Friday, August 28, 2015

Answering the 10 Theological Questions No Young-earth Creationist Can Answer: Conclusion

9. Why is incest wrong?

An extremely common criticism leveled at the Bible is the rhetorical question, “Where did Cain get his wife?” The point being that if only Adam & Eve were created, and they only had Cain and Able, then how could Cain have found the wife mentioned in Genesis 4:17?

This question has always stumped me. Not in the sense that I can't answer it but rather why do people even ask it. I've sometimes answered this with a short analogy: I've heard various statistics but one source says that if you start with a single pair of rabbits, you could end up with over 50,000 rabbits at the end of three years! Do you understand how that works? The first pair has babies, then the babies have babies, and so on. It's not rocket science. Well, that same principle works with people – albeit not quite as fast.

The Bible names three children of Adam & Eve. They are Cain, Able, and Seth. However, the Bible is clear that Adam had other, “sons and daughters” (Genesis 5:4). So, in case you still haven't figured it out, Adam & Eve had babies, then their babies had babies with each other. That's how it worked and it was how God intended it.

As people start to think about this, a queasy feeling of taboo starts to set in. If their babies had babies with each other, isn't that incest? If it occurred today, that's how we'd describe it but obviously it wasn't seen the same way then. In his article, Francke describes incest as, weird and disturbing and more than a little icky.” I believe his view (which I share, by the way) is the product of our Western culture. What we might consider gross, other cultures have embraced. Marrying close relatives – such as sisters, cousins, and nieces – has been practiced around the world for millenia.

Why, then, is incest wrong? It's wrong precisely because the Bible has declared it to be wrong. When God gave the Law to Moses, this thing which had been practiced for thousands of years was commanded to cease. Next you might ask why a practice that God intended, He now would say to stop? I won't pretend that I know exactly why but I do know that God is not arbitrary. I suspect it probably is a matter of health.

In the first few generations after Adam and Eve, marrying a close relative was unavoidable. Many generations later, by the time of Moses, there were enough people in the world that it was no longer necessary to marry anyone closely related to you. Furthermore, the genetic burden each successive generation inherited became worse and worse and marrying a close relative now carried a greater risk of defects in the offspring of incestuous couples. When God gave the Law to Moses, He commanded the practice to cease.

Something similar has happened concerning our diets. When God created Adam and Eve, He told them they could eat any green thing. After the Flood, God told Noah he could also eat meat (likely because the world was not as lush as before the Flood). But when God gave the Law to Moses, it included strict prohibitions against eating certain foods. We have, then, another example of something originally allowed but later commanded to end. So what point is proved by Francke asking this question? Absolutely nothing.

10. And finally, if it is so vitally important that Christians take Genesis literally, why did Jesus never once instruct us to take Genesis literally?

I've always thought it a weak argument to build upon points Jesus didn't make. If it's important that we wash our hands after we sneeze, why didn't Jesus ever tell us to do that?! If it's so important to eat vegetables, why didn't Jesus ever tell us to do that?! It should be obvious that these things are important so the fact that Jesus didn't instruct us about them doesn't prove they're not important. I guess I shouldn't say I've never used a “negative argument” but I still say it's the weaker route.

Now, I don't know everything Jesus said – I only know what is recorded in the Bible. I do know we have no record of Jesus ever having said, “Truly I say to you, you shall read Genesis literally.” Such a statement makes little sense, anyway. I generally do not take things “literally” but I take them in the sense they are intended. Can you imagine having conversations where every word is meant to be literal? How would we interpret expressions like, “scared to death” or “my wife's going to kill me”? So Jesus instructing us to take Genesis “literally” would have probably created more problems than it would solve. Taking the Bible “literally” is a straw man caricature made by critics of conservative Christians.

Instead of looking at what Jesus didn't do, let's look at what He did do. We know that time after time, when confronted by His critics (chiefly, the Pharisees), He often responded with, “Haven't you read...” and would then cite some Old Testament passage applicable to the situation. In those situations, rather than offering some “figurative meaning” of the text, He always relied on the obvious meaning of the passage to make His point.

