Friday, February 10, 2006

Re: would ... you assist me, as a fellow Christian, in understanding your views on creation further?

AN (copy to my blog CED minus your personal identifying information and minor changes)

----- Original Message -----
From: AN
To: Stephen E. Jones
Sent: Friday, February 10, 2006 1:29 AM
Subject: creation model

AN>Hi there,
>I'm aware that you asked me not to ask you another question (although I'm not certain why?) but if you have time I would please ask that you assist me, as a fellow Christian, in understanding your views on creation further?

I explained why I asked you not to send me any more private messages - I simply don't have the time to respond to them:

--------------------------------------------------------------------------- ---
----- Original Message -----
From: Stephen E. Jones
To: AN
Sent: Tuesday, September 20, 2005 9:43 PM
Subject: Re: questions about morton (sorry for the double)


I hope the above will help. However, if it doesn't, then there is nothing more that I can say. As I have said to you before, I don't have the time to respond to such private messages, so please don't send me any more. Thanks.


I am writing a book, "Problems of Evolution", which, together with posting to my blog, takes up most of my free time.

AN>Maybe I've been too impersonal in the past so I'll give you a bit of background info. Basically I was raised in a non-practicing home. No one was an unbeliever that I was aware of, but yet when I came of age and started asking questions, nobody seemed to know anything and our Scriptural knowledge was abysmal. I've always been the questioning sort, so of course when time came I was nonstop in my search. I still don't know if this is a blessing or a curse.

Also, I cannot remember if it was you I said it to, but my advice is to not get fixated with Genesis, but start with the New Testament (which has a lot to say about creation). See my blog posts: "Ages of the patriarchs in Genesis 5 and 11" and "I am a Christian but am in a muddle over beliefs regarding origins".

In the end, there are basically three approaches in reconciling Genesis 1 with modern science:

1) Accept Genesis 1 literally and reject science (e.g. Young-Earth Creation);
2) Accept science and reject Genesis 1 (e.g. Liberal Christianity, non-Christianity); or
3) Accept both science and Genesis 1 non-literally (e.g. Old Earth Creation).

The choice is ours.

Even the atheist Darwinist philosopher Michael Ruse, in reviewing his fellow atheist Richard Dawkins' book, "A Devil's Chaplain" (2003), notes that "at least since the time of Saint Augustine (400 A.D.) Christians have been interpreting the seven days of creation metaphorically", so that is no excuse for Dawkins to reject Christianity because "Darwinism conflicts with the Book of Genesis taken literally":

"Also, I myself share just about every bit of Dawkins's nonbelief. ... However, I worry about the political consequences of Dawkins's message. If Darwinism is a major contributor to nonbelief, then should Darwinism be taught in publicly funded U.S. schools? ... It is true that Darwinism conflicts with the Book of Genesis taken literally, but at least since the time of Saint Augustine (400 A.D.) Christians have been interpreting the seven days of creation metaphorically. I would like to see Dawkins take Christianity as seriously as he undoubtedly expects Christianity to take Darwinism. I would also like to see him spell out fully the arguments as to the incompatibility of science (Darwinism especially) and religion (Christianity especially). So long as his understanding of Christianity remains at the sophomoric level, Dawkins does not deserve full attention." (Ruse M.E., "Through a Glass, Darkly." Review of "A Devil's Chaplain: Reflections on Hope, Lies, Science, and Love," by Richard Dawkins, Houghton Mifflin, 2003)

AN>You told me a long while back when I'd asked you about day 4, that you take G-1 as being broadly consecutive but into a framework also and this seems fair although I'm not 100% in understanding of that. Anyway my question is this if you have time or inclination:

I suggest you do what I did and read some good books on the topic, e.g. Blocher's "In the Beginning: The Opening Chapters of Genesis." There is also on line "Report of the Creation Study Committee" of the Presbyterian Church of America which considers the various Christian approaches to Genesis 1.

