Wednesday, July 05, 2006

The firmament

John W. Loftus said:

“ Did you guys even bother to read the links I offered here? You couldn't possibly have read them. Keep spouting off if you want to, but go to those links and read. “

Okay, if we go to the links, what do we find?

i) Regarding Babinski, we do, indeed, discovery something quite revealing.

In his original post, Loftus said the following:

“For an Evangelical scholar who agrees that what the ancients believed about the days of creation and the shape of the cosmos was indeed based on pre-scientific modes of thought, see Genesis by Dr. John H. Walton (NIV Application Commentary, 2002). [See also the Anchor Bible Dictionary entry “Cosmogony, Cosmology”].

Do you notice anything missing from these citations? That’s right—pagination.

If Loftus had actually read Walton’s commentary, and if he was referring the reader to Walton’s commentary, wouldn’t it make sense to give the reader the page number so he will know where to look?

Now, in going to Babinski’s article, lo and behold what we find:

“Seely's research and conclusions were also cited favorably in the The NIV Application Commentary on Genesis (2002) by John Walton, a professor at Wheaton University (Billy Graham's alma mater).”

Hmm. Could it be that Loftus lifted this reference straight from Babinski?

Apparently, Loftus never read Walton’s commentary. Thus, by his own criterion, he doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

John, when you issue a challenge, be very careful what you ask for since somebody may actually call your bluff.

BTW, notice the absence of pagination in his reference to the ABD article.

ii) For his own part, Seely’s a well-known quantity. For an online critique, cf.

Then there’s the article by Hyers. It’s just a rehash of the usual chestnuts: the Documentary Hypothesis, parallelomania (e.g. the Enuma Elish), the alleged discrepancy between Gen 1 and Gen 2, the Sabbatarian background of Gen 1, as well as an attack on Henry Morris.

This is only convincing if you subscribe to his examples and authorities (e.g. Freud, Gunkel).

I don’t believe in the Documentary Hypothesis. I regard the putative parallels between Gen 1 and the Enuma Elish as labored and specious.

As to the alleged discrepancies between Gen 1 and Gen 2, it’s the difference between a global creation account (Gen 1) and a local creation account with respect to the Garden of Eden. No real conflict.

Everyone knows about the Sabbatarian allusions in Gen 1-2. That doesn’t prove the account was modeled on the Sabbath. Rather, the Sabbath was modeled on the creation account.

All these links also concentrate a fair amount of their fire on Henry Morris. How is that relevant to my position—or Jason’s?

I don’t go to Morris for my exegesis. Jason doesn’t either.

Jason is noncommittal on the YEC/OEC debate, while I’m a scientific antirealist.

I’d add that Morris represents an older generation of YEC. If you want to target YEC, you need to go after the next generation, represented by the likes of Kurt Wise, viz. Faith, Form, & Time; Something from Nothing: Understanding What You Believe About Creation and Why; Understanding the Pattern of Life: Origins and Organization of the Species.

BTW, I’ve already read the anticreationist literature referenced in the article, viz. Eldredge, Futuyma, Godfrey, Kitcher, Ruse, D. Young.

Greenspahn is just more of the same.

As to the “firmament,” there’s more than one school of thought:

i) There are commentators like Waltke (62) and Sailhammer (28-29) who regard the usage in Gen 1:6 as synonymous with the atmosphere.

ii) Hamilton (1:22) takes the meaning of the noun from the verb, which, for him, simply means to spread out or stretch out.

iii) Ross (109) draws attention to a variety of celestial images: “a tent curtain” (Ps 104:2), “a veil” (Isa 40:22), “clear pavement like sapphire (Exod 24:10), and “molten glass” (Job 37:18).

iv) Even if you think that a solid dome is depicted, that doesn’t settle the issue, for the question remains whether the metallic imagery is literal or figurative.

Currid (1:65) opts for figurative metallic imagery, while Wenham (1:19-20) leaves that exegetical option open as well.

v) We also have to ask about the source of the imagery. Is it based on generic ANE cosmology?

a) Was there a generic ANE cosmology? Isn’t the liberal creating a synthetic cosmology by merging Egyptian, Mesopotamian, and other ANE sources to “create” a cosmology that never existed in any particular time and place?

b) What about the role of dead metaphors? The mere presence of mythopoetic imagery would not, of itself, implicate a mythological worldview.

vi) Or is the source of the imagery more specific to the religious life of Israel?

As I already explained, it has its actual background in the cultic symbolism of the temple, the tabernacle, and the garden as a prototypal temple, which is, in turn, an ectype of heaven as the archetypal temple.

This is worked out in great detail by Meredith Kline. It’s also explored by a number of other scholars, viz. Beale, Currid, Levenson, and Poythress.

In fact, one of its advocates just so happens to be—guess who?— John Walton, in the aforesaid commentary, p148!

BTW, Walton’s commentary was published in 2001, not 2002—something that Loftus would know if he hadn’t cribbed the erroneous reference from Babinski.