At the end of the day, though, Jesus did often quote from Genesis. Perhaps His most relevant comment on the subject is found in Mark 10:6-8 where Jesus refers to both Genesis 1 and Genesis 2 in the same comment. He certainly seemed to be referring to Adam & Eve as real people. In Matthew 23:35, Jesus refers to a history of martyrdom beginning with Abel and ending with Zacharias (the latter apparently recently murdered by the Pharisees). In Luke 17:27, He compared the suddenness of His next coming to the Flood of Noah. In all of these cases, and others I could cite, He names these people as though they are real characters in History. How ridiculous would it be to talk about Abel (a fictional character) in the same context as Zacharias (a real person known to the Pharisees) or to compare the Flood of Noah (a fictional event) to the Second Coming (a literal event)?

Perhaps I should turn the question around on Francke. I believe Jesus treated Genesis as real history. If Genesis were not meant to literal, why didn't Jesus instruct us to interpret it figuratively? That “what Jesus didn't do” argument works both ways. The difference is that the Bible repeatedly shows Jesus treating people and events from Genesis as “literal” and never as “figurative.” By continuously referring to the things as history, I believe Jesus was indeed instructing us on the correct way to read Genesis.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Answering the 10 Theological Questions That No Young-earth Creationist Can Answer: Part 4

7. Can you name any other piece of literature in which the existence of a talking snake and trees with magical powers would suggest to you that it was meant to be taken literally?

I've always been a little confused about the “talking snake” caricature people use to describe the Serpent in Genesis 3. Most people understand this is Satan, right? I mean, it wasn't just a garden variety snake talking to Eve – it was Lucifer. I'm not even sure he was in the form of a snake; he is merely being called a “serpent.” He is similarly described in Revelation 12:9, where he is again called that old “serpent”:

And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.”

I'm entirely aware that most artistic renderings of Eve and the Serpent show a snake in a tree so maybe I'm at odds with many Christians. I just don't believe Satan appeared to Eve in the form of a “talking snake.”

Let's put all that aside for a moment. The question was, are there any other examples where talking animals are meant to be believed as real. Of course there are. In Norse mythology, Fenrir, the wolf, could talk. In Greek mythology, Arion, was a talking horse. In Hindu tradition, there was a man named, Kindama, who could assume animal form. There are also myriad examples of satyrs, fawns, and other woodland creatures which possessed varying degrees of human attributes but it always included speech. Of course, we know now that all of these creatures were mythical but they were believed to be real.

I'm sure the author was aware of these other examples because he says he, “just completed a survey of 6,842 stories that feature talking animals.” He follows up his point by saying, “none of them were history,” which, I believe, makes his point entirely non sequitur. What exactly is proved by his point? Is it that because Aesop wrote about talking animals, there can't really be talking animals? One doesn't necessarily follow the other. I could similarly say that Jesus didn't really turn water into wine because similar, miraculous feats (like King Midas turning anything he touched into gold) are all mythical. You can see how that doesn't really work.

Francke's entire premise in asking this question is a sort of argument of incredulity. He's trying to say that since these things might sound far fetched, they can't be true. I wonder if he would try the same thing with other “incredible” accounts from the Bible – like the Resurrection?

8. Why do Genesis 1 and 2 contradict?

The short answer is that Genesis 1 and 2 don't contradict each other. They are talking about different things. Genesis 1 describes the creation of the universe in six days and God's rest on the 7th day. This initial chronology – described in the King James as, “the generations of the heavens and the earth” - ends at Genesis 2:4. Genesis 2:5 begins an elaborate description of the creation of Adam and the Garden which occurred on day 6.

Now in Francke's defense, a lot of Christians don't get this – even some young-earth creationists. Why? I believe the passage if extremely clear. In fact, I cannot see how anybody doesn't get it. Yet, the confusion persists. It's very curious. I have a theory about why people miss what should be obvious. I believe the confusion exists precisely because people like Francke and other, old-earth Christians write commentaries that seek to “reconcile Genesis with science.” Worse yet, some theistic evolutionists, like Francke, probably understand the difference and intentionally hype the alleged contradictions in order to bolster their claim that the entire creation account is allegory.

