Saturday, July 07, 2007

The Mythical Luther, Part Two

James Swan has continued his series on myths associated with Luther.

He writes:

1. Luther Had a Mental Disorder?
The story goes that while listening to a Gospel lesson at mass on Mark 9:14-29 about an evil spirit being cast out, Luther fell to the floor in the choir of the monastery at Erfurt crying out, "It is not me, not me!" Luther is said to be crying out he was not demon possessed. Psychologist Erik Erikson wrote an entire chapter in his book Young Man Luther on this incident, concluding Luther had a mental disorder. The source for the story comes not from the pen of Luther, but rather from the writing of one of Luther's earliest Roman Catholic opponents, Cochlaeus, who got the story third hand. Cochlaeus was devoted to destroying Luther. He would print anything he could find to use against him, whether true or not. Cochlaeus was convinced Luther was demon possessed and had been seen with the Devil. Cochlaeus stated of Luther, "...he knows the Devil well, and is in turn well known by him... he was even seen by certain people to keep company bodily with the Devil."

2. Luther Said "Be a Sinner and Sin Boldly" Because Salvation is by Faith Alone and Works Do Not Matter
More than a few Catholic authors have accused Luther of teaching a wanton lawlessness of sinning boldly. If justification is by faith alone, aren't Christians then free to sin as much they want? In 1521 Luther wrote to Melanchthon and stated, "If you are a preacher of grace, then preach a true and not a fictitious grace; if grace is true, you must bear a true and not a fictitious sin. God does not save people who are only fictitious sinners. Be a sinner and sin boldly, but believe and rejoice in Christ even more boldly, for he is victorious over sin, death, and the world." Luther was prone to strong hyperbole. It's his style, and this statement is a perfect example. Luther's point is not to go out and commit multiple amounts of gleeful sin everyday, but rather to believe and rejoice in Christ even more boldly despite the sin in our lives. Throughout his career, Luther taught that faith was a living faith. Luther stated, "Faith is a living, restless thing. It cannot be inoperative. We are not saved by works; but if there be no works, there must be something amiss with faith." Luther also stated, "Accordingly, if good works do not follow, it is certain that this faith in Christ does not dwell in our heart, but dead faith." Luther preached and taught this regularly.

3. Luther Took Books Out of the Bible?
Luther's translation of the Bible contained all of its books. Luther also translated and included the Apocrypha, saying, "These books are not held equal to the Scriptures, but are useful and good to read." He expressed his thoughts on the canon in prefaces placed at the beginning of particular Biblical books. In these prefaces, he either questioned or doubted the canonicity of Hebrews, James, Jude, and Revelation (his Catholic contemporaries, Erasmus and Cardinal Cajetan, likewise questioned the canonicity of certain New Testament books). Of his opinion, he allows for the possibility of his readers to disagree with his conclusions. Of the four books, it is possible Luther's opinion fluctuated on two (Hebrews and Revelation). Luther was of the opinion that the writers of James and Jude were not apostles, therefore these books were not canonical. Still, he used them and preached from them.

4. Luther Was "Extraordinarily Devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary"?
Normally Catholics vilify Luther. But, when it comes to Mary, Luther becomes a leader all Protestants should learn a great lesson in Mariology from. True, Luther said some nice things about Mary. Luther though saw the idol medieval theology had created. His abandoning of the intercession of the saints and his doctrine of justification significantly changes his Marian approach. Therefore, Luther was not devoted in any sort of Roman Catholic sense to Mary. True, he used the phrase Mother of God, but did so intending the rich Christ-centered usage of Theotokos when discussing the incarnation or Christ's Deity. He also uses the term simply as a synonym for Mary, which was common in the sixteenth century. Perhaps the most startling aspect of Luther's Mariology is his lifelong belief in her perpetual virginity. While holding this belief, Luther will not have Mary's perpetually virginity extolled. He condemns those who venerate this attribute, and notes that it exists only to bring forth the Messiah. He abandoned the Immaculate Conception sometime after 1527. In 1532 he preached, "Mother Mary, like us, was born in sin of sinful parents, but the Holy Spirit covered her, sanctified and purified her so that this child was born of flesh and blood, but not with sinful flesh and blood."

5. Did Luther Really Say " Here I Stand"?
The most famous of all statements from Luther might actually be one he never said. Standing before Emperor Charles V and Papal authorities, Luther refused to recant of the charges made against him and the books he had written. Defying Church and Emperor, his famous speech ends, "Here I stand; I can do no other. God help me." While the earliest printed versions of this historic event include these words, they were not recorded on the spot. Luther's famous biographer Roland Bainton suggests, "The words, though not recorded on the spot, may nevertheless be genuine, because the listeners at the moment may have been too moved to write" (Bainton, Here I Stand, 144).

Friday, July 06, 2007

Who Speaks For the Romanist?

Jason and Steve may find this discussion of interest as well. James Swan has also noted it.

"Again, I continue to be misunderstood about a fundamental point (something I’ve underscored over and over again): Just as an evangelical is not defined by majority opinion about what evangelicals believe, a Catholic is not defined by official pronouncements about what Catholics believe."

This seems muddled at best. This depends on whether we're talking about internally, or externally.

Catholicism is committed to a particular rule of faith. That rule of faith commits the individual Catholic to relying on his communion, not his private opinions. So, Mr. Wallace is making an illicit appeal to say this. In critiquing the Roman Catholic's beliefs, we're simply taking the claims of his own communion at face value. If he chooses to violate those claims, then that's fine, but let's be clear here, it is not illicit to use the official pronouncements of Rome as representative of the faith of Romanists, since Romanism is committed to that particular rule of faith.

On the other hand, from a Protestant perspective, we draw a distinction between a saving profession and a credible profession of faith. For purposes of church membership, cooperation with other denominational entities, etc., since we cannot know of a certainty who is or isn't saved, we only require a credible profession of faith. A saving profession of faith lies solely between an individual and God.

For example, a Catholic that affirms the current dogmas of Rome cannot offer a credible profession of faith to a consistent Protestant. But whether a Catholic can offer a saving profession of faith is a different question. The answer varies on a case-by-case basis. It is easier to say who isn't saved than to say who is.

To be a Christian is to be, among other things, a Christian believer. One must believe certain things, and not believe certain other, contrary things. On the one hand, some dogmas are damnable dogmas. On the other hand, the Bible lays out certain saving articles of faith. This is God's criterion, not ours. We did not invent it. By the same token, how God applies that criterion in any individual case is up to God, not to us. We are not the judge, God is the Judge. To take a concrete example, Scripture teaches Sola Fide (faith alone) (Romans; Galatians). An individual is saved by faith in Christ and saved by the sole and sufficient merit of Christ.

However, in Catholic dogma, one is saved by the merit of Christ plus the merit of the saints plus one's own congruent merit. And this results in a divided faith. That is why a Catholic cannot give a consistent Protestant a credible profession of faith. In fairness, Protestants are more prone to give a Catholic church member a pass on the credible profession of faith than they do a Catholic bishop or the Pope or some of their lay apologists, because they very clearly have bought into the full range of Catholic dogmas.

Any of the following creeds/confessions could supply the basis for a credible profession of faith:

1. The Thirty-Nine Articles of the Christian Religion

2. The Formula of Concord

3. The Baptist Faith & Message (any version)(

4. The C&MA statement of faith

5. The JFJ statement of faith (

6. The EFCA statement of faith (

7. The Campus Crusade statement of faith (

8. The AG statement of faith (

These are all broadly evangelical affirmations of faith. Notice, not all are Reformed. Some are Lutheran; some are Arminian. By contrast, Trent or Vatican II does not supply the basis for a credible profession of faith. Still, it is possible for a Catholic to be saved, unlike a Muslim or Mormon or other suchlike.

Protestantism, particularly the Reformed tradition and its close cousins (less so, historic Lutheranism) has a system for dealing with error of differing degrees. Romanism does not do this. In Romanism, saving faith is dogmatic faith. As Turretin says, they, like the Lutherans, err to excess.

Mr. Wallace is wanting to evaluate Roman Catholics on the basis of Protestant criterion. There's a sense in which there is some truth to that, but we should remember that if a Romanist is differing with the official pronouncements of his communion it is in spite of, not in tune with, the official pronouncements of his communion. It is not illicit to hold him to the standards of that communion's rule of faith, if only to, if he believes in something like justification through faith alone, move him to leave his communion, which is what he should be doing.


Jubilee wrote:

1, Nothing ever definitively taught as true by the Catholic Church–no dogma–
has ever been “taken back”. What might seem like a reversal is never such.
It will be a legitimate development (or further “unpacking”) of that doctrine
to meet development in the world’s needs/cultural shifts or to meet some new
heresy; it will involve a changed emphasis.

File this away for future reference.

If anybody here thinks the Catholic
Church has denied/reversed/abandoned anything she once definitively taught,
then you are always welcome to float a specific assertion to that effect in the
Apologetics Forum back where I come from, and the issue will be substantively

How about here at Triablogue?

A. Where has Rome infallibly defined and exegeted any text of Scripture? This would include those related to Petrine primacy.

B. Where and how did Ancient Church define Petrine primacy? There are multiple views in the Fathers on this subject. Which is definitive for the others?

C. Does Rome today credobaptize by immersion by thrice dipping?

D. What about the Marian dogmas? Please explain the Gelasian Decree.

That's just for starters.

Somebody is wrong on the anathemas. Both the Catholic and the Protestant
worlds have dropped their mutual anathemas.

This, of course, undermines the statement:

Nothing ever definitively taught as true by the Catholic Church–no dogma–
has ever been “taken back”. What might seem like a reversal is never such.
More on that in a moment.

Don’t know the Protestant
reasoning–and an anathema is not a teaching, so it can be dropped–the
Catholic Church sees the Reformation-generation Protestants as different from
contemporary Protestants.
And the reason the first sentence undermines Jubilee's first statement about is that this is a weasel of distinction to make. The anathemas of Trent were given on a doctrinal foundation and for a doctrinal, not an ethical reason. If that foundation has not changed, then the anathemas should not change either. And how are contemporary Protestants different? Doctrinally? Let's see what Jubilee says:

Luther et al rejected the body they
were born into, fueling the biggest schism ever. He et al broke Christian unity,
the unity Our Lord prayed to the Father for

This is question-begging. Where does the Dominical Prayer of John 17 refer to visible unity under the banner of Rome? Notice how Jubilee assumes what s/he needs to prove.

