The Pulse on Creation

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This is the latest Pulse, and the first Pulse of 2011. The main article is a charitable discussion between two different perspectives on creation. And there’s a whole lot more going on in this edition, too.

We invite you to check it out, and please feel free to add your own feedback in the comments section below.

Also, don’t forget to share this with anyone you feel would be interested.

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  1. Rod Masterson
    Rod Masterson says:

    Tom Hilchie’s response to my article on creation raises an important cultural and Free Church issue. He describes my argument as a “seemingly uncharitable assessment of anyone who does not agree with his (my) position”. While I recognize the reality that I or any of us can easily become “uncharitable” in any debate, and if it be true in this case I sincerely apologize.

    My concern in defining someone as “uncharitable” is that it seems to suggest that if we hold a strong position on something (including disputable matters)and genuinely don’t feel that an opposing argument is “good” or “respectable” (Tom’s words for my argument in defense of a literal view of Genesis 1), that necessarily means we are uncharitable.

    In my view, being charitable is particularly noteworthy when you sharply disagree with someone and yet do not withdraw fellowship. In the Mt. Olive congregation is one person at least who disagrees strongly with my view on creation, and we have debated it somewhat, yet there is no withdrawal of fellowship or lack of charity as far as I am aware.

    My rhetoric is indeed “strong” as it reflects my deep concern concerning a non literalist position of Genesis one. I sought to be careful in only attaching those terms to the opposing position or its outcomes, and not to any particular individual.

    I am strongly skeptical that to interpret “yom” as some vague, undefined period of time is due strictly to a normal textual-grammatical-historical hermeneutic. It appears historically that it is primarily the insistent pressure of the evolutionary theory that has led scholars to the “creative” solution of an indefinite period of time. If it is legitimate to interpret yom in Genesis 1 as indefinite then why should we argue with some who argue that given the impossibility of raising the dead then the resurrection of Jesus is only a metaphor.

    • Communications
      Communications says:

      You’re absolutely right, Rod: this is an important issue!

      I guess the way that I see charity is that we allow differing interpretation, imagining or even grand speculation of the things that are not the core essentials of faith. I allow room for disagreement with someone on matters that I think are relatively trivial. Frankly, I’d rather err on the side of allowing people too much leeway for those things. But as you said, as soon as the questioning starts to get really ‘creative’ (ie was Jesus’ death merely metaphorical?), then it’s time to figure out if we’re actually in alignment or not.

      I hope that this Pulse, and your comment, inspire some really meaningful dialogue on this matter! And personally, I want to thank you for the tone and clarity represented right at the beginning of your comment. Whatever else we discuss, and whatever the conclusions that we each arrive at, I think that perfectly epitomises charity!

  2. Scott Myers
    Scott Myers says:

    I very much appreciated Rod’s article.

    While many may believe that there many viewpoints or ways to read Genesis 1&2, his concern with the vague reading of “yom” becomes a definite problem once we begin Genesis 3. As a result, it appears that a textual-grammatical-historical hermeneutic would be best applied.

    Moreover, I believe Rod raises a good point with regard to the nature of charitable debate – it seems that there has been a sharp shift in the locus (as it relates to rhetoric, and cogency) with the focus now being directed against the person (ad hominem) which appears to be what Tom has done, as opposed to what I argue would be the classical meaning, against the argument itself, which appears to be what Rod is speaking about.

    • Communications
      Communications says:

      Hmmm. That’s an interesting take, Scott. We’ll have to see if we can get Tom’s voice in this.

  3. Jack
    Jack says:

    Thank-you for raising this debate. To not talk about these things will just drive them underground and then they come out in more violent ways. However, I would offer a word of caution, using language which includes words like slippery slope, or liberal default position usually do not lead to open debates and people learning form each other. I think that we all need to realize that we just might be wrong and that the text is trying to tell think it is.

    One problem is that we come to ancient texts and try to make them answer our questions. I think that all ancient texts, including the Bible need to be understood within their own context including how they understood their world, but sometimes we will not have enough information to understand everything. We have to live with this, because otherwise we just hear the echos our own voices in the text. I think the way this debate is framed for us has little to do with the questions that the ancient Israelites would have been asking. Evolution would not have been a part of their thinking, and maybe six literal days neither.

    So we need to ask why is the text here and what is it telling us from an ancient world view. If we ask this and look at what kind of culture the Hebrews lived in we should be coming up with different answers which might lead us away from the question of what kind of day (yom) is Gen. 1 talking about.

    I think the big questions is not method of creation, but who is the creator and what is the human God relationship. The other question that needs to be asked is what kind of world is Gen 1 and 2 telling us about.

    If we are serious about those kinds of questions that we can find answers. We find that the created world is described as a building. It is set on a foundation Ps 102:25, Job 38:4. The heavens are stretch out like a tent, Psa 104:2. The more that we look at the text in this way the more we will see a building. There is a good reason for this. In ancient times in the creations myths when Baal or some other god has won his victory over the sea and creation is completed they build a temple. And in that temple is put the image of the god. When we look at the relationship between temple and creation we will find many connections. In Gen 1:15 the sun and moon are not mentioned and the word for light is the word that is used for the light in the temple. Ancient temples are a copy of what they thought the world was like and I think that is what the writer of Genesis wants us to think about. Creation equals temple and it is the place where God dwells and where he wants to meet with people.

    A couple of examples: When Moses gets the instructions to build the tabernacle, God gives them in seven different times, set off by the words the “LORD said to Moses”. Each of those speeches have similar events to Gen 1. I will list a couple: the seventh speech is about the Sabbath, the sixth has two spirit filled people. ( I can give a complete list for people that want it). The Bible talks about Heaven being God’s throne and earth His footstool. It is palace language; in Hebrew the word for palace and temple are the same.

    When we look outside the Bible in the Jewish writings the book of Jubilees is very helpful. It says that the holy of Holy was the garden of Eden (8:1). Also we find that there is a strong connection in the same reference to Mount Sinai and Jerusalem and Eden all being God’s dwelling place facing each other. I think the ancients saw the world as God’s temple and we as his image in it. If I am right, then the question of a literal six days or evolution is the wrong question for Gen 1 and 2. The right questions I believe here, who is the creator and what is our role as his image in his temple. Or restated how are we to live and worship in this world which is God’s temple.

    If we want to know how the world works, ask science, they do not have everything right but they know more then we do. If we want to know about theology look in the Bible, it will tell us many things about God but not everything.

  4. Communications
    Communications says:

    Now that’s a comment, Jack! :-)

    You’ve raised some good cautions, and made some good points.

    I particularly like your ending. Our knowledge from either source can never be complete. As beings that know who our Creator is though, we can be at peace with all the unknowns.

  5. Tim Stewart
    Tim Stewart says:

    I appreciate the many voices in this argument, especially Jack’s recent one. It’s true that we need to consider the original context and ask, “what questions was the Biblical writer answering?” We come with our own questions about “how” and “when,” while the Bible tells us Who and why.

    It portrays God as a sovereign and purposeful Creator who has fashioned a world in an orderly way, preparing it for us. It is a beautiful account of how God made order out of chaos. The earth was “formless and empty” (1:2), and so God dealt with this. In the first 3 days, He separated things, providing form – land between the waters, with heavenly bodies governing time. In the next 3 days, He filled the forms, providing means of navigation and sustenance. Finally, He made us in His image, to rule the earth in a way that reflects Him.

    When considering the concerns of ancient Israel, we can see clear connections between Gen 1 and several other issues. Seeing the striking similarities to Greek, Egyptian, and Babylonian myths, Genesis appears to be a great apologetic that defends the true view of God. It’s also easy to imagine a Jewish child asking his grandpa, “why is there a Sabbath?” or “how do we know that there is a God?” or “what is the purpose of our lives?”
    These are theological questions that the Bible answers.

    The Bible often offers a human perspective on things, such as “the sun stood still” or “the four corners of the earth” or that “the earth is immovable.”
    http://hypertextbook.com/eworld/geocentric.shtml

    The question is not IF we take the Bible literally, but WHEN.

    So, from our point of view, why shouldn’t God be portrayed as having a normal work week like us? He’s often portrayed with human-like emotions and physical properties.
    There’s no denying that He could have made the earth in a week, but I don’t think it’s that important to believe that He did. Did he make the universe look old?

    I support Tom’s concerns that opposing “liberal, slippery slope, atheist, etc.” arguments is straying from the conversation at hand. This is a discussion between believers, and there is great diversity within Christian circles. So many respected Christian writers neither subscribe to evolution nor to a 6-day creation. (I’ve enjoyed Walton’s NIVAC of Genesis). There are multiple views in the middle. I hope this conversation will include that.

  6. Communications
    Communications says:

    Tim, thanks for sharing your perspective, especially the reminder that there are more interpretations of this than just literal vs. non-literal. Let’s never be guilty of turning this into a false dichotomy.

  7. Paul Budd
    Paul Budd says:

    Good to hear my former teacher Rod and my now Island collegue Tom give their views on this subject of creation. as I read through their articles I did wonder why Rod so easily assumed that if one didn’t see a creation day as our human 24 hrs. them one must be a theistic evolutionist. I met and debated one of those (Dennis Lamereux)I think Rod was also there. I don’t believe Tom was going there. I also want to thank Tim for his comments and caution on staying on the subject at hand. as both men stated God is creator, we are created by Him and for Him. This is the central issue if we are to take the truth of the creator’s love to those in need of it.