In his criticism, Francke links to a article that explains the seeming contradiction between Genesis 1 and 2. In that article, we find this quote:

It should be evident that chapter 2 is not just ‘another’ account of creation because chapter 2 says nothing about the creation of the heavens and the earth, the atmosphere, the seas, the land, the sun, the stars, the moon, the sea creatures, etc. Chapter 2 mentions only things directly relevant to the creation of Adam and Eve and their life in the garden God prepared specially for them.”

Francke has either not read the article to which he linked, has read it but doesn't understand it, or has read it but thinks that what calls, “evident,” isn't really that evident. Of course, there is still the other possibility that he understands perfect well but is just flat out lying and continues to claim the chapters are contradictory in order to make a literal interpretation seem impossible.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Answering the 10 Theological Questions That No Young-earth Creationist Can Answer: Part 3

5. How did Adam and Eve know what death was?

The critic's point in asking this question is that Adam and Eve could not have known what God meant by saying, “Ye will surely die” unless they had already seen something die. There are at least a couple of things we have to consider.

When God created Adam, Adam already understood a language. For example, Adam must have already understood the abstract concept of “not” doing something otherwise, how did he know what “not” meant (as in, “Do not eat...”)? So just like Adam could immediately understand what “not” means, he probably could understand – at least in concept – that “dying” means “not living.”

It is also likely that Adam and Eve didn't entirely appreciate everything about dying. It could be like me explaining to a 5 year old not to touch an electrical wire or he would get “shocked.” He might not entirely understand what it's like to be shocked, but just from my tone and the urgency of my warning, he could understand that being “shocked” is a bad thing that results from touching electrical wires.

From just these few facts, it seems Adam would have easily understood that to die meant “not live” and that it was a bad thing.

But what if we applied this same question to Francke's theology? If “dying” in Genesis only meant “dying spiritually,” then how could Adam know what it meant to die spiritually unless he'd already experienced it or observed it? So even from Francke's point of view, Adam must have only understood “dying” in concept and not necessarily from experience.

But here's a tangent thought: didn't Francke just talk about the Tree of Life and say that eating from it would give eternal physical life? So when God put Adam and Eve out of the Garden, it was precisely so that they would die physically. Adam, then, would have necessarily understood that God's warning involved his physical death (in addition to his spiritual separation from God). This undermines Francke's entire point that physical death had nothing to do with the Curse.

6. If the punishment for from the tree was that Adam and Eve would physically die … why didn’t they physically die?

We know that Adam and Eve did die – physically – once they ate of the Forbidden Fruit. Francke's point, however, is that they didn't die, “in the day” that they ate it as God had warned (Genesis 2:17). However, Francke doesn't really explain why this is a problem for creationism; I guess he's trying to say that since they didn't die on the very same day they ate, that proves “day” doesn't necessarily mean “a 24-hour period.” Francke even paints a strawman caricature of creationism by saying some creationists, “assert that, in this very special case, maybe the word “day” does refer to a long, indeterminate period of time.

The word “day” obviously can mean an undetermined period. We've never been coy about this. I might say, for example, “Back in my day, everyone had to walk to school.” The meaning of the word “day” (or any word, really) is always determined by its context. What if I instead said, “One day, I had to walk to school”? The use of the modifier, “one,” suddenly narrows the meaning from an indeterminate amount of time to a specific day. Therefor, in Genesis, we should look to context of each use of the word, “day,” to determine its meaning. When the Bible says, “the even and the morning were the first day,” it certainly means a single day. When God said, “in the day ye eat...,” it talks about an unspecified time in the future and means something like, “When you eat of it....” It's not hard really to understand. I would say it requires 5th grade reading comprehension.