It would also mean that membership in the church is determined by the conditions of one's birth. Where is this to be found in Scripture?

But Protestants today are born into schism
through no personal responsibility for the original division; their role is quite
other, so the anathemas are inappropriate.

Then in that case that would apply not only to us today, but those Protestants alive after the first and second generation of the Reforrmation, wouldn't it? However, they were still under anathema. What Jubilee is doing is looking for some sort of justification for his/her position, but that's untenable If true, it would mean that anybody who crosses the Tiber today for Geneva would be rightly under an anathema, particularly if born into Rome. It would mean that those of us who cultivate our opposition to Rome are rightly under anathema as well, since we've cultivated it. So which is it?

The rule of law

"One proposal is that it simply applies the law and the Constitution. But applying requires interrpetation when something isn't clear. Here are two views on how this can be done. One might think that when the Supreme Court interprets something wrongly it is not law and should not be followed. On the other hand, one might think that when it gets it wrong it is still binding as law until that decision gets overturned. The standard view is that the second approach is correct. If the Supreme Court decides something wrongly, we could simply ignore it and go with what the Constitution really says. The problem is that different people will have different views on what the Constitution says, and there needs to be some body to declare what it says, even if they get it wrong. It is simply no rule of law to allow everyone to take the Constitution to say whatever they want it to say. It is far better to have a rule of law, have a Supreme Court who interprets the Consitution in a binding way, and sometimes (or even often) gets it wrong."

Jeremy has set up a false dichotomy. He fails to consider the Jeffersonian alternative:

"My construction of the Constitution is…that each department is truly independent of the others and has an equal right to decide for itself what is the meaning of the Constitution in the cases submitted to its action; and especially where it is to act ultimately and without appeal."

—Thomas Jefferson to Spencer Roane, 1819. ME 15:214

The Gospel According to the Old Testament

Living in the Grip of Relentless Grace: The Gospel in the Lives of Isaac & Jacob by Iain Duguid
Hope in the Midst of a Hostile World: The Gospel According to Daniel by George Schwab
Living in the Gap Between Promise and Reality: Gospel According to Abraham by Iain Duguid
Immanuel in Our Place: Seeing Christ in Israel's Worship by Tremper Longman
Salvation Through Judgment and Mercy: The Gospel According to Jonah by Bryan Estelle
Faith in the Face of Apostasy: The Gospel According to Elijah and Elisha by Raymond Dillard
Crying Out for Vindication: The Gospel According to Job by David Jackson

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Misquoting Truth

Looks like a useful resource:

Misquoting Truth: A Guide to the Fallacies of Bart Ehrman's "Misquoting Jesus" by Timothy Paul Jones

"The Evidence for Evolution"

(Posted on behalf of Steve Hays.)

"Mark Ridley’s Evolution has become the premier undergraduate text in the study of evolution," according to the back cover of the third edition.1 The book is published by Blackwell, a prestigious academic publishing house, and Riley himself currently works in the Department of Zoology at Oxford, having also held positions at Cambridge and Emory.

In this textbook he has a section on "The Evidence for Evolution." Presumably there is no better place to go to find the best available evidence for evolution—up to the time of publication (2004).

Under the first heading, We distinguish three possible theories of the history of life, he says:
For purposes of argument it is useful to have some articulate alternatives to argue between. We can discuss three theories (Figure 3.1): (a) evolution; (b) "transformism"…and (c) separate creation, in which species originated separately and remain fixed (44).

In separate creation, species have separate origins and do not change; each [c-e] are different versions of the theory of separate creation that might be proposed to explain extinct fossil forms, and they do not differ in their two essential features (species have separate origins and do not change) (44, figure 3.1).

Whether species have separate origins, and whether they change after their origin, are two distinct questions; some kinds of evidence, therefore, may bear upon one of question [sic.] but not the other (44).

The existence of fossil species unlike anything alive today, however, does not distinguish between the three theories of life in Figure 3.1. An extinct species could just as well have been separately created as any modern species. The theory of separate creation can easily be modified to account for extinct forms. Either there was one period in which all species separately originated and some have subsequently gone extinct (Figure 3.1d) or there were rounds of extinction followed by round of creation (3.1.e). All three versions of separate creation (Figure 3.1 c-e) share the key features that species have separate origins and do not change in form after their origin (44-45).

We concentrate here on evidence that can be used to test between the three theories in Figure 3.1 [evolution, transformism, and creationism] (45).
The problem with this introductory statement is that it misrepresents creationism in two key respects:

i) If by "separate creation," we mean the Biblical doctrine of special creation, then the fundamental unit of separate creation is not the species, but the natural kind. A natural kind is a broader category than a species.

The Bible doesn’t operate with a modern taxonomy. So it would be anachronistic to equate separate creation with scientific taxa.

ii) It is unclear what Ridley means when he says that according to "separate creation," a species does not "change," or change in "form," but remains "fixed."

OT Jews were certainly aware of natural variations. They were acquainted with racial diversity. They knew the difference between wild animals and domestic livestock. They practiced such forms of selective breeding as animal husbandry and viticulture.

The next section falls under the heading of: On a small scale, evolution can be observed in action

He cites drug-resistant strains of HIV to illustrate this principle. But that would be a case of microevolution. Creationism doesn’t deny microevolution. This is not inconsistent with the Biblical doctrine of special (or "separate") creation.

He also mentions the famous example of evolution in the peppered moth (46).

i) To begin with, he doesn’t explain how that’s an example of evolution. Rather, that would seem to be an example of natural selection. Some moths with some markings survive, while other moths with other markings do not. That would not be a case of one moth evolving into another moth. It would merely affect the relative frequency of certain preexisting species.2

ii) Moreover, the development of specific camouflage, even if that were in view, would be an instance if microevolution rather than macroevolution, would it not?

iii) Furthermore, special creation doesn’t rule out speciation, for—as already noted—special creation has reference to natural kinds rather than species.
We look at changes in the average beak size of a population of a finch species in the Galapagos islands…we look at geographic variation in the house sparrow (46).
But, once again,

i) These are examples of microevolution rather than macroevolution.

ii) They operate at the level of species rather than natural kinds.

The next section falls under the heading of Evolution can also be produced experimentally

This has reference to artificial selection, viz. rats could be successfully selected to grow better or worse teeth. Evolutionary change can therefore be generated artificially.

Three problems:

i) Artificial selection is fundamentally different from natural selection, for artificial selection requires a rational, goal-oriented agent—the human breeder.

ii) This would be yet another instance of microevolution rather than macroevolution.

iii) As already noted, Ancient Near Easterners were quite familiar with such forms of artificial selection as animal husbandry and horticulture. Gen 1-2 is not opposed to such phenomena.

The next section falls under the heading of Interbreeding and phenotypic similarity provide to concepts of species
Most of the evidence so far has been for small-scale change within a species. The amounts of artificially selected change in pigeons and other domestic animals borders on the species level, but to decide whether the species barrier has been crossed we need a concept of what a biological species is…What does it mean to say a new species has evolved? The question unfortunately lacks a simple answer that would satisfy all biologists…there are several concepts of species (48).
But as I already said, Biblical creationism doesn’t rise or fall on the question of whether "new species have evolved," or whether the "species barrier has been crossed," according to a narrowly technical and equivocal definition of what constitutes a "species."

The question, rather, is whether life occurred the way the Bible describes it or the way Ridley describes it.
Museum experts often have to classify birds from dead specimens, of unknown reproductive habits, and they make use of phenotypic characters of the bones, beak, and feathers (50).
This exposes the precarious nature of some classification schemes.

The next section falls under the heading of Ring "species" show that variation within a species can be extensive enough to produce new species
Ring species can provide important evidence for evolution, because they show that intraspecific differences can be large enough to produce an interspecies difference…At least some species, therefore, have arisen without separate creation…to deny it would require an arbitrary decision about where evolution stopped and separate creation started…The idea that nature comes in discrete groups, with no variation between, is a naïve perception (52-53).
Unfortunately for him, Ridley is the one who is guilty of drawing arbitrary distinctions and erecting false dichotomies. He keeps flailing away at a straw man argument. None of this makes a dent in Biblical creationism.

Scripture never says there can be no "variation" between "separately" created organisms. Indeed, Scripture allows for natural variation.

The next sections falls under the heading of New, reproductively distinct species can be produced experimentally
The species barrier can be broken by experiment too. The varieties of artificially produced domestic animals and plants can differ in appearance at least as much as natural species; but they may also be able to interbreed…In conclusion, it is possible to make new, reproductively isolated species, using a method that ha been highly important in the origin of new natural species (53-54).
Once more, Ridley is simply repeating himself by restating the same fallacious argument in slightly different ways, with different illustrations. He is both persistent and consistent. Unfortunately for him, he is aiming at the wrong target, so even if he never misses the target, his back is to the true target.

The next section falls under the heading of Small-scale observations can be extrapolated over the long term
The reasoning principle here is called uniformitarianism…it also refers to the more controversial claim that processes operating in the present can account, by extrapolation over long periods, for the evolution of Earth and life…This principle is not peculiar to evolution. It is used in all historic geology (54).

Someone who permits uniformitarian extrapolation only up to a certain point in this continuum will inevitably be making an arbitrary decision (54).
The problem, here, is that Ridley is attacking a theological position (creationism) while remaining ignorant of the underlying theology. Christian theology distinguishes between creation, miracle, and providence.

His appeal to uniformitarian processes roughly corresponds to ordinary providence. And a Christian has no problem with a doctrine of providence.

However, providence allows for miraculous or creative events which fall outside the scope of providence, and there is nothing arbitrary about that discontinuity. For one thing, there could be no providence apart from creation.

