Adam, the Fall, and Evolution: Everybody Stay Calm

Editorial Attacks on Theistic Evolution

Recent genetic studies show beyond all reasonable  doubt that humans evolved from other primates. These discoveries are forcing evangelical Christians who value  intellectual integrity to re-evaluate their traditional support for a sudden creation of Adam and Eve out of dust or ribs.  According to Old Testament scholar Bruce Waltke, “If the data is overwhelming in favor of evolution, to deny that reality will make us a cult.”  This trend towards theistic evolution is decried in articles and columns in recent issues of respected evangelical periodicals.  The cover story (“The Search for the Historical Adam”) of the June issue of Christianity Today closes with quotes claiming that acceptance of the evolutionary origin of humans will completely undo Christianity:

“If Adam doesn’t exist, Paul’s whole argument—that both sin and grace work ‘covenantally’—falls apart. .. If you don’t believe what he believes about Adam, you are denying the core of Paul’s teaching.” [Tim Keller]

…If there was merely a population of pre-Adamic hominids that “collectively evolved into modern man, then the theological foundation for the nuclear family, sin and death appears to be eroded. The credibility of the Bible when it speaks on these issues seems to be damaged: If it does not correctly explain the origin of a problem, why should one trust its solutions?” [John Bloom]

An editorial, “No Adam, No Eve, No Gospel”, in the June Christianity Today keeps the stakes high: “…the entire story of what is wrong with the world hinges on the disobedient exercise of the will by the first humans… the entire story of salvation hinges on the obedience of the Second Adam.”  

WORLD   is a biweekly news magazine with a Reformed perspective. It has intelligent commentary on world and national events, along with nuanced reviews of books, movies, and music., and is normally one of my favorite reads. In a cover story in the July 2, 2011 issue WORLD proclaimed that the books they had selected as Books of the Year were two that “Defy Theistic Evolution.”  The WORLD article implies base motives for theistic evolutionists, and piles on more alarm, e.g. with another Tim Keller quote:  “… it is clear that Paul definitely does want readers to take Adam and Eve literally. When you refuse to take a biblical author literally when he clearly wants you to do so, you have moved away from the traditional understanding of biblical authority.”

Both of the books touted by WORLD attempt to associate evolutionary creationists with ancient heresies.  In Should Christians Embrace Evolution?, essayist Michael Reeves presents them as PelagiansReeves claims that if there were no historical Adam, there would be no need for a historical atonement, and that altering the origin of evil  “would require an altogether different means of salvation.”  In Marvin Olasky’s monthly column in that issue of WORLD, Darwinism is linked to all sorts of more recent bad thinking, including Nazism.   

Why All the Uproar?

Two main concerns underlie these attacks on evolution. First, Reformed theology holds that Adam is the “federal” head of the human race, such that when Adam sinned, we all sinned “in” him. Thus, we bear not only the consequences of his sin, but also the direct, actual guilt for Adam’s transgression. This imputation of Adam’s sin is seen as paralleling the imputation of Christ’s righteousness. Thus, the loss of literal Adam and literal Fall seems at odds with historic Christianity. If humans as a group developed gradually from earlier primates, that seems to undercut Paul’s teaching on how the first man’s first sin set up the need for, and method of, redemption.

Second, if secular scholarship drives us to abandon the literal Adam and Eve that Paul clearly believed in, that seems to start us down a slippery slope towards the denial of other biblical events, even the Resurrection. Was Paul wrong here? Is that a problem? To what degree should we allow physical evidence to move us away from the literal Bible teachings?

Does the Bible Teach That the Guilt of Adam’s Sin Is Imputed To All Humans?

The notion that we all sinned in Adam supposedly derives from Romans 5:12-21, the text of which is given here (NASB):

12 Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned— 13 for until the Law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. 14 Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come.

 15 But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many. 16 The gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned; for on the one hand the judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation, but on the other hand the free gift arose from many transgressions resulting in justification. 17 For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.

18 So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men.19 For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous. [20] The Law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, [21] so that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.   

Where in this passage does it actually say that we sinned in Adam, and that we bear the guilt of his sin? The answer is: nowhere. This concept is not taught in this passage or anywhere in the New Testament.  In fact, the Bible directly teaches against it.  

Echoing Jeremiah 31:29-30, Ezekiel 18 treats this topic at length. In earlier Old Testament times it may have been true that, “The fathers eat sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge” (Ezek. 18:2).  By the time of the Exile, God pronounces a new regime:  “As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, you will no longer quote this proverb in Israel. For every living soul belongs to me, the father as well as the son – both alike belong to me. The soul that sins is the one who will die (vv. 3-4)… The son will not share the guilt of the father, nor will the father share the guilt of the son” (v.20).  This passage leaves no room for the federal headship of Adam.

So, where did the notion come from, that the guilt of Adam’s sin is directly imputed to his descendants and that God deals with all of us through Adam as our representative?  It was originally formulated by Augustine (c. 400 A.D.), in his dispute with Pelagius.  Augustine was a great man and superb thinker, but was not a competent reader of Greek, which was the language of the New Testament manuscripts. Eastern Orthodox Christians, who work from the original Greek text, note that  Augustine’s view was  based mainly on a faulty Latin translation of Romans 5:12 which implied that all men sinned in Adam. Modern translations correctly render this phrase as “because all sinned”.  

Even on a traditional, literal reading of both Genesis and Romans, the most we can say is that humanity perhaps inherited the consequences (flawed nature and death) of Adam’s sin, but not the guilt. Because men now have that flawed nature, they also all sin, but their guilt is for their own sin, not Adam’s. Thus, the doctrine of the federal headship of Adam is not actually taught in Scripture, but is merely a “tradition of men.”  Disavowing the federal headship of Adam does not make the Orthodox “Pelagians.”

Is Adam’s Fall (Original Sin) a Central Christian Doctrine?

We showed above that the specific doctrine of the federal headship of Adam is not a Biblical teaching at all. What about the broader notion that Adam’s sin ruined a perfect creation, and that our flawed nature is due to his unique transgression?

As with the federal headship of Adam, the first passage that gets cited here is Romans 5:12-21, which was given above. In verses 15-21, Paul compares and contrasts (“even so,” “is not like,” “much more than”) the work of Adam and the work of Christ in several dimensions. We list these statements about Adam and Christ in the table below.

The statements here about Christ go to the heart of the gospel.  This explains the alarm over the loss of an historical Adam.   A vital question then becomes: Are the statements in the right-hand column only true if the statements on the left are true?  The answer is: no.  Paul does not make the truth of these redemption statements contingent upon the truth of the statements about Adam.   He merely believes both sets of statements to be true, and proceeds on that basis to draw rational parallels between them.  His teachings here about Christ’s work of redemption stand on their own, being backed by dozens of related passages in the New Testament. Thus, the contention that “if there was no historical Fall, there is no need for a historical atonement” is false. Also false is the claim that we need the literal Fall in Genesis 3 to resolve the problem of the origin of evil —  the Eden story does not evade the fundamental tension between man’s free will and God’s sovereignty, or the question of how evil could arise in a reality created  and governed by an all-good and all-powerful God.

The same considerations apply in I Corinthians 15:21-49. In this passage Paul discourses at length on the future resurrection of Christians. Believing  (mistakenly) the Genesis 1-3 narrative to be literally true, he quite reasonably draws on it for comparisons between death coming via Adam and life coming via Christ. Again, Paul’s statements regarding the reality and effectiveness of Jesus’ resurrection stand on their own. He never makes them logically dependent on the historicity of Adam. We shall all be made alive in Christ (v. 22) and we shall all bear the likeness of the man from heaven ( v.49).  The ground of our confidence in these matters is not the factuality of the Eden story, but the factuality of Jesus’ resurrection, as attested by more than 500 individuals (v.5-8).

Paul never sets out to teach that the Adam and Eve story is literally true, he merely assumes it. There is a big difference. The references to Adam in Paul’s letters are never essential to the teachings there; they are always add-ons, to illustrate or buttress a point being made on other grounds.  In both Romans 1-8 and I Corinthians 15, Paul is motoring along with his arguments (e.g. on salvation by grace through faith, or on the reality of a bodily resurrection), and simply adds in the references to Adam as they seem to fit his discussion. If those Adam references had not been included in Romans or I Corinthians,we would have never missed them.  Shocking, perhaps, but true. 

Paul does the same in I Cor. 11 and I Tim 2.  In I Cor. 11:2-16 Paul insists as a matter of propriety that women wear a covering (e.g. shawl or veil) on their heads in church, though this is not meant to demean them;  he brings in the Creation references (“man did not come from women, but women from man; neither was man created for women, but woman for man”, vv. 8-9 and “as woman came from man, so also man in born of woman”, v. 12) to support the points that he is making anyway.  In I Tim 2:11-15 Paul again lays down rules for women’s conduct in church. He commands that that women should remain silent in church, presumably lest their unlearned chatter be disruptive. This is similar to the directive that Paul gave in I Cor 14:34-35, but here in I Tim 2, he adds, “For Adam was formed first, then Eve.  And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner”(vv. 13-14).  The Adam-and-Eve reference is again merely a supportive afterthought.

So, how central to the Christian faith is the doctrine that Adam’s fall is responsible for our present sinfulness and that God deals with us through Adam?  It is not mentioned anywhere in the New Testament, apart from the two passages discussed above, where we have shown that it was merely an add-on to the points Paul was making anyway.  Paul develops the universality of sin in Romans 1-3 with no mention of original sin. He moves from, “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness… although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him” (1:18-21) to “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (3:23) quite apart from Adam.  In all of the gospel proclamation to both Jews and Gentiles recorded in the Book of Acts, there is not a single reference to Adam’s sin. 

The Fall is never explicitly mentioned in the sayings of Jesus.  On the contrary, Jesus directed people away from religious speculations or blaming others, and towards a consciousness of their own transgressions and their personal need for mercy.  We might have expected Jesus, in addressing the apparently random tragedies of unjust executions and the collapse of a tower (Luke 13:1-5), to tie this seemingly fallen state of affairs to Adam’s sin. Instead, he warns his hearers to be mindful of their own sin and its consequences.  When his disciples asked for an explanation of why a man was born blind (John 9:1-3), that was another golden moment to teach on the effects of Adam’s fall. Instead, Jesus rejected the disciples’ suggestions that this malady was attributable to either the man’s own sin or the sin of his ancestors (parents), and then modeled a godly response by alleviating the man’s suffering.

Three great early creeds of Christendom are the Apostles’ Creed, the Nicene Creed, and the Athanasian Creed. The versions used by the Lutheran Church (Missouri Synod) are given here.  These creeds affirm lots of things, but have absolutely nothing to say about Adam and the effect of his Fall. 

This can come as a surprise to those of us who are steeped in Reformed theology. The overarching meta-narrative of creation-fall-redemption, and the series of covenants which start with Adam and culminate with Christ, have structured our worldview for so long that losing the literal Adam seems like losing “historic Christianity.”  But taking the witness of the Scriptures and the Creeds into account, we find that that the doctrine of original sin is not core to the gospel.  All the alarm over the loss of a historical Fall is groundless.

Just to clarify, nothing here softens the need for the atonement.  I have argued elsewhere ( The Atonement Wars: What the Church Fathers Actually Wrote )  from both the New Testament and from other early Christian writings that the historic Protestant understanding that Jesus took on himself the “legal” penalty for our sin, as our substitute, is a valid aspect (though not the only aspect) of the atoning work on the cross. The point here is that for me as an individual, the atonement was directed towards remedying the sin and the sins that I actually have and I actually do, independently from what some other man did many thousands of years earlier.

Why Did Paul Believe in a Literal Adam?  Does That Mean We Should, Too?

Paul clearly believed that Genesis 2-3 narrative to be literally true. Of course he did! How could he not? Any pious Jew or educated Christian of the first century accepted the Genesis narrative at face value. That is what they had all been taught, and they had no reason to think otherwise.

Unless we are prepared to claim that God would give Paul supernatural knowledge of science, beyond the understanding of his age, we must accept that Paul would share the beliefs of those around him regarding the origins of the physical world. Paul did receive some special revelation, but that was clearly circumscribed.  Its content was that Jesus is the Son of God (Gal 1:11-16) and that Christ in you is the hope of glory (Col. 1:27). Paul also passed along the core gospel message that he received from earlier believers, that Christ died for our sins, was buried, and was raised and appeared to many (I Cor 15: 3-8).  The “mystery” that God revealed to Paul and the other apostles was God’s eternal plan to “bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ” (Eph 1:10), and that Gentiles are included in the promise along with the Jews (Eph 3:4-6). This mystery of God boils down to “Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col 2: 3).

In most other respects, Paul was a man of his age. We noted above the passages where he insists that in church women must keep quiet and wear head coverings, invoking the seemingly timeless examples of Adam and Eve. Nearly all Protestants utterly set aside these teachings. Why? Because, as we have said, Paul was a man of his age.  That entailed certain convictions regarding the place of women, just like it entailed a literal acceptance of Genesis.

Paul was not omniscient (see Acts 23:5; I Cor 13:12). He acknowledges that not everything he writes is an oracle of God; some is simply his opinion (I Cor 7:10-12). He does not claim that every statement in every letter is absolute truth. The fact that he was mistaken in believing in the literal Adam story does not obviate the authenticity of the revelation that he was given.

Paul gives a clear statement as to the purpose and scope of the biblical revelation in II Tim 3:15-17. He writes that the holy Scriptures are: to make you wise for salvation though faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

These are matters of theology and morals; nothing about physical science.  Jesus said that the function of the Old Testament was to testify about him and his saving work (John 5:40; Luke 24:44).  Peter (I Pet 1: 10-12) agrees that the function of the Old Testament is to reveal Christ, especially his sufferings and subsequent glory. Again, nothing about physical science.

In summary, God gave Paul revelation, which had to do with Christ as the Son of God, our hope of glory, and the chosen head of all things. However, there is no reason to believe that God gave Paul (or other New Testament writers) special, supernatural knowledge of science or history (including creation/evolution) that would correct the factually inaccurate views of their age. Thus, to the extent that Paul treats matters of science, we expect him to operate within the (partially erroneous) views of his culture.

Given Paul’s training in Jewish traditions which included a belief in the historicity of Genesis 1-3, we would expect him to retain that view (whether or not it was true) unless God gave him specific revelation to the contrary. We therefore expect him to draw on that tradition to illustrate and support his teachings on doctrine (e.g. I Cor 15, Romans 5) and practice (as in women’s head coverings discussed above). The fact that he does exactly that should be no surprise and no cause for alarm. We can honor the revelation that God did give him, without fussing over the knowledge that God didn’t give him.

Was Jesus Mistaken on Creation and Noah?

Although he did not explicitly discuss Adam or the Fall, Jesus referred to people and events in the Genesis 1-7 narrative as though they were literally true (e.g. Mat 24:37-38). However, we now know this is not supported by the physical evidence. Does this mean Jesus was grossly mistaken here?

Not at all. It would not have been loving and productive for him to stand up and tell his hearers, “I am here to tell you that the earth was not made in six 24-hour days, and there was no global flood 2500 years ago that killed all but 6 humans”.   Jesus was nearly always speaking to Jews who literally believed the Old Testament creation story. Often, they were debating him based on the Scriptures. It was therefore entirely appropriate for him to answer from those very Scriptures, and to draw on them for illustrations.

In one dispute Jesus referred his accusers not to the “The law,” but to “Your law” (John 10:34), to make that point.  A parallel example of citing texts which are culturally relevant to one’s hearers is found in Paul’s ministry. In Act 17 he quotes Greek poets to the Athenians, and he quotes Greek sayings in several of his letters. These sayings reinforce his point on grounds that the other persons could accept. Modern preachers do the same with sermon illustrations drawn from the Chronicles of Narnia or some modern movie.

Jesus, as the Word and God the Son, was presumably involved in some measure with the divine initiative to give the ancient Israelites a creation story (including Noah’s Flood) which met their spiritual needs by accommodating within their physical worldview (fixity of species, relatively recent creation, etc.). Since Jesus was speaking to Jews with that same worldview and who had a high regard for the Scriptures, it was the wise and loving thing for him to do to continue to work within that physical framework, rather than teaching them modern science.

Just as the original inspiration of Genesis worked within the pre-existing worldview of the Old Testament Israelites, so Jesus’ discourse worked within the worldview of the New Testament Israelites. He didn’t try to correct every wrong idea in their heads, just the crucial beliefs at the time. This is an example of accommodation of revelation to the limitations of the hearers. We should be impressed here by Jesus’ wisdom and communication skills here, instead of disputing over “error.”

Interestingly, Jesus himself remarks on an instance of this sort of accommodation in regards to the Old Testament law on divorce in Deut 24:1-4. This passage allowed a man to divorce his wife and send her away if he found “something indecent” in her.  Jesus accepted the whole Law as inspired by God, yet he explicitly rejected this command. This (along with other instances where he contradicts the Law) demonstrates that Jesus did not believe in biblical inerrancy in the simplistic, absolute sense that some evangelicals promote.

Even more relevant for our purpose is the explanation he gives for why he sets aside this law: “It was because of your hardness of heart that he wrote you this law” (Mark 10:9, Matt.19:8). Jesus makes it clear that God’s basic moral standard was no divorce for anything other than adultery, but that God in giving the Mosaic Law had accommodated to the limited moral character of the ancient Israelites.  This, of course, parallels God’s accommodation of the ancient Israelites’ scientific knowledge.

In the course of telling the parable of the mustard seed, Jesus makes a blanket, apparently factual statement that the mustard seed is “smaller than all the seeds on earth.” (Mk 4:31). The point of this parable was not to make a statement about botany, but to illustrate the growth of the kingdom of God from small beginnings. Thus, we can and should make use of the God-given extrabiblical evidence to assess whether Jesus’s statement about seed sizes was literally true or not (it was not). And that is what I and millions of Christians do with the other statements of Jesus which seem to bear on the physical world, including Noah, the Flood, and human origins.

Jesus employed a range of rhetorical devices to communicate his revolutionary concepts. His statements that the mustard seed is the smallest of all seeds and that birds make nests in the branches of the mustard tree are not literally accurate, but we look past that to hear the points he is making about the kingdom of God.   Consistency demands that we likewise look past his literal treatment of the Genesis stories and focus on the points he was making in those teachings and debates.

The fact that Jesus referred to Noah in Matthew 24 as a specific person with specific details on the Flood has no bearing on whether the Noah story is literally true. Jesus gave a specific name (Lazarus) to the poor man in the story of the rich man and Abraham’s bosom in Luke 16:19-31. In the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-35) Jesus provides a specific location (the road from Jerusalem to Jericho). In both that story and the story of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32) there are far more details given than in the Noah passage. So we cannot use the presence of specific names, locations, and many details to claim that a certain story is literally true, whether or not we would classify it as a parable.

Jesus’s point in this passage was not to teach that Noah’s Flood actually happened. His point was to urge his hearers to “Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming” (Mat 24:42). Jesus wisely and effectively drew on a dramatic story (Noah’s Flood) which all his hearers were familiar with, as an illustration of unexpected and catastrophic judgement.

What About Biblical Inerrancy?