  8. Lisa Cataford
    Lisa Cataford says:

    We appreciate Rod Masterson’s excellent and Biblical article.

    For Tom to separate the Bible from science is to avoid the fact that many of the greatest scientific discoveries of all time have been made by Believers who found their “discoveries” in the words of Scripture. The absolutes (foundations) of science are in fact found in the Bible. “In the beginning (time), God created the heavens (space) and the earth (matter). The Bible is scientific from start to finish.

    Don’t forget all the skeptics of archeology. How many hundreds of times have they judged the Bible as in error – only to be proven dead wrong themselves.

    God Himself defined what He meant by day (yom) as: “the evening and the morning were day one.” God Himself stated the order in which He created things – of which evolution is exactly opposite. Do years of death, disease and suffering by mutations bring life? Or did God say, “Let there be” – and instantly, there was – as the Hebrew text demands? Is the Bible false when it says death only entered the world as a result of Adam’s sin? Evolution brings serious charges of falsehood against the Word of God that no Christian should be comfortable with.

    Why then, would we pat ourselves on the back that debating what God has said is somehow noble? Is this being charitable to God or to men?

    Hebrews 11:3 tells us the very first act of faith is to “understand (receive as true) that the worlds (aeon = all things) were framed (made perfectly complete) by the word of God (spoken into existence), so that (resulting in) things which are seen (in completion) were not made of things which do appear (partial physical or material formations).

    To answer the Pulse’s question: We agree on Whom. Must we also agree on how? Yes – unashamedly yes! Anything less than accepting by faith what God has said is, quite simply, to call God a liar.

    Roland and Lisa Cataford
    Old Landmarks Christian Fellowship – Burns Lake, BC

  9. Paul Budd
    Paul Budd says:

    I somehow sent my comment in the middle of a thought. so as I continue. so as both Tom and Rod said God is the crreator and this is the central issue. creation and not evelution. we were created by God and for God. this is the central issue when we talk about the love of the creator to those who need to know it. Paul on Mars hill didn’t try to argue anything except that God made the world and all things in it as well God mande from one man all nations. since in Him we live and move and have our being He has the right to judge us and since He loves us He has made a way we can stand up to that judgement, Christ the ressurected. These are very declaritive statements and the only one those listening took issue with was the fact of ressurection. this has also been my experience as well; people have more trouble with the ressurection of Christ than they do with six day creation. My task, with Christ is the gospel and where I might not take too hard a stand on wether the six days of creation were earthly 24 hrs. or some heavenly standard of keeping time the facts of God as creator and ressurector are the place where we can agree and place our flag. on Island time, with love Paul.

  10. Communications
    Communications says:

    Paul,

    I got the sequence of comment approvals mixed up — I think everything’s in order now. Sorry for any confusion.

    Lisa,

    I guess the only remaining unknown is: How fast does God speak? :-)

    I’m not seeing anything in your argument that evolution would especially threaten — certainly not to the point that it would ‘call God a liar’.

    The crux of your argument is that the original language demands that Creation happened ‘instantly’. If you can prove that, then the rest is just window-dressing.

    Hebrews 11:3 is a great verse, but doesn’t sufficiently address the timeframe or the creation process to prove your point.

    Evolution doesn’t specifically require death, does it? It involves iterations of organisms; couldn’t those iterations co-exist?

    I think debate on this subject is interesting and fun. I don’t think it threatens the core. The Bible says God made it, and it doesn’t get too specific with the details. That suggests to me that the specifics aren’t all that important.

    In fact, in my opinion it is a remarkable, supernatural component of the Bible that any new scientific exploration can be incorporated into such a poetic explanation of Creation. The world is round? Check. The Earth rotates around the Sun? Check. Our planet is a comparatively tiny speck in the vast cosmos? Yep, that too.

    I guess macro evolution is still up for debate, and that’s fine. But what is undeniable is that the Church has a messy history of insisting things on behalf of the Bible that it doesn’t insist for itself. In that regard, let’s get the principles right or the specifics don’t matter.

  11. Lisa Cataford
    Lisa Cataford says:

    Morning Brad,

    I asked the Lord how fast He speaks. He brought to mind: “Let all the earth fear the LORD: let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him. For He spoke, and it was done. He commanded, and it stood fast.” – Psalm 33:8, 9

    Or, we could ask the Centurion how fast Jesus healed his servant. We could ask the disciples how fast the storm became a calm, or we could ask the demons how fast they were evicted when given the command to go, or Lazarus to come forth from the grave, or, or, or …

    Most people feel a measure of offence if they give an account of something, and people question its accuracy. Abraham believed God and it was counted to him for righteousness, and he was called “the friend of God.”

    This is not an issue of science, it is an issue of faith. Either it happened as God said, in the time frame He gave, and in the exact order He gave, or we are doubting His word. If we agree WHO, then we must also accept HOW He says He did it. We can’t have it both ways.

    Theistic evolution is like Peter warming his hands at the very fire of those who hated Jesus. It stands in serious opposition to God’s order of events by teaching a state of disease, death, and decay through mutations before an eventual enduring life form – which means it was thousands (nope, now it’s millions) of years before God could look at all that “He had made” and say it was “good.”

    Hebrews 11:3 is not up for debate. God spoke things into a state of perfect completion apart from pre-existing matter or stages that could be seen.

    Are we firm on this? Yes. Does it mean we won’t fellowship with a Theistic evolutionist? No. Quite honestly, I’m more worried about offending God than anyone else. There is a fine line over which our debates expose doubt and our questions betray unbelief. If He says there won’t be much faith left on the earth when He returns, and if childlike faith is what He’s looking for, then I want him to find it among those of us in the EFCC.

    Blessings, and Amen –
    Your sister, Lisa

    • Communications
      Communications says:

      I hear you, Lisa. Good pushback.

      Certainly Jesus’ miraculous interventions were ‘in the blink of an eye’ type-things, usually. That speaks to a pretty comprehensive control over the order of things.

      I like your point about debates and doubt, and questions and unbelief. We need to be vigilant about these things. Not looking for it in others as much as we aware of it in ourselves. I guess it’s that whole ‘work out your salvation with fear and trembling’ business, eh? :-)

      If someone has a handle on reverence and awe, then I still don’t think that a slow creation process threatens the Bible. Just as I don’t think that the Bible threatens a slow creation process. And I say that as someone who would has tended to believe in a more literal interpretation of the account.

      Don’t take that to mean that I’m playing Devil’s advocate to wind you up — that’s not what I’m doing. I’m testing the logic of this myself. And I’m taking that on principally because I agree with you: offending God is of greater concern to me than offending others. But I’m even more eager to *please* him. In this context, I believe that that happens as we talk about these things in a way that enhances our unity rather than threatens it.

      Thanks for your contribution, Lisa. And everyone else, too. This is shaping up to be a most stimulating subject!

  12. Scott Myers
    Scott Myers says:

    While Lisa and I have differed on doctrine in the past, I must say that I really appreciated how she is trying to draw us back to a God-centered view of creation.

    Yet, at the same time, I must express to Brad that we do not need to ‘prove’ how fast God speaks – it is recorded in Scripture, and it would seem to indicate that he speaks instantaneous as we do, and in a audible voice that is understood. Moreover, it is powerful and that Christ as the divine and transcendent Logos, upholds all things.

    Now, I recognize that for some the issue has to do with reconciling Scripture to science. Yet, as we properly understand, theology and science both provide information which is useful in understanding creation. Which one, however, will we hold is the standard, the canon or measure of all things? As Evangelicals, it must be Scripture, all of it including the parts we do not understand, and I might suggest why Hebrews 11: 3 was used by Lisa. Faith is required to understand this. As such, I believe that what Lisa is arguing is that science does not inform her reading of Scripture, but that Scripture informs her reading of science.

    For we know that “God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it? (Num. 23: 19 ESV). Science, on the other hand has made grave errors in the past regarding its understanding of creation and natural laws.

    Genesis 1 & 2 tell us that we must understand that creation is ex nihilo (out of nothing) and as such can never incorporate any reading from evolution, micro or macro, regardless of the propounder’s claim to have a high view of Scripture or not, for what is being propounded is antithetical to Scripture, even if it conforms to our understanding and conceptions.

    Finally, is our reading and understanding of God’s creation really that important in the whole scheme of things? I answer yes because it is the foundation of all Scripture that follows, and informs me that God is God who rules all creation by fiat as opposed to a man-centered understanding that we rule God by our fiat.

  13. Communications
    Communications says:

    Good points, Scott.

    I can’t respond to them right now, and I’m starting to think that because I’ve arrived at the point where I’m disclosing my personal opinions, it would be better for me to comment as myself rather than ‘Communications’. :-)

    I’ll see if I can find time to do that after hours tonight.

  14. Jack
    Jack says:

    Lots of good disscucion here and looking forward to more of it.
    There are many question in this debate that we all have to answer. But it seems to me that the toughest ones are for those who hold to six literal days of creation and the Bible as a scientific book.