For another thing, providence is not some impersonal process that merely operates according to inanimate forces and mechanical causes. Rather, there is a rational agent who lies behind the course of providence. Means are adjusted to ends. There is room for rational discretion.
Further study erodes the impression away. The fossil record contains a continuous set of intermediates between the mammals and reptiles, and these fossils destroy the impression that "mammals" are a discrete type. Archaeopteryx des the same for the bird type, and there are many further example (55).
i) Archaeopteryx is another controversial example.3

ii) Whether there is a continuous set of intermediates is a contentious claim. Ridley is substituting a question-begging assertion for an argument:

a) Are these evolutionary intermediates or ecological intermediates?

b) How does one establish lines of descent? Consider some of Ridley’s damning admissions:
The phenetic and phylogenetic principles are the two fundamental types of biological classification, but three schools of though exist about how classification should be carried out (474)

The modern forms of phenetic classification are numerical and multivariate, and they were developed in reaction to the uncertainties and imprecision of evolutionary classification…a classification of a group based on its phylogeny is liable to be unstable…For many groups of living things, hardly anything is known about phylogeny, and a "phylogenetic" classification of such a group will inevitably be poorly supported by evidence (476).

This is a universal problem, not just a peculiar problem in this example. A taxonomist working with one sample of characters will often produced a different classification from another taxonomist working with a different set of characters (476).

So there is a degree of subjectivity in the phenetic philosophy…Moreover, the choice of cluster statistic is not the only subjective choice in phenetic classification. The measurement of distance poses an analogous problem (478).

Phylogenetic classification groups species solely according to recency of common ancestry (479).4

Cladistic classification has the advantage of objectivity…In practice, the inference of ancestral relations (that is, the phylogeny in figure 16.3a) can be difficult, and cladistics classification can be uncertain (480).

The cladistics classification of the tetrapods can seem odd. The Reptilia were recognized in almost every formal classification before cladism; but cladism rules them out…the category "fish" (containing the lungfish and salmon, but excluding the cow) does not exist in a cladistic classification (482).

The beauty of a purely phylogenetic classification is that there can be no doubt what the branching relations of the classificatory groups are (Figure 16.3). But if taxonomists defined some relations phonetically and others phylogenetically, it is no longer possible to say what any particular relation means. The branching relations are obscured and lost (483).

The main advantage of phylogenetic classification is theoretical. It can run into many problems in practice. One is ignorance. We do not know the phylogenetic relations of many living creatures, and cannot classify them phylogenetically. Another problem is instability (483).

Evolutionary taxonomists disagree with phenetic classification for much the same reasons we discussed above, though they express the argument differently (485).
How can one establish the existence of an evolutionary intermediate if you can’t agree on their lineage?
If we take any two living species, they will show some similarities in appearance. Here we need to distinguish two sorts of similarities: homologous and analogous similarity (55).

The non-evolutionary usage is needed here in order to avoid circular argument: evolutionary concepts cannot be used as evidence for evolution (55n1).

An analogous similarity, in this non-evolutionary, pre-Darwinian sense, is one that can be explained by a shared way of life. Sharks, dolphins, and whales all have a hydrodynamic shape which can be explained by their habitat of swimming through water. Their similar shape is analogous; it is a functional requirement. Likewise, the wigs of insects, birds, and bats are all needed for flying: they too are analogous structures (55).

Other similarities between species are less easily explained by functional needs. The pentadactyl (five digit) limb of tetrapods is a classic example…Tetrapods occupy a wide variety of environments, and use their limbs for many differing functions. There is no clear functional or environmental reason why all of them should need a five-digit, rather than a three- or seven- or 12-digit limb (55).
And there’s no reason why they shouldn’t. If five digits get the job done, then why should we expect a three- or seven- or 12-digited limb? The argument cuts both ways. Since they don’t need any particular number of digits, they don’t need a fixed number, but by the same token they don’t need a variable number.

Something doesn’t need to be a functional requirement to be functional. And as long as it is functional, there is likewise no requirement that it be diverse for diversity’s sake. It is unnecessary to either use the same design or use a different design.
Living creatures show similarities that would not be expected if they had independent origins (55).
This is ambiguous. According to creationism, the natural kinds originated independently of one another, but they share a common Creator. As such, it comes as no surprise if they also share a common design—as long as that design is functional.
And yet they all do; or, rather, all modern tetrapods do—fossil tetrapods are known from the time in the Devonian when tetrapods were evolving from fish that have six-, seven-, and eight-digited limbs (55).
i) But this argument undercuts the previous argument.

ii) Moreover, if you’re going to invoke common ancestry, then wouldn’t we expect our extant, pentadactylic tetrapods to descend from a five-digited ancestor? His argument is tugging in opposite directions.

iii) Furthermore, he’s done nothing here to establish the evolution of tetrapods (i.e. amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals) from fish.
Some modern tetrapods, in the adult form, do not appear to have five-digit limbs (Figure 3.6). The wings of birds and bats are in different ways supported by less than five digits, and the limbs of horses and of some lizards also have less than five digits (55).
Once again, this undercuts the original argument. He initially argued for common descent from the fact that all tetrapods are pentadactylic—even though that is not a design requirement. Yet this is the second time he has had to mention a major exception to his argument. These qualifications undermine the force of the original argument.

Why does he say all when he only means some? Is this a tactic on his part? Lead with an overstatement that makes your case look stronger than it is. Hoping that first impressions will be more memorable than the qualifications you throw in further down the line?
However, all these limbs develop embryologically from five-digited precursor stages, showing that they are fundamentally pentadactyl (55).
But the principle of recapitulation is dubious.5
What could be more curious than that the hand of man formed for grasping, that of a mole, for digging, the leg of a horse, the paddle of a porpoise and the wing of a bat, should be all constructed on the same pattern and should include similar bones and in the same relative positions? (56).
i) How is that curious? Why isn’t such unified versatility a mark of elegant, economical design? A triumph of the one over many—where just one homologous plan can be deployed to solve so many different problems. A splendid piece of cost-effective engineering. Easily reproducible in a wide variety of organic forms.

ii) Notice that Ridley isn’t offering us a working model of a more efficient limb structure in any particular case. He has nothing better, or even as good, to offer us.

iii) Suppose this were not the case? Suppose that every natural kind had a completely different design?

It’s easy to imagine a Darwinian cite that as evidence against common design. He would exclaim that each species was the fortuitous and idiosyncratic result of its immediate circumstances, with no overarching intelligence to coordinate or consolidate the outcome.
If species have descended from common ancestors, homologies make sense; but if all species originated separately, it is difficult to understand why they should share homologous similarities (57).
Except that he tries to play both sides of this argument, For, as we already saw, he also says that tetrapods are descended from ancestors with five-, six-, seven-, and eight-digited limbs.

So we end up with a tautology: homologies prove common descent—except when they don’t.
Without evolution, there is nothing forcing tetrapods all to have pentadactyl limbs (57).
i) Once again, we see him appeal to all tetrapods, even though he admitted that this is a sweeping overstatement.

ii) Why must something "force" all tetrapods to be pentadactylic? From a theistic standpoint, which is what he is opposing, the choice is not between necessity and fortuity, but between teleology and dysteleology.
Why should the genetic code be universal? Two explanations are possible: that the universality results from a chemical constraint, or that the code is a historic accident (57).
i) Once more, he is foisting a false dichotomy on the reader. There is another explanation: simplicity. Doesn’t science favor parsimonious solutions, such as the least action principle?

ii) Another problem running throughout this discussion is his tacit appeal to teleological explanations, such as whether a particular pattern is "functionally necessary."

But that is quite anthropomorphic from a Darwinian perspective. Naturalistic evolution has no room for teleological explanations. The evolutionary mechanisms were never goal-oriented in the first place. Ridley is sneaking criteria into his evaluation of the evolutionary process that are forbidden by the evolutionary process. Ironically, Ridley is having to assume a God’s-eye view in the premise to deny a God’s-eye view in the conclusion.

iii) Of course, we’re assuming, for the sake of argument, that the genetic code is, indeed, universal. But is that the case?
Biologists have known for years that some bacteria, algae and single-celled animals do not have the same genetic code as most other organisms. Darwinists claim that the exceptions are unimportant, since they "know" that the aberrant organisms are descended from organisms that had the standard code. But the code itself was supposed to be the primary evidence for such descent, and no comparable evidence is offered to replace it. Clearly, the Darwinists' "knowledge" in this case is philosophical rather than empirical.6
An organ that is described as vestigial may not be functionless…fossil whales called Basilosaurus, living 40 million years ago, had functional pelvic bones (Gingerich et al. 1990) and may have used them when copulating; and the vestigial pelvis of modern whales arguably is still needed to support the reproductive organs. However, that possibility does not count against the argument from homology; why, if whales originated independently of other tetrapods, should whales use bones that are adapted for limb articulation in order to support their reproductive organs? If they were truly independent, some other support would likely be used (60).
This inference suffers from the same fallacies we’ve already drawn attention to.

i)"Independent" in relation to what? To each other? Yes. In relation to God? No.

All creatures are dependent on God for their common origin. And that is consistent with a common plan.

Remember that at the very outset of his discussion, Ridley said he was going to provide evidence distinguishing Darwinism from creationism. But all he’s supplied us with is evidence which is, at best, consistent with either position.

ii) He even admits that these "vestigial" organs are functional.

Incidentally, creationism doesn’t even deny that some organs may degenerate.7

iii) He also assumes what he needs to prove when he says that whales use bones that are adapted for limb articulation in order to support their reproductive organs.

Observe that this is not, in fact, evidence for evolution. To the contrary, it takes for granted an evolutionary explanation of what these bones were originally for ("limb articulation"), and then assumes that they were later co-opted to perform a different task.

The next section goes under the heading of Different homologies are correlated, and can be hierarchically classified

His discussion of amino acid sequencing seems to be a variant on his prior discussion of DNA. Been there, done that.

His next section goes under the heading of Fossil evidence exists for the transformation of species
The diatoms [singled-celled, photosynthetic organisms that float in the plankton] in Figure 3.11 show that the fossil record can be complete enough to reveal the origin of new species; but examples as good as this are rare. In other cases, the fossil record is less complete and there are large gaps between successive samples (Section 21.4, p602). There is then only less direct evidence of smooth transitions between species. The gaps are usually long, however (maybe 25,000 years in a good case, and millions of years in less complete records) (64).
i) How does he define a new species? We’ve already seen that the definition of what constitutes a species is a controverted point in contemporary biology.

ii) It is oxymoronic to speak of "less direct evidence of smooth transitions between species" when "the gaps are usually long." You can’t have evidence for smooth transitions if there are long gaps in the evidence. And absent such evidence, why assume that there are transitional forms in the first place?