God declares, “My word…will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and will achieve the purpose for which I sent it. “ (Isaiah 55:11) The Bible is authoritative and inerrant with respect to the purpose for which it was sent.  But we must be rigorously biblical in affirming what that purpose is. As noted above, Jesus said that the function of the Old Testament was to testify about him and his saving work (John 5:40; Luke 24:44), and Paul stated that it is useful for teaching and training in righteousness, to make us wise for salvation and equipped for good works (II Tim 3:15-17).

The Bible never asserts timeless authority in the scientific realm, and wisely so: because human understanding of the universe changes with time, it is logically impossible for any detailed treatment of the natural world to make sense to both the ancient and the modern conceptions of the physical world. (Why God chose to give a creation story rich with imagery, as opposed to limiting it to a noncontroversial  “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,” is a topic we will not address here).  According to Revelation 22:18-19, adding to the Word is as serious an offense as taking away from it. Those who claim that the literal sense of every Biblical statement regarding science and history are timelessly authoritative are adding to the Word, layering on mere human opinion. There is no biblical or logical basis for that sort of inerrancy.

As an example, the statement of faith for Answers in Genesis, a Young Earth Creationist ministry, includes these statements:  “The Bible is the supreme authority in everything it teaches. Its authority is not limited to spiritual, religious, or redemptive themes but includes its assertions in such fields as history and science.  Its assertions are all factually true.” This would seem to be a very pious position, but is in fact unbiblical and untrue.

The earliest deviants from the pure gospel message were not the Pelagians or Gnostics, but the Pharisees who challenged Jesus and the judaizers who dogged Paul. These were pious men, zealous to defend a literal interpretation of the Old Testament, but their zeal was not according to knowledge (Rom 10:2).

Today’s defenders of complete Biblical inerrancy are making the same mistake as yesterday’s Pharisees.  They think they are upholding the honor of God’s word, but in fact distort it by injecting their own opinions on what “must” be the case on the scope of biblical authority. As with the Pharisees of old, the effect is to hinder other people from entering the kingdom of God. Thousands of Christian young people eventually find out that their pastors and parents were misleading them about physical reality (e.g. evolution and the age of the earth). With the absolute inerrantists telling them, “If evolution is true, the Bible is false,” these young people quite understandably walk away from their faith. To cause young followers of Jesus to stumble is a serious matter (cf. Mat 18:6). 

How can we trust the Bible’s statements about the Resurrection if we cannot trust its statements on Adam and creation?

The discussion above can seem like the beginning of a slippery slope down to complete dismissal of biblical content. In the Christianity Today article, Richard Phillips asks: “If science trumps Scripture, what does this mean for the virgin birth of Jesus, or his miracles, or his resurrection?”   These are serious questions. However, the fact that the Genesis narrative reflects the science of its time provides no grounds to doubt the New Testament testimony. These are two very different cases.

We note that Old and New Testament authors and readers operated within an ancient physical worldview; there is nothing that would lead us to believe that God gave them supernatural knowledge of science beyond that of their age. God wisely chose to frame his revelation in terms of the physical worldview of the original hearers, in order to facilitate communication to them and to readers for the ensuing 3000 years.

While the Genesis creation story is at odds with known history, this is as it ought to be: we expect the writings of the Bible to reflect ancient views of origins, which includes some sort of special creation of humans as opposed to development from earlier species.  It is important to note that the Genesis creation account is not eyewitness attestation. The writer just starts right in telling the creation story. There is believed to be an authorial connection to Moses, but we don’t know how the book of Genesis took its final form.  

In contrast, the New Testament presents the key Jesus-events as being well-known and well-grounded in history. The gospels are written by eye-witnesses or from interviews with eye-witnesses.  Paul notes in Acts 26:26 that these things were “not done in a corner,” and appeals in I Corinthians 15:6 to hundreds of witnesses of Christ’s resurrection. The apostles spent the rest of their lives spreading the Christian message, and in most cases suffered grisly deaths as a result of their proclamation of the Resurrection. The New Testament narrative is groundbreakingly realistic as ancient literature goes, and is found to agree with known history in a plethora of details.

It would be emotionally comforting if the Bible were 100% accurate in every subject it touches (i.e. in physical origins as well as in theology), but there is no logical necessity for this. It is common for us to trust an individual or an institution to give us authoritative guidance in certain areas of expertise, without requiring them to know everything about everything.  I would not change physicians if my doctor made a remark about the stock market which seemed sensible at the time, but later turned out to be untrue. There is no reason to doubt the historicity of the Resurrection, unless one has a prejudice against Christianity or against miracles in general.  On the other hand, there is no reason to believe in the historicity of the Genesis creation account, unless one clings to an unbiblical standard of biblical inerrancy.

Chill Pill

We have shown that the uproar over the loss of a specially-created Adam and Eve has no basis. The vaunted covenantal headship of Adam is not taught in the Bible at all, and the two big Pauline references to the Fall (I Cor 15 and Romans 5) are incidental add-ons to Paul’s main discussions, not stand-alone teachings.  Adam’s sin is barely mentioned anywhere else in the entire Bible, except of course in Genesis 3. The whole rest of the New Testament, including Jesus’ teachings, develops the universal sinfulness of mankind quite apart from Adam.

Christianity Today and WORLD and other respected Christian publications do their readers a disservice by stoking their fears on this issue. Evangelical Christians are panicked by those fears into an anti-evolutionism which is wrong, which makes Christianity look stupid, and which turns young and educated people away from Christ. Let’s stop doing this.  Instead, let’s take a biblical position on the Bible’s purpose and the scope of its authoritative revelation.


Previous posts are listed on the right hand side of the main window.    Longer essays or letters (e.g. STAN 3) dealing with science/faith issues are accessed by clicking the tabs at the top of the page. Skim the ABOUT page to get an overview of what is in these letters

About Scott Buchanan

Ph D chemical engineer, interested in intersection of science with my evangelical Christian faith. This intersection includes creation(ism) and miracles. I also write on random topics of interest, such as economics, theology, folding scooters, and composting toilets, at . Background: B.A. in Near Eastern Studies, a year at seminary and a year working as a plumber and a lab technician. Then a B.S.E. and a Ph.D. in chemical engineering. Since then, conducted research in an industrial laboratory. Published a number of papers on heterogeneous catalysis, and an inventor on over 100 U.S. patents in diverse technical areas. Now retired and repurposed as a grandparent.
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43 Responses to Adam, the Fall, and Evolution: Everybody Stay Calm

  1. Jaap van Bloois says:

    Dear Mr. Buchanan,

    Thank you for your interesting article on Adam, Eve and the original sin. But I have a number of objections against the differences you make between the biblical record end the way one can – as it seems – nowadays look at it.
    You list several statements about the comparison and the contrasts between the work of Adam and the work of Christ in a table. And then you ask: Are the statements in the right-hand column only true if the statements on the left are true? You yourself give the answer: No! If you had left the answer to me, I would have said: Yes, of course!
    In the right-hand column you can read that by the grace of God and Jesus we have been justified and have been made righteous. Why did we need to be justified and made righteous? That’s what the left-hand column tells us. How did we become so unrighteous and unjust in the first place? By our own sins? That’s not what the left-hand column tells me.
    Verse 19 is a key verse. Through the one man’s transgression the many were made(!) sinners.
    So I was made a sinner by the transgression of Adam, not by my own transgression. Adam, the bible tells me, was good, like everything God had created. He had not a sinful character, and if he had obeyed the Lord he would have stayed sinless. But although good and sinless, it was a possibility for him to commit a sin by disobedience and become a sinner. Death would be the result. God Himself told him so. We know exactly what Adam did and that he was driven out of the garden of Eden.
    He had become a sinner! Not by committing a crime, not by murder, only by disobedience loosing his sinlessness. But WE need not become sinners, we are made sinners by the transgression of one man (verse 19).
    Adam became a sinner by committing a sin.
    We are not sinners because we sinned, but we sin because we are (born) sinners! So if you say we have not inherited the Adam’s guilt, you are perfectly right! But we DID inherit Adam’s sinful nature, called “flesh”, or “the old man”. Therefore Paul said: “in my flesh dwelleth no good”. We can only go the Lord’s way, if we are born-again (have a new nature) and follow Lord’s way, led by the Spirit of God.


    What strikes me, is that you are citing the warning from Revelation 22:18,19
    as a threat to those who stick to the literal meaning of the biblical creation record. And you compare them to the pharisees who laid heavy loads of selfmade rules on the shoulders of the people and withheld them from going into the Kingdom. The pharisees ate the houses of the widows, they said long prayers to keep up appearances, they despised common people for not knowing the law of Moses and cursed them for that. I don’t see this attitude at all in the creationists, and I know many who simply believe the biblical creation record.

    Jesus believed Abel was a real historical person and that his blood had really been shed (Matthew 23:35). All the righteous blood would come upon the pharisees and all the persecutors, included Abel’s blood. So if Jesus confirmes the existence if Abel, why would Adam, his father, not have existed? How can a non-historical person reach an age of 930 years? Genesis is very precise about the ages of the early mankind, mentioning the ages when they got their firstborn and when they died.
    If all this is not true, it’s nonsense, yeah, misleading indeed. If it were a vague, inconsistent story, okay, I would not object, but it’s not. It gives us an impression of a pure record. Genealogies are very important in the bible. Luke tells us the genealogy of Jesus backwards unto the very beginning, which was Adam, the son of God.
    Remember that God said to the serpent (Genesis 3: 15)
    And I will put enmity
    Between you and the woman,
    And between your seed and her Seed;
    He shall bruise your head,
    And you shall bruise His heel.”

    Here you can see that Jesus is the Seed of the woman that shall bruise the serpent’s head. Who else can be mentioned here that is able to do this than Him alone?
    So you can see how important it is that Jesus is a descendent of Adam and Eve! Adam brought sin and death into this world, therefore it was necessary that a descendent of him should take back the lost position and defeat the serpent. Evolution denies this, making it completely uncertain whether Jesus is Eve’s seed or not.
    The bible is clear about the importance of genealogy. In the letter to the Hebrew you can read that Jesus is a descendent of Judah, not of Levi. This fact is crucial for the explanation of Jesus’ functioning as the Highpriest and the shift from the old temporary covenant to the new and everlasting covenant. That Jesus was from Judah’s tribe was even prophesied by Jacob, when he blessed
    his sons before he died. The first prophecy in the bible is when God Himself foretold that the woman’s Seed would defeat the serpent, which is satan.
    So if evolution is true, Jesus is not Eve’s Seed, since she is not an historical person.
    There is another text in
    Maleachi 2:14

    Yet you say, “For what reason?”
    Because the LORD has been witness
    Between you and the wife of your youth,
    With whom you have dealt treacherously;
    Yet she is your companion
    And your wife by covenant.
    15 But did He not make them one,
    Having a remnant of the Spirit?
    And why one?
    He seeks godly offspring.
    Therefore take heed to your spirit,
    And let none deal treacherously with the wife of his youth.
    16 “ For the LORD God of Israel says
    That He hates divorce,
    For it covers one’s garment with violence,”
    Says the LORD of hosts.

    Here you see God made but one, and why? He could have made a thousand Adams and a thousand Eves, but he did not, although He had a remnant of the Spirit.
    The reason for this was: He sought godly offspring. He wanted to bring his Son into this world as a human being and He had to be sure He would be Adam’s offspring. Adam could not be adulterous with another woman because there was no other woman!
    This is the same reason why Jesus rebuked the Pharisees and said that Moses had allowed them to send their wives away because of the hardness of their hearts, but that this had not been so FROM THE BEGINNING. Here we can see that in the beginning there was but one couple, and that this was to be sure Jesus would be a descendent from Adam and Eve, which at the same time implies that a man should be true and loyal to his own wife.

    1 Cor. 10:11 Now all[b] these things HAPPENED to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.
    Here you can see that things in the Old Testanent really happened. Being forty years in the desert has really happened.
    Many times things that happened were announcements of things to come in later times.


    The offering of Isaac by Abraham. He gave his only promised and beloved and precious son, although God stopped him at the last moment.
    This HAPPENED and was at the same time a prohecy that God would give his own beloved precious Son.

    The crime Joseph’s brothers committed against him. They banned him out of their lives and he was “dead” for them. But he “rose” again as a king and saviour for those who had conspired against him, forgave them and gave them bread (life) and finally a place close to him and his glory. Here we see Jesus again, who wants us, that caused his death, close to Him, to see his glory.

    That life is coming from death is a very important principle in God’s plans. This is manifested at the highest level in the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, which event gave new life to everyone who wants to accept Him.

    It is symbolised in many other ways in the Old Testament and even in the New Testament.

    Abraham and Sarah were 100 and 90 years old when Isaac was born, in spite of the fact that his body and also Sarah had been dead alrady.

    This happened also in the same way
    to Zacharias and Elisabeth.

    Another symbol of life coming from death is Aarons dead staff that after one night gave flowers and fruit.

    These are all real events, prophecying events.

    Even so is the making of Eva out of Adam’s rib a prophecying event.
    23 And Adam said:
    “This is now bone of my bones
    And flesh of my flesh;
    She shall be called Woman,
    Because she was taken out of Man.” 24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.

    Now read Ephesians 5
    . 30 For we are members of His body,[d] of His flesh and of His bones. 31 “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.”[e] 32 This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church.

    Here you can see that, in the same way Eve was flesh and bones of Adam, the church is flesh and bones of Christ. The sleep of Adam is another symbol of the death of Christ. Eve came to existence through Adam’s sleep. The church came to existence by Christ’s death.
    Moreover, Eva was made out of Adam BEFORE SIN. So the church is made out of Christ who was completely sinless and pure and holy.
    Because of this the church is pure,holy, without spot or wrinkle or blemish.

    This very important and deep symbolics in the genesis story are totally destroyed by the evolution theory.

    I think it’s wrong to say: No Adam. no Eve, no gospel. When we trust the Lord Jesus for our salvation we will be saved without being asked: Do you believe in a historical Adam. But notice: we are also saved by his grace without being asked: Do you believe that Sarah’s dead womb came to live again and she got a child, when she was ninety years old? Or do you believe Peter walked on the water.
    But the bible is more than the gospel! It’s about the person of Jesus Christ and the entire Old Testament speakes of Him, not only when he is mentioned in words of prophesy, but also in prophecying events, laws, the tabernacle, in genealogies, the offerings of animals. So cutting off a part of the bible, by saying it’s not historical, where the bible himself deliberately presents it as history, complete with genealogy, will deform it’s mosaic, it’s symbolics and eventually it’s prophetic message.

    So don’t change creationists into pharisees. It could be they are sometimes too fanatic by frustrations and make their mistakes. That’s a pity. But be alert yourself too, lest you not damage the bible’s message, which, completely convinced of your sincerity as I am, is not even the beginning of what you want.

  2. Jaap,
    Thanks for the comment. I enjoyed your fine summation of Messianic foreshadowing in the Old Testament.
    I think where we might disagree is on whether we can draw instruction and encouragement from a story, even if the story is not literally true. Jesus’s primary mode of teaching was to tell stories that likely never happened. I am able to receive moral guidance and appreciation for my Heavenly Father’s grace from the story of the Good Samaritan, whether or not there really was a Samaritan merchant who rescued a robbery victim on the road to Jericho. Likewise, I can appreciate the symbolism of the Adam and Eve story (which you eloquently describe), whether or not the narrative is literally true.

    If the Biblical treatment of geology and astronomy were reliable, then I would tend to trust its ancient anthropology as well. However, that is not the case. The Adam and Eve story of Genesis 2-3 is embedded in the whole Gen 1-8 narrative, which in its literal form ( recent creation in six days with morning and evening; solid dome-like firmament separating waters above; world-wide flood around 2500 B.C. killing all terrestrial life except on Noah’s ark) is simply not credible, even though it is presented in the Bible as real history.
    This is dealt with in detail in my essay on this blog called Grand_Canyon_Creation. I am working on a more comprehensive essay, that addresses in more detail the questions you raise around the historicity of Biblical stories. I hope to post it in 1-2 months. I realize I am tough on the creationists, but here in the U.S. they do such enormous harm to young Christians, who eventually find out that their pastors and parents have been grossly misleading them about physical reality (age of earth, evolution, etc.) and thus come to doubt what their pastors and parents have told them about spiritual realities.

    I agree with you that “We are not sinners because we sinned, but we sin because we are (born) sinners! “. But it makes no practical difference whether the fact that we are born sinners is due to Adam’s sin or not. We just have to deal with it in our own lives. As I noted, Jesus never brought Adam’s sin into the discussion, even when the occasion seemed to call for it. He simply held people responsible for their own choices. It may seem like blaming Adam excuses God from any responsibility for our sinful condition. But it really doesn’t: In Genesis, God created Adam with the capability to sin, knowing full well that Adam would in fact sin. If God is fully sovereign, at some level it was God’s will for Adam to sin. If God did not Adam to sin, He could have simply not created him. (This is a complex subject, and theologians recognize multiple senses or meanings of human and divine “will”.)

    You bring up a good question, what about Jesus seeming to endorse the Genesis narrative (Abel, Noah, etc.). To address this valid point, I have since added a section to the post to address it.

    There are only a few historical facts which are essential to the Christian faith. Paul lists them in I Cor 15:1-8. These are Jesus’s death, burial, resurrection, and post-resurrection appearances. Paul characterizes these as being “of first importance.” Everything else, then, is secondary. On those secondary matters, including the historicity of Adam, I suspect that you and I may have to agree to disagree.
    With best wishes,

  3. jaap says:

    Thank you for your answer to my response on your article. I understand the way you look at the genesis story. And you make me pondering and wondering. But what I’m wondering now: at which point do you think, the biblical stories are real history? Were the people of Israel really forty years in the desert? Did God really speak to Moses on the Sinai mountain? Was there a real tabernacle and were there offerings as described in the bible? Was the old testament’s messianic foreshadowing
    a reality, did it happen, or was it all just scriptural symbolic, or partly real and partly just scriptural symbolic? And is there a consensus about these things among theistic evolutionists? I would very much appreciate if you will answer me at these questions. And last but not least: why does the genesis creation story only tell us about the green, the fruits and the herbs and plants serving as food for the humans and the animals? I can’t think of one good reason because at the time humans and animals were used to eat flesh and fish, there were hunters and predators, so why write such a silly story of all creatures being vegetarian from the beginning? Whatever your answer, being brothers in Christ, I give you also my best wishes.

  4. Jaap,
    I will offer my opinion, without trying to rigorously justify it. It seem that the key events in Gen 1-11 are not possible to connect with what we know by other means of human history and pre-history. Starting with Genesis 12, the events COULD have happened as written, in the ancient Middle East. Indeed, many details of the Patriarchs’ stories seem to reflect customs which we know from archaeology to be authentic for their time-frame (1500-2000 B.C.). So I assume that Gen 12:1 marks the start of more or less real history. I would guess that most theistic evolutionists also believe this. (I realize that in the text, the story and geneologies of Gen 1-11 flows into Gen 12+ with no demarcation, but as I said, I am not trying to defend a position here).