    1. What do you do with the different orders of creation from Gen1 and 2? In Gen 1 it is vegetation, animals, and then humans. In Gen 2 the order is different: man, plants, animals and then woman. Why the difference? Which one is right?
    2. What about the firmament with the water above it? I know the NIV uses the word “expanse” or the NLT “space” and they bring certain meanings to our mind, but this is not what the word רָקִיעַ means. It means a beaten metal plate, or dome. It does not compare to anything that we know from sceince. It had water above it and the lights in vs 14-18 are set in the firmament with the waters above them. I know that there is a belief that the firmament is the water vapour much like a greenhouse, but this does not hold up in the rest of the Bible because the word is used in places like Ezekiel long after the flood story. The ancient world thought that the sun, moon and stars travelled on this solid dome on their way across the sky every day.
    3. What do you do with places where the Bible talks about the earth being set on a foundation, or of the waters under the earth like Deut 5:8?
    4. Why does the writer use a different word for light on day four than for the light of day one? And this word for light is not normally used for light from the sun and moon.
    5. When the creation account starts it seems that there is already something there although it is not orderd but chaos. Why is this? Creation seems to be much more about order and separation rather than creation out of nothing, but I think this point has already been made.

    These questions are not meant to be divisive, but I think we should work with the text before we make too many hard statements. We need to try to hear what the text would have been saying to people who lived when it was written; if we did, we might hear things differently. It would be telling the creation story of how they saw the world, even if it is different than the way we see it. Communication can only happen if it is done in the way that people understand. While I believe that God inspired the people who wrote the Bible, it is still written in human language and in human thought patterns. We know much of how the ancients saw the world, both from within the Bible but also from the surrounding culture and I think this was point that Tom was trying to make.

    I agree with Lisa that a faithful and a trustworthy God allows us to do science. We can do science because we can believe what we see, but now we have problems because we may be overwhelmed with evidence that we do not like. My challenge would be that if you think science is wrong, then do the hard work of proving it scientifically. My caution would be the history of Galileo and the Church. When he said that the earth was not the centre of the universe, the church forced him to retract his statement because the Bible stated that it was not the earth that turned but the sun that rose (Ecclesiastes 1:5) and that the earth was set on a foundation (Psalm 93:1, 96:10, 1 Chronicles 16:30).

    I like people with strong faith but at the same time I would hate for us to make too strong statements to win our discussion and then be proved wrong.

  15. Al Harstone
    Al Harstone says:

    An interesting debate, but unless I missed it, I haven’t seen anyone discuss the impact theistic evolution has on the doctrine of the cross and resurrection. I’ve written about this on my blog; please allow me to reproduce it here. But before I do, let me also refer you to an interesting video called “Forbidden Science…Shattering The Myths of Darwin’s Theory Of Evolution”. Just enter that title into the Youtube search engine, and voila. Now, here’s my view in this debate……

    1. First, if we are to suggest that man simply evolved out of the dust of the ground, we are striking at the the very heart of Scripture and its entire teaching about sin and salvation. To put it bluntly, we are offering a REVOLUTION IN THEOLOGY, one in which our view of sin and salvation must be radically overhauled!

    2. Second, a theory of evolution and/or Evolutionary Creation must insist that we deny the truth about sin and death found in Romans 3:20-22. This passage teaches that the “groaning and travailing of creation” was due to it’s subjection to corruption by man’s sin. Evolution, on the other hand, insists that the elements of our universe spent billions of years “groaning and travailing” as it naturally sifted out the best from the worst. This means that there would have been eons of animal strife, fear, pain, and death, not as a result of sin and God’s curse upon the earth, but as a result of the universe painfully pounding out the results that we see on the planet today. This then denies the Bible’s teaching that death came to our world because of man’s sin. Evolution insists that death is nothing more than an inevitable part of the natural selection process.

    3. Third, if evolution is true then man has not “fallen”, he has actually “risen”. He is the most splendid specimen of the evolutionary process. He is greater now than he ever was before. This, of course, means that he is not uniquely created in the image of God; rather, he is nothing more than an elevated level of life and beast — much more in “the image” of apes and hominids than an unseeable God. Sin, then, becomes a mere “disorder” which the evolutionary process will continue to refine and correct. There is no need for moral judgment against man’s imperfections….he isn’t “fallen”, he is simply not fully evolved. Furthermore, the “wages of sin” (which is death) isn’t the wages of sin at all; death is simply a part of the natural selection process. So for these reasons, in this system of thought, Christ’s sacrifice for sin and victory over death isn’t really necessary. Death isn’t the consequence of sin, it is simply a part of the evolutionary process.

    So to adhere to the theory of theistic evolution as a Christian is to downgrade the atonement, if not totally eliminate it altogether. Man is no longer a sinner in need of a Savior, he is simply a result of colliding matter and chance. Christ has not risen — man has! Jesus has no reason to rise from the dead, because death has nothing to do with sin. Man has not fallen, he has actually “risen” as the strongest and smartest of beings to emerge from that eons-old primordial soup.

    No, my friends, creation and evolution are a toxic mix. The tares are among the wheat. If for no other reason than the atonement (which is the greatest reason of all), we must reject theistic evolution. It calls for a radical re-imaging of the cross and resurrection!

  16. Communications
    Communications says:

    Al,

    Saying that this demands a “revolution in theology” is far too extreme. There are lots of “debatables” in both science and the Bible. (If the two Pulse articles aren’t evidence of that, then the resultant discussion certainly is!)

    Whatever way we get there, essentially it all boils down to the same thing: God created man, gave him free will, and man abused it. At that point we pick up the story together about the need for atonement and grace that it was impossible for us to attain on our own, and arrive at orthodox Christian faith.

  17. Scott Myers
    Scott Myers says:

    Good points Al!

    In light of this, we must not forget that when Brad (Communications) speaks of ‘free will’, it must be understood to be ‘free will’ with a caveat. For Scripture states: ” And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Gen. 2: 16-17)

    As a consequence, we must be cognizant as Rod, Lisa and Al are telling us, that that the two views presented do not necessarily boil down to the same thing.

  18. Communications
    Communications says:

    Scott,

    And here I was so proud of myself that I put it so succinctly. :-)

    What did I leave out? The abuse of free will that I referenced is the forbidden fruit. Does that re-align us? Or is there something else I’m not getting?

  19. Al Harstone
    Al Harstone says:

    Communications (Brad)

    While “whatever” is a great post-modern response, with it you have either dismissed or walked around the verses I highlighted, specifically Romans 3:20-23. I’d be very interested in your interpretation of them, if you are a theistic evolutionist.

    As for “essentially it all boils down to the same thing”, no it does not. Because if God created man through the process of natural selection, death reigned long before the Fall, and God would look like an utter fool declaring death upon Adam as a punishment for his sin. Also, as I already mentioned, this scenario eliminates the need for the cross, since Christ’s atonement not only offers forgiveness for sin but pays the penalty for it, which is death, and then conquers it once and for all in the resurrection. If man’s death is the result of natural selection, not sin, then Christ too was a fool for subjecting Himself to the cross.

    So we don’t, in fact, arrive at an orthodox faith at all, but rather a revolutionized faith which is quite contrary to the faith espoused by our early church “fathers”, who almost to a man believed in the literal account of creation rather than today’s nuanced approach to the creation story. Feel free to peruse the following article for the opinions of the early church fathers on this issue:

    http://www.orthodox-christianity.com/2011/02/creation-orthodoxy/

  20. Al Harstone
    Al Harstone says:

    I might add that “theistic evolution” should more properly be called “Deistic Evolution”, and even more specifically “Deist Clockwork Evolution”……a position that Darwin himself seemed to initially hold. As you probably know, Deism argues that creation shows a design and thus a Designer, but that God simply put the principles into play to get the ball rolling, then stepped back to “let it rock and roll!”. Strictly speaking, a Deist will argue that God is not involved in the minute details of Creation, instead allowing the principles in play to both create and then govern the universe on its own without His direct help. This, of course, completely contradicts Colossians 1:15-17.

  21. brad
    brad says:

    Al, what I’ve tried to establish here is a discussion. What you’re trying to do is debate. A discussion is simply a conversation, but a debate requires a winner and a loser.

    Personally, I’m comfortable with a whole lot of mystery. I get that you’re not. But at some point this is undeniably mysterious. The passage says that God “breathed into [Adam’s] nostrils the breath of life” (Gen. 2:7 NIV). How can a being with no lungs breathe? It’s an unexplained mystery, and that’s part of the Bible I really appreciate.

    I need to reiterate this: No-one here has refuted that God created the world. No-one here has refuted the reality of sin in our world. No-one here has refuted that Christ’s atonement was necessary. I think Grudem’s quote in Tom’s last paragraph is a powerful reminder to us all.

  22. Scott Myers
    Scott Myers says:

    Sorry for my delayed response – without getting tangential, I was trying to express that our “free will” is not as free as we would like to believe it is – that is, our freedom is only exercised under God’s Lordship.

    All of creation was God’s and it was God who placed a caveat or restriction on Adam’s freedom – he was free to eat of all the trees, but the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Consequently, even those who still live in sinful rebellion and hatred towards God are under his Lordship, and he is still their master. They, despite their belief to the contrary are not free, as their will is in bondage to sin.