So, yes, the word “day” can mean more than one thing. It can mean a long period of time. It can also mean a single, 24-hour day. I believe the problem lies in theistic evolution. Why is it that seemingly bright people suddenly can't read when it comes to Genesis? Exactly how can, “the evening and the morning were the first day,” mean “millions of years”? I ask this in earnest. What literary clues exist in the text that tell us something besides an ordinary day is in view? Just because the word “day” can mean a long period of time, why must it mean that in Genesis 1? Furthermore, how can “day” not mean a single day in Exodus 20:11, which says, For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is.”

Creationists always advocate an ordinary reading of the Bible. No mental gymnastics are necessary. It is Francke, and his cohorts, who jump through hoops and ignore the plain meaning of the words. They go to great lengths to explain why a “day” cannot possibly mean a day.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Answering the 10 Theological Questions That No Young-earth Creationist Can Answer: Part 2

3. If physical death is part of the punishment for sin, why do Christians still die?

It's questions like this that really alarm me about the theology of theistic evolution. What is Francke saying? That physical death has no part in the punishment for sin? If that were true, then why does the Bible say that there is no remission of sin without the shedding of blood (Hebrews 9:22)? Why does Old Testament Law establish a system of sacrifices? Most importantly, why did Christ have to physically die?

We die physically because we are descended from Adam and we have inherited his body of flesh. God has redeemed us but it is not so that we can live an eternity in these clay vessels. The Bible is clear that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor 15:50) so if our spirits are to be delivered, it will not be until we are rid of these cursed bodies. Paul lamented to the Romans, O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? (Romans 7:24). I've written before that I believe God put Adam out of the Garden before he could eat of the Tree of Life precisely so that Adam would not live forever physically in his fallen state. It was an act of mercy and not one of judgment.

Conversely, if sin resulted only in a spiritual death, then why do we die physically? It's not sufficient to simply say, “well, that's just the way it is.” If God used evolution to create, then He would have intended things to die. But why would a loving God create a world where hunger, disease, famine, disaster, violence, and bloodshed are the norm? According to theistic evolution, there have been billions of years of bad, bad, bad, and more bad leading up to God's pronouncement that everything He created was “very good” (Genesis 1:31). The idea that God would use evolution to create us makes no sense theologically and, in my opinion, makes God seem very capricious. It makes far more sense to believe that physical death accompanied sin rather than believe there is no connection.

Certainly there is a spiritual consequence to sin, but there is a physical one as well.

4. Why was Eve named “mother of life”?

Francke's point here is that, if Eve brought death into the world through her sin, then why did Adam name her Eve because she was the “the mother of all life.” Wouldn't, “the mother of death” be more appropriate?

It's a weak point. First, Eve is ultimately the mother of all the human race so it seems fitting to describe her as the mother of all who have lived. Indeed, that is precisely why she was named Eve. God's command to Adam and Eve was that they should multiply and fill the earth. Obviously, Adam had that in mind when he named her, “Eve.”

But Francke seems to gloss over a critical doctrine; God ultimately holds Adam responsible for the Fall. You will note in Genesis 2 that God commanded Adam to not eat of the Tree before Eve was created and warned that when he did, he would die. There's no record that God repeated the command to Eve. As a matter of fact, Eve misquotes the command to the Serpent adding “neither shall ye touch it,” so she is most likely repeating a command given to her by Adam.

Eve's mistake was that she listened to the Serpent. She believed the lie that nothing bad would come from eating the Forbidden Fruit. She admits to God that she was “beguiled” by the Serpent (Genesis 3:13). There is no record of lying or coaxing before Adam ate. His was a deliberate act of disobedience.

When the three stand before God, they each receive a punishment. However, you will see that God prefaces His judgment on Adam by saying, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it....Genesis 3:17.

It was only to Adam that God gave the command to not eat of the Fruit. When Adam and Eve disobeyed, God held Adam accountable and cursed the entire creation for his sake.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Answering the 10 Theological Questions That No Young-earth Creationist Can Answer!

I came across an article online titled, 10 Theological Questions No Young-Earth Creationist Can Answer. In the article, the author, Tyler Francke, tries to build a case that many points in young earth creationism are not supported by the Bible.

