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Hip and Thigh: Smiting Theological Philistines with a Great Slaughter. Judges 15:8

Saturday, June 28, 2008

The OEC Wood Shed

Ken Samples stumbled upon a blog I wrote back in December 2007.
To say he is a tad annoyed with my post is a bit of an understatement.
He stopped by to take me out to the apologetic woodshed and paddle my britches.

I must say I am honored, if a not flattered, that someone with the prominence of Ken Samples would feel the need to leave a comment on my blog. I run a little cafe of a blog on a dirt road way off the internet super highway. I think maybe I get - if I am blessed - 150 visits a day here. And as I always say, a good 75% of those hits are folks looking for joint pain medication. To put me in perspective, Team Pyro gets like 150 comments under just one post.

At any rate, let me see if I was deserving of my theological thrashing.
(Ken's comments are highlighted in bold, my response will follow).

I must respond to some of the statements that you made in your blog article "The Evolution Evangelists."

Just to briefly summarize my statements:

I was writing about an apostate from the Christian faith, Michael Dowd, who believes it is his calling to bring the glorious message of Darwinian evolution to all the unlearned youth in Unitarian and liberal churches so as to provide them apologetic ammunition to defend against the onslaught of all those stealth creationist IDers who are taking over high schools. He and his "wife-partner" had paid a visit the Creation Museum. Ken Ham blogged about the visit. What I noted about Ken's entry was his mention of Dowd's background. He once attended a Bible-believing, evangelical college in Springfield, MO., and according to Dowd's testimony, his dislike of evolutionary theory changed when he met conservative Christians who believed and taught that evolutionary ideology is compatible with biblical Christianity. The reason why he could now see this compatibility: according to Dowd, "all truth is God's truth." I merely pointed out that several popular Christian apologists argue along these lines of "all truth is God's truth," hence the reason why they can utilize a lot of evolutionary talking points pertaining specifically to the age of the Earth.

First, Professor Greg Koukl, Dr. Kim Riddlebarger, Dr. Hugh Ross (my colleagues and friends), and myself affirm "Old Earth Creationism" (OEC) not "Theistic Evolution" (TE). These two positions are distinct theological perspectives and should not be simplistically conflated.

Well, Ken, and this is going to have some snarky smeared on it because I was utterly taken aback at how off target you were with your criticisms, but if you would have read carefully my comments in my post I never conflated old earth creationism with theistic evolution now did I? Though there are similarities between the two systems, I recognize that distinction and even clarified as such in my post. I wrote,

To be fair, these guys [meaning you, Ken Samples, and your colleague friends] would be adamantly opposed to Darwinianism in the pure, naturalistic description, but their compromise with the idea of billion year ages, their acceptance of evolutionary cosmology, like how Ross advocates the big bang, and their allegorical hermeneutics, specifically promoted by Riddlebarger and Samples, creates a theological apologetic incubator where theistic evolution, or full on Darwinianism of the atheistic variety, can comfortably thrive in churches.

Perhaps I could have been more precise for your liking with my words, but I never stated that you guys held to theistic evolution. My point was to note the utilization of evolutionary talking points as it pertains to the idea of billions of years for the universe and Earth, and what I believe to be a compromise of scripture when you guys attempt to synchronize those age talking points with the creation narrative,and then develop an apologetic methodology for evangelism.

One can affirm an ancient earth and cosmos without affirming that man evolved. To see the important differences between OEC and TE, I suggest you consult the fair and balanced book THREE VIEWS ON CREATION AND EVOLUTION edited by Moreland and Reynolds.

Just to make clear once again: I never wrote anything about OEC and TE being one and the same. How Ken got this idea from my post is truly baffling. As for the book he mentions, I have consulted it along time ago and nothing I wrote suggests I am conflating philosophies. The one point of similarity I note is with how both systems accept billions of years for the universe and Earth.

Ken then makes a second point I will leave off here for the sake of time, because he reiterates he and his friends commitment to God directly creating and their rejection of theistic evolution. Since I never accused any of them of holding to theistic evolution, it was redundant to even bring up the Belgic Confession and the special creation of Adam and Eve, even though Ross's apologetic says they were created no less than 10,000 years ago to no more than 60,000 years ago. But I digress...