    What I wanted to express through this specific comment was that we tend to see creation through our own eyes – pragmatically if you will. Right now in the post-modern era of the twenty-first century we seem to have an answer based on work Darwin finally gave credibility to. However, as people have advocated, we need to be contextual – so then, how did Moses understand God’s work of creation? What about John or Paul? For we know that what they wrote as men, they wrote what was ‘breathed out’ by God, and as such, write from his perspective and understanding.

    No the Bible does not contain all the knowledge in the world, and no discerning day creationist will ever say it does – it, however, is a recording of God’s perspective. And, as such, while it is not exhaustive, it is sufficient, and is ours and our children’s so that we can live a life of obedience to him (Deuteronomy 29: 29). No amount of human derived science can ever compare.

    Moreover, we can be thankful that we worship a God who condescended both in speech (Scripture) and in Word (Christ Jesus) so that we could know God and worship him as he declares he is to be worshiped. As a result, while we may have many questions as to what is ‘left out’ of the creation account, God’s sovereignty ensured that what he has said through Scripture and Jesus Christ is clear, understandable and applicable.

    As Lisa sought to express, we are finite people under an infinite God. What we do not understand, we need not seek to explain in terms of human reasoning, but accept by faith. As a consequence, “By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible” (Hebrews 11: 3 ESV). For as Scriptures declare at many places, “For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith'” (Romans 1: 17). For to live in any other way is sinful, as the Scriptures explain, “For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin” (Romans 14: 23).

    I hope this clarifies my position – I am so thankful that as a denomination we have a way to engage other EFC’ers in charity (tolerance) so that God’s truth about these issues can be understood and applied (all things Jesus Christ).

  23. Al Harstone
    Al Harstone says:

    I’m sorry you feel that I am debating, Brad. I know that’s not very post-modern or emergent of me. But certain things have been stated, and I’m simply trying to add a point of view, along with strong evidence to support it. I’m not trying to win or lose anything…rather I’m adding more ingredients to the soup.

    But since the Rob Bell paradigm seems to rule the day I will back out, now that I’ve made my point. Would I have been more welcomed to the discussion if I had framed my theology in open-ended questions instead of certain statements?

    BTW, I’d still like to see your approach to Romans 3:20-23.

  24. brad
    brad says:

    Al,

    Thanks for the apology.

    Hmmm, from where I sit, Rob Bell’s open-ended question approach may itself have generated some controversy. (Warning: abnormally high levels of understatement have been detected in the previous sentence!) :-)

    My take on Romans 3:20-23 is that I fully endorse it. The whole chapter is a masterful counter to legalism on one hand, and sinful human nature on the other. It’s a powerful call to unity, submission and grace. But, speaking personally, I can’t see anything in this that demands a six-day approach — in fact I don’t see a reference to the creation account at all in this chapter. Let me put it another way: in my opinion, a challenge to a literal six-day creation interpretation does nothing to challenge the validity of this Bible passage. Does that help to illuminate where I’m coming from on this?

    Finally, I welcome further input and interaction from you on this site. I’m investing a lot of time and energy into making this venue a hospitable, charitable place for engaging each other. If you can agree with that goal (I hope you do), and are willing to help me build it (I hope you are), then I heartily invite you to continue fellowship here with us!

  25. brad
    brad says:

    Great comment, Scott!

    The one subtle point that I would like to add is that Adam and Eve had sufficient free will that they could sin. They discovered pretty quickly that there were grave consequences to it, but their free will itself was not limited by God’s rule. (Am I the only one that wishes it was different sometimes?)

    I share your deep gratitude for the EFCC’s ability to openly discuss these tricky topics. It’s nothing short of Christ’s grace in action! And as we break records in traffic on this site (two months in a row!), that is the boast that I am joyful to make to a growing public!

  26. Al Harstone
    Al Harstone says:

    I’m wading back in simply to clarify a mistake I made on a Bible reference I cited. Brad, the verses I meant to ask you about are Romans 8:20-23, not chapter 3 as I quoted several times.

    As I try to get someone to respond to my query about what kind of effect embracing evolution has on a person’s view of the cross and resurrection (the missing topic in this discussion), I will repeat the point I made above:

    “……a theory of evolution and/or Evolutionary Creation must insist that we deny the truth about sin and death found in Romans 8:20-22. This passage teaches that the “groaning and travailing of creation” was due to it’s subjection to corruption by man’s sin. Evolution, on the other hand, insists that the elements of our universe spent billions of years “groaning and travailing” as it naturally sifted out the best from the worst. This means that there would have been eons of animal strife, fear, pain, and death, not as a result of sin and God’s curse upon the earth, but as a result of the universe painfully pounding out the results that we see on the planet today. This then denies the Bible’s teaching that death came to our world because of man’s sin. Evolution insists that death is nothing more than an inevitable part of the natural selection process. Genesis insists that death entered the world as a punishment for sin, combined with God’s immediate curse on the ground/planet as is evidenced in the Romans 8 verses.”

    So, Brad, if you would indulge me, I’d be interested in your approach to those verses if you embrace theistic evolution (sorry about the reference mistake). I don’t wish to debate you on them, I simply am wondering how these verses fit into a theistic evolution paradigm (which is more properly known as Deistic Clockwork Evolution) in your view.

    As for others, I’d be interested in how you feel that the cross has any relevance if death is simply a part of the natural selection process, and not a punishment for man’s sin.

  27. brad
    brad says:

    Oh, this makes so much more sense to the discussion at hand. :-)

    Okay, what I’m going to say first is that I’m not approaching certainty on any of this. I’m exploring, imagining, wondering, and finally agreeing with anyone that says “We don’t know 100% how this all fits together.” :-)

    That said, earlier on in this conversation I opened the possibility that death isn’t necessary for evolution. Life forms could exist concurrently in peace, especially if God was coordinating it. I admit that the logistics of that are baffling, but then so are two of every animal in the ark.

    Also, I’m not a world-as-wind-up-toy guy. I’ve never thought that creation was a hands-off phenomenon that God set up and then abandoned. The International Standard Version of Hebrews 1:3 states that God “holds everything together by his powerful word”. I think God was not only evident and present in Creation, however he began it, but he’s still very evident in it now.

  28. Al Harstone
    Al Harstone says:

    “That said, earlier on in this conversation I opened the possibility that death isn’t necessary for evolution. Life forms could exist concurrently in peace, especially if God was coordinating it.”

    But they didn’t….not if you’ve studied evolution. So now we’ve not only dismissed what the Bible says about creation, but now we’re dismissing what the scientists say about evolution. A very curious, if not nebulous, approach to the whole issue. In the end you seem to be saying that you mistrust both accounts, and will speculate for yourself on how the whole thing might have happened. Very postmodern, of course, but I guess that’s your prerogative.

    Thanks for taking the time for me. I’m done.

    • Communications
      Communications says:

      Al you need to know that wasn’t sure that I should let this comment through. I trust the community that has been emerging here enough to let it go.

      I don’t think that anything said in this discussion dismisses the Bible. That’s a pejorative statement. In fact, I would assert that all of the discussion here deeply honours the Bible by investigating what it really says, and what it really means.

  29. Al Harstone
    Al Harstone says:

    Brad, thanks for letting the comment stand. But I must qualify that I didn’t suggest at all that anyone on this board dismisses the Bible. I’m sure that everyone here has a great deal of respect for God’s Word.

    But what I DID say was that a line of thinking which denies that God made the universe in six literal days (which it so clearly states in Genesis),and which seeks to find another explanation other than the one given, is dismissing what the Bible says about creation. I also said that to speculate that death didn’t occur in the evolutionary cycle is to dismiss what scientists say about the process of evolution. It’s a fair statement in both cases, and not pejorative at all. I grant you that “dismiss” is a strong word, but it is appropriate given its definition, which is “to reject, or to put aside”.

    Anyway, I really am finished commenting now, and have appreciated your latitude. I eagerly await any comments from others which might address how the cross can still stand if evolution (which most scientists agree includes a long cycle of death in its process) was used to fashion the world.

    Blessings!

  30. Marshall Janzen
    Marshall Janzen says:

    I read this issue of the Pulse with interest. I noticed that Rod Masterson ended his article with a strongly-worded quote from “the great Baptist preacher Charles Haddon Spurgeon”. What is interesting is that Spurgeon disagreed with Rod’s reading of the creation days. While Spurgeon vehemently opposed evolution, he did accept that the earth was very old. (One of the clearest presentations of Spurgeon’s view of creation is found in his July 17, 1855 sermon, which can be read at http://www.spurgeon.org/sermons/0030.htm — just search for “many millions of years” to get to the right part.)

    I wonder if Rod’s article would have had a bit less rhetoric if he was aware that the people he was attacking included the likes of Spurgeon. I wonder if he would still associate a non-literal reading of Genesis 1 so closely with evolution. Conversely, I wonder if he still views Spurgeon as a good source for refuting evolution when he’s obviously “compromised” away from the traditional reading of Genesis 1, even being quite happy to accept animal death before human sin. (As he said in a December 17, 1876 sermon, “If by the merits of Jesus there was salvation before he had offered his atoning sacrifice, I do not find it hard to conceive that the foreseen demerits of sin may have cast the shadow of death over the long ages which came before man’s transgression.”) According to many commenters here, it seems that such a view should have led Spurgeon to have lost his moorings for the rest of his theology, leaving him adrift in postmodernism.

