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

Monday, September 20, 2010

Apologetics and the Age of the Earth

…And a boot to the head

boot This past Friday I popped by James White’s place to see if anything was new. I was surprised to discover that an email exchange I was having with one of the AOMinions, Jamin Hubner, had been posted online as an article. The article was a lengthy response to some comments I had made to Jamin regarding the interpretation of Genesis chapters 1 and 2. I will honestly say at the outset of my rebuttal, his comments were not what I expected. Not only did I think they were poorly argued, they come from an avowed presuppositionalist.

To provide a little background:

I was led to Jamin’s personal website by a couple of links. The primary emphasis of his ministry website is dealing with apologetics. He also puts together an occasional 30 minute podcast exploring various apologetic subjects. One of those podcasts from May addressed theistic evolution, and theistic evolution being a topic I have been interested in for several months now, I was curious to hear it.

During the podcast, Jamin pondered the baffling reality that a whole lot of theistic evolutionists are Reformed in their theology and wondered why that was. Pretty much every theistic evolutionist I have encountered this past year has been Reformed and nowhere near being a flaming liberal. So, I was compelled to shoot Jamin an email asking him to elaborate on his opinion further, and I suggested to him that one of the main reasons for this weird anomaly is how the Reformed hermeneutic lends itself easily to allegorizing the text of Genesis. We kicked our thoughts back and forth a bit, but Jamin made a passing comment about how we are to read Genesis. When I offered a challenge by linking a few articles that took the contrary view he was advocating, the article posted at AOMin is what I got in return.

Now his overall response perplexed me, because a good portion of Jamin’s little web ministry is geared toward educating laymen on the nature of presuppositional apologetics. The application of presuppositionalism, at least as I practice the methodology, is to develop a comprehensive worldview built upon biblical theology that is shaped by the proper exegesis of Scripture. That is why many of the arguments Jamin outlines in his response to me are stunning: They’re so a-presuppositional and looks like something I would read from the BIOLA apologists.

Take for example this remark where he writes, There are over five major views of what Genesis 1 and 1-4 etc. mean - from a variety of scholars in almost every major denomination strand. Five major views? What is it with people these days who think Genesis is so vague we can’t be too dogmatic as to what it says? I bet I can find 5 major views on the historical Jesus and the reliability of the Gospels, too. Does Jamin realize how postmodern and evidential he sounds with this statement? There may very well be five major views of what Genesis 1 means, but there is only one way to read and interpret the text, and I happen to believe God has spoke clear enough that we can know what Genesis 1 is saying.

Additionally, these “new perspectives” on Genesis weren’t developed until AFTER the Enlightenment, when skeptics, Unitarians, and secularists insisted the book of Genesis be reinterpreted according to uniformitarianism because the “evidence” of geology proves the world is millions of years old. I would think Jamin, who aligns himself with 1689 London confessing Reformed Baptists would recognize the concession of his starting point.

I was also left scratching my head with these conflicting comments:

…the account in Gen 1 is different/unique in numerous ways.

And then following immediately after,

…it's definitely "narrative" in the general sense, and almost certainly not "poetry" or "metaphor." I also think it's historical in that, generally speaking, everything mentioned happened one way or another…

Huh? Which is it? Is Genesis 1 so different and unique we have to interpret it separately from the remainder of Genesis? Or does it fit with Genesis as an historical narrative? What sort of convoluted William Lane Craig double-talk is this? In fact, the entire tone of Jamin’s response reeks with this sort of evidentialist uncertainty, vacillating back and forth about what the Bible really says in Genesis 1.

Well. Let me outline a quick response as to why I am being so terse with his article.

Genesis as Polemic: Jamin says he is drawn to the notion that Genesis is meant as a polemic, or what would be an argument against other ANE cosmologies the Israelites would encounter as they entered and conquered the Promise Land. I noted when I first linked to his article that ironically, Jamin argued just like the theistic evolutionists he is attempting to refute. For nearly everyone of them I debated during our four month long series on Genesis at the GTY blog would claim we were to read Genesis 1 and 2 theologically rather than historically. The opening chapter of Genesis is a polemic, they would argue, because the writer borrows motifs from ANE cosmology and contrasts those pagan creation myths with the true God of Israel and His creation of the Promise Land for His people.