His next section goes under the heading of The order of the main groups in the fossil record suggests they have evolutionary relationships
The deduction follows from the observation that an amphibian, such as a frog, or a reptile, such as an alligator, is intermediate in form between a fish and a mammal. Amphibians, for instance have fills as fish do, but have four legs, like reptiles and mammals, and not fins…The forms of modern vertebrates alone, therefore, enable us to deduce the order in which they evolved (65).
Is that a fact? Isn’t this a rather obvious case of ecological intermediates rather than evolutionary intermediates? They share some features in common with aquatic species as well as terrestrial species because they are semiaquatic species. They were designed to survive and flourish in that particular habitat.

Ridley drew this very distinction only ten pages earlier:
An analogous similarity, in this non-evolutionary, pre-Darwinian sense, is one that can be explained by a shared way of life. Sharks, dolphins, and whales all have a hydrodynamic shape which can be explained by their habitat of swimming through water. Their similar shape is analogous; it is a functional requirement. Likewise, the wigs of insects, birds, and bats are all needed for flying: they too are analogous structures (55).
So why is he deducing evolution from features which are arguably analogous rather than homologous? Can’t he remember his own argument?
The inference, from the modern forms, can be tested against the fossil record. The fossil record supports it: fish, amphibians, reptiles, and mammals appear in the fossil record in the same order as they should have evolved (Figure 3.12b). The fit is good evidence for evolution, because if fish, amphibians, reptiles, and mammals had been separately created, we should not expect them to appear in the fossil record in the exact order of their apparent evolution. Fish, frogs, lizards, and rats would probably appear as fossils in some order, if they did not appear at the same time; but there is no reason to suppose they would appear in one order rather than another (66).
i) But is this an evolutionary order, or an ecological order? If you were to suddenly fossilize a cross section of the ecosystem, land animals would be on top, fish would be on the bottom, and semiaquatic species would be sandwiched in the middle.

I’m not saying that that’s what happened. I’m merely saying that there’s nothing apparently evolutionary in the fossil sequence, as he describes it. He will need a subsidiary argument to turn the fossil sequence into an evolutionary sequence.

ii) Let us also remember what he said about the cladist taxonomy on the classification of fish and reptiles (see above).

His next section goes under the heading of Creationism offers no explanation of adaptation
Living things are well designed, in innumerable respects, for life in their natural environments. They have sensory systems to find their way around, feeding systems to catch and digest food, and nervous systems to coordinate their actions (67).
i) This is very commonsensical. Unfortunately for him, Ridley is once again resorting to teleological explanations. And he is using this appeal to disprove creationism.

Ironically, creationism allows for teleology while naturalistic evolution disallows teleology. If teleology is true, then naturalistic evolution is false.8

Ridley is pilfering a category from creationism to disprove creationism. The fact that he cannot explain adaptation without invoking teleological criteria is self-refuting.

ii) He also fails to explain how biological organisms could survive and reproduce at the very time that they are in process of adapting to their natural surroundings.
The theory of evolution has a mechanical, scientific theory for adaptation: natural selection (67).
To my knowledge, creationism doesn’t deny natural selection. What it denies, rather, is that natural selection is a mechanism for macroevolution.
Creationism, by contrast, has no explanation for adaptation. When each species originated, it must have already been equipped with adaptations for life, because the theory holds that species were fixed in form after their origin (67).
i) He keeps acting as if special creation implies the static character of natural kinds.

ii) Creationism allows natural kinds to adjust to new habitat. They have a certain built-in adaptability. For example, the Bible believes in the common ancestry of all men from Adam. At the same time, it is always aware of racial diversity, which is a climatic adaptation.

His final section goes under the heading of Modern "scientific creationism" is scientifically untenable
Scientific arguments only employ observations that anybody can make, as distinct from private revelations, and consider only natural, as distinct from supernatural causes (68).
i) The Bible is a public revelation, not a private revelation. Anyone can read the Bible.

ii) Science is by no means limited to "observational" data—especially regarding the origin of world or life on earth. Science theorizes about things that are too small to observe, too distant in space to observe, and too distant in time to observe.
Indeed, two good criteria to distinguish scientific from religious arguments are whether the theory invokes only natural causes, or needs supernatural causes too, and whether the evidence is publicly observable or requires some sort of faith (68).
i) But suppose that God really is responsible for the origin of the world, as well as life on earth. If one stipulates in advance that only natural causes are permissible, then the "scientific" explanation will be dead wrong. What’s the value of a scientific explanation if you summarily exclude what may be the only right answer?

The method is getting ahead of the subject matter and prejudging the answer. Is that supposed to be scientific? If so, then so much the worse for science.

Is the scientific method an end in itself, or a quest for the truth? Are we naturalistic for the sake of naturalism? But what if naturalism is false?

How can science correct itself if science immunizes itself to contrary evidence? If science is unfalsifiable, because a naturalistic explanation cannot be falsified by a supernatural fact, then science is an inward-looking rather than outward-looking discipline. A self-contained discipline, like a fictional story.

ii) It also depends on what he means by "faith." Science relies on a number of metascientific assumptions about the world. What conceptual scheme is underwriting these assumptions?
Without these two conditions, there are no constraints on the argument. It is, in the end, impossible to show that species were not created by God and have remained fixed in form, because to God (as a supernatural agent) everything is permitted (68).
i) Ridley seems to be operating with some form of theological voluntarism. Why does he identify creationism with voluntarism?

ii) Suppose, once more, that God is, indeed, the Creator of the world? That he did, in fact, make the natural kinds by his immediate, creative fiat.

Why is Ridley ruling out an explanation for the origin of life that may be the true explanation for the origin of life? He doesn’t seem to think that this explanation is impossible, or even improbable.

If anything, his objection appears to be that it cannot be quantified at all. But he doesn’t say why he thinks that. Why could there be no evidence for divine creation?

iii) Suppose we have a revelation from the Creator of the world in which he tells us what he did. In that event, we are not left guessing.
It cannot be shown that the building (or garden) you are in, and the chair you are sitting on, were not created supernaturally by God 10 seconds ago from nothing—at the time, He would also have to have adjusted your memory and those of all other observes, but a supernatural agent can do that. That is why supernatural agents have no place in science (68).
If he wants to play that game, then it’s child’s play to construct naturalist versions of global illusions and delusions. Instead of Cartesian demons, we have alien telepaths.

A final problem with this chapter is that Ridley only gives one half of the story. He gives his arguments for evolution, and his arguments opposing creationism. But he doesn’t give the arguments for creationism, or the arguments opposing evolution.

So the reader is left with a very skewed presentation, as if the best a creationist could hope for is to come up with ad hoc explanations that deflect his criticisms and thereby show that creationism is merely consistent with the same data.

It puts the creationist on the defensive from start to finish, as if the onus is on him to answer all these charges, with no positive evidence for his own position, or positive evidence against the opposing position.

But let’s recall how it was that Ridley chose to frame the issue:
We concentrate here on evidence that can be used to test between the three theories in Figure 3.1 [evolution, transformism, and creationism] (45).
Has Ridley succeeding in discharging his own burden of proof? Not in the slightest. Creationism emerges without a scratch—in large part because he mischaracterized creationism.

1 M. Ridley, Evolution: Third Edition (Blackwell 2004).

2 I’d add that this textbook example has come under fire. Cf. J. Wells, Icons of Evolution (Regnery 2000).


4 Notice how this takes macroevolution for granted. Common ancestry is a presupposition of phylogenetic classification.

5 Cf. S. Gould, Ontogeny and Phylogeny (Belknap 1977), 501;



8 "Teleological Explanation," W. H. Newton-Smith, ed. A Companion to the Philosophy of Science (Blackwell 2001), 492-494.

"The Old Perspective on Paul"

Perspectives on Paul: Old & New by Stephen Westerholm
Understanding Paul by Stephen Westerholm
Jesus' Blood & Righteousness: Paul's Theology of Imputation by Brian Vickers
The Law & its Fulfillment: A Pauline Theology of Law by Thomas Schreiner
Justification & Variegated Nomism Pt. 2: The Paradoxes of Paul by DA Carson
Justified in Christ by K. Scott Oliphint, et al
By Faith Alone: Answering the Recent Challenges to the Doctrine of Justification
by Johnson & Waters, et al
Christ, Our Righteousness: Paul's Theology of Justification by Mark Seifrid
Justification & the New Perspective on Paul by Guy Waters
Counted Righteous in Christ by John Piper

...Also, stay tuned for Piper's new book responding to NT Wright on justification.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Visible Lostness

See it here.

HT: Art Rogers

Resurrection Claims in Non-Christian Religions

Resurrection Claims in Non-Christian Religions by Gary Habermas


While Christian beliefs are presumably much more widely known, especially in the Western world, some adherents to the major non-Christian religions also make claims that some of their historical rabbis, prophets, gurus or 'messiahs' rose from the dead. Judging from the relevant religious literature, it appears that such non-Christian claims are often ignored, perhaps because there is little awareness of them. Even if the existence of such beliefs is recognized, almost never is there any in-depth answer to the question of whether such claims could possibly be grounded in supernatural events of history.

This essay is an examination of several sample resurrection-claims in non-Christian religions from ancient to modern times. The primary emphasis will be placed on whether these claims can themselves be said to be historically based on supernatural occurrences. To pursue this goal, historical and other critical criteria will be applied to these religious beliefs. Lastly, a few com­ments will be addressed to the issue of whether these resurrection claims provide any apologetic basis for non-Christian belief systems.

Read on.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Abort 73

Great resource on abortion.

Church History Buff

Appears to be a helpful series on Church History:

The Birth of the Church: From Jesus to Constantine by Ivor Davidson
A Public Faith: From Constantine to the Medieval World by Ivor Davidson
The Medieval Church: Christianity in the Age of Princes and Peasants by Paul Bassett
Reform and Conflict: From the Medieval World to Wars in Religion by Rudolf Heinze
The Age of Reason: From the Wars in Religion to the French Revolution by Meic Pearse

What makes them tick

"I was a fanatic...I know their thinking," says former radical Islamist

Aliens are Among Us!