    Maybe when we put a few more faces behind the labels that are bandied about, and look a bit more closely at how people tie things together rather than assuming that they can’t, we’ll find it easier to respect those who see things differently, even when we continue to disagree.

  31. Communications
    Communications says:

    Marshall,

    Some interesting questions in there, especially about the timeline of sin and death. Above all though, I appreciate your call to respectful listening and exploration.

  32. Marshall Janzen
    Marshall Janzen says:

    Thanks Brad. I should point out that while I explained some of Spurgeon’s views, I don’t share his perspective. I’m in closer agreement with Tom Hilchie (my pastor when I lived in Victoria). I do appreciate what Rod Masterson wrote in his first comment here about not making our creation perspectives a barrier to fellowship. I share that desire.

    I’d like to add some thoughts on the main question of this Pulse issue, how we treat the days of Genesis 1.

    If we look for other passages most similar in form to Gen. 1 (by which I mean 1:1-2:3), the parallels with the seals, trumpets and bowls of Revelation are striking. All four of these sections are structured around seven items, use a repeated refrain for each item, set off the seventh item as special, use the items to connect God’s transcendent actions with the earth, and are not written by a historical eyewitness (John witnessed a vision, but neither author witnessed the reality of what they speak).

    Christians don’t ask the same kind of questions of these other passages that we fixate on with Gen. 1. In looking at the seven bowls of Rev. 16, we don’t ask how God’s wrath becomes a liquid that can be poured into and out of bowls, or suggest they might actually be continent-sized cisterns, or claim they refute certain scientific theories. While some vigorously debate how the events of this chapter jibe with history or the future, we typically don’t question someone’s commitment to Scripture by how literally they interpret the bowls themselves. It’s quite acceptable to say that the word bowls really means bowls, but they are a symbolic literary device, perhaps having more to do with the visionary nature of the revelation than being a physical reality a video camera would pick up.

    Yet in Gen. 1, there does seem to be an emphasis on focusing on the days, whether to insist they are literal, or to stretch them into eras. However, like John’s vision from Jesus, Gen. 1 is describing events without eyewitnesses that could only be specially revealed by God. Both narratives unfold in a tightly structured, lyrical style. In the Gospels, not even the events leading to the crucifixion are detailed so rigidly that a repeated refrain counts each day — not once in four Gospels. The emphatic clarity with which Gen. 1 outlines the days is what, to some, reveals its inescapable historicity. Yet, this attribute actually separates it from other historical writing in Scripture. It reads more like a hymn or a piece of liturgy than a sibling to 1 Kings, Ezra or Acts.

    Also, the repeated refrain on each day does not define a day: it marks the boundaries of a night. After God’s creative activities for each day are described, “And there was evening, and there was morning” are two more consecutive events. Night falls, with no further activity until morning. This is a human picture of God working only during daylight, and with the seventh day to rest. The only two references to the six day timeframe in Scripture connect God’s action with the human labourer (Exo. 20:8-11, 31:12-17). The latter declares that God not only rested but was refreshed. Another recounting of the Sabbath command bases it on the exodus and not creation (Deut. 5:12-15), yet again it does so using a figurative picture we should not press to be a literal description.

    It’s not important to insist that God carried the Israelites out of Egypt in his physical mighty hand, or that God created the universe in six solar days and literally was refreshed on the seventh. It is important to insist that God did create the world, just as he did bring Israel out of Egypt. His sovereignty and strength are real, even if they are described symbolically. His work and rest are real, even if they are described in human terms.

    Gen. 1 is not God’s way of submitting his punched time card. Our God does not just work 9 to 5. Excepting the incarnation, he does not actually get weary or need refreshment. Jesus declares that God is always working, even on the seventh day (John 5:16-17). At the same time, in the only New Testament reference that explicitly mentions a creation day, Heb. 4:1-11 declares that God is still in his Sabbath rest. For God, the events of salvation history — calling Abram, forming and freeing Israel, incarnating and living among us, dying and rising again — are all in a day’s rest! Other New Testament passages use the same language as Gen. 1, but even while they reaffirm the truth that God created everything (such as John 1:1-13), they tend to take the imagery of light and day more mystically (2 Cor. 4:3-6, 1 Thes. 5:4-8, John 12:36, etc.). Certainly the New Testament can build new symbolic meanings in something that was initially literal, but it is telling that the literal nature of the days is nowhere proclaimed.

    None of the Bible’s other descriptions of creation use a similar time frame. Genesis 2:4-25 uses a different order of events with no clear duration. Psalm 104 retells Gen. 1, but in place of the work week structure, many of the events are ongoing: God is still providing water and food, still forming creatures and giving them life. The one creation passage written as a first-person account by God is in Job 38-40. God puts Job in his place, reveals how little he knows, and uses rhetorical poetry to describe how he set the boundaries for the waters, sends the precipitation, and is the creator and master of every creature — especially the vicious, carnivorous and stupid ones that we may be tempted to see as unworthy of God or less than good.

    In conclusion, even leaving science aside, there are many scriptural reasons for not insisting that the seven days of Gen. 1 are actual days. I believe they are intended to be read as days, but they are a literary framework that packages God’s indescribable creation in a format both we and the ancients can understand. I think sometimes we’re a bit like a small child at Christmas, so enamoured with the wrapping paper that we miss the actual gift. Perhaps what I’ve written perpetuates this error, since it has focused on that wrapping rather than the meat and message of the passage (kudos to Jack and Tim whose posts got into that). But, this is long as it is, and my hope is that this will be a helpful baby step to looking deeper into Gen. 1.

  33. Rick Ratzlaff
    Rick Ratzlaff says:

    I’ve been following the Pulse debates on first the “Emergent”, then “Ordination” and now “Creation”.

    If my memory serves me right “WHERE STANDS IT WRITTEN” used to be the byword of the EFCC, the foundation for “our movement”. That was the watersheds “great divide”.

    Now that phrase has taken a back seat in the bus to the truth. Putting the definition (and who gets to define it)of what is “charitable” at the fore front.

    Let me suggest that when the “famous motto of Rupertus Meldenius” was first written and maybe even when the Free Church was born, it had some value. We are aware of the ever present liberalization/natural evolution of our culture and church. Elevating this as our governing motto, will be the eventual demise of the EFCC as it was known years ago. It’s opening the door to ever widening belief systems.

    Let me suggest a new topic for the next Pulse. It would be interesting to see how many different “Biblical” interpretations we can hold to without “breaking fellowship”.

    Let’s return to the “where stands it written”!

    • Communications
      Communications says:

      Rick, we are not forsaking ‘where stands it written’. In fact, just the opposite.

      You bring up the question of who defines what charitable means. Wouldn’t it be equally perilous (or potentially more so) if we removed charitable and made stark decisions on the interpretation of each individual issue? Then your same question would point the other way: who has the authority to decide those? And I’m compelled to ask: what would we do with the dissenters?

      I’ve just published a post offering videos from the recent Theological Summit. I encourage you to purchase a set, and partake of the deep scriptural investigation that we are doing as a movement.

      Finally, speaking personally, where you see a liberalisation of the church, I’m seeing a church steering away from legalism, and returning to the radical, life-giving grace of Christ. I know that this is tricky mix, and it’s easy to go too far either way. That’s why I think it’s valuable that we have so many perspectives abounding in our world right now. Ultimately we have to ask if the Holy Spirit speaks with a single voice, or in a multiplicity.

  34. Scott Myers
    Scott Myers says:

    Looking over the comments for this blog as it relates to creation, it seems that Rick has raised a pertinent question – instead of “Where stands it written” we are more concerned with charging people with being less than charitable.

    I am struck, however, with some confusion regarding Communications (Brad’s) assertion: “That’s why I think it’s valuable that we have so many perspectives abounding in our world right now. Ultimately we have to ask if the Holy Spirit speaks with a single voice, or in a multiplicity.”

    It seems to me to be a troublesome statement and possibly theologically incorrect, or at the very least incoherent. In light of Rick’s comments, could someone please provide a theologically sound response to the preference of charity over Biblical (“Where stands it written”) responses, which makes Communication’s comments cogent and clear? Thank you.

    • Communications
      Communications says:

      I apologise for the confusion. I’m simply asking about whether we should have a single authoritative voice (ie a Pope), or whether we trust in congregationalism (ie the priesthood of all believers). I hope I’ve made my bias clear: I think we understand the truth of the Holy Spirit within community.

      In the Theological Summit, Dr Grant Osborne told us that the Holy Spirit doesn’t decide for us who has the right interpretation. In fact, he went as far as to say that the Holy Spirit directs certain people to one understanding, and certain people to another!

      At no point does this discussion or any other hosted by the site disregard Scripture. We are asking ourselves, each other and ultimately God what the Scriptures mean, and it’s abundantly apparent that we don’t all arrive at the same meaning. In those cases would it be better to go to war, or to proceed with charity? Again, I hope I’ve made my bias clear.