Moving along:

“Also, the best single book that shows what I'm talking about is by Howard J. Van Till, The Fourth Day (Eerdmans, 1986). This is not an atheist publication, but a Christian one, so surely an informed Christian should not be afraid of buying it or in reading it. Do so, then let me know. Otherwise, you do not know what you're talking about.”

i) I read this when it came out 20 years ago.

ii) Even if I hadn’t ever read it, Van Till is a professor of physics, not OT or ANE literature. So how would he be an authority on Hebrew cosmology?

iii) Van Till is one of the men responsible for liberalizing Calvin College and the CRC. He’s a functional Deist.

iv) Van Till has not gone unchallenged. See:

As well as:

Three Views On Creation and Evolution, J. Moreland & J. Reynolds, eds. (Zondervan 1999), 219-39.

All that Loftus has accomplished is to draw attention to his dated and slipshod scholarship.

Moving along:

“Let's see then, Joshua never asked God to ‘stop’ the sun in it's path in the sky, and the ‘floodgates’ of heaven didn't open up for the rain to flood the earth. Sheeesh.”

Triablogue already did Joshua’s Long Day. Remember?

Keep up the good work, John. With foes like you, who needs friends?


  1. Aaaarrgghh! I'm gonna git you Steve. Just wait until my lunch break. I'll give you all the page numbers you want too, and from primary sources. Just wait, bucko........

  2. Do you respect Dr. Paul Copan? He and I have had the same educational experiences. We both studied under Craig, both graduated from TEDS and both attended Marquette University. He is giving the Dr. James D. Strauss Lecturship at LCS this year, of which I was among the founding students who started those series of lectures, of whom Craig, Moreland and Jaki have been invited to speak.

    I don't find you ridiculing him, and the reason is because you agreed with him, that's all. I find you're arguments weak, and your attempts to refute me as laughable. Oh, I'm sorry, that you cannot find what entry to look up in the ABD (which I have on a CD, so there are no pages, but you might try "Cosmology/Cosmogany", and if you don't know which verses of Genesis in Walton's Commentary to look up (Try Genesis 1-2) then I'm sorry for the lack of scholarship you DO NOT exhibit.

    This is a sorry piece of argumentation, and I'm sorry for thinking I could have a reasoned discussion with you. I can't. And maybe you're doing this so that I won't respond and allow you to go on your merry ways, unaffected by what I might offer in rebuttal. If that's what you want then you got it.

    I refuse to lower myself to your level anymore.

  3. wait! don't leave without your milk, cookies, and blankie.

  4. Anonymouse,

    Courage is bred by anonymity, isn't it?

  5. Danny, if you think that anonymity is a mark of cowardice, what about pseudonymity? Are some of your comrades over at DC cowards for concealing their true identity?

  6. An older article, written soon after I had left the young-earth fold, and published in a very small circulation Christian campus magazine. I analyze Bible verses to determine how creationism of one sort annihilates another sort which annihilates another sort and so on down the line--all of them citing verses from the very same inspired Scripture, "Varieties of Scientific Creationism."

    See also my more recent piece, Interpretations of Biblical Cosmology

    I try to stick to the Bible verses in my articles without having to get into Freud, Gunkel, Higher Criticism, et al. Also, I still recommend Walton's NIV commentary on Genesis, but make sure it's the APPLICATION commentary, not the others he's written. It's available in most large well stocked Baptist Books stores, and Walton is a professor at Wheaton, Billy Graham's alma mater. His commentary was especially enlightening in regards to Genesis 1-11, the entire primeval history portion of Genesis.

  7. Hello John,
    My name is Tim Baines. I was a student at LCC while you were in seminary. Whenever I saw your articles in the Christian Standard I made sure to read them. I am probably a very simple student of the Bible by comparison to you. I started working on my M.Div. in the fall of '84. However, I married a wonderful woman who already had 3 children from a previous marriage (she was widowed at a young age). So, I quit school as I wasn't able to handle school work and being a dad of three and a husband all at once. I did complete the Master of Ministry degree at KCC - which I'm ashamed to admit is as far as I have gone. But after reading about your leaving the Christian faith. I am so sorry. I know I don't know this is probably superficial at best but I do love you. I am beginning to pray for you tonight (8-2-06). I am so sorry for whatever happened to make you turn away from the faith. I am going to buy your book to try to get more insight. I love Jesus - although not perfectly consistent. I know I cannot give any argument you haven't heard for Christianity. You are obviously superior intellecutally - given your background. Sorry to spend so much time on what is most likely just sentimentality and feelings. I don't know what to say without saying a bunch of cliches - which you know as well as I do. It's kind of intimidating...but I just read all of this stuff and wanted to say that I love you and I will pray for God's best for you. I don't mean that in a way like so many know, when people who hate you say, "Well, I'll pray for you." Like that's a threat or something. I mean it sincerely. I hope you'll come back to the simple gospel truth that Jesus loves you. Well, I doubt I can do much good for you because I cannot present an argument you haven't heard. But, regardless of that, please know that I continue to love you and (as I think of you) I will pray that you will know God's love again.
    Tim Baines (