Third, as Old Earth Creationists Koukl, Riddlebarger, Ross, and I take different positions as to how the creation days of Genesis are to be best understood (day-age view, analogical day view, framework view, etc.). My position on these issues is virtually identical to such Reformed theologians as Vern Poythress (Westminster Seminary) and Jack Collins (Covenant Seminary).

OK, so these guys hold to what I consider to be various errant hermeneutics as to how to understand the Genesis narrative. And, Ken holds to the same position as Poythress and Collins. My position on these issues is virtually identical to Robert Reymond (Knox Theological Seminary), Douglas Kelly (Reformed Theological Seminary). Now that we have our favorite authorities established, how exactly does this help Ken's claim against me charging me of calling him a theistic evolutionist?

To see how these positions on the creation days differ with the "calendar day" view, I suggest that you consult the book THE GENESIS DEBATE edited by David Hagopian.


Thank you for the recommendation. Been there, done that.

Fourth, my three friends and myself hold different eschatological positions. We differ over the nature of the millennium (some premillennial, others amillennial) and we certainly have different ideas about the value and appropriateness of the "allegorical" interpretation of certain passages of Scripture.

My point along these lines is simple: It has been my experience that those who are prone to use hermeneutics which spiritualize, allegorize, and utilize excessive typology in understanding eschatology, tend toward using the same method when dealing with Genesis and what is wrongly perceived as conflicts with modern, secular, scientific paradigms.

Mr. Butler you certainly have the right to criticize the theological positions of people who differ with your own (even designating them as "muddled"). However, as a Christian, you don't have the right to misrepresent the views of others or to make misleading statements about the doctrinal views of your brothers in Christ.

Well Ken, you have yet to demonstrate to me where I have made any misleading statements about your position or doctrinal views. All I have seen is a knee-jerk reaction to another young earther guy who is an easy target to pick on. I never equated your position to theistic evolution, nor did I state anywhere in my post that either the men of RTB, Greg Koukl, and Kim Riddlebarger held to any form of Darwinian evolution.

What I did state, however, is that all of your all's acceptance of evolutionary talking points pertaining to the age of the Earth, like big bang cosmology, are identical. Am I mistaken about that or am I misunderstanding the word "Old" in Old Earth Creationism?

The four of us categorically reject the positions of naturalistic and theistic evolution. Furthermore your opinion that our theological viewpoints provide a "breading ground for theistic evolution" is uninformed, speculative, and totally without merit.

It is hardly "without merit" or I would not have made the comment. I have encountered many folks, particularly through scathing, personal emails, who are quite adament that the rubric "all truth is God's truth " (the main thing I was addressing in my original post by the way), undergirded their established bias against YEC, with many of them going the way of Michael Dowd and embracing Unitarian Universalism or other unorthodox views of the Christian faith., like the Beyond Creation Science boys. These individuals make it clear to me each time I receive an email, or blog comment, that they are embarrassed of such folks like Answers in Genesis and Creation Ministries International. They alleged that by my adherence to YEC I am hindering evangelism because I want people to believe fantastic ideas about the age of the world and a global flood. So yes, Ken, there is much merit that a belief in "All truth is God's truth" and the blind acceptance of evolutionary interpretations of the world is "true" and "correct" so that those interpretations are understood as "God's truth," leads to compromise, relativism, Emergent church philosophy, and eventual denial of Scripture's infallibility.

If you are going to publicly state that some of your fellow believers are "evolution evangelists" then you had better have done your homework. As president John Adams once stated: "Facts are stubborn things."

Amazing. First I am charged with conflating the systems of theistic evolution and progressive creationsim, now I am being charged with calling Koukl, Ross, Riddlebarger, and Samples evolutionary evangelists? Well, seeing that I am currently watching the HBO version of John Adams on DVD, I am familiar with the phrase. But such a phrase is based upon strong evidence. Ken hasn't shown any that supports his claim against me.