  35. BillT
    BillT says:

    This is a good discussion and I am happy we are raising the “Where Stands it Written” slogan –- this is as “Free Church” as the “In essentials unity, non-essentials charity, in all things Jesus Christ” slogan. However, we need to realize that there are two sides to the slogan –- the EFCC forefathers who coined this phrase used it to call people to hold to certain essential truths of the gospel (ie. not go “liberal” on key doctrinal truths) and also to call people to charitable acceptance of divergent views on non-essential issues that Scripture was less clear about.

    In fact, if you read the history (Arnold T Olsen’s books, The Significance of Silence and This We Believe) you find that the “Where Stands it Written” phrase was used more to counter legalistic tradition (things like the Lutheran view that only an ordained priest being authorized to serve the Lord’s Supper) than in a 20th century fundamentalist sense of countering liberalism. In the EFCC we want to avoid the extremes –- we certainly never want to undermine the authority of Scripture by understating essential doctrines summarized in our 10 Articles (and our moral essentials are summarized in our Covenant of Personal and Professional Ethics — which we make our pastors sign).

    We also don’t want to go to the other extreme and be uncharitable fundamentalists who want to call everyone who disagrees with us over Calvinist/Arminian, charismatic, baptism and other issues intentionally left out of our 10 Articles a heretic — and feel constrained to break fellowship with all who disagree with us over non-essential issues. So “Where Stands it Written” moves us to avoid understating Scripture on essential matters and overstating Scripture on less clear, non-essential matters.

  36. Scott Myers
    Scott Myers says:

    I appreciate that Dr. Taylor was able to weigh in on this and shed some light. Thank you for your insight and desire to keep the waters clear where they may have been muddied.

    Still, as I review the comments of the last couple of Pulse Blogs I can’t help but notice that this discussion has been less than charitable to those who hold more orthodox beliefs. I, myself, was once roundly rebuked for trying to make known a biblical resource and told that the blog would be shut down if similar biblical content was mentioned again. Hardly charitable and certainly not democratic, but certainly illustrative to the outside world that we, too, are hypocrites at heart.

    Of this drift some are seeing and seeking to raise concern, maybe D. A. Carson can say it best: “We drift toward compromise and call it tolerance; we drift toward disobedience and call it freedom; we drift toward superstition and call it faith. We cherish the indiscipline of lost self-control and call it relaxation; we slouch towards prayerlessness and delude ourselves into thinking we have escaped legalism; we slide toward godlessness and convince ourselves we have been liberated.”

    • Communications
      Communications says:

      The whole point of what we are trying to do with the Pulse (and these subsequent discussions) is to demonstrate that alternatives in interpretation on several of these issues still fit under the banner of “orthodox”.

      There is a question that I’ve been asking implicitly, and now I’m going to ask it point-blank: When confronted with a difference of opinion, who determines orthodoxy?

      Here what history shows me: without grace, it’s the guy with the biggest gun! However, from a biblical standpoint, it’s indefensible to fight with another believer over a difference of opinion in interpretation. That is the epitome of missing the point!

      You seem to be insinuating that a consecrated study of the Scriptures is wrong — godless, even — if it doesn’t arrive us in lock-step unity. Is grace really supposed to be that rigid? And is that really how you want to define godlessness? Wouldn’t you rather define it as disregarding the Scriptures? Or even better, how about rebellion from the Scriptures?

  37. Rick Ratzlaff
    Rick Ratzlaff says:

    Brad’s comments “I’m simply asking about whether we should have a single authoritative voice (ie a Pope), or whether we trust in congregationalism (ie the priesthood of all believers).”

    We DO have a single authoritative voice. It’s the Word of God. God’s Word defends itself. Check out Psalm 19. It says God’s word is “CLEAR.” Any confusion about interpretation comes from man’s ego, blind spots or laziness.

    According to (quoting Brad) we apparently brought a Dr. G. Osborne to our Theological Summit who said “In fact, he went as far as to say that the Holy Spirit directs certain people to one understanding, and certain people to another!” I trust that was a gross misunderstanding on Brad’s part. If not, there’s no wonder the evangelical church wanders around with a lack of “identity”, following “every wind of doctrine”.

    It’s amazing that in so many if not all cults and pseudo-Christian cults, Mormon, JW’s, Muslim, RC, and many more, their interpretations remain very tight to their core. But we in the “Christian” faith who hold to the “Truth” can sport any interpretation we want?

    Again Brad said “In the Theological Summit, Dr Grant Osborne told us that the Holy Spirit doesn’t decide for us who has the right interpretation”. That’s pretty clear. We ultimately make our own decisions within the framework of God’s sovereignty. Eve and Adam also did. We choose to be rebellious or obedient. But if Dr. Osborne is saying that the Holy Spirit has divested His authority or opened the door for us to come to our own conclusions is the epitome of arrogance.

    The only way that Dr. Osborne can support his Arminian theology is to support many interpretations. That’s pragmatism.

    I think it’s time for revival.

    • Communications
      Communications says:

      I would love to see revival, too! On that we certainly agree.

      The intention of the Evangelical Free Church of Canada is to major on the majors and minor on the minors. There are plenty of churches and group of churches that strive to incorporate an assortment of non-essentials into their orthodoxy, leaving a narrow window of openness to interpretation. That’s their prerogative. The intention in the EFCC as a movement is to define orthodoxy more narrowly, which gives a large window of openness to interpretation. That’s our prerogative.

      Given my range of experiences, I submit that this is a valid, robust and refreshing approach to unity. (My reading of Paul suggests that he would agree.)

      It is from this approach that I can say that your take on Scripture is not wrong. You believe that God is our world’s creator, you believe that Christ was the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and I dare say that you believe in Heaven and Hell as eternal destinations. That sums up the core, and I say the rest doesn’t matter. And furthermore, I say that you’re allowed to claim the opposite.

      We’re just drawing the line at anyone imposing their interpretation of the minors on the rest of the EFCC. That’s why I continue to assert that website comments are discussions, not debates.

  38. H. Nibourg
    H. Nibourg says:

    (Two different perspectives on creation). The best science of the day proves that it is a young earth. It dispoves evolutionism, from the fossil record to cell reproduction. I’m very sorry, but if you believe in an old earth or evolutionism, your wrong in your theolgy and your wrong in your science. How do you get billions or even millions of years from just reading Genesis 1. I can’t believe that a bible believing church is even having this discussion. Do you not know that the uniformatarian geologists hijacked the geological column in the early 1800’s. They added 100’s of millions of years to it, to discredit the bible. The geological column was designed by a young earth creationist in the late 1700’s in was designed and named after places and things, it had nothing to do with millions or billions of years. Dinosaurs are not hundreds of millions of years old. They use to be called dragons until Sir Richard Owens named them dinosaurs in 1841 and they still called them dragons many years after. I’m sorry, but evolutionism produces evil in it’s purest form and when will the church realize this. The EFCC neededs to have a 5 day conference on Young Earth Creation and if after, anyone has their doubts I will be utterly amazed. Canada has some of the world’s best creation research speakers. Vance Nelson of CTM. and Ian Juby of the Traveling Creation Science Museum of Canada. They do this as a fulltime ministry. They have travelled around the world doing cutting edge research. I’ve added links for the dating methods of the earth. You can stand on His word, it is a righteous foundation. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3wMV8Hw99yg&feature=related http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bGB-PfFSV2w

    • Communications
      Communications says:

      Hi H. — welcome to the conversation!

      First off, science doesn’t prove anything. Insisting on that is misapplication and misunderstanding of science. There is a wealth of intriguing scientific evidence on both sides of this issue.

      I don’t think you’re going to find too much interest in the EFCC doing a 5 day conference because, as I’ve stated fairly consistently, this is not a major issue for us.

      I find it interesting that everyone here who is arguing for the absolute literal interpretation of the creation account has not answered the very specific concerns that Jack raised way back on April 1st.

  39. Brodi Sommerville
    Brodi Sommerville says:

    Greetings:

    I most certainly agree with Mr. Nibourg!

    I would love to see just “1” example of any living thing that is
    in the transformation state called ‘evolving’. Something that is changing from one living form into something new and never to go back to the previous.

    I am not confused with the stages of maturity for such things as butterflies, so please don’t go there.

    This fellow Darwin, not a theologian but smply a fledgling scientist, stumbled upon his life-time cash-cow when he fantasized about 1 cell 2 cells 4 cells 8 cells…..etc. He soon found out that this young world was ripe for something that would let people off the hook from the strict harsh teachings of the Bible! Before you could say a Harry Potter hocus-pocus Darwin was out on the lecture trail and picking up more bucks than a collection plate! Of course he stuck with it….for him it was a pure gold bonanza.

    Sad that Mr. Darwin’s own life left him with no friends and hundreds of believers of his lifelong lies! He even tried to recant…but they said the poor fellow had slipped a cog and refused to put an end to the madness.

    I would ask for just one other little bit of proof: no one has yet proven the Carbon14 testing to be reliable, accurate or even scientific! A few years back a sample from a ‘living’ penguin
    was put through the Carbon 14 test and the lab said it was from a specimen some 100,000+ years old ….???? I think that critter is still waddling around the San Fransico Zoo! And he doesn’t even have grey hair yet!