I, for one, welcome our new alien overlords!

Steve Camp and Jim Eliff On Regenerate Church Membership

Due to a change in my ministry and blogging related email address, I missed this when Brother Steve sent this to me. I apologize for not linking to it sooner.

See here.

To make up for my failure to link to him, let me first say, "Thank you" to Steve for joining the conversation. Second, let me also say that, to our Presbyterian and other non-Baptist(ic) readers, this series on regenerate church membership is not meant as a jab at your views. I think that, when all is said and done, if nothing else, you would hope and pray that every person in your assembly would be regenerate anyway. We are particularly concerned here about Baptists, who traditionally hold to this as "the" key Baptist principle in ecclesiology and have, in our age, so terribly fallen down on it and must recover it.

In that spirit, and to, perhaps atone, as it were, for not linking earlier, I'll just post the whole shebang of Jim Eliff's article here too, because it's a true classic that bears being brought out in the open for a fresh reading from time to time. I don't know if Brother Jim reads the blogs, but if he'd like to write some more articles on this, I'd be happy to post them here for him as guest.

May I also suggest that perhaps Brother Steve, with his music and ministry connections, could see if he and Brother Jim and perhaps some other interested parties could put together, how shall we put it, an old fashioned Baptist "preacher conference" here and there this year to keep this issue alive.

Southern Baptists...
An Unregenerate Denomination

by Jim Elliff

"How are you doing?"
"Pretty well, under the circumstances."
"What are the circumstances?"
"Well, I have a very effective arm. It moves with quite a bit of animation. But then I have my bad leg."
"What's wrong with it?"
"I guess it's paralyzed. At least it doesn't do much except twitch once a week or so. But that's nothing compared with the rest of me."
"What's the problem?
"From all appearances, the rest is dead. At least it stinks and bits of flesh are always falling off. I keep it well covered. About all that's left beyond that is my mouth, which fortunately works just fine. How about you?"

Like the unfortunate person above, the Southern Baptist Convention has a name that it is alive, but is in fact, mostly dead (Rev. 3:1). Regardless of the wonderful advances in our commitment to the Bible, the recovery of our seminaries, etc., a closer look reveals a denomination that is more like a corpse than a fit athlete. In an unusual way, our understanding of this awful reality provides the most exciting prospects for the future—if we will act decisively.

The Facts
Although the Southern Baptists claim 16,287,494 members, on average only 6,024,289 people (guests and non-member children included), a number equal to only 37% of the membership number, show up for their church's primary worship meeting (usually Sunday morning). This is according to the Strategic Information and Planning department of the Sunday School Board (2004 statistics). If your church is anything like normal, and is not brand new, your statistics are probably similar. In other words, if you have 200 in attendance on Sunday morning, you likely have 500-600 or even more on your roll. Many churches have an even worse record.

Discerning who among us is regenerate is not an exact science, but a closer look at these numbers will at least alert us to the fact that most Southern Baptists must certainly be dead spiritually. That is so, unless, of course, you claim that there is no difference between a believer and a non-believer.

In the average church you can cut the 37% Sunday morning attendance by about two-thirds or more when counting those interested in a Sunday evening service, or other gatherings held in addition to the principal meeting of the church. In 1996, the last time the SBC kept these statistics, the number of Sunday evening attenders was equal to only 12.3% of the membership (in churches that had an evening meeting). One might ask what makes us claim that the rest are Christians, if they involve themselves with God's people only on such a minimal, surface level? How are they any different from the people who attend the liberal church down the street—the "church" where the gospel is not even preached?

And remember that the numbers of those attending include many non-member children and guests, often making up a third of the congregation's main meeting attendance. When all factors are considered, these figures suggest that nearly 90% of Southern Baptist church members appear to be little different from the "cultural Christians" who populate other mainline denominations.

To make matters worse, we tell a lot more people that they are true Christians (because they prayed a prayer sincerely) than we can convince to be baptized. Our largest pizza supper may bring in a hundred new "converts," but we will likely get only a few of those on the roll. After that, the percentages that I have been mentioning kick in. In other words, if you compare all who we say have become Christians through our evangelistic efforts, to those who actually show signs of being regenerate, we should be red-faced. In the Assembly of God's 1990s "Decade of Harvest," out of the 3.5 million supposedly converted, they showed a net gain of only 5 new attenders for every 100 recorded professions. When one considers all of our supposed converts, including those who refuse to follow Christ in baptism and who never join our churches, our numbers are much the same. Doesn't anybody see that there is a serious problem here?

Let me illustrate in rounded figures by looking at some of the churches where I have preached as a guest speaker. Each could be any Baptist church in any city. In one church, with 7,000 on the active roll, there were only 2000 in attendance on Sunday morning, and a mere 600-700 on Sunday evening. When you account for those attenders who are not members of this flagship church (i.e. guests and non-member children), you have about 1500 actual members coming in the morning and 500 or so in the evening. Where are the 5,500 members who are missing on Sunday mornings? Where are the 6,500 who are missing in the evening?

Another church had 2,100 on the roll, with 725 coming on Sunday morning. Remove guests and non-member children and the figure drops to 600 or less. Only about a third of that number came out on Sunday evening, representing less than 10% of the membership. Yet another church had 310 on the roll with only 100 who attended on Sunday morning. Only 30-35, or approximately 10%, came to the evening worship service.

These are all considered fine churches. All have an extremely competent level of leadership and vision. Some shut-ins and those who are sick, out of town, or in the military, certainly affect the figures a little. But those who are justifiably absent are not enough to alter the bleakness of the picture, especially when we remember that these numbers represent people who have been baptized and have publicly declared their allegiance to God and the Body of Christ. Even if you generously grant that the 37% are all true believers (an estimation that most pastors would say is way off the mark), one still has a church membership that is more dead than alive. If we are honest, we might have to ask ourselves, "Do Southern Baptists believe in a regenerate membership?"

Missing Christians are No Christians
What do these facts and figures, as general as they are, suggest?

First, they reveal that most of the people on our rolls give little evidence that they love the brethren—a clear sign of being unregenerate (1 Jn. 3:14). It is impossible to believe that anything like real familial affection exists in the hearts of people who do not come at all, or who only nominally check in on Sunday morning as a cultural exercise. Love is the greatest mark of a genuine believer (1 Jn.3:14-19). Attendance alone does not guarantee that anyone is an authentic believer, but "forsaking the assembling," is a serious sign of the unregenerate heart. The phrase: "They went out from us, because they were never of us" (1 Jn. 2:19) may have doctrinal overtones, but it nonetheless represents many on our membership rolls.

Second, these numbers suggest that most of those who do not attend (or who only come when it is convenient), are more interested in themselves than God. To put it in Paul's words, they are "fleshly-minded" and not "spiritually-minded" (Rom. 8: 5-9). The atmosphere that most pleases them is that of the world and not God. They can stand as much of God as makes them feel better about themselves, and they find a certain carnal security in "belonging" to a local church. But beyond that, they will politely resist getting involved. They use the church, but are not really a part of it. For some, the extent of what they can take is an Easter service now and then; for others it is an occasional sterile (and somewhat Pharisaical) trip to church on appropriate Sunday mornings as fits into their schedule. But their apathy towards regular and faithful church attendance betrays their true affections. The fact is, you do what you love to do.

Third, the numbers indicate that some people have joined other denominations and our churches have not kept up with their movements—a sign of inadequate pastoral oversight and the built-in deficiencies of the "inactive membership" concept. I'm quite certain Paul never dreamed of "inactive membership." Embarrassingly, some left on the rolls are dead—physically! It goes without saying that a dead person is about as inactive as one could be! But others, though presumably alive physically, have disappeared without a trace. I believe it was our beloved Dr. Roy Fish of SWBTS who said, "Even the FBI could not find some of them." Yet, if we want to claim them as members, we are responsible to keep up with them.

All of these people have "prayed the prayer" and "walked the aisle." All have been told that they are Christians. But for most, old things have not really passed away, and new things have not come. Most are not new creatures in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17). In too many cases, obvious signs of an unregenerate heart can be found, such as bitterness, long-term adultery, fornication, greed, divisiveness, covetousness, etc. These are "professing believers" that the Bible says are deceived. "Do not be deceived" the Bible warns us concerning such people (see 1 Cor.6:9-11; Gal. 5:19-21; 6: 7-8; Eph. 5:5-6; Titus 1:16; 1 Jn. 3:4-10; etc.).

Jesus indicated that there is a good soil that is receptive to the gospel seed so as to produce a fruit-bearing plant, but that the "rocky ground" believer only appears to be saved. The latter shows immediate joy, but soon withers away (Mt. 13:6, 21). This temporary kind of faith (which is not saving faith, see 1 Cor.15:1-2) is rampant among Southern Baptists. In The Baptist Faith and Message we say we believe that saving faith is persistent to the end. We say we believe in the preservation and perseverance of the saints (once saved, always persevering). In other words, if a person's faith does not persevere, then what he possessed was something other than saving faith.

In John 2:23-25 Jesus was the center-piece for what turned out to be a mass evangelism experience in which a large number of people "believed" in Him. Yet He did not entrust Himself to even one of them because "he knew their hearts." Is it possible that we have taken in millions of such "unrepenting believers" whose hearts have not been changed? I say that we have. Our denomination, as much as we may love it, is on the main, unregenerate. Even if you double, triple, or quadruple my assessment of how many are true believers, we still have a gigantic problem. It is naive to believe otherwise.

There are those who would say that such people are "carnal Christians" and don't deserve to be thought of as unregenerate. It is true that the Corinthian believers (about whom this phrase was used; see 1 Cor. 3:1-3) acted "like mere men" in their party spirit. Christians can commit any sin short of that which is unpardonable.

Undoubtedly, however, Paul did suspect that some of the Corinthians were unbelievers, for he later warns them about such a possibility in 2 Cor.12:20-13:5. A long-term and unrepentant state of carnality, is, after all, the very description of the unregenerate (Rom. 8:5-14, 1 Jn. 3:4-10, etc.). In calling some people "carnal" Paul did not mean to imply that he was accepting as Christian a lifestyle that he clearly describes elsewhere as unbelieving. He wrote, in the same letter: "Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God. Do not be deceived" (1 Cor. 6:9-11, etc.). Apparently there were some, even then, who were deceived into thinking that an unrighteous man or woman who professes faith in Christ could really be a Christian!

