Friday, September 06, 2013

Chronology and historical apologetics

To see the importance of nature's constancy to historical apologetics, however, one need not look only to such dramatic events as the Resurrection. Historiographical, archeological, and anthropological methods that presuppose the constancy of nature have been enormously helpful in confirming events, places, and persons recorded in Scripture. Using such methods, F. F. Bruce argues for the  authenticity of Acts as  a first-century document. Thus he infers that "the historical, geographical and political atmosphere of Luke-Acts as a whole, and of Acts in particular, is unmistakably that of the first century and not the second." 
Young-earth creationists accept these research methods when they confirm events going back to Abraham as described in Genesis 12. Yet, when these same methods get pushed back before Genesis 12, they balk. The reason is that these methods give evidence of human activity that should not have survived a universal flood (which young-earth creationists place around 2500 BC, or 4,500 years ago). Accordingly, archeologists claim to find evidence of human writing at Uruk going back 5,000 years, well before Noah's flood on face-value reading of Genesis 6-8. Moreover, they claim to find evidence of artifacts, such as dolls, going back 7,000 years, well before the creation of Adam on a face-value reading of Genesis 1 and 2 (young-earth creationists place the creation of Adam around 4000 BC, or 6,000 years ago). W. Dembski, The End of Christianity (B&H 2009), 62-63.

i) It's possible that young-earth creationists are inconsistent in this respect. If so, does that mean young-earth creationism is essentially and internally inconsistent, or does that mean some young-earth creationists haven't thought through their position, and filled in all the gaps? 

ii) From what I've read, young-earth creationists are divided on whether the genealogies are open or closed. Some young-earth creationists continue to defend closed genealogies. As such, they continue to defend a 6000-year-old universe. However, other young-earth creationists concede that the genealogies are open, so they are prepared to extend the age of the universe to around 10,000 years. Hence, Dembski's characterization is inaccurate. 

iii) A "face-value" reading of Gen 1-11 doesn't indicate that writing at Uruk antedates Noah's flood. Rather, that involves an effort to synchronize Genesis with extrabiblical data. With archeological findings outside the Bible. By itself, Genesis doesn't date writing at Uruk. Dembski is sneaking assumptions into the text that simply aren't there. That's not internal to a face-value reading of Gen 1-11. Rather, that involves a putative relationship between Gen 1-11 and extrabiblical evidence which archaeologists attempt to date and correlate with events or notices in Gen 1-11. It's not like Gen 1-11 has a calendar which places writing at Uruk before the flood. 

iv) Moreover, the examples that Dembski gives involve relative chronology rather than absolute chronology. Suppose historians decided that our timeline for ancient history is off by 100 years. 1C events are really 2nd events. However, that would shift the entire timeline up and down the line. If 1C events are really 2C events, then 2C events are really 3C events. 

So that wouldn't fundamentally change the arguments of F. F. Bruce. You'd still have a 100 interval between the historical, geopolitical atmosphere of Acts and literature a century later. 

v) Young-earth creationism can logically distinguish between naturally datable events which are datable because chronometric processes are already operating, and naturally undatable initial conditions which are undatable because they took place before the system as a whole was up and running. Natural artifacts which are the result of creation ex nihilo would be undatable by chronometric processes because these weren't the result of a normal cyclical process. 

vi) Although the global event of the flood is part of the young-earth creationist package, the extent of the flood is logically separable from young-earth creationist chronology. That really concerns space rather than time. 

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