    I am convinced it can only be the work of the devil when logic is suppressed, fantasy is upheld and people who generally exhibit reasonable mental stability suddenly start believing in darwin and other fairy tales!

    I am not a redneck…. rather I am now over 60yrs. and I have my eyes open. I pray continually for discernment, a sound mind and a Holy Spirit filled soul.

    Remember what I John says: ‘Test the Spirits whether they are of God or not…..” ….do not let yourselves be tricked into beliving any more rubbish.

    I sincerely invite anyone to e-mail me with the proof I requested above….. I am not closed minded, I am teachable, and I am compassioante towards the great commission.

    “PTL!!!”

    Regards

    Brodi

  40. Ian Juby
    Ian Juby says:

    Hey Communications,

    I can’t scroll back to “specific concerns that Jack raised way back on April 1st”. Could you please repost Jack’s specific concerns? I suspect the reason Jack did not get an answer is because nobody knew about his “specific concerns.” I have serious concerns about those who question the literal account of Creation, namely (and I mean this with respect) you’re questioning Jesus as God – He believed Genesis as literal history, and so did the Apostles. So if the Creation account is not correct, then either Jesus is a liar or mistaken, and in either case, He cannot be the Creator (John 1:3).
    I have 12 hours of videos on this subject alone on youtube entitled “The Complete Creation”, showing the overwhelming scientific evidence which refutes evolutionism and affirms that Creation is the faith that fits the facts.

    Yours in Christ,
    Ian

  41. Rich Peachey
    Rich Peachey says:

    Thank you Rick (your comment July 16th) for that word of caution. I definitely share your passion for a revival among God’s people, one where the Word of God plays a greater role in the lives of God’s people; renewing minds, transforming hearts, a light to our paths, a guide to our discernment, cutting between “soulish” and spirit issues and all of the other wonderful promises of what the Word of God can and should be to God’s people.

    I was not able to attend the Theological summit but after reading some of the references to that here on the blog I am interested in hearing the context in which some of these issues have been raised. Obviously some caution was being raised about holding dogmatic personal interpretations of scripture, which I think we can all agree is a valid and needed caution. We would all agree that any person who claims to have a perfect grasp on interpretation or even an infallible systematic theology or hermeneutic would be a bit arrogant and naive. This side of heaven at best we see through a glass darkly in many ways.

    Having said that, there is a core of orthodox Christian teaching that has proven over the last 2000 years to be agreed upon, not as private interpretations of controversial issues, but as the essentials of Christian belief and practice. I disagree with your comment that cults have a core system of belief while we can sport any interpretation we want. We very clearly have a core of essential beliefs clearly coming out of scripture itself, clearly agreed upon both historically and currently by orthodox (in the truest sense) Christians. Some of the generally accepted ancient creeds are clear examples of these and we trust our current Free Church doctrinal statement is also one of these.

    What we are seeing is that the issues being discussed in the Pulse and on the blog are very clearly seen by some people as “essentials”, but as a Free Church we are clearly saying they are “non-essentials”. It will be very important for us as we move forward as a denomination to carefully agree on what are and what are not essentials, and then be open to open disagreement on the non-essentials.

    I may be misunderstanding your closing remark but you seem to be saying that if we all really understood scripture there would only really be one interpretation of every passage of scripture and that to be open to more than one is pragmatism. I have heard 1 Pet 1:20 quoted out of context (and usually with the wording of the KJV) to try to say all scripture only has one valid interpretation. We are unsettled by the notion that the Holy Spirit might actually lead people to different and even opposing viewpoints on even non-essential issues. Passages like Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8 and 10 are an example where Scripture itself illustrates that this is indeed the case. Those passages all relate to the meat offered to idols issue. In Acts 21:25 abstaining from meat offered to idols was presented as one of the “basic” (maybe even at that time seen as an essential!) teachings given to gentile believers concerning the basic practices of a new believer. Yet Romans 14 leaves room for differences, both in understanding and practice. “One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind.” “But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for that person it is unclean.“ In 1 Corinthians 8 Paul states that an idol was nothing and therefore to eat meat offered to an idol was also nothing or that important either, clearly in disagreement with the what the Elders had given as instruction in Acts 21. Yet his caution and application in these passages is, no matter what you understand and know and are convinced of in these matters, you should not live in an offensive way to others, nor should you violate your conscience, that is, live in violation of the understanding that God has led you to on this matter. It goes on to say we each give an account to God not our fellow believers, and we are to live our lives in submission to Him and His word, even if that means that our standards and understanding is different than a fellow believer on a certain matter! I am encouraged when I hear people being fully convinced in their own mind about interpretation of non-essential truths and issues and having a passion for living them out as unto the Lord. This is clearly what is being taught in these passages, but what is also being clearly taught is to allow for other good Bible believing Christians to come to different conclusions and practices about them.

    I fully realize that even opening the door to this kind of thinking for many people seems like opening the door to “liberalism” and “pragmatism” as you referred to it. We do have to be careful and jealously guard the orthodoxy of the essentials of our Christian faith. But if we are not humble enough to admit that we do not have it all right all of the time, and if we are not willing to have a spirit which allows good brothers to hold differing viewpoints without questioning their orthodoxy, we will descend into a practice of biting and devouring one another in an endless cycle of conflict that is in no way a reflection of the unity that comes from each of us submitting to Christ as the head of the church.

    From my understanding this is the very reason why the Pulse issues have intentionally brought up controversial non-essential issues. It is an exercise to help us to learn better how to exist and engage in collective ministry with godly brothers and sisters who are not agreement with us on perhaps quite a few of these areas, but who share a common belief in the essential truths, and who are passionately living out what they believe in full submission to God and His word.

    • Communications
      Communications says:

      H., that’s insufficiently defined. In particular, I’m concerned about the definition of both “undermines” and “Word of God” in this usage. For example, if you define undermine too broadly, then each human is a heretic for not fulling living up to the mandates of Scripture (we have all fallen short of the glory of God), and there can be no fellowship at all.

  42. K Eddy
    K Eddy says:

    I find it annoying when people say the “how” does not matter in religion or theology… Reality itself has something to say about God–we can’t deny general revelation. If God created the world, what he created and how he created it will reflect what kind of God he is. If evolution, with its struggle, suffering, and death in the survival of the fittest is God’s chosen vehicle of his good creation–what kind of character does he have? Is the futility in nature a result of the fall, or a God ordained norm to weed out the weak and make room for fantastical new & beneficial mutations?

    And however annoying it is, I think anyone trying to pass off macro evolution as marriagable with Evangelical Christian orthodoxy has to grapple with the fact that macro-evolution has been the ebeneezar & bulwark of atheism. You have to have an answer for that other than crying ‘foul’ or ‘below the belt.’

  43. Jack
    Jack says:

    For those who are interested in evidence for evolution I would suggest reading “The Language of God” by Francis Collins. It will at lest help us understand what is out there and why people think the way they do.

  44. Rick Ratzlaff
    Rick Ratzlaff says:

    Francis Collins (bio in part)
    “He founded and was president of the BioLogos Foundation before accepting the nomination to lead the NIH. On October 14, 2009, Pope Benedict XVI appointed Francis Collins to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences”.

    “In his book Collins examines and subsequently rejects Young Earth creationism and intelligent design. His own belief system is theistic evolution or evolutionary creation which he prefers to term BioLogos”.

    So I’m wondering what “fellowship light has with darkness” Dr. Taylor (Jack)?

  45. Alan Harstone
    Alan Harstone says:

    Well, it’s been interesting to come back to this debate (oops, discussion) and see how things have unfolded since I last posted 4 months ago. Back in March, Communications/Moderator said “I think debate on this subject is interesting and fun. I don’t think it threatens the core”, yet, as I read through this thread posters seem to get scolded when they edge close to debate. How come?

    But that’s beside the point. I was eagerly hoping that my return to this discussion four months later would find at least one person who would have addressed my initial concern posted on April 1st. Back then I wondered how a Theistic Evolutionist would explain the cross and resurrection if death is not the result of sin, but instead the result of natural selection (survival of the fittest). In fairness, one person suggested that evolution could have occurred without death being present (a postulation that would be vigorously argued by any educated evolutionist), but no one else has responded to this challenge. Since sin, death, the cross and resurrection are intrinsically wed in Christian doctrine, I’m wondering why it’s sudden divorce in some circles has been largely ignored on this discussion board?

    • Communications
      Communications says:

      Al, here is the simple answer. Debate is healthy to have an understanding of these issues and how they relate to our faith. Comments on a blog post are a woefully insufficient medium for conducting such a debate.

      This isn’t a forum. This is more like a pot-luck in the church parking lot. Anyone can see what’s going on here, and they not only hear what people are saying to each other, but how they’re saying it.

      Also, a debate has a winner and a loser. It’s become abundantly clear to me that the primary issue here is to first understand that both sides of this debate fall under orthodoxy as defined by the EFCC. Thus in this debate, were we to host it, the winner wouldn’t win much, and the loser wouldn’t lose much. When we understand how low the stakes are, then we can charitably engage in the discussion, and show each other the love that is supposed to be our defining characteristic.