Is Follow-up the Problem?
A great mistake is made by blaming the problem on poor follow-up. In many churches there is every intention and effort given to follow-up, yet still the poor numbers persist. One church followed up "by the book," seeking to disciple people who had been told they were new converts during the crusade of an internationally-known evangelist. The report of the pastor in charge was that none of them wanted to talk about how to grow as a Christian. He said, "In fact, they ran from us!" I have known some churches to go to extreme efforts to disciple new believers. We must do this. Yet, like the others, they generally have marginal success. They have learned to accept the fact that people who profess to have become Christians often have to be talked into going further, and that many, if not most, simply will not bother. Authentic new believers can always be followed up, however, because they have the Spirit by which they cry, "Abba Father" (Rom. 8:15). They have been given love for the brethren, and essential love for the beauty and authority of the Word of God. But you cannot follow-up on a spiritually dead person. Being dead, he has no interest in growth.

It was the preaching of regeneration, with an explanation of its discernible marks, that was the heart of the Great Awakening. J. C. Ryle, in writing of the eighteenth century revival preachers, said that they never for a moment believed that there was any true conversion if it was not accompanied by increasing personal holiness. Such content was the staple of the greatest of awakening preaching throughout the history of revival. Only such a powerful cannon blast of truth could rock the bed of those asleep in Zion.

Facing the Dilemma
What must be done? I suggest five responses:

1. We must preach and teach on the subject of the unregenerate church member. Every author in the New Testament writes of the nature of deception. Some books give major consideration to the subject. Jesus Himself spoke profusely about true and false conversion, giving significant attention to the fruit found in true believers (Jn. 10:26-27; Mt. 7:21-23; Mt. 25:1-13, etc.). If this sort of teaching creates doubt in people, you should not be alarmed, nor should you back away from it. Given the unregenerate state of so many professing Christians, their doubts may be fully warranted. In any case, as one friend told me, "Doubts never sent anyone to hell, but deception always does." Most will work through their doubts, if they are regenerate and if we continue to preach the whole truth. Contrary to popular opinion, all doubts are not of the devil. Speak truthfully the whole counsel of God. You cannot "unsave" true believers.

It is true that there may be some who are overly scrupulous and overwhelmed by such examination. But most who will be affected are those who are too self-confident, having based their assurance on such shaky platforms as their response to an invitation, praying a perfectly worded "sinner's prayer," or getting baptized. If they are unregenerate, they may take offense and leave. But if they are truly regenerate, patient teaching and care will help them to overcome their doubts and gain biblical assurance. Such preaching may even result in true conversion for some who are deceived. And don't forget that the overconfident ones are not the only ones at risk. Quiet, sensitive, insecure people can be deceived also.

2. We must address the issue of persistent sin among our members, including their sinful failure to attend the stated meetings of the church. This must be done by reestablishing the forgotten practice of church discipline. Each church should adopt guidelines that state just what will happen when a member falls into sin, including the sin of non-attendance or very nominal attendance. Such discipline for non-attendance is clearly found in the history of Baptists—but more importantly, in the Bible.

Everyone in the church, including new members, should be made familiar with the biblical steps of church discipline. Jesus said that a person who was lovingly, but firmly, disciplined by the church, and yet failed to repent, should be thought of as "a heathen and a tax collector" (see Mt. 18:15-17). Though David committed atrocious sins, he was a repenter at heart (see 2 Sam.12:13; Psalm 51). Every Christian is a life-long repenter and church discipline brings this out. (See "Restoring Those Who Fall," in Our Church on Solid Ground: Documents That Preserve the Integrity and Unity of the Church,

Leaders must get into the homes of all our erring church members, seeking either to bring them to Christ, or to reluctantly release them to the world which they love more than Christ. Nowhere in the Bible are we taught to keep non-believers on the rolls. As a side benefit from church discipline for the SBC, remember that when we reduce our membership to what it actually is, we will be amazed at the statistical improvements in the ratio of members per baptism and members to attenders. Of course, statistics are not worth dying for, but obedience to God's Word is.

We are never to aggressively pluck the supposed tares from the wheat as if we had absolute knowledge (Mt. 13:24-30; 36-43). We might be mistaken. However, loving church discipline is a careful process by which the obvious sinner in essence removes himself by his resistance to correction. The church is made up of repenting saints, not rebelling sinners (see 1 Cor. 5). The slight improvement in the disparity between membership and attendance in the last couple of years is likely due, in major part, to some churches beginning to practice church discipline—a matter of obedience that thankfully is regaining credence among us. Some have removed hundreds from their rolls in this process, and regained some also.

3. We should be more careful on the front end of church membership. In my estimation, the public altar call (a modern invention) often reaps people prematurely. Others will disagree or can perhaps make significant improvements on the traditional "invitation system." We have used this method in our evangelism because of our genuine zeal to see the lost converted. But in our zeal, we have often overlooked the fact that many who do what our method calls for (i.e. respond to our invitation) may not be converted.

Though sacrosanct to Baptists, careful study should be done related to the historical use of the invitation system evangelistically. For eighteen hundred years the church did not use such a method. It was not until its principle originator, Charles Finney, a true pelagian in his theology, promoted his "new measures." Earlier preachers were content to let true conviction play a greater part in conversion. They needed no props for the gospel—no persuasive techniques to prompt people to make a "decision." Instead of relying on a method, their confidence was in the preached Word and the Holy Spirit. Baptist giant, C. H. Spurgeon, for instance, saw thousands converted without the use of an "altar call." His message was his invitation. We should always offer a verbal invitation in our gospel preaching, meaning we must invite people to repent and believe. But there is no real benefit, while there is much potential harm, in our inviting them to the front of the church and then assuring them that their short walk or tearful response proves their conversion.

We don't need better methods to get people down to the front. What we need is more biblical content and more unction in our preaching. You cannot beat sinners away from Christ when God is bringing them in (see Jn. 6:37, 44-45). When as many as 70-90% of "converts" are giving little, if any, evidence of being saved after their first weeks or months of emotional excitement, questions should be asked, both about our understanding of the gospel and about our methods. Forget the fact, if you must, that there is no clear biblical precedent for the altar call. Even considering the matter pragmatically ought to make us quit. Though prevalent in our churches for decades, it has not helped us. (See "Closing with Christ,"

The dangerous practice of receiving new members immediately after they walk the aisle must finally be abandoned. Also, more careful counsel should be taken with those entering in as members from other churches. And add to this a need for much deeper thinking concerning childhood conversion. An alarming percentage of childhood professions wash out later in the teen and college years. For unconverted yet baptized church kids, the more independence they are granted, the more they live out their true nature. (See "Childhood Conversion,"

4. We must stop giving immediate verbal assurance to people who make professions of faith or who respond to our invitations. It is the Holy Spirit's job to give assurance. We are to give thebasis upon which assurance can be had, not the assurance itself. Study 1 John in this respect. What things were written so that they might know they have eternal life? (1 Jn. 5:13). Answer: The tests given in the book. The Bible says that the Holy Spirit testifies to our spirit that we are children of God (Rom. 8:16).

5. We must restore sound doctrine. Revival, I am finding as I study its history, is largely about the recovery of the true gospel. The three great doctrines which have so often shown up in true revival are: 1) God's sovereignty in salvation, 2) justification by grace through faith alone, and 3) regeneration with discernible fruit. Revival is God showing up, but the blessing of the presence of God is directly affected by our beliefs. God most often comes in the context of these and other great doctrines, preached penetratingly and faithfully, and with the unction of the Holy Spirit.

As an illustration of our doctrinal reductionism, repentance is often forgotten completely in gospel presentations, or else it is minimized to mean nothing more than "admitting that you are a sinner." Also, "Inviting Christ into your heart," a phrase never found in the Bible (study the context of Jn.1:12 and Rev. 3:20, the verses used for this), has taken the place of the biblical doctrine of justification by faith alone. The doctrine of God's judgment is rarely preached with any carefulness. And comprehensive studies of the meaning of the cross are seldom heard. Merely looking over the titles of the sermons which awakening preachers preached in the past would surprise most modern pastors.

Be Healthy or Be Ashamed
Which army would you rather have? Gideon's first army or his last? No church, and no denomination, should call itself healthy unless more people attend than are on the roll. This is a standard kept by most of the world, and was kept by our great-grandparents in Baptist churches as well. We would be closer to the revival we desire if we would admit our failure, humbly hang our heads, and seek to rectify this awful hindrance to God's blessing. When we boast of how big we are, we are bragging about our shame.

In the Philadelphia Baptist Association Minutes, our first association, our initial American statistical record shows that five times as many people attended the association's churches as were on their rolls. Greg Wills in Democratic Religion in the South (Oxford University Press, 1997, p.14) reports that three times the number on the rolls attended Baptist churches, then located mostly along the eastern seaboard when surveyed in 1791 by John Ashlund. In 1835, the Christian Index of Georgia recorded that "not less than twice the number" of members were in attendance.

Today, in rough numbers, it takes 300 people on our rolls to have 100 attenders. In the 1790s, it took only 33. Or, to put it in larger figures, it now takes nearly 3000 people, supposedly won to Christ and baptized, to result in a church attendance of 1000. Then, it took only 333. Our potency has diminished to such an extent that we must "win" and "baptize" over 2,000 more people to get to the same 1000 to attend.

Apparently, being orthodox in terms of inerrancy and infallibility is not enough, though without these doctrines we have no foundation for true evangelism. A lot has to be done, and a lot undone. And, sadly, we have been actively transporting this mainly American problem overseas for many years.

To conclude, I suggest two remedial steps for the convention as a whole, in addition to what was suggested for the churches:
1. We might reverse some of our proclivity to continue as normal if we introduced our preachers more accurately in our evangelism meetings and convention settings. Try using this introduction: "Here is Brother ______, pastor of a church of 10,000 members, 6400 of whom do not bother to come on a given Sunday morning, and 8600 of whom do not come on Sunday evening. He is here to tell us about how to have a healthy, evangelistic church."