Headlines like this have always annoyed me. Besides sounding presumptuous, the “questions” asked have usually been answered many times before. What the authors are trying to do is make their argument seem irrefutable merely by claiming their questions can't be answered. It borders on dishonesty. I would rather they used headlines more like, “10 Questions for Creationists.”

As always, I recommend you click the link and read the article for yourself. The author expounds on each question he asks so if you just read the question by itself, you may not appreciate the full scope of what the author means by asking the question.

As he expounds on each point, Francke anticipates what he thinks are the most probable answers from creationists. This is a rather ordinary tactic of most debaters but I don't think Francke is very successful in overcoming the objections he raises. In some cases, his treatment of the criticism is barely more than ridiculing it. Perhaps he is merely attempting to poison the well by raising the possible answers before his critics can.

The questions in this article are somewhat interesting but they're hardly not answerable. I know I always say I'm going to stop writing series but here I am getting ready to start another. I intend to answer the 10 questions. I'm not going to write 10 posts; instead, I'm going to answer 2-3 answers at a time.

I wonder if, when I'm done, the author will retract his headline? Chuckle.

1. What was the point of the tree of life?

Francke's point in asking this question is that, if God had intended people to not die in the original creation, why would He create the Tree of Life whose purpose seems to be granting immortality to anyone who eats from it? In his own words, why, exactly, did God create a magical tree that grants immortality in a world where every living thing was already immortal?”

First off, I believe we always risk sounding foolish when we begin to ask why God does any certain thing. We simply do not know everything God knows. In asking this question, Francke says the purpose of the Tree of Life is “abundantly clear.” I disagree. If the Tree of Life were pointless in the initial creation where there wasn't any death, then Francke should maybe ask why God also puts the Tree of Life in the new creation (Revelation 22:1-2, 14)? After all, the Bible is perfectly clear there will be no more death (Revelation 21:4) so, according to Francke's logic, God has no reason to put a Tree of Life in the new creation. Yet there it is.

What does seem clear from the text is that the Tree of Life does have a role in a world where there is no death. I admit I'm not completely sure of the purpose of the Tree of Life but, unlike Francke, I will grant that God knows what He's doing.

2. If human sin is the reason animals die, why can’t they be saved?

Let’s recap: young-earth creationists believe all death, even animal death, is a consequence of human sin. Now, ignoring for a moment the fact that the Bible never once actually says animal death is a consequence of human sin

The author dismisses 1 Corinthians 15:21-22, saying it only describes human death. I suspect he would make the same argument about Romans 5:12, even though that verse is a little more compelling. Before I address the animals, I would ask Francke what these verses mean in relation to human death? According to his blog, he believes in a god of evolution which means men have always died. Death was in the world – including death in the supposed homo ancestors – long before there was sin. So while he may claim these verses only describe human death, he doesn't explain exactly how that works in the theistic evolution paradigm.

Of course, we know the Curse wasn't limited to Adam. Genesis 3:17 attests that God cursed even the ground because of Adam's sin. The world would no longer be the paradise He created but that the ground would now bring forth thorns and thistles. Furthermore, Romans 8:22 says, “...the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. So the notion of a very narrow Curse that is limited to death among men but having no change on anything else is contrary to the clear teaching of the Bible.

The crux of the matter, though, is that man is separate from the animals. We alone are created in the image of God and have a spiritual dimension that is not present in animals. The earth and the animals were created to be our dominion and for our service. Christ died to redeem the descendants of Adam; not the animals. So, no. Animals can't be saved.  Don't get me wrong, though. God has a plan for the creation.  He redeemed us by His own blood and He also will restore the creation. 

Animals are described in Genesis 1 as “living” (nephesh) in the same way people have life. Since there was no death in the initial creation, neither would animals have died. Indeed, prior to the Fall, animals were not carnivorous. Genesis 1:30 says,  

And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so.

When the curse has ended, so will death among animals end. Isaiah 11:6 is habitually misquoted as, “The lion shall lay down with the lamb.” The verse actually says,

The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them.”

When death began among men, it also began among the animals. When death has ended among men, so will it end among the animals.  The fate of the creation turns upon man's relationship with God. There is no separate salvation for animals.