  46. Marshall Janzen
    Marshall Janzen says:

    K Eddy, I agree that we can’t deny general revelation. You raise a great question about theodicy. I don’t think the solution is denying the age of the earth or evolution, though. Those ideas need to be judged on their own merits. Just because gravity can kill people doesn’t mean we reject it. So, I’d like to leave the scientific side of the question aside and focus on theodicy. Can God in some way be responsible for life’s struggle, suffering and death?

    Fortunately, we have an entire book of the Bible that grapples with this question: Job. Much of the book is a reaction against a too-simple theodicy, a too-tame picture of God. When God speaks at the end, his words seem to expand on Genesis 1, drawing out themes that in Genesis are more restrained, or even hidden.

    Genesis 1 emphasizes ordering and separating of undifferentiated elements, the goodness of light, and God’s creation of a good world for humanity. In Job we get a larger picture. Yes, God separated the chaos, but this was no placid activity. God “shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb”, and he commands, “Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stayed” (38:8-11). The morning light is also an active, destructive force (38:12-15), and God is in death and darkness too (38:17-21). Many have seen in the second day of Genesis 1 the ordering of the weather systems, tied as they are to the firmament that is created then. Job reveals the dark side of weather, and declares that God is in that as well. He has storehouses of snow and hail in his arsenal “which I have reserved for the time of trouble” (38:22-23); he makes the channel for torrential rain, and is sovereign over destructive thunderbolts, lightnings, frigid ice, flood waters and drought; as for his life-giving rain, it is even sent to where it is no benefit to humans (38:25-30, 34-38). He is sovereign over all the “ordinances of the heavens”, he alone controls the starry constellations (38:31-33).

    And then, God turns to his creaturely creation. From Genesis 1, one may think God only created cute, cuddly creatures, but not so! Job is confronted with a menagerie that one might think could not be in keeping with a good creation of God: the vicious, the cruel, the aloof from humanity, the stupid, the proud. Through it all, the point is that God is sovereign over these creatures; he is their creator and the one who sustains their life:

    – The lion hunting prey for its ravenous young (38:39-40)
    – The raven bringing prey to its young who sometimes starve (38:41)
    – Mountain goats braving harsh elements where humans cannot observe them (39:1-4)
    – The wild donkey braving desolate elements and scorning human contact (39:5-8)
    – The wild ox who is untamable and of no use to humans (39:9-12)
    – The proud ostrich who sometimes tramples her young because God made her stupid (39:13-18)
    – The terrifying war horse who lives to unleash his fierceness and rage (39:19-25)
    – The hawk and eagle who live aloof and search out carrion, bringing blood to their young (39:26-30)

    Then God asks Job, “Will you even put me in the wrong?” (40:8). Are you, a mere mortal, able to judge the wisdom and goodness of God? Can your anger bring the proud low, trample the wicked, and send them through the dust as captives into the world below (40:10-13)? Only if Job could do so will God “acknowledge to you that your own right hand can save you” (40:14). And then, behemoth is described, and even though he is a proud, strong beast that is a terror to humans, God made him, God can approach him, and God controls his life: “let him who made him bring near his sword” (40:19).

    And finally, the info the reader got from the prologue to Job is presented, in a sense, to Job himself. Job gets to view his accuser, the satan, Leviathan, the dragon of old. While God does not directly reveal the arrangement he made with the satan, he does make clear that Leviathan is one of his creatures too. This is glimpsed in Genesis 1 (but only in a very literal translation), where God makes the great sea monsters as well as the fish; it is fleshed out a bit more in the creation poem of Psalm 104 where Leviathan is among God’s creatures, even as he frolics among the ships in the outer sea. In Job, we get a fuller picture. Leviathan is a ferocious creature without fear, the “king over all the sons of pride” (41:33-34).

    God didn’t just make the tame beasts, the cattle, the herbivores. He made the creatures that devour prey, that have nothing to do with humans, that attack and destroy. He makes the weather with all its chaos and destruction as well. As C.S. Lewis put it, “He’s not a tame lion.” God’s answer to Job’s suffering is not that God made things good but somehow evil emerged, so the evil isn’t God’s fault. Instead, God declares that he is sovereign over all, even what causes suffering and pain. It’s probably not the theodicy Job was hoping for, but when it is revealed in its full force, he repents in dust and ashes. “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted” (42:2). Job comes to understand that God is bigger and more mysterious than he had thought. While not revealed to Job, a later chapter of God’s revelation reveals that this same God stepped into that violence, chaos and suffering and bore the worst it has to offer.

    Evolution does not present any deeper problem for God’s goodness than what Job grappled with millennia ago. With Job we find an answer that may not entirely satisfy, but one that puts us in our place as creature and not Creator.

  47. Marshall Janzen
    Marshall Janzen says:

    Hi Alan,

    I wrote my last post before yours was posted, but I’d be happy to discuss the issue with you if you wish. First, Brad was quite correct that evolution *could* occur without death. However, the evidence is that it *didn’t* occur without death. I think most biologists would agree with Brad that it’s hypothetically possible: all evolution requires is differential reproductive success. If certain heritable variations led to more offspring, then those variations would eventually outnumber the rest of the population that lacked them, even if all members of the population stayed alive. The result would be even more pronounced if the childbearing years were limited, as they are in our world. Even in our world that does have death, factors other than death are just as important in natural selection. When some forest plants shoot up to reach the sunlight faster, or are able to thrive in less sunlight, or spread their seed further away from themselves where there is less competition for light, then natural selection is still occurring even though the results may not directly result in the death of other plants.

    Your question was “how a Theistic Evolutionist would explain the cross and resurrection if death is not the result of sin, but instead the result of natural selection (survival of the fittest)”. While not a theistic evolutionist, Charles Spurgeon also accepted that physical death existed long before humans. I posted his answer to your question in my April 9 post: he saw Adam’s sin working backwards just as Christ’s righteousness works backwards. More recently, William Dembski has argued for something similar in “The End of Christianity”. I don’t personally share their view, but it is one answer.

    But now, my own response. First, death is not the result of natural section. If death exists, then natural selection will make use of it, but as discussed above, natural selection does not require it. Second, there is a death that is the result of sin, but it is not animal death. In Romans 5:12-21, the death that entered the world spread to all humans. Animals are not in view in that passage: not in the death, and not in the eternal life that counters that death. I think there is a danger of elevating animals to human status if we try to make their death what passages like Romans 5 are about. I find it interesting that it is not typically those who accept evolution who do this!

    We should be careful before declaring that animal death is incompatible with a good world created by God. In Psalm 104, God claims that the prey he provides to the hungry lioness is one of the good things his hand provides. My last post looked at how the book of Job portrays God taking credit for many parts of his creation that we in our squeamishness may want to separate him from. Even in passages looking ahead to the new creation, we see lavish banquets with fresh meat on the menu. At a time when God will “swallow up death forever”, he is serving a feast “of rich food full of marrow” (Isa. 25:6-8). Even if that is symbolic, it’s telling that this sort of symbol is used. Paul warns Timothy about those who “require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving” (1 Timothy 4:1-5). “Everything created by God is good”, and that includes the animals that God *created* to be received with thanksgiving as food!

    With humans, death gained a sting it doesn’t have with animals. We aren’t told what this life would be like without the sting of death. Perhaps Enoch in Genesis is a picture (Gen. 5:21-24). In the middle of a litany of “and he died”, Enoch is the aberration. He walks with God, and God takes him. He still dies, from a human perspective, but it is a death without a sting. Maybe our translation from this life to the next would have been like Enoch had death not entered the world through sin. Whatever the case, Jesus sets us free from that sting of death. He conquered the grave so that we have assurance it will not hold us forever. Jesus didn’t promise that those who believe on him will never die (well, he did, but he wasn’t speaking about physical death). In fact, following Jesus often meant that the ultimate price would be paid sooner. However, with Jesus we have the hope of resurrection. Not of endless life without death, but of life *after* death, and of abundant life that begins now and carries through eternity.

    Anyway, I don’t see natural selection as being any form of barrier to my hope of resurrection. I don’t derive my worth from evolution or think that more evolution leads to more perfection. (Similarly, I don’t derive my worth from gravity. More mass may make me more attractive *cue groans* but it doesn’t bring me closer to Christ.) If evolution is true, it is but one part of how God’s creation works. In and of itself, it is as mindless and purposeless as gravity, and as able to be a way God accomplishes his purposes as gravity. In fact, I believe that any scientific theory, if true, is merely a description of some regularities in what God does. God works supernaturally, but he is also the author and sustainer of nature. If any scientific theory threatens our view of God, we need to adjust our thinking to reposition God above nature, rather than in competition with nature.

  48. Alan Harstone
    Alan Harstone says:

    Thanks for at least trying to address the issue, Marshall. So are you suggesting then that death may have existed in the animal kingdom already before Adam arrived? And that while animals and plants had a life/death cycle, God intended man to live forever? Let’s assume that we both agree that the Genesis account of creation is the correct historical account. If death already existed before Adam was created, then God pronounced death “good”, since everything He created (including natural cycles) was pronounced good. Why then would God use something good as both a threat and a punishment for Adam and Eve? And why should a Saviour be sent to overcome something that has already been declared good? I’m a little confused.

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