    More skeptical readers of the Bible don’t trust any stories that are much older than the era of the Divided Kingdom (c. 900 B.C.). I am struck, however, by the genuine lament by Judean writers over the ravaging and deportation of (northern) Israel by Assyria, which makes me feel that southern and northern kingdoms really were united for a time. Also, SOMEBODY built the First Temple, and it seem unlikely that later writers would make up a whole untrue (and unflattering!)story about Solomon and David if they were not the ones who in fact built that Temple.

    Reaching further back, the stories in Judges and Samuel seem quite realistic to me. It seems odd, though, that they do not once mention the law of Moses. I know that people can explain this away by saying the people had fallen away, but still it makes people wonder about the antiquity of the Pentateuch. I would have expected at least Samual himself to refer to the Law. For now I am assuming that the Moses/Exodus story is historical, though as you now understand, it would not shake me to find that parts of it were not historical.

    It is possible to list verse after verse after verse that demonstrate that the Biblical writers believed in a young earth and specially-created Adam and Eve. It is also possible to list many verses that show the Biblical writers believed in a stationary earth, and in a solid dome overhead. Biblical writers, addressing ancient readers, used these ancient worldview physical concepts to illustrate various spiritual principles. This does not mean that the ancient worldview is physically accurate. Paul in II Tim. 3:15-17 listed out the purposes of the Scriptures, and it was not to teach biology or astronomy.

    About a vegetarian Eden — as you note, the picture of no predation and no death of any kind prior to human sin cannot be reconciled with what we know from physical observations. I do not have a clear understanding of why the the Genesis story is written that way. Perhaps you have ideas on how that enhances the messianic symbolism. For me, it builds the sense that God often puts humans in situations where there is much gracious provision for their needs (like Eden’s fruit trees), but they do not appreciate what they have and instead grasp for something “more.”

    • jaap says:

      As you may have expected, your reply can neither convince nor satisfy me. As for the vegetarian beginning of creation, this is in perfect harmony with other parts of scriptures.

      1. Isaiah 11:1-10
      Here we can read that in the peaceful reign of Jesus there is no fear between animals and animals and between humans and animals. The former predators are no longer predators any more, but eat grass or straw, no flesh.
      Vers 9: they shall NOT HURT NOR DESTROY.
      So here you can read what is GOOD in the eyes of the Lord: no hurt and no destroyment in nature is perfectly linked to righteousness, peace and holiness.
      So hurt and destroyment in nature is not linked to what is good.
      Genesis 1:31 Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very GOOD.
      This excludes predators, hurt, fear and is specifically confirmed by the record of animals and humans eating green herbs and fruits which is explicitly told us in genesis. This, in connection with Isaiah 11 and other texts in scripture, makes perfectly sense.

      In connection with evolution theory it makes no sense whatsoever, and is, assuming there was death, there were predators and hunters from the beginning, a silly nonsense story. And moreover: there would have been no need at all to tell such unreal details to people that even didn’t understand what the meaning could be of this: man and animals only eating herbs and fruits. Why would God have this written and read by people that were used to hunt and kill and eat flesh, except for but one reason: that it was true and that dying and eating flesh was NOT the way in which creation had begun?

      So I don’t think the story of the vegetarian beginning suddenly came from the blue sky at that time. It would have seemed absurd to humans who were used to hunting and killing and had never known a vegetarian life, even in the past.
      The only way it could speak to them, was by referring to what they already knew by custom, a certain awareness of these things which had been told from parents to their children during a number of generations. In genesis 5:29 you can read that Lamech at the birth of Noah said: “This one will comfort us concerning our work and the toil of our hands, because of the ground which the Lord HAS CURSED”. This happened more than a thousand years after the creation of Adam. So the fact of this curse was known and was experienced from generation to generation! That generation knew how creation had been in the beginning. Therefore the herb and fruit story made sense when it was written, even to generations after them.

      2. Isaiah 65:25
      This is much the same as Isaiah 11 and again there is peace between animals and vegetarian food is linked to NO HURT and NO DESTROYMENT. And again this is a part of the righteousness, peacefulness and holiness of God.

      Romans 18:28
      Here we read again about the restoration of the creation as spoken of in Isaiah. Creation will be delivered from the bondage of corruption (verse 21).
      Did God create the world in this bondage?
      Did God create the world in bondage? Of course not! The creation WAS SUBJECTED to futility, not willingly, but because of Him, who subjected it in hope (verse 20).

      From these verses of Genesis, Isaiah and Romans we can conclude:
      1. The world was created and was good, there was neither bondage of corruption nor subjection to futlity, because corruption and futility, as we can understand and is clearly stated by the bible in old and new testament is not good.
      2. God subjected the creation, without it’s will, to futility; bondage of corruption entered the world, but in hope and promise to be delivered.
      3. Good, in relation to the creation means: no corruption, no futility, peace between animals and humans, no death, no hurt, no destroyment, and the most important: peace from God in Jesus, which reigns in righteousness and holiness.
      4. The situation in 3. will come, when the creation will be delivered from it’s bondage into the glorious liberty of the children of God.

      So at the begin it was good and at the end it will be good, yes even better, because satan is defeated and can no longer seduce mankind and God has come to fulfil his plans with his creation.
      Blessings, Jaap..

      • jaap says:

        You didn’t reply to my latest reply.
        I can imagine you think further discussion has no sense. If my answer was in some way offending or frustrating, I apologize, for that’s not what I intended.
        Still I want to respond to some of your remarks.

        You say:
        “It is possible to list verse after verse after verse that demonstrate that the Biblical writers believed in a young earth and specially-created Adam and Eve. It is also possible to list many verses that show the Biblical writers believed in a stationary earth, and in a solid dome overhead. Biblical writers, addressing ancient readers, used these ancient worldview physical concepts to illustrate various spiritual principles. This does not mean that the ancient worldview is physically accurate. Paul in II Tim. 3:15-17 listed out the purposes of the Scriptures, and it was not to teach biology or astronomy.”

        I think you mix up two things:
        The biblical writers believed in a stationary earth and a solid dome overhead. Okay. So God adapted his inspiration to their worldview, and didn’t tell anything about the earth’s orbit around the sun and that it has not any other fundament, because they wouldn’t understand. I can fully accept. It’s not important at all. It doesn’t matter. BUT: you can’t extrapolate these things into other situations that they absolutely COULD understand and that DID matter.
        Why tell them of a vegetarian beginning? Why make a genealogy from the “first” man and woman? Mentioning times of birth and death? Why not simply say God made humans in the beginning, without the rib story? They could easily have understood and accepted. And of course it mattered because evolution presents a total other way of sin entering this world than the bible tells us. It’s NOT unimportant. And these things have nothing to do with the ancient worldview as do the stationary earth and the solid dome overhead.

        Futher: there wouldn’t have been any reason to tell them that Adam was the first human, that Eve was the mother of all living, that all humans are descendents of Noah’s sons. Why would people at that time not have been able to understand? This has nothing to do with science or nonscience in the bible, but it has to do with a normal reasonable record from man’s point of view.

        I feel sad about the easy way theistic evolutionists adapt the way you should understand the bible to science. This is clearly demonstrated by two other remarks of you.

        1.”For now I am assuming that the Moses/Exodus story is historical, though as you now understand, it would not shake me to find that parts of it were not historical.”

        Well, this really does shake me! How could you say such a thing? Suppose there has never been a confrontation between God and Moses? Who has given the law to Israel? That there has never been an exodus from Egypt, Israel never been a nation in slavery. No mannah in the desert?
        No description of the tabernacle as an example on mount Sinai, and a tabernacle build by this example and borne by the levites through the desert? Which of these things would do shake you if it had never happened? At least some of them? Or none of them?

        2. “There are only a few historical facts which are essential to the Christian faith. Paul lists them in I Cor 15:1-8. These are Jesus’s death, burial, resurrection, and post-resurrection appearances. Paul characterizes these as being “of first importance.” Everything else, then, is secondary.”

        In principle, I agree with you, but I don’t share the way you see the consequences of the word “secondary”. This seems misleading to me. No Adam, no Eve, no gospel is, I agree, not true. The robber on the cross was saved, because he believed in Christ, without Adam, Eve, tabernacle, Moses or great flood. I’m very happy that out of every situation, right where you are, you can come to Christ and be saved. But is it God’s and our only goal in life that we are saved? Of course you will say: no!
        But when a christian wants to grow in faith, many times he will have to read the old testament and study the way God acted in the past as a promise how God will act now. So the way God acted with Henoch, Moses, Abraham, Joseph, Israel, Manasse and Naaman etc etc can only build me up, comfort me and say things about who Jesus is, if they really happened.
        And although this is about the OLD testament, I find the NEW testament ON MY SIDE. Just read the Hebrew epistle about the great significance of the old testaments’ offerings, tabernacle, highpriests, blood sprinkling, the blessing of Abraham by Melchizedek, etc. So nothing of these things can be doubted or taken away, lest the author of the Hebrews is made a sciencefiction writer. To deepen one’s faith, one should also believe “secondary” truths! The idea that no liberation of egyptian slavery has taken place, or that the ark of testimony was never built or that there never was a pillar of cloud and fire that guided the Israelian people by day and by night through the desert would very strongly undermine the christian faith. Stories can not comfort or build up; truth can, true events that speak of God’s protection and help. So what you say:

        “Paul in II Tim. 3:15-17 listed out the purposes of the Scriptures, and it was not to teach biology or astronomy.”

        is perfectly true, but these purposes can not be reached, if what is clearly meant as historical is not accepted as real history.

        Blessingd, Jaap

  5. Hi Jaap,
    I was not offended by anything you wrote. Indeed, your responses have been marked by courtesy and moderation. I have been busy with other things, but also I took your “As you may have expected, your reply can neither convince nor satisfy me” to suggest that you were so set in your opinions that it might be a better use of both of our times to let you have the last word here, and to move on. However, I am happy to continue the dialog for a few more rounds if you would like.

    You wrote: “The biblical writers believed in a stationary earth and a solid dome overhead. Okay. So God adapted his inspiration to their worldview, and didn’t tell anything about the earth’s orbit around the sun and that it has not any other fundament, because they wouldn’t understand. I can fully accept. “
    I commend you for your open-mindedness so far. Most American conservative Christians could not make it as far as you have.

    You wrote: “ It’s not important at all. It doesn’t matter. BUT: you can’t extrapolate these things into other situations that they absolutely COULD understand and that DID matter.”

    This, I think, is where we disagree. First, many conservative Christians teach that the production of the physical universe (not just the production of living things) has theological signficance – that it matters whether the earth and the stars were formed by God speaking them into being with a fiat word, as opposed to billions of years of impersonal forces operating on primordial gas clouds… They would point to the Psalms, which celebrate “the works of God’s hands.” So I do not think we can make such a clean separation between God accommodating to ancient worldviews on physical origins, vs. biological origins. Also,the creation of the first humans toward the end of Gen 1 fits in as part of that creation narrative; but we know that Gen 1 narrative cannot be accepted as accurate.

    You wrote: “there wouldn’t have been any reason to tell them that Adam was the first human, that Eve was the mother of all living, that all humans are descendents of Noah’s sons. Why would people at that time not have been able to understand? This has nothing to do with science or nonscience in the bible, but it has to do with a normal reasonable record from man’s point of view.” I disagree – – the ancient Hebrews, like many traditional peoples, were very oriented towards geneologies. The Genesis narrative allowed the Israelites to trace their family line back to a pair of humans created just a few thousand years previous. It would have been very disturbing to tell them that their distant ancestors were something like monkeys. They could only relate to a conventional, finite sort of ancestral story. Indeed, it is still the case today that conservative people are very offended at the suggestion that we descended from other primates.

    About human origins, you ask the same question many different ways: “Why tell them of a vegetarian beginning? Why make a genealogy from the “first” man and woman? Mentioning times of birth and death? Why not simply say God made humans in the beginning, without the rib story?”
    As I mentioned in my reply to you earlier, I do not know the specific answer to this. I do feel the same puzzlement that you do over this. You may recall that in my original blog post I wrote: “(Why God chose to give a creation story rich with imagery, as opposed to limiting it to a noncontroversial “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,” is a topic we will not address here). “

    It seems that God just likes to use stories to communicate on issues. Christian thinker and Hollywood writer Brian Godawa estimates that over 70% of the Bible consists of story, vision, symbol and narrative, as opposed to propositions. If you are going to object to all the details in the Adam and Eve story (naming animals, ribs, trees in garden, etc.), then what about the long-winded parables that Jesus told? Let’s think about the story of the good Samaritan. The lawyer asked Jesus a straightforward question: Who is my neighbor?. In reponse, Jesus made up this whole long story involving a Samaritan, a Levite, a priest, etc. Why did he not give a simple, clear answer like “Anyone you come in contact with, even those you do not like, is your neighbor” ? I do not know.

    So I am urging you to work to try to answer your own questions here, since you have a passionate interest. What truths of enduring significance do you think are communicated through the Gen 2-3 narrative? I suggest you pray and read the symbolic meanings that the church fathers have found in the Adam story. I would be interested to learn what you find.

    I will offer a thought in this regard, that the surrounding cultures typically had stories of heroic ancestors, which then gave dignity and coherence to the present peoples or their royal families. Many Christian scholars see the Genesis creation story as a “polemic” against the competing theogenies of Egypt and Mesopotamia. See, for instance, Brian Godawa’s essay on the BioLogos website at Whereas the pagan gods were nasty, fighting among themselves, favored one nation or city-state (e.g. Babylon), and created humans as slaves to “feed” the gods with sacrifices — Jahweh was majestic , freely choosing to create the universe, and giving humans both responsibility and dignity. All this insight flows from Genesis 1, which I think you agree is completely out of synch with what actually occurred during the formation of the earth.

    The same sorts of physical evidence that force us to renounce a literal acceptance of Genesis 1, also force us to renounce the key biological points of Genesis 2. It would take some pages to detail it all, but anyone who can understand the details of the human genome can see that humans and chimpanzees derive from a common ancestor. It is an obvious as the fact that the sedimentary rock layers were laid down over many millions of years, not in a 1-year Flood. – which I covered in my Grand_Canyon_Creation essay.

    I showed in my original blog post that, although the New Testament writers (of course) went along with the prevailing literal understanding of the Genesis creation story, nothing in that story is essential to the Christian faith. No decisions we make, can be blamed or excused on what some man and woman did or didn’t do 6000 years ago. Because I an engineer rather than a pure scientist, I am more oriented towards issues that have practical consequences in the real world, as opposed to merely theoretical speculations on questions that we cannot know if we have answered correctly or not.

    The main reason I bother to address creation/evolution matters (there ARE other things I could be doing…) is because of the harm being done by well-meaning conservative Christians. As an example, last week my daughter, who knows of my interest in these matters, send me a phone text about “…a guy who became an atheist after reading a book that said Eden didn’t exist where Genesis said it did.” This is the sort of wreckage caused by both young earth creationism and its upscale cousin, “Intelligent Design.” People eventually find out that they have been misled about physical and biological origins by Christian spokesmen. Not good.

    Finally — you were dismayed by my statement regarding the Moses/Exodus story that “ it would not shake me to find that parts of it were not historical.” Notice that I did not say that I considered it completely unimportant, just that I could deal with it if (like the Genesis story) some of it turned out to be untrue. I will summarize some of my personal journey, since that may help you understand my current beliefs.:
    As a teen-aged evangelical Christian, I was taught by godly and educated men that it was important to believe the whole Bible as literally true; the Genesis account, at face value anyway, described a creation taking place over six normal (approx. 24-hour) days, some 6000 years ago, a special creation of Adam and Eve, and a worldwide flood in approx. 2500 BC that killed all terrestrial animals except those on the ark. The creationists had come out with a book, The Genesis Flood, that claimed that the physical evidence actually supports the Flood Geology notion that most sedimentary rock layers were deposited during Noah’s flood. Not knowing any different, I accepted all that.
    Some years passed and I learned enough about geology to realize that the recent creation and So I went through a painful process of sorting matters out: was God a cosmic deceiver, putting old-appearing rocks in the ground to fool us into thinking the earth was old? Or did I need to become more flexible in understanding the Bible stories? I chose the latter.

    But for some years after that, I was still against evolution, for all the theological reasons that you list out so clearly. But I had not really engaged the physical evidence for or against. I had enjoyed reading the Intelligent Design works like the classic Darwin On Trial, because they supported what I wanted to believe, and again seemed to bring scientific respectability to the traditional religious beliefs. Especially, I believed that genetic mutations could not increase information in the genome. Then, one day, a friend told me that genes could sometimes get duplicated during cellular reproduction. I pretty quickly realized that that give a viable pathway for new, additional genes to form.

    I then gave a close, more open-minded look at genetics and fossils, and found that the physical evidence points clearly to evolution. The fossil record is inherently sparse, but the fossils that have been found are consistent with the development of life-forms from previous organisms. As for humans, our genomes are littered with features that show common ancestry with chimpanzees. For instance, nearly all mammals have genes that allow the synthesis of vitamin C. Both humans and chimps have that gene as well, but it is crippled in its function by nearly identical mutations in both species. (This is why we need to eat vitamin C, since we cannot synthesize it). There are hundreds of shared mutations like that . Also, both species share chunks of DNA which are of the type that are inserted into genomes by viruses. These genetic features all show that chimps and humans were descended from some common ancestor, which had these changes occur to its genome. The alternative is the God is acting as a cosmic deceiver, implanting all this evidence to make it LOOK like humans and chimps were both descended from a common ancestor. So…I had to go through the same process, painful again, to let go of my former , comfortable literal view of Bible history.

    Having done this twice now, I have tried to define what are the truly essential parts of the Biblical narrative. I found Paul did that for me, in I Cor 15, as I have noted. And also, the historic creeds of the church.
    So I am not inclined to invest much energy in trying to defend the historicity of the rest of the Old Testament. I assume it is true unless proven otherwise. But if it is proven untrue, it would not shake my faith in the essentials of the New Testament, since I have already been through the process of having to let go of parts of the OT narrative that used to seem non-negotiable to me.

    It is clear to me now that the NT writers were men of their age, who would NECESSARILY buy into a literal acceptance of the Genesis narrative, unless God gave them some special revelation otherwise (which He apparently didn’t). I don’t feel bound by Paul’s first-century view of Adam any more than I feel bound by his first-century view of slavery. I am bound by the revelation he DID receive, which he describes and which I have listed elsewhere,

    So I leave you with this question: suppose that our methods of archaeology and of detecting ancient migrations became so improved that we could determine beyond all reasonable doubt that some major aspect of the Exodus story did not happen as portrayed in the Pentateuch. Would you renounce your Christian faith over that? If your answer is no, then you and I can at least agree on that…

    Wishing you and your family a blessed Christmas season,

    • jaap says:

      Hoi Scott,
      (hoi or hai is dutch for hi).
      Thank you for your reply. It gives me mixed feelings; on the one hand I appreciate the way you say that Christ’s death and resurrection is primary before all other things and I agree with you. But I think you underestimate the importance of the historicity of the old testament.