Let me ask this: Would these guys say big bang cosmology, a model that is full of horrendous holes with various cosmological camps polarized around how to explain away those holes, is an accurate way to understanding the development of our universe? If yes, how exactly is that different from Michael Dowd's position, apart from God causing it? Certainly you guys reject Darwinian evolution by random chance, mutation, and time. I never claimed you accepted such a notion.

With all due respect (and I do consider you a brother in Christ), I think your blog article reflects a theologically limited, imprecise, and even muddled perspective.

Thanks for the assurance, Ken. Your salvation was never an issue with me, nor is Koukl's and the other guys I mentioned. It is your apologetic hermeneutics. However, all you have given me is a lot smoke and rhetoric. You haven't shown me how I was theologically limited, nor imprecise, or even muddled in perspective. You seem to be bothered by the fact that there are stark similarities between the OEC view of how so-called scientific evidence is suppose to be interpreted and how Darwinians interpret it.

If you would like to publicly discuss the theological issues you have written about in a Christian forum (with Dr. Ross and myself), I invite you to appear as a guest on Reasons To Believe's weekly webcast "Creation Update." You can contact RTB by telephone at 626/335-1480. If you would like to publicly dialogue with Greg Koukl and Kim Riddlebarger, then I would encourage you to call the "Stand To Reason" and "White Horse Inn" radio programs respectively.

Let's do one better. I could certainly call your all's program and subject myself to being bullied, though in a respectful, Christian way. Seeing that I am a little peon of a blogger, I would be an easy pinata to hit around and have all the fans of your program gloat as to how those wacky young earthers don't know what they are talking about. What would be much more exciting is to have Hugh debate Jonathan Sarfati, who has actually written a 400 page critique of his apologetic methodology. I am sure we could talk Gary Demar's ministry into hosting it. We'll need at least three hours. We'll have a moderator, have some cross examination, and then some questions from the audience. In order to focus the time, maybe there can be one specific thesis to debate. Perhaps something addressing the authority of scripture in defining our model for creation apologetics. Would Hugh be up to it?

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18 Comments:

Blogger Kenneth Samples said...

Dear Mr. Fred Butler:

Greetings again in Christ's name.

Because of my heavy work load this will have to be my final response to you.

I read your response and reread your original post but I still insist that a fair reading of your article implies that my colleagues and I were to be included in the category of "the evolution evangelists."

Therefore I assert again that your article was intellectually muddled (or at least sloppily composed) and involves misleading implications about your brothers in Christ.

Maybe you did not intent to imply that my colleagues and I affirm or approve of "theistic evolution," but the emotive title and the paragraph below shows that you did indeed imply it:

"specifically promoted by Riddlebarger and Samples, creates a theological apologetic incubator where theistic evolution, or full on Darwinianism of the atheistic variety, can comfortably thrive in churches."

As a Christian apologist with a website on the Internet, I urge you to be more careful about the things that you say and imply about your brothers in Christ.

Words, arguments, and implications really matter, and this is especially true before the Lord.

I am sure that you agree that the Christian apologetic enterprise ought to be conducted with "gentleness and respect" and motivated by a "clear conscience" (1 Peter 3:15-17).

Sincerely in Christ,

Kenneth Samples

10:33 AM, June 29, 2008  
Blogger Hayden said...

Fred,

I agree with you on this one. I went back and reread the article and see that in no way did you equate the two. There seemed to be a lot of smoke but no fire.

I think you should call into their shows. You sell yourself short when you say you couldn't handle it.

6:23 AM, June 30, 2008  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

Ken,

I just passed my third year of blogging consistently on a weekly basis. I believe many of my regular visitors will confess that I have always been a rather fair guy when it comes to disagreements with other folks. I also do my best to remain teachable and correctable when there certainly is a need. I have had a handful of folks over the last three years correct me about specific issues I may write about and I welcome and receive those criticism and corrections warmly. The same has occurred on other blogs where I have engaged others in the comments.

However, in this particular instance, I believe you are wrong with your assessment of what I have written.