Laying aside how a lot of this particular polemic argument is part and parcel the same sort of nonsense we hear from atheists who claim Christianity borrows from pagan myths, why is it if Genesis 1 and 2 functions as a polemic does that automatically discount it as revealing true, literal history? Why does this mean we consider chapter 1 to be “different/unique,” as Jamin wrote, that requires we change the rules of hermeneutics when reading it? I would agree Genesis 1 is polemical; but that doesn’t mean it isn’t historical. In fact, it’s literal, historic record only strengthens its value as a polemic against ANE mythologies, because God has revealed exactly what happened at creation as contrasted to what pagan myths say happened. In other words, the true history challenges and corrects the false history.

The function of toledoths: Jamin appeals to the toledoth formula in Genesis as a reason why Genesis 1 is different. Whereas 10 (11 if we count the second mention of Esau in 36:9) major portions of the Genesis narrative begin with the Hebrew phrase, these are the generations of…, or the account of, and then follows with the details of the historical events, Genesis chapter 1 doesn’t start out with this formula. Because of that, modern interpreters are inclined to be all over the map as to how we are to handle the chapter.

Jamin seems to be of the opinion that the relevant part of Genesis begins in 2:4 with the details of the creation of Adam and Eve. But there are many more exegetical factors that demonstrate Genesis 1 is historical narrative that speaks of God literally creating by divine fiat in the space of six days that Jamin doesn’t even bother touching, hence the reason I linked him to Dr. Boyd’s long article on the subject. Seeing that Genesis 1 provides the major overview of God’s divine work of creation from start to finish, I wouldn’t expect there to be a toledoth heading; it’s unnecessary. However, chapter 2:4 goes back and fills in detail about day 6 when God created Adam and Eve and their special identity as God’s crown of creation, which is exactly why the section is introduced with the expression, toledoth.

The lack of citation from Genesis one in the NT: Jamin states that the only citation of Genesis 1 in the NT is of man being created in the image of God as stated in Matthew 19 and Mark 10 and then he makes the major leap that this lack of mentioning the 6 days of creation and other chronological markers somehow makes Genesis chapter 1 irrelevant for establishing the history of the earth.

But what about John 1:1? Who does the Apostle say was “in the beginning?” This is a significant text linking Jesus to the creation of the world that uses the same opening phrase as Genesis 1:1. Additionally, I would also point out Hebrews 1:10, where the author of Hebrews cites from the Psalms how the LORD laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and then later, in Hebrews 11:3, where the creation of the world is mentioned. Though these and other similar NT statements don’t specifically say, “on such and such a day of creation,” the NT writers do link them to the creation of the world as recorded in Genesis chapter 1.

Also, keep in mind that Adam and Eve were created on day 6, meaning the last major day of creation for God. Any NT passage referencing Adam’s creation is referencing an event that took place in Genesis 1. This is important because Luke’s genealogy links Jesus Christ all the way back to Adam. In fact, there are 3 major biblical, genealogical lists that start with Adam, who was created on the 6th day of the creation week. Contrary to what Jamin states, if we understand those lists to be recording accurate, human history, and because those lists go all the way back to Adam, we can determine with some accuracy the age of the earth.

By the way, Jamin goes on to say the point of the genealogies were to record the lives of people, not provide a chronology of the earth. He writes, …the primary purpose of genealogies are to show who lived when and from what persons they came. Certainly; but didn’t those people live on the earth? Who is the person the biblical writers claim is the first man? Can we learn about the length of Adam’s life and his progeny from those genealogies? If we can (we most certainly can), why can’t we use those same genealogies to get some reference point to the history of the earth?

shoeWhy this all matters: Jamin writes, the war we wage is not the age of the earth because there's no clear, direct line being crossed. I would agree with him. The heart of the debate is not determining the age of the earth. It is a matter of biblical authority. As I have outlined in a previous article, the history of mankind on our created earth is radically different than the one outlined by the mainstream geologists, biologists, and astronomers. The history of the earth they present is one comprised of deep time with death, turmoil, suffering, and catastrophe. The biblical record, on the other hand, does not present such a history. The history of the world begins at a specific time and involved the True and Living God creating and interacting with real, specific people who lived real lives that impacted humanity on our planet.

Jamin goes on to say this, The BioLogos forum needs to be held accountable not for their standard evolutionary view of the age of the earth, but for their anti-Christian view of God's images. But what Jamin doesn’t seem to understand is that the anti-Christian view of man being created in God’s image that is advocated by BioLogos stems directly to the fact they reject the creation week in Genesis 1 and 2 as being genuine history. Once a person says Genesis chapter 1 can be interpreted in any number of ways, and that how one interprets that chapter is an unimportant, secondary issue, then of course it’s easy to accommodate BioLogos’s view of man.