      First I will try to answer your question:

      “So I leave you with this question: suppose that our methods of archaeology and of detecting ancient migrations became so improved that we could determine beyond all reasonable doubt that some major aspect of the Exodus story did not happen as portrayed in the Pentateuch. Would you renounce your Christian faith over that? If your answer is no, then you and I can at least agree on that…”

      Some major aspects….. Since you don’t specify which aspects, I assume this can mean any aspect, no aspect being excluded of this possibilty of not having happened. So this is the same as saying: would you renounce your Christian faith if the Exodus story did not happen at all? Because you can not pick out what suits you: this must have happened and that need not to have happened. First I want to say that I believe I will never ever renounce my Christian faith, because I believe that knowing that Jesus is the Christ is revealed to a christian by God, as Jesus said to Peter. So I trust Christ that He will continue leading me on the right paths and bring me home by his grace, if I don’t resist.
      But although He is the great Truth in Himself, there are minor truths that are very important and can be used by God to lead people to the Truth Himself. And be used by Him to encourage us.

      For example:
      Heb.6:13 “For when God made a promise to Abraham, because He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself, 14 saying, “Surely blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply you.”[d] 15 And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise. 16 For men indeed swear by the greater, and an oath for confirmation is for them an end of all dispute. 17 Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath, 18 that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might[e] have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us.”

      Here we see God swore an oath to Abraham and this is a strong consolation for us ” to lay hold of the hope set before us.” We are encouraged to put our hope on Him, because God who cannot lie, swore an oath to Abraham. Suppose Abraham never existed? From your point of view that could be possible. In that case God had someone write a story in which God swore an oath – that in reality He did not swear – to a man – that in reality did not exist. Only the story exists, though given by God. Or suppose Abrahan did exist but never offered his son to God. That it was a beautuful, spiritual story God gave to us to build us up? Why did God swear his oath to Abraham?

      Genesis 22:15
      Then the Angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time out of heaven, 16 and said: “By Myself I have sworn, says the LORD, BECAUSE (big caracters from me) you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son— 17 blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies. 18 In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, BECAUSE you have obeyed My voice.”

      So on this – perhaps – not sworn oath to a – maybe – not existing person the following promises would depend:

      The encouragement to lay hold of the hope I just mentioned.

      The future of Israel as a nation that will be a blessing to the world. This is still to come: you can read about it,Romans 9, 10 and 11.

      The assurance that the Hebrews (Jews) could be saved WITHOUT the law, because the Lord swore this – not sworn – oath to – the not existing – Abraham, when he was still uncircumcised. Paul explains this in Romans 4, especially in the verses 1-12, but also in the following verses of that chapter.

      The assurance that we who are originally gentiles need not be circumcised, after having accepted Jesus, and than take the yoke to do the complete law as well, in order to be saved, as some Jews tried to teach. Epistle to Galatians and Acts 15:1-31 speaks of this. Also based on the – not sworn? – oath. Based on a story-oath?

      This all sounds very weird.

      If Abraham never existed or did not the things told to us in the Pentateuch, this makes no sense to me. Than God’s promises to him have no fundament, neither have his promises to us. Then he cannot be the father of all believers, because he never did his deeds of faith: going to an unknown land without knowing which land or where, believing God would give him a numerous offspring although he and his wife were far too old to have children, offering his son on Moria, believing that God could raise Isaac from the dead, etc.
      God only told us this story, but after many centuries we find out it’s not true, but that He only gave us a story to build us up spiritually. Honestly speaking, this sounds foolish to me.

      At the same time it would set a strange light on our position in Christ.
      Jesus is the promised seed of Abraham, promised to him by God.

      Galatians 3:26
      For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

      So we are heirs according to the promise of God to Abraham! Not only a written promise to an imaginary Abraham, but a promise spoken by God Himself to an Abraham of flesh and blood, in his flesh the father of Israel and the spiritual father of all believers in Christ.

      In the same way, the things I said of Abraham can be applied to the story of Moses and the Exodus of Israel from Egypt.
      Suppose God has not guided the people of Israel through the desert to mount Sinai?

      1 Corinthians 10:1
      Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, 2 all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, 3 all ate the same spiritual food, 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ.

      Here you see that Christ as the spritual Rock was with “the fathers” in the sea and under the cloud and in the wilderness. He followed them everywhere. In a story? Or in reality? What do you think?

      Deuteronomy 6:20
      “When your son asks you in time to come, saying, ‘What is the meaning of the testimonies, the statutes, and the judgments which the LORD our God has commanded you?’ 21 then you shall say to your son: ‘We were slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt, and the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand; 22 and the LORD showed signs and wonders before our eyes, great and severe, against Egypt, Pharaoh, and all his household. 23 Then He brought us out from there, that He might bring us in, to give us the land of which He swore to our fathers. 24 And the LORD commanded us to observe all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God, for our good always, that He might preserve us alive, as it is this day. 25 Then it will be righteousness for us, if we are careful to observe all these commandments before the LORD our God, as He has commanded us.

      The Lord showed signs and wonders BEFORE OUR EYES, great and severe, against Egypt, Pharaoh, and all his household (verse 22). So the Israelites had to tell this as eyewitnesses to the next generation and after that they did this from generation to generation and still do this up till today. Could God have given them this commandment if these signs and wonders had not really happened? If they had not really been slaves in Egypt?

      Suppose Moses had never met God on top of the mountain? That the story of the skin of his face shining of God’s glory, when he descended from the mountain, so that he covered his face with a cloth, was just a story?

      2 Corinthians 3:7
      But if the ministry of death, written and engraved on stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of the glory of his countenance, which glory was passing away, 8 how will the ministry of the Spirit not be more glorious? 9 For if the ministry of condemnation had glory, the ministry of righteousness exceeds much more in glory. 10 For even what was made glorious had no glory in this respect, because of the glory that excels. 11 For if what is passing away was glorious, what remains is much more glorious.

      Here you can see that the ministry of death and condemnation, given in the law by God to Moses, was a real glorious event which had a deep significance and impact on the history of Israel.

      Another proof of the truth of the 40 years in the wilderness:
      Amos 6:24
      But let justice run down like water,
            And righteousness like a mighty stream.
             25 “ Did you offer Me sacrifices and offerings
            In the wilderness forty years, O house of Israel?
             26 You also carried Sikkuth[a] your king[b]
            And Chiun,[c] your idols,
            The star of your gods,
            Which you made for yourselves.
             27 Therefore I will send you into captivity beyond Damascus,”
            Says the LORD, whose name is the God of hosts.
      These words are cited in Acts by Stephanus in his speech to the pharisees.
      This is a prophecy of Amos that has come true when the 10 tribes of Israel were led in captivity to Assur.
      2 Kings 17:1-23 tells us this tragedy. So if Amos said things about the future that came true, would he talk about the forty years of idolatry in the wilderness if this were not real facts?

      So which of these major aspects would you be prepared to delete if science gave evidence “beyond all reasonable doubt” that it could not have happened?

      Jesus is the son of God. He has his “roots” in heaven, in his Father, in the eternity, without begin or end is He God.
      But He is also the son of man. He has earthly roots.
      Jesus is a Jew, an Israelite. He is a descendant, a son of David, a son of Abraham. Before He came as a human baby to this world, He was already present in this world and guided Israel through the wilderness as we just have read. He went with them, loving and caring for them and at the same time punishing them for their continuous rebellion. He led them all these terrible forty years until they reached the promised land.
      This is a undeletable and essential part of the Jewish history and identity and also of the human identity of our Lord, because it is HIS history on this earth.

      The new testament and the old testament are completely interwoven.

      When Jesus was on the mountain with Peter, John and James, He was transfigured and Moses and Elijah appeared in glory and spoke of His decease which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. You can read it in Matthew and Luke.
      Why was Moses there at this moment, which was one of the most important moments in the history of man? Why was he there on that very moment? Would he have been there if he had NOT been the person that led Israel out of Egyptian slavery, not had been the person that led the people of God 40 years through the wilderness and received the law from God’s hands on Sinai and given the law to Israel? Moses’ identity and greatness was completely connected with the great deeds he did as recorded in the Pentateuch. If he had not done these deeds, he would have been an insignificant person and he certainly would not have been there on that mountain with Elia and speaking with Jesus in the presence of the three discipels.

      I think I can mention many morea arguments why the story of Abraham and the fathers and Moses can only be seen as real history.
      Even Revelation tells us about the holy city Jerusalem, the bride of the Lamb having twelve fundaments with the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb, and also twelve gates with the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel. So here you see once more the total interwovenness of the new and old testament even in the future.
      So I can only come to one conclusion: nothing of the history of the fathers or the Exodus can be left out without seriously undermining the spiritual and prophetic meaning of the whole word of God and damaging it’s perspective. Being saved is one thing, but living in the total perspective of the bible, I believe, is more. Not that this makes one a better christian, I don’t say that. But it gives us a greater opportunity to consider the greatness of God and the Lord Jesus.
      Scott, I also wish you and your family a blessed time with Christmas,

      • Jaap,
        As I noted, I do believe that the OT from Gen 12:1 onward is essentially historical. What I meant by “…some major aspect of the Exodus story did not happen as portrayed in the Pentateuch” was if there had not been 10 plagues, or if the actual number of Israelites leaving Egypt was 1/10 of what some passages portray.

        You have made a convincing case that the New Covenant is intertwined with the Israelite Old Covenant. Your comment about Moses appearing on the Mount of Transfiguration was very perceptive. Thank you for your many thoughtful comments.

        May this new year be a season of growth and victory for you !
        Prov. 4:23

  6. Jaap van Bloois says:

    Thank you for your good wishes. I wish you also a blessed 2012 in the presence of our Lord Jesus in whom we are all one through our faith in Him.
    Well, you say, if the 10 plagues had not happened, it would not shake you. Let us consider the last and most severe plague first, the death of all firstborn sons of Egypt.
    Why did the firstborn sons of Israel not die? I think you know the answer. Because the blood of the lamb was put on the doorframes of their houses so that the angel of death would pass their doors without doing any harm to their firstborn sons.
    So they were saved by the blood of the lamb, just as we were saved by the blood of the Lamb.
    God commanded them to celebrate this fact every year, to remind them of this wonderful event. And even nowadays Jews celebrate Passover (Pesach). We as christians know that the real Lamb has offered Himself so Pesach need not be celebrated by christians.
    In 2 Kings 22 and 23 you can read about Josia who tore his robes when the book of law was found and he realised that in his days Passover had never been celebrated since the days of Samuel and he commanded Israel to do this from that moment on.
    So how serious was that event! God could not have given this command to Moses and Israel without the background of this real event. How empty and senseless would it have been, celebrating the liberation of death by the blood of a lamb, if this had never happened but in a spiritual story?
    So the death of the sons of Egypt must have happened, if not, Israel would have nothing to celebrate, there would have been no Passover, no offering of a lamb, no blood needed!
    Do you see what a negative consequence this has for understanding the meaning of Christ’s offering? That’s not what you want, I’m sure, but it’s the ultimate consequence of “no plagues”. No plagues, no lamb needed, no difference between Egypt and Israel, no separation between dark and light, evil and good, judgement and grace.

    Just read the speech of Stephen carefully about Moses who was first rejected by his brothers, but eventually led them out into liberty doing miracles and signs in the land of Egypt (Acts 7:35, 36 and 37). In this very situation Moses was prophecying about Jesus, verse 37. So Moses was a living example of Christ to come who lead us out of captivity and darkness into liberty by shedding his blood for us, so that we could escape from judgement.

    Then the issue of 1/10 of the number of people leaving Egypt. The number of adult men, mentioned in the bible was 600,000. So if you add women and children, there must have been at least 1.500,000 people! So 1/10 would be a number of at least 150.000 people, of which 60.000 were adult men.Would the Egyptian farao have been afraid for such a small people that it would outnumber his own people? Ofcourse not! So there would have no reason for oppression and killing newborn boys. So to think that such a small people was a threat to the farao is not reasonable, and besides diminishes the glory of God, who showed He was able to lead a large people through the wilderness, caring for them with mannah, water, sometimes flesh, giving them rest and peace and victory over their enemies.

    So if you leave out one of these events you delete a cause of further events in scripture, that will loose their sense. It will break the scripture and that exactly is what Jesus said that it can not happen! (John 10:35)

    Why am I saying all this? It’s not my goal to impress you with my knowledge or something like that. My concern is the way theistic evolutionists, inspite of their honesty and integrity, nevertheless are prepared, for the sake of science, to doubt or even delete essential things in the bible, because they don’t see that those things are crucial, not for their personal salvation, but that we don’t hand over an eroded bible to the next generations, which might be a threat to THEIR salvation.
    Your willingness to accept that the plagues never happened if there were scientifically no reasonable doubt is one good example. If science doesn’t match the biblical record, doubt will,in my opinion, always be reasonable.
    So perhaps you could reconsider that leaving out or changing any aspect of the old testament might have much more consequences for us than you would think initially.
    I hope you will receive these comments in the same mild way you did before.
    Blessings, Jaap.

    • Jaap,
      [Returning to this thread after some months] Perhaps I missed it, but I don’t see where you ever directly answered the question I originally posed, which was, “suppose that our methods of archaeology and of detecting ancient migrations became so improved that we could determine beyond all reasonable doubt that some major aspect of the Exodus story did not happen as portrayed in the Pentateuch. Would you renounce your Christian faith over that? “.

      I was interested in a yes or no answer from you: either (# 1) yes, the significance of the Old Testament story in all its details is so essential that if I have a shred of integrity I must renounce Christianity if any part if the Old Testament story is shown to be untrue [e.g. if the Israelite exodus numbered 60,000 vs 600,000 men or there were only 5, not 10 plagues], or (# 2) no, the person and work of Christ stand strongly enough on their own merits (and have been inwardly revealed to me by the Holy Spirit) that I would accommodate to the physical evidence. Which is it for you?

      In practice, many believers try to evade the question above by adopting the ostrich option: I will bury my head deeply in the sand and refuse to seriously consider any evidence that threatens a literal interpretation of any part of the Bible. There are two distinct subsets of this option. There is the “honest ostrich” (# 3A), who explicitly states that he is so fideistic that he will not consider any contrary evidence. In practice this can take the form of simply refusing to read or discuss the facts, or (with regards to creation) the Appearance of Age point of view. There one does not dispute that the earth and universe thoroughly and consistently appear as though they are billions of years old, but the claim is made that God created them with that appearance a mere 6000 years ago.

      Alternatively, there is the dishonest ostrich ( # 3B) who pretends to engage the data but does so selectively and only to try to support a preconceived view, not to learn the truth. This describes young earth creationism in its mainstream Flood geology form. Its advocates engage in deeply deceptive practices, which I have detailed, for example, in this essay on the Grand Canyon and this essay on the book Genetic Entropy. Young earth creationism has thus earned the nickname in the U.S. as “lying for Jesus.”

      I happen to hold truthfulness as a high personal priority. Whether it or not it is pleasant or easy to digest, I attempt (however imperfectly) to align myself with truth and reality and integrity. I try to not pre-judge what the truth “must” be. Perhaps this comes of being a professional scientific researcher for so many years: you learn in the laboratory to be open to unexpected truths, and not rigidly force your own grid of understanding on everything. I have a robust faith that is not afraid of any truth. That is why I opt for option (#2) above, not ( #1) or (#3A or B).

      That is why it would not shake my faith if some portion of the Exodus story were shown to be untrue. I should be clearer as to what I meant by this: yes, it would bother me, for the reasons you state so clearly, but no, it would not shake my faith to the core – at its core, my faith rests on the finished work of Christ, demonstrated by his resurrection, which was attested to by many eyewitnesses who maintained their witness at the cost of their lives.

      You have done a fine job disclosing the Old Testament typology, and the many references to the Exodus in the later Old Testament and in the New Testament. This does not necessitate that every detail in the Old Testament story actually happened. The Old and New Testament writers and major players were steeped in the traditions of Judaism, so they would necessarily treat all the Old Testament events, from the 6-day creation through Noah’s world-wide Flood to the Exodus as completely factual. Since their audience consisted almost entirely of Jews, this would be a divinely-inspired means to communicate the truths of the Old and New Covenants.

      As noted above, God the Son was a master story-teller, weaving detailed tales which never really occurred instead of plainly stating the point. He was entirely capable of entering into the (Jewish) worldview of his hearers. God could similarly inspire stories in the Old Testament which edified the hearers, whether or not they actually occurred. The way to discern whether or not these stories actually occurred is to gather and examine the actual evidence; a medieval approach would be to ignore the evidence and instead build up chains of reasoning as to what “must” be the case (e.g. “Paul treats it as literal so it must be literal”).

      I can draw inspiration from the concepts of purification, holiness, and sacrifice which God providentially caused to permeate the consciousness of the Jewish people in the centuries immediately preceding the appearance of His son, whether or not every detail in the stories is true. It took many centuries of God’s dealings, but by the first century the Jews had finally been purged of polytheism and idolatry, so that they could understand the stupendous claim of Jesus to be the Son of (the one and only) God.

      It turns out, according to the Book of Hebrews, that the whole elaborate system of sacrifices presented in the Pentateuch (including the Passover lamb) never had any actual effect in the atoning for sins. They were “weak and useless” (7:18), “only a shadow of the good things that were coming” (10:1), since it is (10:4) ” impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.” Nevertheless, the stories of Moses’ interaction with God and their ongoing system of sacrifices would convey to first-century Jews the holiness of God and the need for atonement. Thus, the Pentateuch had enormous practical impact and prophetic significance, quite apart from whether its stories actually happened.

      However, all this discussion about the details of the Exodus is somewhat hypothetical, since it would be difficult to define what degree of archaeological evidence would be grounds for skepticism there. Not a shred of physical evidence has been found for 2 million people traversing the Sinai in the 1500-1200 BC timeframe, or staying for 40 years in the vicinity of Kadesh Barnea. If 2 million next-generation Israelites, whose parents had been living for the previous four centuries in Egypt, flooded into Canaan after the Exodus, we would expect to see some sudden dramatic shift in the artifacts found in Palestinian archaeological sites in that time period, but we do not. Most scholars with expertise in ancient Near Eastern archaeology therefore dismiss the whole Exodus as fiction.

      However, even though (as stated at length above) I could deal with it if necessary, I am not eager to abandon the literal sense of any Old Testament history. I would treat this state of archaeological affairs regarding the Exodus as absence of evidence, not evidence of absence. Perhaps there is some error in the computed chronologies of Egyptian dynasties, or perhaps in the next year we will read of the discovery of multiple sites where the native Canaanite culture was suddenly replaced by new Israelite hardware.

      It can be hard to track what did or did not happen several thousand years ago to an individual or even a large group of people. But the history of the whole earth or of the entire human population is not easily hidden.

      There just is not a lot of evidence to work with regarding the Exodus. This is not the case with the origins of the earth and of human beings. The rock layers provide a detailed, unambiguous story of volcanic eruptions, erosion and deposition, and the shifting of continental plates over billions of years. Radioactive dating of igneous rocks provides scientifically reliable means to ascertain these ages. The sequences of fossilized plants and animals in these rock layers attest to changes in life-forms over millions of years. The sedimentary rock layers cannot be reconciled with a worldwide flood covering the entire earth some 4500 years ago; there are a number of civilizations throughout the world whose culture carried on in their locales uninterrupted in this timeframe. The record in the rocks makes it perfectly clear that the literal six-day creation story of Genesis 1 is incorrect, even though it is affirmed elsewhere in Scrripture ( e.g. Ex 20:11, “For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy” ). The history of the human race is embedded in our genes, showing that there never was a time when the human population was as low as two (Adam and Eve) or eight (Noah’s family). The common ancestry with other primates is totally obvious in the genome. It would become too tedious to rehash the whole scientific history of the world here. I would refer you again to the two essays linked above, and also to this essay on the age of the earth and this essay on the rate and mechanism of evolution.

