God out to be a cosmological trickster, and even more than that, a deceiver.  But why is this different than the wine?

 

Jesus clearly had a purpose in doing what He did with the wine.  However, why would he need to create a world that was 6,000 years old with the appearance of several billion years of history?  Here’s how I like to view the situation.  We find out the validity of the Bible, God’s Holy Book, through historical findings.  Now, we have to start with the presupposition that history is not made up or flawed by a celestial charlatan, otherwise we have no reason to assume that anything we find about the accuracy of the Bible is true.  So, once we discover the accuracy of the Bible, should we believe that all the history before that was fake?  If that’s true, then we have good reason to believe, at least on moral grounds, that God created the world at any point in time with the appearance of age, even with biblical history in it.  Therefore, the Bible wouldn’t be an accurate book.  This would be just one of few huge problems with the appearance of age argument.  

 

Another big thing is the distant starlight problem.  If you believe that God created the light in transit, then you are saying that every star that you see in space past the 6,000 light year mark is a complete illusion.  If you see a star explode that is three million light years away, everything you saw before that explosion isn’t even real.

 

So, the appearance of age theory presents many problems not just on scientific grounds, but also on theological grounds.

 

 

 

“Speak to the earth and it shall teach thee…”

Job 12:8

Evolution, Design, and Christianity

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There is a lot to take into consideration when discussing the origin of life and how the great diversity of life came about on earth.  This question has been around forever but has not been greatly challenged until that last 200 years or so.  The fact of the matter is that Charles Darwin revolutionized the way that we view life and the way that it changes over time.  Many people assume that the famous theologians rejected and fought against Darwin’s theory as soon as it came out.  This is not true, however.  Most of them were open to it or even embraced it.  So, when discussing scientific matters like this, the question arises of whether intelligent design should be considered a viable scientific option.

 

Growing up in a Southern Baptist Church, I was often taught that evolution and believing in an ancient earth was detrimental to the Christian faith and should not be given any credit.  I was told that the fossil record is the number one thing that can prove evolutionary theory, and that it was flawed and should not be taken into consideration.  I accepted this view without much consideration until my senior year in high school.  Discovering just exactly what evolution was and why the church’s concept of it was completely distorted forced me to reconsider my options on this issue.  Struggling through it was a difficult process for my spiritual life, but I soon discovered that Christianity was not in conflict with evolution.  What we need to do is separate science from philosophy.

 

There is one central reason why evolution will not go away. Francis Collins and his team mapped out the entire human genome and the evidence that we share common ancestry with all of life on earth is so clear that any sophisticated scientist cannot deny it.  We actually know more about how evolution works than gravity, and denying evolution would be like denying any other part of history.  However, another reason it won’t go away is because it is the only scientific paradigm that has succeeded.  If you want to get rid of a model, you can’t tear it down, you have to build another one to take its place.  This is something that the intelligent design community has not done.  They have presented no data to counteract evolution in any way.  Sure, they have found problems with evolution, but no data to replace it.  And why is this?  BECAUSE THERE IS NO DATA FOR INTELLIGENT DESIGN!  When discussing issues like God, you cannot use scientific observation to show any evidence.  Like I said in one of my previous posts, you have to ask the right questions, and scientific questions do not pertain to God.  Creationism is not a science it’s a philosophy.  I really hate it when people throw the argument around as “Creation vs. Evolution” because I would consider myself to withhold both positions.  I believe that God used evolution to create.  This is not a difficult thing for me to believe because God’s mechanism of creating has nothing to do with the relationship I have with him.  The “evolution” side explains the science, and the “creation” side explains the philosophy that backs it up.  The two are not in conflict, they compliment each other.  If you have just evolution, or just creation, you are going to be left with a lot of empty answers in either the scientific realm or the philosophical realm.  I am not an expert on evolutionary theory, but I feel as if the church does not accept this view, it could be headed for a crisis.

 

It honestly pains me to see people who grow up in an environment where they are taught that evolution is wrong and the earth is extremely young and they get into high school or college and find out that the evidence for the contrary is overwhelming.  Their first instinct is to do one thing, abandon the Bible.  This is a tragedy because it is proof that many Christians are not willing to allow their faith to “evolve” and move forward, as opposed to being stuck in the past.  The reality is there are still some people who genuinely believe that the earth is flat and that the sun revolves around it.  Why?  Because they cannot accept the evidence and move forward.  This is hindering the progress of Christianity, and the lack of acceptance of evolution will do the same.

 

Lastly I want to emphasize the proper reading of Genesis.  The creation story is one of the biggest victims of biblical literalism.  Trying to read it as a literal material account of origins is completely missing the point.  Genesis is an account of functional origins, not material.  The six days and other details of materiality have no relevance at all to what people thought about the origins of life.  We have to take Genesis for what it is, and that is an ancient document.  I am not saying that evolution fits into the Bible, I am saying that it has absolutely nothing to do with the Bible, just like the Bible has absolutely nothing to do with material origins.

 

Science cannot tell theology how to construct a doctrine of creation, but you can’t construct a doctrine of creation without taking account of the age of the universe and the evolutionary character of cosmic history.

~John Polkinghorne

Was the Genesis Flood Global or Local?

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The flood account in Genesis is a very interesting thing to discuss because, even among most evangelical Christians, there is a debate as to whether it was a global or local flood.  The traditional belief in the church is that the flood was a completely global and it covered the entire earth and consumed everything in it.  I know I have shared some of my views on the book of Genesis in past blog posts, so I want to start off by saying that I do believe that the flood was a real historical event.  This was probably one of, if not the biggest floods in all of history.  Let’s dive into the biblical part first.

 

First of all, I am concerned for the authority of Scripture, however I am even more concerned for the interpretation of Scripture, for without proper interpretation you cannot have proper authority.  If you read Genesis and take it at face value, you get the idea the the flood covered the whole earth.  However, like I have said before, we cannot integrate modern science with the Bible.  This is called concordism and it is not a proper way to go about reading the Bible.  Today, we view everything from a global perspective.  However, back when this book was written the people did not view things from a global perspective.  Nobody had any idea just how big the earth really is, nor the shape of it or anything else.  The english translation of the Bible says “all the earth” which, in Hebrew is translated into “kol erets.”  “Kol” means “all,” and “erets” means “earth,” “ground,” “land,” or “country.”  In almost every single instance in the Old Testament, kol erets is used to describe just one particular area of land.  Also, when talking about this issue, using the phrase “whole earth” is often referring to just the people of the earth, in this specific area of land.

 

A good question to ask is, “how could the text have referred to a global flood?”  Well, there is a Hebrew word, “tebel.”  This word is found 37 times in the Old Testament, and it is NEVER used to describe any part of the flood.  Proper interpretations shows nothing about the earth ever being completely flooded with water.

 

There are also way too many scientific problems with a global flood.  Animals such as sloths and penguins would not have been able to travel over land.  Animals like anthropods can’t survive in less than 100% humidity.  These are just a couple of examples of animals being able to travel by ark.  Also, increasing the quantity of animals by more than 5% would overload the ark.

 

Other problems would be the ages of the mountains.  The flood wouldn’t have covered the highest mountains, and all of them date back to several million years ago, which is what the rest of the earth dates back to.  Also, a global flood would have left traces of sea floors all over the earth, and such a thing does not exist.  Finally, the geologic column would be all mixed up, and it is in the perfect order that we would expect it to be in.  These are just a few of many scientific problems with a global flood.

 

The Genesis Flood was one of the biggest in all of history, however it did not cover the entire planet.  God didn’t flood the entire earth, because that would have been too much damage and He simply didn’t need to flood the whole thing to get His point across.