AN>How do we reconcile (regardless of view held) the statements in G-1 where it says the ocean existed prior to sky (1:2 vs day 2) when we know from modern findings that the early earth was hot and oceanless and oceans formed only after sky?

Quite clearly "sky" is not a scientific description, so I assume that God (the ultimate Author of both nature and Scripture) is telling us something right there! The leading evangelical theologian J.I. Packer makes a similar point:

"There are four opinions, basically, about the seven days. The first is the literalist hypothesis which maintains that what we are reading about is twenty-four-hour days by our clocks; what we are being told in Genesis 1 is that the whole world came to be formed within what we would recognize as a working week. The hypothesis assumes that what we have in Genesis is descriptive prose, of newspaper type. The second view is that each of the days of the creation is an allegorical figure. What each of the references to the evening and the morning represent is a geological epoch, a very, very long period of time, hundreds of thousands of years at least. There has been much effort in this century by those who have understood the days this way to try and show that the order of things in Genesis 1 corresponds to the best scientific account that can be given of how specific items emerged and took their place in the order of the world. A witty Roman Catholic writer described this method of understanding as an attempt to raise Moses' credit by giving him a B.Sc. Those who take this 'concordist' view, as it is called, assume that part of the purpose of Genesis 1 was to give us scientific information about the stages by which things came to be. Third is what is called the revelation day theory, which takes the six evenings and mornings as signifying that creation was revealed in a story with six instalments, each instalment being given to the inspired writer on a separate day. After the first instalment had been given, the writer said there was evening and there was morning. That is a way of saying that God gave him the next bit of the story the next day. Fourth there is the so-called framework view, sometimes called the literary hypothesis. This view says that the six days, evening and morning, are part of what we may call a prose poem, that is a total pictorial presentation of the fact of creation in the form of a story of a week's work. Without going into the details of argument about these different views, let me tell you straightaway that in my judgement this fourth view is the only viable one. Why? Because in this account light appears on the first day while God only makes the sun and the moon and the stars on the fourth day. That fact alone, it seems to me, shows that what we have here is not anything that can be called science, but rather an imaginative pattern of order replacing chaos ..." (Packer J.I., "Honouring the Written Word of God: The Collected Shorter Writings of James I. Packer," Vol. 3, Paternoster Press: Carlisle UK, 1999, p.179)

Mind you, if someone wanted to be concordistic, he could claim that "sky" is equivalent to the atmosphere and then argue (correctly) that on the early Earth the atmosphere came before the ocean!

AN>If you have any illumination here I would be grateful,
>God bless,

I advised a Christian who asked me similar questions (maybe it was you?), that I went through a spiritual/mid-life crisis in the early 1990's and used to walk at night listening to Chuck Swindoll on the radio. One night he said that we all need a mentor, but if we don't have one (as I didn't), then Jesus could be our mentor. I resolved there and then to read through the New Testament only the words of Jesus in my morning quiet time, confessing where I fell short and praying that the Lord would help me to apply his words to my life. It took me ~8 years and it changed my life forever. I recommend you put Genesis 1 aside and do that first, then go back to Genesis ~8 years later. You will then see it (and everything) in its right perspective.

We who claim to be a Christians need to consider Jesus' criticism of the super-religious Pharisees of his day, for having "neglected the more important matters of the law-justice, mercy and faithfulness" (my emphasis):

Matthew 23:23 "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices-mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law-justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former."

Just substitute "spend most of your Bible study time on trying to reconcile Genesis 1 with modern science" for "give a tenth of your spices-mint, dill and cummin" and you will have a fair idea of what Jesus probably thinks of modern Christians who are fixated on Genesis 1 at the expense of the rest of the Bible.

Now I have again given you my advice. So please do not send me any more private messages. I am sorry, but I simply don't have the time to answer them. If you follow my advice, it will largely resolve your problems (and not just with Genesis). But if you don't want to follow my advice, then why ask me for it?

Stephen E. Jones, BSc (Biol).
"Problems of Evolution"

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