      At a certain point, a decision must be made as to whether the physical world and the evidence of its history embedded therein is real or is simply an illusion put there by God to deceive us. You and I are typing on keyboards and exchanging bits of information – all this is enabled by thousands of scientists and engineers who have found that the regularities of chemistry and physics hold and hold and hold. And when we study the rocks and fossils and stars and genomes we find multitudinous cross-correlations showing that these same regularities have held over the past billions of years.

      As noted in these referenced essays, the young earth creationists attempt to dispute all this evidence, but only by deceptively presenting half-truths. This is a disgrace. There are only two honest ways I see for Christians to deal with the facts of the physical world regarding creation. One is to accept that the evidence is real, and therefore our most simplistic, literal interpretation of the Genesis story needs to be adjusted. Various alternative interpretations of this sort have been put forward. Some scholars dial back to a local, Mesopotamian Flood for a historical Noah, and letting Adam and Eve be some representative couple (out of many existing humans) that God selected to make covenant with. Others take it all as a parable and don’t try to read any space-time events into it. I do not claim to know what is the best hermeneutical approach here in light of the physical evidence; I just refuse to lie about what that physical evidence is.

      The other honest approach to creation is the Appearance of Age, which was mentioned above. This has some great advantages. It completely removes any obligation of matching between the biblical text and the physical facts, allowing scientists to continue to do science as if the earth were 4.5 billion years old, with the expectation that their results will continue to be consistent with that appearance. It does entail potentially awkward questions about how far God has gone to disguise the true origins of the universe. The heavens and the earth portray an entire, detailed history. For instance, every year we receive light from stars that are hundreds of thousands of light-years away. We can detect events such as star explosions (novae) that appear to have happened say a million years ago, with the light from that event only now reaching the earth.

      Moving from the initial creation to later events, the Appearance of Age viewpoint has a harder time accounting for the apparent non-occurrence of a global Flood that killed all but 8 people. It would appear that immediately following that catastrophic event, God miraculously removed all traces of it on the earth’s surface, and also re-diversified human genomes to remove the earmarks of such a population bottleneck. And He transported all the marsupial mammals to Australia, to make it look as if they had evolved in place on that continent. Etc etc etc.

      You are obviously not satisfied with the hermeneutical suggestions I have made. You have eloquently stated the problem: the stories in the early Old Testament (and let’s focus on Genesis 1-7) are treated in the later Old Testament and in the New Testament as if they are literally true. But all the physical evidence shows that they definitely are not. I agree, that presents a dilemma. However, I respectfully urge you to help work towards a solution, instead of just continuing to restate the problem. Can you devise an approach to the creation and Flood accounts which does justice to God’s revelation in His word and also in His works?

      I would note that the New Testament proclamation was not merely a fideistic claim, uncoupled from the contemporary physical world. Yes, the salvific transaction between God and man is a mystical one: God must reveal to a man’s heart that Jesus is the Christ, and no one can come unless the Father draws him. However, the gospel message was connected to and confirmed by verifiable events in the physical world. Paul (I Cor 15; Acts 17) clearly pointed to the Resurrection as being an event that was well-attested, with eyewitnesses still alive to be interviewed.

      In I Cor 2:4-5 Paul writes, “ My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.” Commentators note that Paul is not relying on detailed or abstract philosophical argumentation; they then mistakenly conclude that Paul simply proclaimed the gospel message and that was supposed to be enough. But that is not what Paul is saying here. He is saying that he IS giving his hearers an evidential ground for their faith (beyond the message itself); that ground is the working of supernatural miracles as befits a genuine apostle (see II Cor 12:12; Rom 15:18-19). Jesus likewise pointed to his miracles (verifiable events in the physical world), saying “even though you do not believe me, believe the miracles, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father” (John 10:38). While those who believe without seeing are blessed, Jesus (John 20:26-29) did grant doubting Thomas the view and even the touch of his risen body. I am not saying that supernatural signs are either necessary or sufficient to generate faith, but the fact that God graciously provided them signifies that the physical world matters. A faith which is inadequate to comprehend physical reality is not the robust faith which was proclaimed by the apostles – at least, that’s how it seems to me.

      Best regards,

      • Jaap says:

        You wrote a pretty long reply and I’ll try to answer at a number of points, though perhaps not all of them.

        [“suppose that our methods of archaeology and of detecting ancient migrations became so improved that we could determine beyond all reasonable doubt that some major aspect of the Exodus story did not happen as portrayed in the Pentateuch. Would you renounce your Christian faith over that? “.

        I was interested in a yes or no answer from you: either (# 1) yes, the significance of the Old Testament story in all its details is so essential that if I have a shred of integrity I must renounce Christianity if any part if the Old Testament story is shown to be untrue [e.g. if the Israelite exodus numbered 60,000 vs 600,000 men or there were only 5, not 10 plagues], or (# 2) no, the person and work of Christ stand strongly enough on their own merits (and have been inwardly revealed to me by the Holy Spirit) that I would accommodate to the physical evidence. Which is it for you?]

        That is an almost unanswerable question to me! That is the same as saying to me: suppose you go to heaven and you see god and he is much less holy than you learned from the bible. Okay, he is doing well and he cares for me, and it’s nice in heaven, but sometimes he tells a little lie or says things that are not quite holy. I would be astonished. I would ask: are you really God? “Take it easy, my child, I love you, don’t bother about these things”. – I really would cry: help me to wake up!

        When I read Numbers thoroughly from the begin to the end I get impressed by the precision of all the descriptions and God’s love for exact numbers. It’s awesome. It reminds me of the fact that even the hairs of our heads are numbered in heaven as Jesus said. As a matter of fact the whole Exodus story, also described in Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy, including the laws, decrees and regulations excels by it’s accuracy.

        In Numbers 1 you can find the exact number of every tribe of Israel and the total amount of the whole nation: 603.550 men of 20 years and older. They were in the Sinai near the Horeb mountain and God gave Moses the order to count the people. In this record God leaves nothing to possible misunderstanding: that He led a large people through the wilderness. In chapter 2 of Numbers the tribes are divided in four groups, each of them were to encamp under one standard and to set out again, in a specific order. God knows everything about logistics! It’s great to read about the way God organised everything.
        Here again you can read the same numbers, though in an other sequence and the total,amount is again 603.550.

        In Numbers 26, about forty years after the first numbering of Israel God again ordered Moses to number every tribe of Israel.
        The reason?

        The LORD said to Moses, 53 “The land is to be allotted to them as an inheritance based on the number of names. 54 To a larger group give a larger inheritance, and to a smaller group a smaller one; each is to receive its inheritance according to the number of those listed. 55 Be sure that the land is distributed by lot. What each group inherits will be according to the names for its ancestral tribe. 56 Each inheritance is to be distributed by lot among the larger and smaller groups.”

        So God had Moses divide the country in accordance with the numbers of the tribes.

        Here again Scripture tells us the numbers of every tribe and the total number of Israel: 601.730.
        Normally a nation would have grown much larger in 40 years. Here we see a small decrease from 603.550 to 601.730.
        The plagues during the journey killed 41.700 people mentioned in the bible. Not mentioned is the number of the many people killed by the snakes and after the eating of the quail, so the total number of killed must have been far beyond 50.000. Then everyone beyond 20 years at the begin of the journey had died in these forty years; there was besides Moses, Joshua and Kaleb, not a single man beyond 60 years! And people beyond 60 normally represent a considerable part of a nation, also in those days.
        So how reliable and trustworthy and precise is this record!

        So besides the reason I said before, that a people of 150.000 (60.000 men) wouldn’t be a threat at all to the Pharao – the people of Egypt is estimated 2 million at that time – to outnumber his people, there are other good reasons why you can’t change or doubt the record of this large people going through the wilderness, rational and moral reasons as well.

        1. It’s taking away the glory of God, who tells us many times all over the bible He did this marvellous job and has given us a detailed description of the numbers of the tribes He led through the desert. The 4th book of the Pentateuch is appropriately called Numbers, not Imaginary Numbers.

        2. It makes a dishonest image of God; anybody who inspires others to believe the tenfold of what he really did, is guilty of dishonest boasting, by means of fraud with numbers.

        3. It makes an image of God, as a slandering person. Slandering Egypt, that is accused of oppressing a large nation and murdering it’s newborn boys. Egypt is still a nation today, so how unrighteous of God accusing Egypt all these centuries in the minds of the Jews, of the Egyptians themselves and of all bible-believers in the rest of the world. There are many Egyptian christians that have to swallow this part of their history! If they would believe all this had not really happened that badly, this would seem very dishonest and totally unacceptable to them. In the past I have known an egyptian christian and he accepted this black part of the history of his country, although he admitted it was painful to him.

        4. If God is not telling us true things about Israel’s past, why would He do so about Israel’s future? If God – with whom Jesus is one – for their own good told stories to Israel about it’s past, why would Jesus – who is God the Word – not, for our own good, tell us stories about the future? Is He really coming again? Will the new Jerusalem really come down from heaven? Will there really be a new righteous world, with death and sorrow banned out? Or will we, after a few more centuries, begin to understand again we must consider it a story He told us for our own good, to keep us on trail for a total different future?

        For the same reason it’s absolutely unacceptable to think that there were possibly only 5 plagues instead of 10. Exodus gives us a consistent record of a series of plagues, steadily increasing in severity until the last and most terrible one took place: the death of all Egypt’s firstborn sons. In my latest comment I have already given solid arguments, that the possibility that this last plague did not really happen, is totally out of the question.
        And again: why would God exaggerate his wrath over the country of Egypt, dishonestly inspiring people to double his punishments in the Scriptures? Ofcourse this is utterly inconceivable !

        Now I have to choose #1, #2, #3A or #3B.

        Well, from your point of view you could put me in class #2, with a strong tendency to class #3A. But it’s not my point of view! You give me your multiple choice, which is not mine.
        I would add and choose option #4: decide that I’m paranoid; because the moment God is lying, I will understand that I am crazy. In other words: it’s impossible to me to seriously consider your question.

        Let me now be the one to ask you a question:

        Suppose scientists got evidence that Jesus did not rise physically, because bones were found in a grave in Nazareth that were determined beyond all reasonable doubt to be his; would you renounce your christian faith? If you can, say yes or no.

        [I happen to hold truthfulness as a high personal priority. Whether it or not it is pleasant or easy to digest, I attempt (however imperfectly) to align myself with truth and reality and integrity. I try to not pre-judge what the truth “must” be]

        I agree with you that we have to hold truthfulness as a high priority and I too am trying this, though imperfectly. But the last sentence, ” to not prejudice what the truth “must be””, I think can bring,us in tricky waters. Truth has conditions! Truth múst be true ofcourse! If God gives an unconditional prophecy, it múst come true one day. If God gives us a detailed description of the plagues in Egypt to show his power and wrath, and He gives us an accurate description of Israel’s journey through the desert, complete with numbers of people, amount of cattle, places of rest etc, etc, to show his greatness and glory, then it múst be true. That’s the simple condition for truth. If a person does not agree with this, there are, in my opinion, only three options:
        1. He has cognitive dissonance, the same you suppose creationists have.
        2. He did never read Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy very well with accuracy.
        3. He doesn’t think very clearly about the consequences.

        Therefore your “not prejudice what the truth must be” must be restricted to the method, that you can not manipulate it, to get a “true” answer, that what you wish to come out from it. It’s indeed for in the laboratory and scientific research. But if the truth we find makes God a liar than there is something wrong with our observation or our interpretation of that truth. We have to be so humble to realise that.

        What I want to know from you:
        Is there, in your opinion, any chance, doesn’t matter how small, that the last tenth plague didn’t happen?

        Can you mention any major aspect of the Exodus that you would NOT be able to deal with if it had not really happened?

        As far as scientific arguments are concerned: I am not a scientist, so I can’t refute evolutionary arguments in a scientic way. Nevertheless I have some objections against some philosophy behind these arguments.

        [And when we study the rocks and fossils and stars and genomes we find multitudinous cross-correlations showing that these same regularities have held over the past billions of years.]

        I wonder if that is totally true. I have read on several websites that the Big Bang can only be true if the observable matter in the universe is only 4% of the total amount of matter and energy of the universe. In other words: those other 96 % of the universe is pure hypothetical, based on the relation between the movements of the galaxies and gravity, if you take the Big Bang for granted. So: how real is the Big Bang? Or is there another way in which God created everything? So if the B.B. is not true, one of the cross-correlated references disappeares!
        There are several other theories that don’t need to add a hypothetical big amount of unobservable matter and energy to the known matter in the universe.
        Also the neccesity of billions of years to bring the light to our planet is disputed or withspoken by several scientists, without making God a cosmic deceiver, one of them is Russell Humphreys.

        I had already read all your articles about creationism and evolution theory
        and the four Stan-letters.Especially the Grand Canyon story sounds pretty convincing to me. I don’t know what to say about that. Only scientists are able to try to refute it, not me. And I know scientists did refute it and interpretate the same datas in another way, but you say: they have cognitive dissonance. Could be, I admit.

        If this is the case, than, honestly speaking, I believe this happens on both sides, from YEC-side and from TE-side.
        YEC’s from a scientific point of view and TE’s from a biblical history point of view.

        It seems to be very difficult to be honest without any biass, even for honest people!

        So I think both sides should be more tolerant of each other and not be quick to see the others as deceivers. That is the same with the book of John Sanford. I have read his book Genetic Entropy last year very carefully and I don’t believe he is cheating though he can have made mistakes. He believes in what he writes.

        [I respectfully urge you to help work towards a solution, instead of just continuing to restate the problem. Can you devise an approach to the creation and Flood accounts which does justice to God’s revelation in His word and also in His works?]

        I honestly can’t do this even if I wanted to. Of course I can’t prove the Flood did happen. My original response to your article about Adam and the Fall was first restricted to the relation between Adam and Christ, which was, in my opinion, wrongly presented in your article. Also and even more clearly is your way of looking at Exodus, indulgent to doubt parts of it’s reality, absoluty wrong in my conviction, of which I have tried to convince you. That makes me too suspicious towards the way you look at the creation and the flood. That is not meant personally ofcourse. I could, side by side with anybody, who is an evolutionist and who is also a true commited disciple of Christ, share the gospel with people in the street, or praise the Lord in harmony.
        But at this moment that is not what this discussion is about.

        [I would note that the New Testament proclamation was not merely a fideistic claim, uncoupled from the contemporary physical world ……….]

        Absolutely! Everything you said from this citing until the end of your reply I agree. God testified by raising his Son in the first place. And He confirmed the preaching of his Word, accompanying it with signs. I believe in miracles, also for this time. A year ago I sent an email to a dutch woman, Carly Alkema, who was said to be healed from the disease of Hirschprung. I asked her if she could confirm me this and give me emailadresses of other persons who could do this too. She gave me the adresses of four couples and also of the woman who had looked after her for years. Within two or three weeks I received 5 emails unanimously confirming her healing. This disease cannot be healed normally. It’s incurable. You can find it on the internet. This woman, invalid from her early childhood to the age of 49 years, was healed 10 or 11 years ago and since that time together with her husband she has founded a mission, called Immanuel Ministries, in South Africa. And I have personally known people that were supernaturally healed by the Lord. So I believe in physical evidence, accompanying and confirming the gospel!

        God bless you,

  7. Lucy says:

    Hi there, Please can someone help me out by shedding some light on a few of my struggles. I have recently been growing in my christian faith and have made a very important commitment in my life. I have struggled with homosexuality for quite some time now but have found freedom through the truth in God’s word. This wasn’t all to easy as I have been battling with opposing views and acceptance of myself. God has lead me to acceptance from my family, friends and also in myself. He has also taught me obedience and brought me peace. My love for God has grown since I began to lean on his faithfulness to me and this lead me to commmit to his word as the truth. Therefore I believe that God loves me very dearly and longs for me to take refuge in Him. Before I could not understand how I could show empathy, compassion and love towards other homosexuals yet have nothing but hatred towards myself…to the point of suicide and depression. As I began to pray, God revealed Himself to me in the most unimaginable ways and I felt a great sense of joy and excitement. For the first time in a long time I began to look forward to my future with hope knowing that the strength of God was with me. I learnt that my discontent towards my sexual orientation stemmed from a love for God and a desire to honour and please God. I learnt that Holiness is for christians, and everything fell in place beautifully and perfectly. However in the last few weeks I have had a horrible feeling of doubt and uncertainty come over me as I have been challenged by how I can possibly reconcile evolution with The Fall. I am currently in my second year of my Zoology degree and undertaking a module in evolution which has a very strong emphasis on debunking creationism. I have always believed in evolution as the evidence appears overwhelming and I find it all very incredible. However I feel that if I cannot trust Genesis as the literal truth then how can I know that God’s word on homosexuality is the truth and even that Jesus isn’t another story. I am very adverse to rejecting Jesus Christ as my saviour and I am want more than anything to continue to grow in my Christian faith and my knowledge of God. I feel my faith is very weak and that I am constantly challenged. I do still suffer from depression and so I am always very anxious and fearful. I cannot reject God but must find a way to understand how to interpret the bible. I believe the only way is to accept the bible literally or else be in danger of misinterpreting the truth or cherry picking. I believe solidarity comes from God’s word, preserved as the bible. Please can someone explain how I can still accept Genesis in the light of evolution? I have read some of the responses above but I am not sure that I really understand. I have only just begun to discover the bible and so have alot yet to learn. I want nothing more than to commit my life to God.I am afraid that I am too weak and shameful to be a christian.

    • Lucy,
      First, I want to commend you on your courage in stepping into a new life of fellowship with God through Jesus Christ, despite internal conflicts and fears. He has brought you this far, and He will help you get through all these gnarly questions on science and the Bible. I do suggest patience, and tolerance for some ambiguity along the way. Paul wrote (I Cor 13: 10-12),
      “ For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. 12 Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. “
      In the next life we will see how it all is; in this life we have to make do with partial understanding, as we walk by faith.

      To your specific questions – – I think you state it well, “I believe solidarity comes from God’s word, preserved as the bible.” Amen! The tricky part is in how to interpret it. I honor your desire to not fall into cherry-picking just want we want to hear. But the alternative to selfish cherry-picking is not a naïve literalism. Naïve literalism has the appearance of solid faithfulness, but that appearance is deceiving.
      The reality is that nobody really interprets the Bible purely literally. As one tiny example, in Isaiah 55:12 we read, “ For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.”
      We all understand verses 10 and 11 as straightforward statements, with literal rain and snow, and literal bread and humans eating. Yet when we come to verse 12, we understand that “all the trees of the field shall clap their hands” is ultimately meant as figurative. Why? There is no marker in the text denoting, “Prose stops/poetry starts here.” What we do is bring plain physical observations and reasoning to the text. We have observed many trees and note that none of them have actual hands, and thus we infer that no trees have actual hands, and thus the plain, literal meaning of the text cannot be sustained.
      We cannot avoid making choices on how to interpret and apply Scripture. That is why ministers preach sermons, as opposed to simply reading a passage and sitting down. So for someone to say, “Just believe what it says”, as though that is the whole story, is hypocritical and unhelpful.