First, you didn't interact with any of the more substantive issues I raised, particularly your ministry utilizing secular, evolutionary talking points about the age of the earth in your apologetics.

Second, and I don't understand how to make this more clear, my main point of contention is with the apologetic hermeneutic utilized by your ministry and other OEC that presupposes the secular scientific conclusions about the age of the earth are correct. It is then believed that because those accurate secular conclusions conflict with the chronologies of the traditional Genesis account of a young earth, that traditional understanding of the Genesis account must yield to what is assumed to be the unquestioned conclusions of secular science, because those secular conclusions are considered to be "God's truth" as well.

As I noted in my original post from back in December, this is the very argument that led Dowd down the path of full on apostasy, and yet it is the same argument I hear utilized by RTB. Am I wrong about these fundamentals of your apologetics? Please clarify for me and explain to me why a normative exegesis of Genesis which has always been understood to teach God created in 6 ordinary days, must yield to secular conclusions about science and be reinterpreted according to one of a handful of fanciful systems of interpretation that didn't exist until about 175 years ago when Christians felt they needed to accommodate the sensibilities of the academic elite who were beginning to tell us the earth was millions of years old?

Third, based upon what I wrote under my second point, I most certainly believe an incubator has been established where an entire host of compromise views of scripture can thrive. Perhaps you don't want to hear this, but it is true. I noted in my post that I occasionally receive emails from your supporters who berate me for being an ignoramus and hindering the work of the gospel. I had a rather terse email exchange with a person who is one of your supporters a year or more ago who told me he hoped I never shared the gospel with any scientists or academic minded people, because my views of creation will only make Christianity look stupid and make those people even more hostile to the gospel.

Now, just so I am clear, I don't believe either you or Hugh Ross endorse such argumentation from your supporters. At least I hope not. Answers in Genesis has their idiot supporters as well. Be it as it may, I happened to learn from another internet friend that also had encountered this person, that he has since embraced theistic evolution and has become much more emergent in his philosophy of ministry.

Fourth, I have always found it troubling that you guys at RTB wear something of a "persecution" chip on your shoulders. Anytime there has been any meaningful criticism of your apologetics you take it as if you are being treated with meanness and being equated to apostates. Now, I am certain you have those sorts of cranks who levels such charges, but not everyone who is highly critical of your approach to scripture and your apologetics is calling you apostates. Additionally, just because I consider you two as "brothers in Christ" - and believe me I do - doesn't mean I am going to accommodate what I believe to be a severely troubling approach to scripture and apologetics by treating it as just another way to look at the Bible, as if we are disagreeing over whether Jephthah really killed his daughter in a human sacrifice or if he made her a perpetual virgin (Judges 11). The implications arising from our differences are profound enough that I could never call such disagreements "just another possible way to look at the issues." I consider Dave Hunt a "brother in the Lord" but I could never consider his muddled views of the doctrines of salvation and his ridiculous criticisms of biblical Calvinism as "just another possible way to look at the issues." Where I believe there is profound error, I must call it error.

Fred

7:39 AM, June 30, 2008  
Blogger Jeff said...

I'd like to see such a debate. Have you read (perhaps I receive the link from you) the article in the lastest Masters Seminary Journal on this issue?

6:49 PM, June 30, 2008  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

All I am familiar with is a couple of articles from Terry Mortenson on the compromise of evangelical apologetics to the so-called millions of years "evidences" advocated by folks like RTB. Is that what you are thinking about?

Fred

9:17 PM, June 30, 2008  
Blogger Jeff said...

Right. Here is the one I had in mind Jesus, Evangelical Scholars, and the Age of the Earth.

1:02 AM, July 01, 2008  
Blogger Reformed Gary said...

I don't see how Ken can argue with your points. The door is wide open in denominations like the CRC and RCA which probably default to an OEC/day Age view (I don't think there is an official position). Calvin College (CRC) employs professors who advocate common descent (http://sfmatheson.blogspot.com/)and at least one Hope College (RCA) professor has won an award for teaching evolution. As a graduate of Hope I remember being taught the various human ancestors in an introductory science class with no reservations I can recall.