It might be better to ask a man to speak who shepherds 100 members, all of whom attend with regularity and all of whom show signs of regeneration—a man who, in the last year, has baptized 5 people who stick—rather than a pastor of 10,000 members, 7000 of whom do not come—a man who has baptized 1000 in the past year, 700 of whom cannot be found. The smaller, but more consistent numbers of the first pastor reveal a far more effective ministry and thus a far better example for other churches. (Please understand that I don't like this talk about "numbers," but this is the main way we evaluate people and churches as Baptists. I am sure God is not really impressed with any of our statistics.)

2. We should establish a study group to explore our presently deplorable situation and to track its history. This group should also seek to re-examine the biblical mandate to have a regenerate church. Then this study group should report back with a strategy to help us out of the dilemma. They should be painfully honest. I am hopeful that individual churches will act without this prompting, but this would be an added stimulus to getting us to our fighting weight as a denomination. Some church leaders will not act without this sort of backing since independent action would be a departure from the status quo.

Our only alternative is to carry on in the old way—the way that produces 70-90% fallout. By continuing on as we are, we will gradually blur, and eventually obscure altogether, any distinction between the professing and the authentic Christian. In the end, we will look like every other mainline, liberal denomination. We are only one-third to one-tenth alive now. If we want to avoid complete deadness, we must take dramatic measures immediately. Like cotton candy, our apparent size does not add up to much.

Our forebears, especially those who died for the biblical concept of a regenerate church, would hardly recognize our compromised condition. It will admittedly take us down a notch or two, in the estimation of the rest of professing Christianity, when millions are removed from our rolls. But humility and a new reality might be the starting place for God's greatest blessings on us yet!

The next time someone asks how your church and your denomination are doing, tell the truth. Tell them that we have a new confidence in the inerrant Bible. Tell them that we have seminaries that promote orthodoxy, and new evangelistic fervor among the true believers. Tell them we have a lot to be excited about. But also tell them that when considered as a whole, most Southern Baptists need raising from the dead.

(Jim Elliff is president of Christian Communicators Worldwide. More articles by Jim may be found at

Revised edition, Copyright © Jim Elliff 2005 Christian Communicators Worldwide, Inc. 201 Main, Parkville, MO 64152 USA Permission granted for not-for-sale reproduction in exact form including copyright Other uses require written permission. Write for additional materials.

Monday, July 02, 2007

A useful lie

The Chimp-Human 1% Difference: A Useful Lie.

Teach us to number our days

(Posted on behalf of Steve Hays.)

Since my views on YEC come in for predictable criticism, it may be worthwhile to explain in somewhat more detail the reasoning behind it—with special reference to Gen 1.

I. Theological Commitments

One common criticism is that my position is dictated by certain theological commitments. I think it's funny that a professing Christian would even consider this something to criticize.

Indeed, I plead guilty to the charge. To be a Christian is to have certain theological commitments. And this takes precedence over other ideological options.

It doesn't matter how smart you are or dumb you are. You may have an IQ of 70 or 200. But you never outgrow the duty to submit your mind to the mind of God.

Some critics call this "intellectual suicide." Frankly, I don't see that the critics have much to lose. For they don't have that much intellect to sacrifice in the first place.

Of course, this charge also assumes that we are flying in the face of the "evidence." But that takes a very naïve view of the evidence. The evidence is theory-laden evidence, not raw evidence. And it also disregards the counterevidence.

And there's nothing suicidal about submitting your finite and fallible mind to the mind of an omniscient God. The better part of wisdom is to entrust yourself to Someone wiser than yourself.

II. Almighty Science

There is also the view that instead of submitting our mind to God, we should submit our mind to the scientific establishment. That, somehow, scientific consensus or the hot new theory of the day should never go unchallenged. Yet science, if allowed to go unchecked, comes up with some intellectually suicidal theories of its own.

Cognitive science informs us that the soul is an antiquated illusion. Eliminative materialism informs us that consciousness is an antiquated illusion. We have no feelings or beliefs. That's just so much folk psychology.

Naturalistic evolution informs us that man is a fluke. If an asteroid hadn't wiped out the dinosaurs 65 millions years ago, you and I wouldn't be here today. If you rewound the evolutionary tape and ran it again, you and I wouldn't be here today. There is no God or providence. Just dumb luck or bad luck.

Naturalistic evolution also informs us that morality is an illusion. Natural selection has conditioned us to be altruistic, but once we become aware of our evolutionary programming, we can see that our moral instincts result from an amoral process.

Secular science orders us to dig our own grave, then kneel down as it puts a bullet in the back of our skull. And there are many POWs who dutifully follow the hortatory orders of prison guards like Richard Dawkins and Daniel Dennett, while they—in turn—report to the commandant of natural selection, which will turn them into fertilizer in a few years as well.

I'm afraid I wouldn't make a very good POW in the secular death camp. I'm not prepared to play the role of the willing victim. I reserve the right to burrow a hole under the fence and make my escape. And I'd rather be shot on foot than be shot on my knees.

III. Theistic Evolution

Some professing believers take refuge in the halfway house of theistic evolution. But I reject theistic evolution, not merely because I'm too much of a Biblicist, but because I'm too much of a Darwinian.

I'm a good listener. I do take heed of what the Darwinians say. If you read the fossil record the way they have taught us to read it, then it's quite arbitrary and fanciful to see anything special about man in the geological column. Man is just a hairless, horny little ape that managed to avoid getting stepped on by Brontosaurus. Which species survives, and which succumbs in the "field of bullets" is a purely fortuitous question of scheduling: if you happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, then tough luck.1

Right now we have our moment in the sun, but eventually we, too, will become extinct—if you put your faith in the prognostications of the glorious, scientific establishment.

IV. Theological Schizophrenia

I find it both odd and amusing to see what some professing Christians are prepared to believe and disbelieve. Conservative Catholic intellectuals are a case in point. Take Fr. Jaki. He is a Benedictine priest who holds two earned doctorates in physics and theology.

On the one hand, he has written a book on Genesis creation account.2 After reviewing the history of interpretation for the past 2000 years, he concludes that it's a mistake to reconcile Gen 1 with modern science, for the creation account is, in his opinion, prescientific and unscientific.

Jaki has also written a book on Fatima.3 After reviewing the state of the record, he defends the "miracle of the sun," as well as various Marian oracles and apparitions associated with Fatima.

What we have are two different Jakis under one hood. When he has his Catholic scientist cap on, he cannot bring himself to believe that things happened the way they are described in Gen 1. But when he has his Catholic theologian cap on, he will piously believe and defend any number of Catholic miracles.

And you find this among observant Catholic intellectuals generally, including members of the Magisterium. On the one hand, many miracles and prophecies in Scripture are discounted in favor of higher critical theories.

On the other hand, these same individuals, who are so sceptical in the face of Bible history, are open to all sorts of ecclesiastical miracles, such as angelic apparitions, Marian apparitions and prophecies, divine healings, answered prayers to St. Jude, stigmatics, "incorruptibles," the odor of sanctity," levitation, bilocation, translocation, haloes, bleeding wafers, possession and exorcism, the liquefaction of blood, and so on and so forth.

It's as if they had one foot firmly planted in the Middles Ages, and the other foot firmly planted in modernity. Why do they affirm so many extrabiblical signs and wonders while they deny so many biblical signs and wonders? Why is one miracle any more or less unscientific than another?

Yet another oddity is the way in which some professing believers embrace methodological naturalism. Now, this makes sense if you are Richard Dawkins or Daniel Dennett. Since they subscribe already to metaphysical naturalism, then it's quite consistent to adopt a naturalized epistemology—which is the counterpart to their naturalized ontology.

By contrast, it is utterly illogical for professing believers to adopt a methodology that is, by their own admission, false to the way the world really is. Method and subject-matter ought to match. Otherwise, our methodology is bound to misdescribe the workings of the world.

The problem is that some theological liberals are so desperate for secular respectability that they will resort to all manner of makeshift positions.

The old-earth creationist attacks new-earth creationism as unscientific. The theistic evolutionist attacks old-earth creationism as unscientific. The deistic evolutionist attacks theistic evolution as unscientific. And the naturalistic evolutionist attacks deistic evolution as unscientific.

The moral of the story is that as long as you're going to challenge the scientific status quo, then there's no particular advantage in limiting yourself to half-measures. From a Christian standpoint, wherever you range yourself along the continuum, there will always be someone to your left. Someone who accuses you of being unscientific. So the only rational position is to take a principled position.

V. Mix and Match

A few definitions are in order. Although certain positions are designated by the time-factor, time is not the only factor. YEC denies the antiquity of the world, animal mortality before the fall, and a merely local flood. OEC is the mirror-image of YEC inasmuch as it affirms what YEC denies.

These are conventional packages rather than logical packages. The age of the earth doesn't imply anything about animal mortality or the scope of the flood. In principle, one could mix and match elements of YEC and OEC.

VI. Importance

How important is the age of the universe?

1.On the face of it, this lacks the intrinsic importance of some other doctrines, like the Incarnation or Resurrection.

2.Sometimes a position is important by default. All other things being equal, it might not be a big deal, but the alternatives are so unsatisfactory that they make it more important than it would otherwise be.

There's a sense in which the Christian has far less at stake than the Darwinian. Time is not a requirement for creation ex nihilo. By contrast, geological timescales are a prerequisite for phylogeny. Unless the fossils can be lined up in a certain chronology, there is no evolutionary pathway to trace or retrace.

3.Something can be important simply because it is true. Even a trivial truth is important in its own right. If the world is one way, then it is not another way. There can only be one reality. That's just the way things are.

In that respect, truth enjoys a solitary distinction. For every right answer, there are infinitely many wrong answers.

4.OEC sometimes acts as though, if you just give the geologist all the time he demands, then he will go away and leave you alone. And I think this is, in part, because OEC was formulated in response to the New Geology—before the rise of Darwinian evolution. At that juncture, it didn't cost a Christian very much to throw Biblical chronology over the back of the sled.

But there was a hidden cost. Once you surrender the timeframe of Genesis to the geologist, he will be back for more. Having fed him the days of Genesis simply whets his appetite for other tasty morsels, like the plants and animals. And, especially, Adam and Eve.