      OK, so where does that leave us? Well, fortunately you and I are not the first people to ever crack open the Bible and try to make sense of it. There are lots of Christians who have gone before us and prayed and thought through many issues. Yes, there are many different churches and viewpoints. But some are more Bible-centered than others. You seem discerning enough to tell if a group of men and women are really serious about basing their lives on what God has revealed in the Bible, even if it means inconvenience. Hopefully you can find some group like that to hang out with. You may eventually find that there are some issues where you may disagree, but is a place to start.
      There are many solid books available to help guide and build your faith. C. S. Lewis wrote in many genres. John Stott’s classic Basic Christianity is available in book form or audio (e.g. .
      I have tried to provide a variety of educational and encouraging posts on this blog. If you scroll on the right side of the window, you will see entries that deal with bona fide healings of deaf and blind people in Heidi and Rolland Baker’s ministry in Mozambique and also on the (biblical) guiding principles behind their ministry. (My daughter travelled to Mozambique a couple of years ago and reported back that these folks were genuine). There is also a post on writings by Christians around 100-200 A.D. if you want to connect to guys who were taught by disciples of the original apostles.

      Getting back to Bible interpretation– I would suggest starting with the New Testament, getting grounded there, and not worry too much about the Old Testament for the moment. “Testament” means here “Covenant.” The Old Testament deals mainly with the big covenant that God made with the people of the nation of Israel, with heavy emphasis on the law that He gave through Moses. That was all good in its time, but now God has made a new and final covenant with humans through His Son. Instead of external obedience to rules, this involves wholehearted fellowship with God, empowered by the Holy Spirit given to us. We are not servants, but adopted sons and daughters of God.
      As Paul discusses in Galations and Romans, and the book of Hebrews is mainly about, the Old Testament was preparatory for the New Covenant, and it (the Old Covenant) has now been set aside. There are still loads of goodies in the Old Testament, just don’t get bogged down it trying to figure out how much still applies today. There are plenty of teachings in the New Testament to keep us on track.

      I might suggest that if you are concerned about some particular doctrine or moral issue, that you try to look at all the New Testament verses where it is discussed. Most of the really important issues are mentioned several times, by different New Testament writers, and come up in both teachings and actual lived-out practice. For instance, sexual purity is mentioned in many passages; I suppose one or two of those passages might be construed as unclear, but if you let them all speak, especially as they would have been understood by their original readers, they present a coherent, unambiguous message about how to live in this area.

      I noted briefly in this post on Adam and the Fall that there are huge differences between the Creation account in Genesis, and the New Testament writings. The New Testament is firmly grounded in known history of the Roman empire. It is indisputable that there was a Jesus of Nazareth, whose followers, very shortly after his death, were going around telling everyone that they had seen him after he was raised from the dead, even though this story got these disciples all killed or imprisoned. The core Jesus-story in recounted by Paul in I Cor 15:1-9 [written ~ 57 A.D.] as having been taught to him many years earlier — so the New Testament teachings about Jesus date back to the decade of the Crucifixion. So we know that the gospel as taught in the New Testament writings is the authentic teaching of Jesus’ immediate followers, not some made-up myth concocted decades later. As I read the gospels, I keep shaking my head and saying, “It is not credible that someone just made up these stories.” The Jesus that shines through is so wise and unpredictable; his followers were so dense, yet he kept coaching them along. So it is eminently realistic to take the New Testament teachings at more or less face value. There is no good reason to do otherwise.

      When it comes to the Genesis creation narratives, including the Fall, there are other factors that come into play. First, it is essential to recognize that the people of the ancient world had a “science” of their day. Everyone “knew” that the earth was fixed, and the stars were fastened to a solid dome that rotated overhead, and animals reproduced after their own kind. And everyone would think in terms of the earth being thousands, not billions, of years old.
      Since God decided to give the ancient Israelites a creation story (perhaps to help them stand against the pagans who had their own cosmogonies involving their gods), logic constrained His options: would He frame a creation story that meshed with their physical understanding and used that to convey the essential theological points (e.g. that there was only one God, and He made it all) ? Or would He introduce all sorts of correct but foreign notions ( clouds of hydrogen condensing to form stars; simple lifeforms evolving to more complex ones…) that could only confuse the ancients? When you ask those sorts of questions, it should become clear why the Genesis narrative had to be what it is.
      It might help to read through the gospel of Luke, and really read all the parables that Jesus told. They were actually his preferred mode of teaching. He would just up an tell some story about a prodigal son or a merchant travelling to Jericho , as though these stories were true. Do we accuse him of “error” if we find that these stories never “really” happened? Of course not. The point and purpose of these stories was to convey some deep spiritual or moral truth, not to educate us about travelling conditions to Jericho.
      We can take the same view of the Genesis narrative: the point and purpose was not to give an accurate portrayal of geologic and biological history, but to teach us that God is Lord of all, and that He cares about and honors humans. So it is immaterial if we find that the story itself did not “really” happen. As we noted above, it was simply impossible for God to give a story which would satisfy both ancient and modern physical worldviews.

      Well, I hope this is of some use to you. For lots and lots of further insight on all this, see the site. There are a bunch of world-famous biologists and theologians who are dealing with the same issues that you are facing, and I faced a couple of years ago: how do you maintain your faith when you find out that the physical evidence supports evolution?

    • Lucy,
      I’d like to add two more thoughts to what I wrote to you yesterday. First, we are artistic/emotional beings, as well as intellectual beings. If you keep your imagination and aesthetic side rightly fed, it can help fortify your soul and help you endure the nagging intellectual issues that have not yet been resolved. Music is a big part of that. Most people these days have some sort of music playing in their ears much of the day, e.g. stored in phone or iPod. Might I suggest that you talk with a variety of Christians that you feel simpatico with, and get suggestions on songs that you might want to be listening to. This is such an area of personal taste that I hestitate to suggest any specific songs. If you would like to follow up on this but are not having luck talking with people around you, you can write back here with some statement of your general tastes and a few songs that you have liked, and I can ask my 20-something daughter to recommend some songs for your consideration.

      Second, you have what today is an unusual name. It has been immortalized in British author C. S. Lewis’s series of stories, the Chronicles of Narnia. On the surface, these are children’s tales, and indeed they are wonderful and easy stories to read to children. But in addition, they are potent allegories of spiritual issues. The lion Aslan is a kind of figure of Christ. The character Lucy in these stories has a special sensitivity to Aslan. If you read even just the first book in that series, The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, I think you will be blessed and strengthened.

      All best wishes,

  8. Hoi Jaap,
    It is good to hear from you. I will respond to most of your points, in more or less reverse order. First, regarding the evidence re age of earth and evolution – there really is no viable case to be made against an old earth or evolution. To some of the specific points you raise:

    – re Big Bang, dark matter, etc – In the 20th century, atheistic astronomers like Fred Hoyle fought against the Big Bang Model, because it tends to imply a Creation and hence a Creator from outside this universe. However, the Big Bang model has repeatedly passed every challenge thrown against it. The fact that we don’t we know everything about everything, including dark matter and dark energy, does not of itself militate against the Big Bang.

    But we don’t need to invoke the Big Bang to demonstrate the antiquity of the earth. Just an honest look at the rock layers is enough. (I explain in my Grand Canyon essay “unconformities” between rock layers demand multiple cycles of deposition, lithification, and erosion).The geologists in Europe (many of them confessing Christians) by 1840 had realized that the rocks could not be reconciled with a young earth or recent global flood. They knew that many millions of years were required, they just weren’t sure how many millions. Davis Young observed:

    Since the late eighteenth century, observational evidence against diluvianism [Flood geology] has continued to accumulate, and that model of Earth history has consistently been found wanting. As long ago as 1834 the great Christian geologist and ordained minister Adam Sedgwick charged the authors of the “Mosiac Geology” of his day with having committed “the folly and sin of dogmatizing on matters they have not personally examined, and, at the utmost, know only at second hand – of pretending to teach mankind on points where they themselves are uninstructed.” And a year later, Christian geologist and theologian Edward Hitchcock wrote that diluvianism “has been abandoned by all practical geologists.” [ Portraits of Creation (pp. 45-46) ]

    In the 20th century the radioactive dating of rocks showed with great precision how many millions of years were involved. The young earth creationists try to argue against all this, but they have to resort to deception and falsehood. I detail all this in my Grand Canyon essay. I realize you are not a scientist, but the basics of radioactive dating are not that hard to understand. If this is a matter that seems important to you, a standard introduction by a Christian physicist is here: . I will make a standing offer, that if you come across any specific “evidence” for an old earth, let me know and I will show you why it is not valid.

    Re [neccesity of billions of years to bring the light to our planet is disputed or withspoken by several scientists, without making God a cosmic deceiver, one of them is Russell Humphreys. ]
    Hmm, let’s consider the reliability of Dr. Humphries. First, check out his article on the earth’s magnetic field here:
    You will notice his first figure, which shows dramatic fluctuations in the earth’s magnetic field right about the time of the Flood. He puts this forward to support his young earth model. He claims these data are from 1983 study by Merrill, R. T. and M. W. McElhinney (his reference number 7). He states, “ the data show that the field intensity at the earth’s surface fluctuated wildly up and down during the third millennium before Christ (see figure 1).” Sadly, this is a complete lie. The actual data show no such fluctuations. I show the actual data at the end of my essay on the earth’s magnetic field, here at . This is just typical untruthfulness that you have to stoop to if you are to maintain that the physical evidence is compatible with the plain reading of Genesis ( young earth, humans specially created, world-wide flood with only 8 survivors).

    Re [So I think both sides should be more tolerant of each other and not be quick to see the others as deceivers. That is the same with the book of John Sanford. I have read his book Genetic Entropy last year very carefully and I don’t believe he is cheating though he can have made mistakes. He believes in what he writes. ]
    I agree that Sanford believes in what he writes – I made that plain in my STAN4 essay. But the fact that he is sincere has little bearing on whether he is right or whether he is treating the data honestly. Almost everyone who is out there advocating a position is “sincere” (Buddhists, Muslims, communists, etc.). I, too, read his book and was impressed at first. I then went to the primary literature (not just summaries by this or that writer who might be prejudiced), and found that Sanford suppressed the mention of many, many, many facts that he certainly was aware of. Just think about it: some smaller mammals like rabbits have been reproducing for many thousands of generations, without noticeable degradation in their genomes. That utterly disproves his claim that genomes are deteriorating at a fearsome rate. And you can read in STAN4 the examples of populations recovering from deliberate mutation accumulation experiments: usually, once you let the population increase such that natural selection can operate again, the fitness of the population rachets back up again. That is proof positive that natural selection is effective, which again disproves Sanford’s claims.

    As a veteran genetic researcher, he cannot be unaware of all this evidence. As an expert writing to laymen, it is his responsibility to discuss the full sweep of evidence, not just cherry-pick 10% that seems to bolster his case. Thus, this is suppression of well-established evidence that completely disproves his claims. This is dishonest, even if it does not rise to the level of full consciousness in Sanford. I assume the he did not consciously think to himself, “Yes, I know that all this evidence is valid and it completely disproves my claims.” I assume this is just typical young earth creationist unconscious suppression of the vast sweep of facts that show their views are indefensible.

    I actually emailed Sanford to give him a chance to correct me if I was wrong on this, and he did not try to dispute any of my findings. He just attacked my personal motives. Again, this demonstrates the fundamental dishonesty that lies at the heart of young earth/anti-evolutionism. It was discovering the extent of Sanford’s deception that launched me into blogging on the subject. I realized that not many readers would be able and willing to devote the time and effort I had into discerning the truth here.

    This is not a matter of both parties looking at the same body of facts and simply interpreting them differently. This is what it would be like if a high school teacher, teaching his class about European history in the 1940’s, told them that Britain, America, and the USSR attacked Germany, bombing and killing civilians, and even in the Netherlands, Germans who were merely going about their business were murdered by Dutch civilians – but never mentioned the Nazi aggressions, in order to build an overall case that Germany was a victim of unjust aggression. Such a teacher would not be formally “lying”, in the sense of making a strictly false statement, but to deliberately suppress whole classes of contrary evidence is “deception”. This suppression of facts has the same misleading effect on the hearers as a formal lie. (To their credit, Germans in general have not denied the actions of the Nazis, so this is a made-up example. But to this day, Turks in general refuse to acknowledge the genocide against the Armenians in 1917, so this is a real psychological phenomenon.)

    So I will take a stand against the dishonesty of supposedly authoritative advocates like Humphries and Sanford, but with humility, knowing that I used to be in same error as them. I don’t hold anything against them personally, and would be happy to fellowship them in all other areas of life and thought. Also, the majority of my Christian friends are anti-evolution and probably young-earth believers, but I do not go around accusing them of being fools or deceivers. They are trying to be faithful to what is their rightfully highest priority, and it is completely understandable that they are taken in by the young earth creationist propaganda. It is a grief to me that I have disturbed some of them in my pursuit of truth, but life is not always easy.

    Anyway, the only two honest choices with Genesis 1-7 are (1) to take the sum of the physical evidence at face value and conclude that the earth was in fact formed about 4.5 billion years ago, and shaped since by natural processes, and that humans evolved from other primates, and that there was no worldwide Flood that killed all but 8 humans, or (2) to acknowledge that the evidence is what it is, but that God deliberately created a massive and consistent deception, including cleaning up after the Flood and rejiggering genomes to erase the marks of such a population bottleneck in all land-dwelling species. Choice (2), the “Appearance of Age”, is at least true to the facts, but seems to create more problems than it solves as far as God’s character and reliability.

    So, we have a case in Genesis 1-7 where God has inspired a detailed story, with lots of numbers and sequences, with strong covenantal symbolism. The sacrifice of animals to provide a covering for Adam and Eve after their sin foreshadows the great sacrifice of Christ to cover our sins, the waters of the Flood symbolize Christian baptism (I Peter 3:20-21), etc., etc. This story is woven into the overall narrative of the people of God, and is treated as historical in the rest of the Old Testament and in the New Testament. The literal six days of creation are endorsed in the Sabbath ordinance.
    And yet – this whole story never happened, at least not in the form it is presented in Genesis 1-7. There may have been a human couple that God initiated covenant with in the 6000 BC timeframe, but that couple could not have been the progenitors of the entire human race. There may have been a Noah who built a boat to survive some local Mesopotamian flood, but that is not what the Genesis story portrays. Genesis has the whole Middle East and beyond being repopulated from Noah’s three sons and their wives.

    Is it contrary to God’s nature to strongly and consistently promote a doctrine or story at one phase of history, then have this overturned later? Perhaps it is useful to look at how the Mosiac law is treated in Scripture. It was introduced as being the very word of God, as being a permanent fixture, not a temporary measure. It was strictly enforced by Moses, e.g. stoning a man who was gathering sticks on the Sabbath (Num 15:32-36). The animal sacrifices are treated very seriously, being presented in the Pentateuch as having genuine power to atone for sin. In the Old Testament there are some hints of a new covenant coming (e.g. Jer 31, Ez. 36-37), but even these are framed as additional spiritual enabling to keep God’s laws, not as a wholesale abrogation of the Mosiac system. Although the Jews vacillated on following the Law in the pre-exilic age, by about the 3rd century B.C. they finally locked in on it. In the days of the Maccabees, many Jews suffered torture and death rather than disobey the Law in all its details.

    How shocking it then was for devout Jews to see Jesus and his followers violate some provisions of the Law, such as gathering food on the Sabbath (Mat 12:1-8). In Mat 15:11 , “What goes into a man’s mouth does not make him ‘unclean,’ but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him ‘unclean’ ”, Jesus largely dismissed the rules on clean and unclean foods that were spelled out so clearly in Lev 11 and Deut 14. By the time of the church council in Act 15, the early Christians threw out the practice of almost the entire Mosaic law.

    We also find out that the Mosiac animal sacrifices never really did do anything, even though the Old Testament (e.g. Lev 4-5) said they did. Despite all the ringing endorsements of the Law to be found in the Scriptures, the book of Hebrews states that “The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless “ (Heb 7:18), and ”The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves” (Heb 10:1), and “ It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Heb 10:4). The actual value of the animal sacrifices, including the original Passover lamb, was merely symbolic.

    So here we have an example of a strong, consistent, long-standing literal teaching in the Bible that later needed to be abandoned. This was so drastic, that even many Jews who believed that Jesus was the messiah could not accept this shift. These were the Judaizers and Ebionites of the first century. They simply could not accept that their traditional, literal understanding of the Scriptures had to be greatly adjusted. Their literal interpretation was no longer applicable, and indeed stood in the way of receiving the more fundamental figurative impartation from the Scriptures. These Judaizers were sincere and devout, and felt they were upholding God’s honor and historic revelation by insisting on a literal interpretation. The parallel with today’s young earth creationists is obvious.

    OK, so all this was background to answering some of your questions. re [Is there, in your opinion, any chance, doesn’t matter how small, that the last tenth plague didn’t happen? ] , my answer is “yes, though only a small chance.” For all its enlightening and foreshadowing symbolism, the Old Testament sacrificial system never in fact had any real effect or power. God honored the obedience of the Israelites (and punished disobedience) as they went through the motions of sacrificing animals and sprinkling blood on their doorways at the Passover and later on the altar. But there was no power in that blood. I believe (unless proven otherwise) that the Passover happened, complete with blood on doorways, but since its value was merely symbolic, I can learn from that symbolism, whether or not the story happened as written. It has no effect on the efficacy of Christ’s sacrifice. Thus, I do not need to lie to defend its historicity or run away from honest dialog.

    Would you lie or run away from honest dialog on this issue? Well, I don’t mean to put it so critically. I know you are trying to grapple with this the best you can, maintaining a high view of God’s truthfulness. You have already stated that this is so painful that it is impossible for you to seriously consider this question, so I guess that tells me the answer here. Your answer #4 seems for all practical purposes the same as my #3A: an admission that you could not engage in a deep, objective discussion of physical evidence that would tend to undercut the historicity of some part of the Exodus story, e.g. how many Israelites made the journey. That is fine, you are being clear about your position and how you arrived at it, and no dishonest treatment of the evidence is involved. But the result of your starting premise (that a righteous God could never inspire a story that did not actually happen) seems to be that you are afraid to face what the truth might actually be. I would wish for you to not be subject to that sort of anxiety.

    Your concern about slandering all Egyptians is misplaced. You might as well accuse Jesus of slandering all Jews of priestly descent (often still named “Cohen”) by making up the story of the Good Samaritan in which the priest and Levite behaved badly. There is no basis for distant descendants to feel guilty over something their distant ancestors did. Have you gone to Ireland to apologize for the near-certainty that your distant Germanic ancestors killed and enslaved many of the earlier Celtic inhabitants of the Netherlands? In my original post I cited Ezekiel 18 on this topic. In earlier Old Testament times it may have been true that, “The fathers eat sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge” (Ezek. 18:2). By the time of the Exile, God pronounces a new regime: “As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, you will no longer quote this proverb in Israel. For every living soul belongs to me, the father as well as the son – both alike belong to me. The soul that sins is the one who will die (vv. 3-4)… The son will not share the guilt of the father, nor will the father share the guilt of the son” (v.20). You might want to pass this along to your Egyptian friend.