I’d encourage Jamin to heed his own words when he writes, the primary power in apologetics is the truth revealed directly and plainly in God's Word. But I have been reading so far from him, I am afraid he thinks Genesis 1 isn’t direct and plain. Three books I would recommend to him (and others), Coming to Grips with Genesis and Creation, Fall, and Redemption and Scripture Alone. I believe all of them would shore up his thinking in this area.

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6 Comments:

Blogger RealityCheck said...

A few years ago I was having dinner with my wife and sister (who is a nominal Christian at best) and the subject somehow got to the “literal” days of creation. At which point my sister said, “I’ve always thought of them as millions of years”. To which I said, “why… it says days, qualified with evening and morning, good and very good, etc. etc.” (my standard comeback). And she said… shrugging her shoulders, “I don’t know… I just always have”.

I mention this because I’ll never forget as I was driving home thinking, “that’s brainwashing for ya… she doesn’t even know “why” she thinks the way she does… but she reads what a child would see as normal days, as millions of years, it’s gotta be the result of decades of being told millions of years”. Now I realize that there are other factors… not the least one being that my sister doesn’t have remotely the respect for Gods word that she should. But I just can’t help but notice Christians (reformed Christians as well…as you mention) who just have some “need” or “leaning” (I don’t know what word to use) to futz with the creation account and if you press them as to why, they either don’t know why, or end up compromising their own values in defending themselves. It’s like they just can’t help it. I remember hearing Norman Geisler asked about the days being literal or not and him saying that he didn’t think it mattered, but, if he “had” to pick, he would probably pick non-literal… millions of years. I remember thinking, “it doesn’t matter?!?... and if you “HAD” to pick… you’d go with millions of years… why???... why would that be your default? Seriously… I just don’t get it.

Anyway… good stuff here Fred… as usual.

10:08 AM, September 20, 2010  
Blogger The Apologetic Front said...

Great response, Fred. I'm glad you posted this because, otherwise, I would have had to post a response! I, too, am quite surprised to hear this coming from a PA. Though I agreed with most of what Jamin said on the referred podcast, I had a hunch that there was something not quite right. Unfortunately, I was right.

Just as many OEC's fail to realize, I really hope Jamin realizes this as an issue of authority, and not the age of the earth. But they never seem to get it. Hopefully, this post will change his heart on the issue.

7:02 AM, September 21, 2010  
Blogger MSC said...

Fred,
Great response. I have often been perplexed by those who claim to be presuppositional in their apologetics suddenly become evidentialists when it comes to Genesis 1 and 2. But it will be hard to prove this, because they will always say that they didn't allow the scientific consensus on the age of the earth influence their interpretation of Genesis. But I think there is a lot disingenuous presuppositionalists out there and I can't help but smell a rat.

12:37 PM, September 21, 2010  
Blogger Fred Butler said...

Jamin has posted a couple of follow up ARTICLES at his blog.

6:55 AM, September 22, 2010  
OpenID thomastwitchell said...

You were in Cheyenne and you didn't even stop to say howdy?

Those boots are about the ugliest waste of concrete. Our streets are falling apart and they put these ugly boots all over town.

From the true windy city...

tt

10:48 PM, September 23, 2010  
Blogger yeoberry said...

Maybe it's because a serious reading of Genesis 1 does not suggest literalism:


exegetical reasons to take Genesis 1 as symbolic:
(1) "day" can be used figuratively in the OT (such as in the common phrase "the day of the Lord", meaning judgment); further, it would be unclear what a "day" means before the creation of the sun;
(2) It appears that the heaven and the earth were created prior to the first day on which light was created, therefore making it impossible to insist on a young earth from Genesis 1; that is, literally, Genesis 1 simply does not say that everything was created in that first week, only that the order was imposed on it after the universe had been created;
(3) there are three days of "evening and morning" prior to the creation of the sun on the fourth day, something that wouldn't be literally possible since evening is the setting of the sun and morning is its rise;
(4) subjectively, the structure and refrains of the chapter "feels" like poetry rather than scientific prose. The ancient people didn't have strict divisions of genre, that something is "historical" and so has to be literal. You're imposing modern assumptions onto the text.

8:05 AM, May 28, 2012  

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