5.Something can also be important in the secondary sense. Even if it were of no primary importance, it may implicate something else that is quite important. Is the Bible the word of God?

6.At one level, this question of timing nothing or less than an exegetical question. It doesn't matter how we answer that question as long as we come up with the right answer. If YEC has better exegesis, we go with YEC. If OEC has better exegesis, we go with OEC. We can rest content with whatever God has done.

VII. Process of Elimination

The major interpretive options are the calendar-day theory, the gap theory, the day/age theory, the visionary theory, and framework hypothesis. The calendar day theory goes with YEC, while the other four go with OEC.4

All four OEC interpretations are subject to distinctive objections, but they also share a couple of common flaws:

1.To the extent that they were proposed to harmonize Scripture with science, they fail. For there is far more to the conflict than the time factor.
  1. There is the sequence of events. Mainstream science regards the sequence of creative fiats in Gen 1 as unscientific.

  2. An OEC timeline also leaves the paleoanthropological record untouched. So an OEC will still have to oppose naturalistic evolution by some other argument. Chronology is the least of his problems. And ceding time to the Darwinian hands him a weapon he will turn on you.5
2.They subvert the Sabbatarian structure of Gen 1.

If there is one thing that ought to be unmistakably clear in Gen 1, then this should be the fact that the divisions of time are intended to foreshadow the Sabbath. This is clear from (a) the septunarian episodes and diurnal divisions in Gen 1, (b) the allusion to the Sabbath in 2:1-3), and (c) the allusions to Gen 1-2 in Exod 20:8-11 and other parts of the Pentateuch.
  1. The gap theory undercuts the Sabbatarian structure by positing an interval of time before the first day. But it's arguable that day 1 is inclusive of vv1-2.6

  2. The day/age theory undercuts the Sabbatarian structure by abstracting the individual days in isolation to their narrative function in forming a week.

    By turning the days into eons, they cease to be days, and they thereby cease to add up to a week, with six days of labor followed by a day of rest.

    And it is quite artificial to retain the septunarian structure while denying that the days are, in fact, consecutive calendar days, for there is nothing in nature corresponding to six creative epochs, followed by a creative cessation.

    It is even worse when the day/age theory turns them into overlapping eons.

  3. The visionary theory also undercuts the Sabbatarian structure, for six days of divine revelation are not analogous to six days of labor.

  4. The framework hypothesis undercuts the Sabbatarian structure by rearranging the septunarian sequence into three pairs of parallel days.
VIII. A Mythical Interpretation?

Some writers think that Gen 1 is an expurgated myth. The Enuma Elish is the favorite suspect. However, this analysis has been rejected by a number of experts in the field of comparative Semitics, viz. John Currid, Thorkild Jacobsen, J. V. Kinner-Wilson, Kenneth Kitchen, W. G. Lambert, and Terence Mitchell.7

IX. A Figurative Interpretation?

If you were going to reject the calendar-day theory, the most efficient strategy would be to admit the Sabbatarian structure, but claim that this is a picturesque metaphor for sacred time—with a view to the Sabbath.

There are, however, a number of obstacles to that interpretation.

X. The Calendar-Day Theory

1.Let's begin by commenting on two or three popular arguments for the calendar-day theory that I think are fallacious. There is the statistical argument: in most of its Biblical occurrences, a "day" denotes a calendar day. What is more, the days in Genesis are defined by the diurnal cycle ("morning and evening"). Finally, the days are sequentially numbered. All these indicators are taken to mean that the days in Genesis are genuine, calendar days.
  1. But one of the problems with that argument is that this literary depiction is equally consistent with a figurative sequence. If the narrator were using the workweek, followed by the Sabbath, as an anthropomorphic metaphor for the human workweek and the Sabbath, then he would employ such imagery to draw a mental picture for the reader in order to prefigure and signify these subsequent developments.

  2. Moreover, we'd expect providential days to be solar days. We'd expect occurrences of a "day" or "days" in the OT to generally denote solar days. They describe the present state of affairs. That, of itself, doesn't imply the same thing for the creation "week."
2.Let's also consider some popular objections to the calendar-day theories that I think are fallacious.
  1. Proponents of the framework hypothesis object that, if taken literally, there is a conflict between the chronology of Gen 1 and Gen 2.

    But this interpretation assumes that Gen 1 and Gen 2 are both global in scope, in which case the events in Gen 2 would correspond to day 3 in Gen 1. And yet there are two interrelated problems with this assumption. As one scholar has put it:

      a)"To appeal to Genesis 2:5 in this way is to take the verse out of context, inasmuch as it belongs to a section of Genesis which deals not with the creation but rather with the preparation of the Garden of Eden."8

      b)"As a matter of fact, however, there are not two conflicting accounts. The heading to the second section of Genesis (Gen 2:2:4-4:24) reads, ‘These are the generations [i.e., the things produced by' the heavens and the earth.' This phrase refers to those things which come from heaven and earth, not to the creation of heaven and earth. It is an introductory phrase, a heading, which identifies the nature of the section which follows. It tells us that we are now going to deal not with the origin of all things, but with that which came from heaven and earth, namely, man."9

    If the local interpretation is correct, then Gen 2 would correspond to day 6 rather than day 3.

  2. It is said that the appeal to Exod 20:9-11 involves an argument from analogy rather than identity. And this is true, as far as it goes. Every argument from analogy is also an argument from disanalogy.

    However, the problem with this objection is that the explicit point of comparison between Exod 20 and Gen 1-2 involves their parallel timeframe. That's precisely what Exod 20 singles out. What they have in common is a six-day workweek followed by a day of rest. So any disanalogies like elsewhere.

  3. The first three days could not be solar days because the sun wasn't made until the fourth day.

    I think there's some force to this objection, although it's only a problem if you accept the premise. For my part, I do regard the first three days as solar days. I think that what we have in 1:14-18 is an oblique architectural metaphor which links it to Noah's ark as well as the tabernacle.10

  4. A final objection is that a "day" (Heb=yom) is sometimes used in a figurative sense. And, indeed, one needs to go no further than Gen 2:4 to find the figurative usage of the word. Hence, there's no reason we shouldn't construe the days in Gen 1 the same way.

    Or is there? Gerhard Hasel has raised a number of syntactical objections to this comparison.11
3.What are some of the positive arguments for the calendar-day theory?
  1. We need to distinguish between a symbol and a figure of speech. Strictly speaking, a figure of speech is a literary device. It has no extratextual realty. By contrast, a symbol can have an extratextual reality. In other words, a symbol can both be an entity in its own right and also stand for another entity.

  2. Apropos (i), Biblical symbolism, as a rule, takes its point of origin from history. Put another way, Biblical symbolism is a form of typology, in which one entity prefigures another. We would therefore expect the Sabbatarian motif in Gen 1-2 to foreshadow the Sabbath in a constitutive sense rather than a figurative sense. As Hasel puts it: "the creation ‘days' set the norm for subsequent days in the weekly cycle of time…These ‘days' inaugurate the subsequent historical process of time ordered in weekly cycles."

  3. This consideration is reinforced by the fact that Genesis not only includes temporal markers, but a temporal metric. Time is measured by the celestial bodies (1:14ff.). Commentators differ on whether 1:14ff. has reference to holidays, agricultural seasons, or both—but in any event the calendrical function assigned to the celestial bodies has reference to actual entities in time and space.

    Hence, it makes sense to apply the temporal metric in Gen 1 to the temporal markers in Gen 1. We measure the days by the temporal metric supplied in the text. As such, they denote solar days.

  4. And, as we've already seen, this interpretation receives further confirmation from intertextual allusions like Exod 20:8-11 (par. 31:12-17).
For these reasons, I think the calendar-day theory remains the most exegetically well-informed interpretation.

There is, of course, more to YEC chronology than the days of Genesis. That also needs to be connected with the genealogies.12 The genealogies may have missing links.13 However, a few missing links—or even a great many—will hardly allow one to interpolate geological time-scales into the genealogical record. For one thing, the genealogies commence with man. But in historical geology and modern cosmology, man comes at the tail-end (pardon the pun) of the evolutionary process.

1 D. Raup, Extinction: Bad Genes or Bad Luck? (W. W. Norton 1992).

2 S. Jaki, Genesis 1 Through the Ages (Thomas More Press 1992).

3 S. Jaki, God and the Sun at Fatima (Real View Books 1999).

4 More recently, John Sailhamer has proposed a local interpretation, in which he identifies the scope of Gen 1-3 with the Holy Land. Cf. Genesis Unbound (Multnomah Books 1996). While he makes some useful points along the way, his central thesis is subject to considerable criticism. Cf.

5 Not that paleoanthropology presents such a daunting challenge to the Bible-believing Christian. For, as Michael Ruse observes, "the fact of the matter is that paleontology cannot use selection directly, as can the student of today's organisms, such as the sociobiologist. Selection is not a tool of research where you can go out and discover and test and come up with results. You are working at a distance—a very long distance—with evidence (fossils) that is spotty and incomplete and very very dead," The Evolution Wars (Rutgers University Press 2002).

6 G. Wenham, Genesis 1-15 (Word 1987), 11-13.

7 J. Currid, Ancient Egypt and the Old Testament (Baker 2001), 29ff.; K. Kitchen, On the Reliability of the Old Testament (Eerdmans 2003), 242-25; 591n7; T. Mitchell, The Bible in the British Museum: Interpreting the Evidence (Paulist Press 2004), 79.

8 E. J. Young, "Creation," The Encyclopedia of Christianity, P. Hughes, ed. (NFCE 1972), 3:242.

9 Ibid. 244.

10 I'd add that John Sailhamer takes issue with the traditional rendering of the syntax while Donald Wiseman takes issue with the traditional rendering of the noun. Cf. Genesis Unbound (Multnomah Books 1996); Donald J. Wiseman, "Creation time—what does Genesis say?" Science and Christian Belief 3/1 (1991), 25-34. John Walton, in his commentary on Genesis (122-24), marshals further evidence in support of this interpretation -- as does C. J. Collins in Genesis 1-4 (56-58).


12 For an example of how this computation is done—by a scholar who cannot be fairly accused being blinded by his reverence for Scripture, cf. (PDF)

13 William Henry Green wrote the seminal essay on this subject. Cf.