    All your arguments as to why the Exodus story must be completely true also apply to the Genesis creation/Flood account (detailed stories with numbers, intense covenantal symbolism). Regarding the Exodus, you wrote: [If God gives us a detailed description of the plagues in Egypt to show his power and wrath, and He gives us an accurate description of Israel’s journey through the desert, complete with numbers of people, amount of cattle, places of rest etc, etc, to show his greatness and glory, then it múst be true. ]
    But we could equally say “If God gives us a detailed description of the creation of the features of the earth and of the first humans and of a worldwide Flood, complete with numbers of days and size of the ark, to show his covenantal relationship to the world and to mankind, then it must be true.” But in the case of Genesis, the full literal story obviously did not happen as written. So if the Exodus story did not all happen as written, there is precedent for that in the Genesis narrative.

    If we have to adjust our traditional, literal view of the Exodus or Creation, there is precedent for that, too, in the radical revaluing of the Mosaic law. We can still receive the insights and teachings of Law and of the Exodus or the Genesis stories. This is similar to Jesus’ parables, where you would be missing the point if you obsessed over whether there really was a man on the road to Jericho who was rescued by a Samaritan.
    But allow me to qualify this by noting the high standard of evidence it would convince me to take anything but a literal view of the Exodus story. My shifting of views on Genesis was a long, slow, careful affair. I would not dismiss any aspect of the Exodus casually. If an issue is controversial and very important to me, I usually do not just accept the opinions of the “experts”. I would want to examine and weigh all the evidence myself. To my knowledge there is no physical or extra-biblical evidence that the literal full (2 million people) Exodus ever occurred at all. But as I noted, that is not enough to make me doubt the Exodus account. Tracking the history of an individual or a group of people is much harder than tracking the history of the earth’s rocks or of the human genome.

    This high standard of evidence means that it is exceedingly unlikely that I would in fact dismiss a literal Exodus, so all our long discussion about it here is merely hypothetical and probably not fruitful. You have made various arguments as to why it is not possible for the Exodus story to be completely and literally true. If you are correct, then no incontrovertible evidence against it can possibly come to light, so this will remain forever a hypothetical issue.

    The standard of evidence also is important in answering your other question, [Suppose scientists got evidence that Jesus did not rise physically, because bones were found in a grave in Nazareth that were determined beyond all reasonable doubt to be his; would you renounce your christian faith? If you can, say yes or no. ]
    Paul dealt with this issue, and stated in the clearest possible terms, “If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. .. if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.” (I Cor 15:14, 17). Earlier in the same chapter, Paul presents the Resurrection as an empirical event, supported by eyewitnesses, not as a merely subjective, fideistic matter. So the only possible answer to your question is “yes”; but with the qualification that the standard of evidence to convince me “beyond all reasonable doubt” on this matter would be very high.

    Just to have some “experts” say that the Resurrection did not happen would not be enough to convince me. As noted above, it is hard to be really sure about some individual from thousands of years ago. Even if some bone-filled tomb were found with “Jesus of Nazareth” chiseled over the door, it might well be a fake by the enemies of Christianity. I suppose if we perfected time travel, and I could travel back in time, and hover invisibly around Jerusalem in 30 A.D. and watch the Crucifixion, and then keep vigil over Jesus’ tomb, and observed with my own eyes the shadowy figures of disciples stealing the body while the guard were asleep and secreting it elsewhere, and I waited around for the third and fourth days, and no Resurrection occurred – yes, I would have to give up my faith, as Paul said. I believe the probability of obtaining this level of evidence is nil, because of all the existing empirical evidence for the Resurrection such as the eyewitness testimony of apostles who were martyred for their faith, as preserved in contemporary manuscripts like I Cor 15:1-8, and also because of the inner witness in my heart of the resurrected Christ and His present-day miracles that I have personally seen. But I am trying to answer your question as clearly as I can.

    Most devout Christians cannot bring themselves to even contemplate these disturbing possibilities. I understand and respect that, but I happen to be stubborn about truth. I am not interested in pursuing any false notion, no matter how emotionally comforting it may be. This passion for integrity has served me well so far, and I believe is consistent with God’s purposes in my life. When I was a young agnostic materialist, I did not take refuge in fuzzy nonsense about having purpose and meaning, but tried to clearly face the cold, bleak implications of a reality consisting of nothing but matter and energy. Knowing the nature of this alternative helped motivate me then to consider the truth-claims of Christianity.
    (Just to round this discussion out, I realize that our saving faith is not merely an intellectual assent to evidence for Christian truth-claims, but also involves a mystical transaction with God – I discussed that in an earlier note).
    * * ** * * ** * ** ** * ** *** * ** * *
    You seem to have a hard time accepting that God could present something as valid to His people at one time, and later have this changed. This seems to make Him to be an unreliable liar. But is that a valid conclusion? As noted above, that was the attitude of the Judaizers. I suggest that you consider a more flexible point of view.

    When I was a young child, my parents pretended that there was a Santa Claus who brought us presents on Christmas Eve. They even set out cookies and cocoa for him to eat and drink, and when I came downstairs on Christmas morning, behold, the cookies were mainly eaten and someone had drunk the cup of cocoa. I was completely taken in by their act. Then somewhere around age ten or so, I discovered that there was no Santa Claus. So now, should I (a) accuse my parents of being unreliable liars that I could never trust again for anything (since, technically, they did knowingly deceive me) ? Or should I (b) trust that they had a good purpose, that was appropriate for a time, for promoting a story that was not actually true? Response (b) involves a degree of trust in the parent’s intentions and competence, even if the child cannot immediately understand why the parent acted as he did.

    It seems to me (meaning no disrespect to you) that you are stuck in response (a) regarding bible literalism. I respect your high view of God’s righteousness and your tender heart towards Him. But I am concerned your apparent inability to appreciate the power of the narrative itself (apart from whether it actually happened) will inevitably keep you locked into the literal view of Genesis 1-7, which is either delusional or illusional.
    If you continue to remain ignorant of the science, that is OK. But if you ever do let the physical evidence penetrate your consciousness, your rigid attitude (“If it is not all literally true, then God is a liar”) would lead you conclude that God is unrighteous. You wrote “the moment God is lying, I will understand that I am crazy.” I am hoping to spare you from that despair. I suggest that you are dictating to God what means of communication to humans are and are not acceptable. You are implying, “If God inspires a story that turns out to be untrue, then He is a liar and no other words from Him can be trusted”.

    Perhaps you, being brought up in a Western culture would never dream of telling an untrue story in order to make a moral or spiritual point, but God does not see it that way, especially dealing with people in the ancient Middle East. Let’s consider two incidents involving Old Testament prophets. In I Kings 20, Ahab does not kill the Aramean king who had been attacking Israel. This displeased God, so He sent a prophet to confront King Ahab:

    Then the prophet went and stood by the road waiting for the king. He disguised himself with his headband down over his eyes. As the king passed by, the prophet called out to him, “Your servant went into the thick of the battle, and someone came to me with a captive and said, ‘Guard this man. If he is missing, it will be your life for his life, or you must pay a talent[b] of silver.’ While your servant was busy here and there, the man disappeared.” “That is your sentence,” the king of Israel said. “You have pronounced it yourself.” Then the prophet quickly removed the headband from his eyes, and the king of Israel recognized him as one of the prophets. He said to the king, “This is what the Lord says: ‘You have set free a man I had determined should die. Therefore it is your life for his life, your people for his people.’” [I Kings 20:38-42].

    By your standard of what is acceptable, King Ahab should have said, “Surely he is not a true prophet, because Yahweh would never inspire a story that is not actually true. Cut off his head!”
    And similarly, in II Sam 12, when God sent Nathan to rebuke King David, the prophet started off with an elaborate story about a poor man and a rich lamb and a lamb. The story got David emotionally engaged and morally heightened. When Nathan revealed that the narrative was a sham, that there really was no literal poor man with a literal lamb, by your standard of how God is allowed to communicate, King David should have thrown him out of the palace as a liar.

    But David modeled a spiritually sensitive response. When Nathan said, “You are the man!” David did not quibble over the historicity of the story. Instead, he accepted the ethical teaching transmitted by that story.

    I do not claim to know why God chose to inspire a detailed Creation/Fall story that never really happened. It used to really bother me, but I have decided that my heavenly Father knows best, and it’s not my place to complain that He didn’t inspire a creation story the way I would have advised Him if He had asked me first. Many different interpretations are possible. As for me, I try to follow David’s example and let the story teach me, without worrying over whether it actually happened. Perhaps, like David, I am in some sense “the man” (the “adam”) in this story: I, too, face choices each day about trusting God versus trying to be independent of Him, and I, too, experience both consequences of my actions and unmerited mercy. Reading the story of the Garden helps me more clearly see the temptations and choices that I, and every human, face: making excuses and blaming others or God.
    I doubt you can accept this now, but I hope that being exposed to this point of view may help you some years from now. If you want to investigate this topic in more depth than I can offer, I highly recommend you read the book “Inerrant Wisdom” by Paul Seely. He is a deep scholar, having spent 20 years studying his way through the Bible verse by verse in the original languages.

    Ending on a less controversial topic: thank you for sharing with me about Carly Alkema. I am impressed that you found personal confirmations of her story. I found an English language description of her healing here: The photo at the end of their joyous faces is a blessing. I do not understand why such healings are so rare, since there are extravagent promises in the gospels about our prayers being answered, but I will celebrate the ones that do occur and try to position myself in holiness and faith to perhaps be a part of further healings.

    Wishing you rich blessings,

    • Jaap says:

      Hoi Scott,
      At least this is one positive fruit from our discussion: you learned the dutch word “hoi”, which is connecting you with our country on the other side of the ocean, so how excited you must feel now, having extended your knowledge and widened your horizon!! 😉
      Well, thank you Scott again for the friendly way you answered me, though we don’t agree. I understand your way of thinking and it makes me reconsider my own view on the bible and the truth in it. I’m not going to answer all the points again, but will only mention the core of what we differ in, in my opinion.
      For me, the issue of the tenth plague is an absolute testcase of how a person can think, to what extent his limit is reaching of being prepared to dismiss things as historical in the bible. Although it is hypothetical indeed, the attitude behind it is NOT hypothetical. So in my opinion, if a person give it any chance, how small ever, that this, both historical and spiritual very essential event in the history of Israel and the countries of the world is story, not history, than there is NOTHING in the old testament that can eventually be taken with 100 procent certainty to be history. I think this attitude is dangerous.
      Now you mention a few things that I can fully agree. We can trust our parents after having unmasked Santa Claus. We can trust God, after the prophet’s lie to Ahab and Nathan’s little idyllic lamb story with the cruel ending that he told David. I know these stories very well and have never ever in my christian life blamed God for that or for being dishonest because of that. God can even send a lie to people who persevere in their lies and sins. He did it in 1 Kings 22:19-23 and He’ll do it again (2Thess 2:11,12). But I can not find any connection or relevance whatsoever between these “lies” the prophets told and the history of the tenth plague and the whole Exodus. Neither can I see relevance of the parables of Jesus for the Exodus story. If you can, okay, but it won’t help to explain to me, because you did already and honestly, I can’t see it. Despite of that, I think you are the one that has kind of a blind spot there, sorry.
      I don’t want to prescribe God how He should handle with us, and I have never wanted to, as far I as can see. Of course He is sovereign and need not ask us anything. But God has given us moral feelings and a conscience and if we are christians, we have the Holy Spirit dwelling in us. He has bound Himself to his word! So to have fathers tell their sons from generation to generation a story of liberation from a land of slavery, Egypt, a still existing country, with great signs and miracles, as EYEWITNESSES (!!!), and it never happened….well Scott, if you think God would or could allow Himself to do so, than God can do anything, even tell me that I am a thirteen old girl with a green moustache without children, but with 39 grandchildren. God is God, so who am I to ask Him questions? If you think I am sarcastic now, no! I just search a way to express my amazement.
      Of course literal, historic and symbolic things in the bible are in some texts difficult to distuingish, just as the border between two countries is sometimes difficult to find. When I go from Maastricht (Netherlands) to Aachen (Germany) by a secondary road, I may not know in some place if I’m in my own country or if I’m in Germany. But when I have arrived in Aachen I’m beyond any doubt in Germany. When we arrive at Israels Exodus from Egypt, we are most obvious so far on the territory of history, as I would be on German’s territory as I had arrived in Aachen, yeah, rather Berlin! If you don’t agree, I have to accept it, but we’d better stop the discussion at this point.
      I can have some understanding that one can take Genesis 1 as non-historical, because it is the very beginning of the universe, and creation is, whether or not by evolution, a great miracle and mystery and maybe God used this form of narrative, I have to consider that. The difficulty for me is that is added: THIS is the history, etc.
      Another great difficulty for me is the text of Romans 8: For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travalleth in pain together until now (KJV). At the time Paul wrote this letter, there were no cars, no industries, no CO2 emissions, no 7 billions of people, contaminating the greater part of the earth. I think you can see: the earth was clean, clean the oceans, some hundredss of millions of people without industries, inhabitants of our beautiful planet. So what groaning? What pains of childbirth? Until now? AD 60? So, also the realm of the animals, at that time not too much threatened by humans, was groaning at that time, being part of creation. So if the realm of the animals was not groaning as a result of man’s fall in sin, what caused it’s groaning? I think the only cause of the unhappiness of animals (at that time) was their struggle for life, their fears, their anger, their bloodshed, their (not deliberate) cruelty. Lions tearing and eating a great buffalo still living, in death agony during half an hour before he dies. A cheetah attacking a deer that is too big for her, but she has to, because she and her three youngsters are in desparate need for food. But the deer pierces her with her antlers and she has a deadly wound and dies a painful death within a couple of days, leaving her three kids bound to die from starvation. This is not a pop-up fantasy of me at this moment, I saw both happening on TV, and I saw many, many other horrible cruelties in nature movies. So, yes, the animal realm is groaning too and is longing for liberation.
      But if this is not caused by the fall, than we can simply say that God created a groaning and painful, suffering animal realm. By evolution. So what I told about this cheetah and the lions is very good, because everything He created was very good. So do you agree, that God created a groaning, suffering world, in bondage of corruption, by evolution? That he created an imprisoned world, to be able to set it free?
      So, if evolution is true, and it is the way God created the universe, then perhaps I need a (holy) brainwash, and being his child He is able to do this in a gentle way, that I can go through it, without losing my mind. Because I need to know the truth, for when I speak to non-believers or atheists, they often come with “scientific objections” (sometimes, but not always a front for not wanting God in their lives) and I want to answer them properly.
      I loved your reaction on the healing of Carly Alkema. When I wrote her this email, I didn’t do it to be convinced myself, because I had already seen the video of her healing and listened to three different testimonies she gave in churches and houses, that were auditively published on the internet. I was at first hearing totally convinced of her sincerity and integrity. But I was in duscussion with an atheist on a weblog like your’s and he he didn’t want to believe, except “if he saw an amputed limb growing in it’s place”. Sometimes God hears an extreme prayer. Now this woman had nervecells and colon tissue being created “ex nihilo”, so it is something like a new limb, so it might convince him. But when I had received the emails from her and the witnesses, the man had left the blog. Nevertheless I published the links of het testimonies on that blog. I only got one reaction, of another unbeliever. He gave me a link of a newspaper in which Jan Zijlstra, the man that prayed for Carly was critisized for some vague reason. “So this is the miracleman you are talking about, see who he is”, or something of the kind. No reaction whatsoever about the healing itself. So how easy to evade a clear testimony! By the way, Jan Zijlstra is an integer man of God, but he is not perfect. A little mistake suits the criticizers.
      Scott, I stop now on your weblog. Thank you very much for listening to me and taking the time and effort to answer me. I look forward to your final reply some day and then I won’t discuss any more. God bless you and your family and have a great Ascension Day.
      Greetings, Jaap
      P.S. my emailadress has changed so I have filled in my new adress

      • Hoi again my friend,
        Because of our correspondence I read a little bit about Dutch history. Here is something I did not know before, from the Wikipedia article on “Dutch Resistance”. Although the Dutch were forced to surrender under threat of the annihilation of their cities, in the few days of fighting the Dutch forces managed to shoot down a surprisingly high number of German planes, which altered the subsequent balance of forces in the war:
        “Although the Dutch army was inferior in nearly every way, consisting mostly of conscripts, poorly led, poorly outfitted and with poor communications, the Germans lost over 500 planes in the three days of the attack, a loss they would never replenish. …Remarkable was the existence of privately-owned anti-aircraft guns. “

        I agree that the two of us cannot view the Exodus story in the same manner. You have presented clear and strong arguments. My empirical rather than theoretical outlook is doubtless influenced by my professional experiences. For instance, I attended a technical conference last month, where a fellow engineer talked about how he solved a very challenging problem. His closing word of advice was, “If your view is contradicted by good data, you’d better change your view.” All of us in the room with experience in troubleshooting chemical processes nodded in agreement. But as I said, this Exodus question will likely remain forever a merely hypothetical issue.

        I do not have all the answers on Romans 8:18-25. I will offer some thoughts on how I deal with it, though I know you will not agree with all of them.
        (a) Whatever is the nature of this “subjection to frustration” and “bondage to decay”, it is something that God clearly willed. Whether evolution and predation were there from the very beginning, or introduced after the Fall, they fall within the scope of God’s plan and will.
        (b) I, too, am dismayed by the sufferings of animals, and I know there are eschatological promises of the lion lying down with the lamb. On the other hand, Psalm 104 describes how the predators go out to seek their prey (to bite and eat them), and God is seen as giving them those prey animals to eat. Psalm 145:15-17 seems also quite comfortable with this present arrangement: “The eyes of all look to you,and you give them their food at the proper time.You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing. The Lord is righteous in all his way and loving toward all he has made.” So there is not uniform dismay in Scripture at predation. Thus it is not obvious to me that Paul must be speaking here (Rom 8) of death in the biosphere, though maybe he was.
        (c ) For biological processes and systems to function in this present universe, there is a certain amount of death that must take place. In the development of the human embryo, some cells that are initially formed must then die in order to advance to the final product – for instance, the human hand is first formed with the fingers all joined together like a paddle, then the skin between the fingers dies to allow them to separate. Obviously plants must die in the process of feeding animals. Beneficial bacteria that multiply in our guts must also die, in order to keep their numbers manageable. So death per se does not seem like an intrinsic evil to me. Of course, one could discuss at what level of organism death becomes objectionable – humans, all mammals, all vertabrates, all animals (including insects, jellyfish, clams, etc.), any multicelled protozoans, amoebas….???
        (d) Whatever was meant by a “very good” creation in Genesis, Satan was lurking around and humans were open to sinning, so it was not a perfect, glorified place. Thus, the promises e.g. in Isaiah 11 and 65 of a future, glorified state with no predation might not necessarily be read back into Genesis 1-3.
        (e) As I stated in my original post, it seems to me that Paul, as a learned, pious Jew of the first century, would necessarily share the common belief in the literal truth of the Genesis narrative, unless he received special revelation to the contrary. As I read what Paul says about the revelation he received (e.g. Gal 1:11-16, Col. 1:27 and 2:3, Eph 1:10 and 3:4-6), it seems all focused on Jesus Christ as the Son of God and the one who indwells his people. This gives me no reason to believe that Paul was also be given supernatural insight as to the historicity of the Eden narrative, or that he was omniscient. Thus, I would expect Paul to assume the Eden story was literally true (including possibly a vegetarian creation), and to incorporate that into his arguments. His readers would share this common cultural heritage. I’m sure you don’t see things this way, but this approach absolves me from trying to deny the clear evidence of animal death that existed long before humans came on the scene (e.g. the fossilized dinosaur stomachs showing they had eaten other animals, and a classic fossilized fish in the act of swallowing another fish).