These denominations are not headed in the right direction - women pastors, emergent influence etc.

7:08 AM, July 01, 2008  
Blogger Highland Host said...

Just one point, Fred. I disagree with your dispensational assumption that taking a symbolical approach to the interpretation of Revelation is a 'thin end of the wedge' leading to a symbolical interpretation of Genesis. Outside of weird people like Origen and other genuine allegorizers, the reason folks like me take a symbolical approach to Revelation is that it is a symbolical book. Genesis is not, it is a book of history. We regognise the existence of different genres of literature in the Bible and interpret them accordingly. Genesis is HISTORY, Revelation is apocalypse. To take the same hermeneutical approach to both leads to confusion.

The cause of people taking a non-literal approach the Genesis is some outside presupposition, not a non-dispensational hermeneutic.

And for the record, besuase Genesis is history, I read it as a record of events that actually took place in the manner described.

4:06 AM, July 04, 2008  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

HH,

The reason why I say that an allegorical approach to scripture can easily lead to a re-reading of even the historical narratives, is that I have encountered such an approach with numerous individuals both on the internet and privately who do just that. The example of the "Beyond Creationism" boys who re-read Genesis 1-2, as well as the flood narratives, with a strict preterist interpretation, so that the creation of the world and the subsequent flood, is specifically describing God establishing and then judging the land of Israel.

I will grant you that I should clarify my thought along the lines of describing this approach as being hyper-allegorical or hyper-typological. As a "dispensationalist" of the non-classic sort, I believe the Bible reveals types and allegory when the text so warrants such understanding, the prophecy of Revelation being one example. However, it is the extended, over use of those principles that re-reads everything as a type through what I consider to be a hyper-Christological method of interpretation.

Fred

7:06 AM, July 04, 2008  
Blogger Highland Host said...

With which I agree. My difficulty is with the suggestions taht I keep reading from dispensationalists who seem to charge all non-dispensationalists with this. Yet CI Scofield taught the Gap Theory in his reference Bible and the Open Brethren preacher and surgeon Arthur Rendle-Short taught theistic evolution. I know the Open Brethren, I had family who were Open Brethren (elderly family who are now with the Lord), they were classical Dispensationalists. If they accepted Rendle-Short as a minister, then they accepted his theistic evolution as orthodox. So there's something beyond a mere dispensational/non dispensational divide going on here. There's an unrecognised presupposition here that the results of secular science are to be used to interpret the Bible.

Personally I have no trouble with critiques of strictly allegorical interpretation such as that applied by the notably weird Church Father Origen. It's a loose use of the term 'allegorizing' that I can't abide. And the 'beyond creationism' position is just plain silly It IS allegory of the Origen type. It's taking an extreme preterist interpretation and reading all of Scripture through it.

8:28 AM, July 04, 2008  
Blogger Highland Host said...

Final remark. The real reason for any, whether Covenant theologian or dispensationalist, abandoning the Biblical teaching on origins is a lack of faith, a feeling of shame in the face of worldly science. That is why theistic evolution actually cuts across this divide. It's not your hermeneutic, it's your faith.Thus, when the Dispensationalist Rendle-Short was teaching theistic evolution, the Covenant Theology Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland was standing against it.

5:53 AM, July 07, 2008  
Blogger Highland Host said...

NB. Most, if not all, early Dispensationalists held to versions of the Gap Theory, further undermining your point on the matter.

8:05 AM, July 07, 2008  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

HH,

You have a good point with early dispensationalists and their gap theory, for example. Like you, I believe you are correct that the biggest reason for compromise with Genesis was for the purposes of saving face with the scientific community.

However, I still believe there is a case to be easily made that one's hermeneutics will lend itself to embracing a re-interpretation of Genesis in light of perceived scientific truth.

Thinking about it more, perhaps the issue is more along the lines of one's theological system, rather than hermeneutics. But,in modern days, the chief culprits come from the Reformed camp. Kline was certainly an example of this, as is many who teach OT and systematic theology at a variety of Reformed oriented seminaries here in the states.