        You may want to read other Christian commentary on this subject. For instance, Tim Keller is the pastor of a church in New York City which is famous for adhering to strong Reformed teaching, yet also relating well to the urban intellectuals. I highly recommend his book, “The Reason For God”, as a manual for talking with modern European or American non-Christians. He has written an essay here
        which discusses evolution. I think you would be comfortable with his overall view of biblical inspiration and need for a literal Adam.

        Regarding miracles, I guess you have already seen my blog posts on the healing of deaf and blind people in Mozambique, and on the YouTube videos of legs growing out. There is one place in the U.S. that I know of where the leaders and people are conscientiously pressing into a corporate lifestyle where genuine healing miracles are somewhat common. This is the Bethel Church in Redding, California (
        ). You can find on their site a free “sermon of the week” that anyone can download. I pay a few dollars a month to be able to listen/watch many of their other lectures and worship services.

        Well, it has been a stimulating conversation with you. If you ever visit the northeastern U.S. and want to get together (perhaps we will agree to discuss anything EXCEPT evolution 🙂 ), you can leave a Comment here and we can take it from there.

  9. Jaap says:

    Hoi friend Scott,
    Yes I know the dutch army has resisted the Germans very bravely and with all their power. The Germans’ thougt was they needed only one day to occupy our country, but finally they needed four days and if they had not bombed Rotterdam (850 citizens died) it would probably have taken a couple of weeks, or maybe months. But to save the dutch people, the army surrendered, because the Germans didn’t shun dirty fight such as killing innocent citizens to break the resistance.
    The only thing I remember of the war, is liberation day (5 may 1945) and food droppings, that is: a sky full of planes, watched by me, a three years old boy at the time. My mother has told me that a canadian soldier touched me lovingly and told her, he had just a boy like me at his home in Canada.

    Yes, if it was not for the Americans and their allies, we were a german province now 🙂 .

    Okay, we disagree on some points. Although I see danger in your -to flexibel?- attitude towards things you should – in my opinion – take for absolute truth, -as proven by faith, Hebrew 11:1 – I can see you are a man searching for real truth and a sincere brother in Christ. And that is eventually what it is all about.

    The chance I will ever visitate the USA is very, very small, but anyway, thank you for your invitation and hospitality. Perhaps I will follow your advice and read the book you mention of Tim Keller. By the way, you need not be too concerned for me that I will turn crazy when I find God is “lying”, it was just a way of speaking of course, to express my amazement about the absurd idea God would do some of the mentioned things. But at the moment God is “lying”, I would actually not turn mad, but recognize I’m wrong. God CANNOT lie, He has told us and I believe Him.
    So thank you again Scott for corresponding with me. Perhaps I will return one day on this blog for another topic, NOT evolution 😉 .
    God bless you and give you His love and joy.

  10. Lucy says:

    OK so there’s quite a bit of reading on this page guys! I posted something a while back and couldn’t find the website again (just found it in my favs). My position before was a little more hazy than it is now. As a 3rd year zoologist I am very familiar with alot of scientific theories and evidence and I am much less convinced by creationist arguments for a young earth. During a debate the other night ans some subsequent research on the biologos website (although I am not sure I agree with all their stances) I began to understand that the battle between creationists and evolutionists largely comes from a predisposition to the way in which we approach the bible, in particular the book of genesis. We seem more concerned with defending our attitudes in order to protect our security which is more often than not placed to confidently in the arguments of like minded people as opposed to God Himself. The problem I now face is how to approach the bible. I talked before about taking the bible literally. Although I recognise that many christians are keen on understanding the Hebrew and Greek literature in this literal context, they do not seem to think it necessary to understand that such pieces of scripture were written BC 500 – 1400 (from what I roughly gather is argued dependeing on different theories). This is quite a while ago and I think therefore we must begin to better understand who wrote genesis, when it was written, the circumstances surrounding its composure, the impact of the piece, the motives and intent underlying the piece as well as cultural influences.

    Science tells me alot about the natural world, even so this is just a tiny piece of God’s incredibly mind-blowing creation. I have found ways of reconciling science (evolution) to the bible, but I have come to realise that this was not what Genesis was really intended for. It is holy and sacred, it may have great theological significance but was never intended for us to cram science into the bible in order to make us feel OK. So I’m left with the conclusion that Genesis is not a literal scientific account. But how far should this be taken. Was there a historical Adam? Was the fall really an actual event? It seems to me damaging to the entire faith if we begin to question these areas. To me my understanding of science cannot discredit a historical Adam. Spirtual human beings designed to recieve the holy spirit and to enter into an intimate relationship with God cannot be disproved by science. However as was mentioned in other posts (not mine), there is good reason to believe that the flood never took place – genetics and geology can help us elucidate this.

    I have no problem in believeing that evolution is evidence of God’s working inn the word, his almighty power, complexity and creativity. However rejecting the bible does not get rid of my nagging conscience and my need for purpose, security and significance, all of which cannot be found in earthly things alone. Therefore what does 6 days represent? Why are Genesis 1 and 2 seemingly contradictory? Did Moses really write the pentateuch? or parts of it? What evidence do we have for the time period in which the Pentateuch was written? Answers and reasoning to these questions, I believe holds they key to how we interpret the bible and I think this is the only way we can be true to the bible.

    The bible has already revealed to me its sheer complexity and all things put aside it is a very gripping and clever collection of texts. I don’t believe that the early books are simply weak and so Jesus came to blot them out. I believe they are historically significant and have important implications in how we understand our Christian roots and our identity and purpose before God. They are also highly important if we are to understand God’s nature.

    To reduce them to some political mishaps during the 5th century BC is pushing it for me as I know how much the israelites pride their identity and heritage. The books of the bible have surrvived this long whilst heretical texts have disappeared or been discredited by those who hold fimly to their faith. The gospels themselves are work of great integrity and precision. They alone stand as relaible, faithful historical accounts. I therefore see no reason to believe that the Jewish tradition would have been anything different before Christ.

    Scripture itself affirms authorship of the pentateuch however most likely refer directly to early manuscripts that we may not have in posession today. It is likely in my opinion that somebody other than Moses took an editorial role. It is important not to make assumptions from the bible by putting words into the text tha aren’t there. Instead I believe it is important for us to come to reasonable conclusions based on the integrity of the scripture, the evidence that can be provided by various scientific disciplines as well as evidence provided by well-established scholarship and theology.

    I think we must be careful with creationism. If we look at the world around us, and the benefits in medicine, agriculture and various technologies that the fundamental prinicples of biology have given arise to and which we readily embrace in our day to day lives, I can attribute such theories to no more than ignorance, an ignorance that denies the presence of an omnipotent and omniscient orchestrator. Only God could have such incomprehendable foresight to prepare us a world so finely balanced to sustain the life He ordained to bring Him Glory.

    Everything above may seem intuitively obvious to you guys but please bare with me, I am new to this and having spent the last few weeks with my head buried in it all, I am beginning to struggle. I don’t want to put more faith in my intellectual capabilities than in my God, otherwise we are all somewhat missing the point. Also I don’t mean to offend anyone, I would just like to make aware some of the challenges that I am facing that I don’t think can be as easily dismissed as some would think.

    If anyone can give me some insight into the origins of the pentateuch, especially Genesis with regard to its authorship and when it was written I’d be very interested and grateful to hear. Also if anyone may inlighten me on how such understanding may influence our interpretation of Genesis I’d be very keen to know!

    God Bless

    • Hi Lucy,
      Well, you are sure doing your homework! You have clearly put a lot of reading and thought into these issues. I, too, have wondered about the exact history of the books of Moses. On the one hand, there is the traditional ascription to Moses as author, and on the other hand there are the bulk of scholars claiming some sort of composite origin, sometime in the 450-850 B.C. zone. I am not enough of a Hebrew scholar for the supposed chunks of J / E/ P /D documents to jump at out me as I read the text. Languages change over time, so I would think scholars could make some estimate of the age of the text by the types of wording in it. But I have never read of someone trying that.

      So I really don’t know. Some thinkers have suggested to not overlook the strength and value of oral tradition — people back then were pretty serious about committing stuff to memory, so maybe a lot of Mosiac teachings were passed down orally and only got written in the 500-700 B.C. era.

      All that said, I trust that in the end God was able to providentially produce the documents needed by the Israelites to define their religion against the surrounding religions, whether the texts were written by Moses or someone else.

      I won’t rehash what I have already written above on science/Bible stuff. I’ll just try to answer the question of how far should non-literalism be taken with Genesis. Here is a suggested framework: assume that God (mainly) did NOT try to correct the scientific and historical consensus of the day, but rather accommodated his revelation to that. This means that we can ask the question, “What was the common Near Eastern folk understanding of this science or historical issue?” If the Bible says something very similar, it is likely that that represents God’s (gracious and wise) accommodation to those ideas, but those aspects are not the core revelation itself. For instance, the Bablylonians had a big , ancient flood story . so it is possible that the Noah account was a Yahweh-ized version of that story — in which case we should regard it like one of the parables of Jesus: we understand the story itself never happened as such, but it is in the Bible to teach us about God’d nature and dealings so we should be diligent to learn its lessons.

      You seem like you have good head on your shoulders, and you will figure this out as much as needed. If you are looking for more input, you might want to post tyour questions on a more recent blog post here, or on some other site. This discussion thread is pretty old and dead now, I only saw your post because I monitor new comments.

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  18. theosib says:

    I had a really good time reading first Scott’s blog post and then the discussion between Scott and Jaap. There are others who have commented here, and I’ll get to them too. Those discussions are really long, so it’ll take me a while, but definitely worth reading.

    One thing I have observed about young earth creationists is that they are a bit too logical for their own good. Not all creationist are the scientific illiterates that we find in discussion forums. There are some with real PhDs and a solid peer-reviewed publication history like Danny Faulkner and John Sanford. We can pick apart Genetic Entropy, but Faulkner himself admits that he can’t really dispute deep time because he believes the evidence… he just doesn’t want to because he wants to be a fundamentalist, and his interpretation of the Bible tells him that he MUST believe in a young earth.

    I see too many fragile assumptions, but when you break down the YEC argument to its core, it seems to be important to believe that original sin was a discrete event (sin entered into the world by one man), and it is Jesus’ sacrifice that saves us from the damnation that original sin brought on us. If there was no original sin, then this obviates Jesus’ sacrifice, blasting apart the whole religion.

    Taking a step back from this, what I see is that the scientific evidence for an old universe and old earth is conclusive. We can do what the YEC websites do and play big-bang bashing and evolution bashing and pick at this scientific claim or that scientific claim. But if we discredited half of the findings made by genetics, paleontology, anthropology, linguistics, biochemistry, geology, climatology, dendrochronology, and (especially) astrophysics, we’d still have the remaining half of the findings all independently pointing at an old earth.

    You can jump up and down and cry all you want, but that will never change the fact that we have solid objective evidence from multiple independent sciences. There are are also no conspiracies that could explain this congruence. Scientists are all in competition for very limited funding. The most efficient way to ensure your slice of that funding is to discredit other scientists, if you’ve never had a paper rejected from a conference or had a grant application rejected, you have no idea how harsh they can be. And the world is not an illusion. We have no reason to believe that information about chemical activity in distant stars isn’t really about chemical activity in distant stars.

    So, let’s take a step back here. On the one hand, the core scientific conclusions about deep time are indisputable. On the other hand, some fundamentalists point out that if you DON’T believe the core tenets of original sin, then you can’t be a Christian. So if you were Mr. Spock here, you would just reject Christianity on that basis.

    Ask yourself if you’re really sure you want to encourage people to do that. Because this is precisely what the fundamentalists are doing.

    We want to believe that the Bible is the Word of God, but I don’t think that it’s appropriate to put this ahead of all other evidence like some people want to do. Even the Bible tells us to admire and study the universe (e.g. Psalm 19). In other words, the Bible (being finite and written in an era with very little scientific knowledge) is not the only source God’s wisdom. God has written his message into the rest of the universe as well.

    So if you want to be truly honest, I think it’s perfectly reasonable to start with the physical evidence FIRST. Objective scientific study can be imprecise in the details, sure, but we’re reached a point where we have the big picture ironed out on a lot of important things. The universe really was smaller in the past (cosmological red shift), and the CMB gives us solid evidence that the universe was once very dense and went through inflation and phase changes as the fundamental forces split up. We’re not going to be lead astray (away from objective truth) by taking the physical evidence seriously. And most importantly, although there are aspects of the history of the universe we don’t know about, we can RULE OUT some of the clams in the Bible as being possible (e.g. a global flood, getting the appearance order of various life forms wrong, implying only 6000 years worth of geologic processes, etc.).

    Before anything else, we have to be honest. Hiding or distorting the physical evidence from people because it doesn’t fit our world view just makes us liars. Some creationists (e.g. Hovind) are so bad that even creationist organizations like CMI call them out on their errors. But even then, this doesn’t stop them from their sneaky tactics in their article, stating as fact claims that we know are not definitive, such as the assertion that natural processes can’t create new information or misrepresenting the meaning of the second law of thermodynamics.

    • Hi Theosib,
      I enjoyed your comment. (It took forever to scroll down through all the months of dialog with Jaap to get down to yours).
      Yes, I think you are right that the fear of “losing” original sin drives much of the YE creationist enterprise. I read recently that it was some atheist (I forget his name), trying to use evolution to bash Christianity, who first raised the cry of “No Fall, No Atonement”. It is ironic that so many Christians have since bought into that non sequitur.
      All the best….

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  21. Paul says:

    “Recent genetic studies show beyond all reasonable doubt that humans evolved from other primates.”
    This simply isn’t true.

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  25. chengyu Li says:

    Thank you for this website and your endeavor! Just noticed this and will keep reading.
    I don’t know if your opinions had any change after so many years. I want to point out first that even YE is wrong, that does not mean your views are right. Actually your views are no good than YE at all. I suggest you to interact with Old Earth, non-evolution views like from Hugh Ross. Both YE and Macro-evolution are myth. Sometimes, superstitious exists in science just as in religions.

  26. chengyu Li says:

    Re [Perhaps it is useful to look at how the Mosiac law is treated in Scripture. It was introduced as being the very word of God, as being a permanent fixture, not a temporary measure. It was strictly enforced by Moses, e.g. stoning a man who was gathering sticks on the Sabbath (Num 15:32-36)…]

    Such are typical errors you always made – an improper even misleading illustration. Mosiac Law was a shadow, that true. But Mosaic Laws were real and facts. However, you claimed the contents of Genesis, Exodus etc. were fictions! How can the situation of Mosaic Law support your point? There is no logical relevance. Many of your arguments had such problem.

  27. chengyu Li says:

    Scott, Let me tell you (you may have known), all the new discoveries in physics since Newton point to God the Creator though at first many was led astray. I’m convinced this will happen in biology. Actually something is happening. Have you about “out of Africa” theory, which support one ancestor of human being? It has been already contrary to what you advertised.

  28. chengyu Li says:

    It seems to me you totally have no idea what does “history” mean, what does “metaphor/illustration” mean, what does “myth” mean, what does “typology” mean…
    Could you please explain what’s the different position of the authenticity of Adam & Eve and the authenticity the resurrection of Jesus to you? According to your logic, it’s totally unimportant if Jesus really resurrected or not, God just used this to teach that our sins will be forgiven when we have faith on the STORY of the resurrection of Jesus.

  29. chengyu Li says:

    RE [The standard of evidence also is important in answering your other question, [Suppose scientists got evidence that Jesus did not rise physically, because bones were found in a grave in Nazareth that were determined beyond all reasonable doubt to be his; would you renounce your christian faith? If you can, say yes or no. ]
    Paul dealt with this issue, and stated in the clearest possible terms, “If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. .. if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.” (I Cor 15:14, 17). Earlier in the same chapter, Paul presents the Resurrection as an empirical event, supported by eyewitnesses, not as a merely subjective, fideistic matter. So the only possible answer to your question is “yes”; but with the qualification that the standard of evidence to convince me “beyond all reasonable doubt” on this matter would be very high.]

    So you want to say you believe Paul and not Moses?

    RE [Just to have some “experts” say that the Resurrection did not happen would not be enough to convince me. ]

    I hope you apply this attitude when you read those evolution articles. Moreover, your major is chemistry, not physics, not biology, not geology, not archology etc. You should not trust your own judgments with such a confidence.

    • Hello Chengyu, I appreciate your many points and the courteous way you framed them. I believe I covered my reasonings already in this article, especially in the differences between creation accounts and the life and work of Christ, and what is the purpose of the Scriptures, so I don’t feel like adjudicating all this again. We’ll just have to agree to disagree.

      I am familiar with Hugh Ross’s approach. A number of his books are on my shelves. I found them really helpful when I started questioning YE creationism. And I appreciate his tone of respect towards those he disagrees with. I do not find the arguments of Reasons to Believe (RTB) on evolution to be convincing. For instance, here is my commentary on a presentation by RTB speaker Fazale Rana:

      Fazale Rana Disputes Evolution [2020 NCCA Apologetics Confc, 3]

      Again, we are not going to convince each other on evolution, but I do have sufficient (for me) reasons. See, e.g.

      To answer your question [ Suppose scientists got evidence that Jesus did not rise physically, because bones were found in a grave in Nazareth that were determined beyond all reasonable doubt to be his; would you renounce your christian faith?] – – My answer would be yes. My Christian faith is very comforting and grounding to me, but I would not want to continue believing something that is not true. That would be simple dishonesty.
      As you note, I would not be swayed just by what some “experts” said. The standard of proof would have to be really, really high.
      I reviewed the documentary evidence and find it strongly supports the standard Christian view of the life and work of Jesus. (see ) , though.

      As for the special importance of Jesus actually rising from the dead, authenticating his claim to be the Son of God – – I reviewed various views of his atonement here:
      It seems to me that the New Testament claims that the key objective transaction actually transpired between God and mankind via the death and resurrection of Jesus in Palestine about 30 AD. So, no, I would not say that [it’s totally unimportant if Jesus really resurrected or not, God just used this to teach that our sins will be forgiven when we have faith on the STORY of the resurrection of Jesus]. So I agree, If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. .. if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.” (I Cor 15:14, 17).
      I have already explained why the literal creation story is nowhere near a pivotal. Again, you may disagree, and I accept that.
      Peace and blessings,
      Scott Buchanan

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