Obviously that is not all of them, for example Robert Reymond and Joseph Pipa and the Presbyterian seminary in South Carolina, and of course most Reformed Baptists.

Fred

9:06 AM, July 07, 2008  
Blogger Highland Host said...

I still maintain that in fact the ONLY reason for compromise with unbelieving science is an unbiblical confidence in the pronouncements of that science. No Reformed theologian thought of slotting long ages into Genesis until the advent of uniformitarian geology, and no-one thought of forcing evolution into Scripture until after Darwin. And since both Dispensational and non-dispensational writers are equally guilty, historically, I think my point proved. Interestingly, I find that (unsurprisingly) those who have lived most of their lives since the beginnings of the creation-science movement are more likely to resist the cultural temptation to compromise, and this tendency cuts across the dispensational/non-dispensational divide. On the other hand there are some people today, influenced by the same factors that drove Darby and Scofield to adopt the Gap Theory, who are taking up a form of theistic evolution again.

As for hyper-preterists, they're heretics, and at least as bad as hyper-dispensationalists.

4:17 AM, July 10, 2008  
Blogger David said...

The physical evidence from geology, astronomy, etc. regarding the age of the earth clearly conflicts with the young-earth interpretation of Genesis. As both the physical evidence and Scripture have their origin from God, obviously they are ultimately in agreement. However, both exegesis and science are performed by fallible, limited, sinful humans. We must carefully examine both to see where errors seem likely to have occurred. For example, does the way in which flood geology portrays God as wildly and erratically dispensational in His use of natural laws accord with the Biblical picture of Jesus the same yesterday, today, and forever?
Regrettably, the main reason for taking an old-earth or evolutionary position with regard to the scientific evidence is honesty- young-earth and antievolutionary scientific arguments are so blatantly bad as to be irreconcilable with "You shall not bear false witness." Of course, science should not dictate our theology. In particular, the claims of creation science must not be allowed to dictate our interpretation of Scripture. In reality, non-calendar day views have been around since at least Origen. Of course, he went totally nuts about taking the OT allegorically, but more responsible commentators such as Augustine also adopted different views. Thus, it's clearly untrue that non-calenday day views are purely an attempt to accommodate to science.
In reality, all interpretation of Scripture relies on science to tell us whether a particular statement is factual, figurative, etc. Most people seem willing to accept that the world is round and that the earth goes around the sun, yet those are not the impressions you get if you misinterpret the relevant Biblical passages as scientific assertions, rather than as descriptions based on the appearance of things.

It is true that those with a low regard for Scripture generally accept an old earth and evolution. However, this does not mean that accepting an old earth or evolution leads to a low regard for Scripture. Rather, there are at least two ways to conclude that science is reasonably reliable. If you believe from Genesis 1 that everything was created by an orderly and rational God, who made us to be stewards of creation, then it's reasonable to conclude that the universe behaves in an orderly way, that we can figure out how it works to a useful approximation, and that we ought to do so. Conversely, if you don't put much trust in supernatural revelation, science and subjective judgements are the main sources of information available to you (though you don't have good philosophical basis for trusting in science).

12:56 PM, July 14, 2008  
Blogger Jonathan said...

For the record, Gary DeMar has already tried to persuade Hugh Ross to debate me, but he wimped out because Refuting Compromise "hurt" him and he wanted an apology. Instead, Gary substituted Dr Danny Faulkner, full professor of astronomy. Whereupon Ross basically subjected the audience to a RTB presentation, telling the audiences many of the falsehoods I refuted in RC.

For the record, Ross is a mimophant: thick skinned as an elephant when attacking YECs, while delicate as a mimosa when it comes to criticisms of him in return. See my critique of his Matter of Days, which was published about the same time as RC.

Jonathan Sarfati

4:16 AM, July 21, 2008  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

Hey Jonathan,
I am honored by you just stopping by here to comment. Just to let you know, I have given away many copies of your two books refuting evolution. They are both some of the best introductory level material on this important subject.

Keep up the good work.

Fred

7:15 AM, July 21, 2008  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

I answer David's comments here:
Honest to God

Fred

11:51 AM, July 30, 2008  

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