This morning, I received the following email in response to a recent comment I made at this YEC blog (see also the last several comments of this post on my own blog):
First of all concerning your thesis about young earth is based solely on the Scripture. Absolutely untrue my friend. The 1/2 life of Carbon 14, the amount of salt input vs. the amount of salt outake [sic] in the oceans, the decreasing strength of the magnetic field of the earth on which we live, among many other proofs point to an earth considerably less than billions of years old. As far as the Mars environment is concerned, there is zero proof that life exists or has ever existed on mars. Why? The atmosphere is fatal to life, the same amosphere [sic] (not that of Mars) but jus [sic] as fatal according to secular scientist existed on the earth.
Also I know that many people try and discount the fact of irreducible complexity. Yet no good evidence has ever been brought against this solid scientific theory.
“For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.” Romans 8:20-22. This is a result of the cosmic curse brought on by God as the contex [sic] clearly says.
“Cursed is the ground because of you; In toil you will eat of it All the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall grow for you; And you will eat the plants of the field.” (Genesis 3:17-18) This is the cosmic curse when sin entered the world and now the world (as we clearly see) suffers.
I’ve already responded privately, but I wanted to give my readers an opportunity to respond as well. All are welcome to respond to the scientific aspects of this individual’s claims, but I ask that only theists respond to his theological claims for a young earth.
Using Google Analytics, I studied my blog’s visitor statistics to determine whether I’ve had visitors from the entire Union. Nary a surfer from Alaska. And it’s only the 47th least populous state in the good ol’ US of A. Still got hits from Wyoming, Vermont and the Dakotas. So, what’s wrong with Alaska?
Reclaiming the Mind’s C. Michael Patton has provided a Top-10 list of arguments for the existence of God. Which ones convince or don’t convince you, and why?
Evolutionary Creation — Chapter 2 — Beyond the “Evolution” vs. “Creation” Debate
In the second chapter of Evolutionary Creation
, Lamoureux summarizes five basic protological categories: (1) young-earth creationism, (2) progressive creationism, (3) evolutionary creationism, (4) deistic evolution, and (5) dysteleological evolution. Although this chapter may appear on the surface to be a lesser chapter better relegated to the appendices, this would be far from the truth. Lamoureux uses this opportunity to cover the strengths and weaknesses of each approach—including his own evolutionary creationist position. As one who has run the gamut of protological categories (save deistic and dysteleological evolution categories), I find Lamoureux’s treatment to be extremely fair and, when discussing his own viewpoint, extremely humble as to the difficulties one may experience when weighing the evolutionary creationist paradigm against their own tradition.
Here are some highlights from the chapter, as well as some of my own comments and questions for discussion:
- STRENGTH: “The strongest argument for a six-day creation is that a literal interpretation is the natural and traditional way to read the opening chapters [of Genesis]. Undoubtedly, this view of origins is closest to that held by the inspired author of Genesis 1.”
- Most people investigating this topic would not expect someone who held to an evolutionary creationist viewpoint to admit this. It is true that the ancient Hebrews and modern-day young-earth creationists interpret Genesis 1-11 in almost identical fashion., as literal history and a literal account of origins. This begs the question: Did Jesus and Paul (as well as his apostolic peers) view Genesis 1-11 as literal history? If so, what does an evolutionary creationist do with the concepts of biblical inspiration and biblical inerrancy?
- WEAKNESS: “The greatest problem with young earth creation is that it completely contradicts every modern scientific discipline that investigates the origin of the universe and life.”
- Indeed. And can’t it be argued that the entire creation/evolution debate is merely a modern-day recapitulation of the 17th-century Galileo affair, in which the Church vigorously defended what they believed the Scriptures to teach, to wit, that the Earth was the center of the universe as well as the point around which all astronomical bodies revolved?
- STRENGTH: “The strongest argument for day-age [progressive] creation is that it provides an approach to the origin of the world that employs both the Bible and modern science.”
- If one accepts the Bible as the Word of God, it is reasonable to assume that Genesis 1-11 concords with both science and history, especially since God is held to be the author of both the Bible and the cosmos; but does this approach move beyond the purposes for which the Bible was written (cf. 2 Tim 3:16-17)? While mankind was still in its intellectual infancy, would it have been wise for God to upset the Hebrews to the extreme by revealing the inner workings of the cosmos? Do not we who have young children recognize that they may not be ready to know the “real truth” regarding the “inner workings” of our reproductive system? Do we not adapt the truth according to the level of their intellectual and emotional maturity?
- WEAKNESS: “The greatest problem with progressive creation is that it is a God-of-the-gaps model of origins. . . . Old earth creationists claim that natural processes are insufficient and cannot produce living organisms. . . . The difficulty with this understanding of divine action is that when physical processes are discovered to explain a gap once claimed to be where God acted, His purported intervention vanishes in the advancing light of science.”
- So what happens when science discovers a manner in which life could have originated through abiogenesis? Does progressive creationism and Intelligent Design disappear into the historical dustbin of theologico-scientific theories? One should be concerned, from a pastoral perspective, what can happen to the faith of an individual when faced with such overwhelming evidence that what was once “irreducibly complex” really isn’t.
- STRENGTH: “The most compelling argument for evolutionary creation is that it embraces without any reservations modern science and biblical faith. . . . It meets the yearning of a scientific generation in search of spiritual meaning. In particular, evolutionary creation offers an intellectually satisfying worldview for those who experience God in a personal relationship and know His creation scientifically.”
- In this view—a tip of the hat to Stephen Jay Gould’s “non-overlapping magisteria” principle—intellectual schizophrenia is nowhere to be found because it offers a unified synthesis of science and faith, to wit, that science and faith offer answers to questions asked within their respective domains—domains which interdigitate but don’t overlap.
- WEAKNESS: “The greatest problem with evolutionary creation is that it does not embrace the traditional interpretation of the opening chapters of [Genesis]. . . . Consequently, evolutionary creationists contend that [Genesis] 1-11 is to be read in a very unnatural and utterly counterintuitive way.”
- I’m not sure exactly why Lamoureux puts it this way, especially considering the fact that he later explains that Genesis 1-11, to be properly understood, should be read in a literal fashion. We should embrace the traditional interpretation in its literary context. To fully understand Genesis 1-11, one should read the text in a natural and intuitive manner. What should be “very unnatural and utterly counterintuitive” for a Christian, however, is the rejection of Genesis 1-11 as literal history or a scientific account of the creation of the cosmos.
- STRENGTH: “The most compelling argument for deistic evolution is that it offers a more objective approach to faith than conventional religions. . . . simple logic dictates that all religions cannot be true. . . . Deistic evolution attempts to avoid this problem by restricting the primary source of religious truth to logical analysis and modern science. As a result, subjective elements and personal biases are set aside, leaving religion to be as objective as possible.”
- There is certainly something attractive about being as objective as possible, and it is not difficult to see the problem that faces traditional sotereological exclusivism (cf. John 14:6 and Acts 4:12). One of the biggest challenges Evangelicals face is the problem of the fate of those who have not heard the Gospel and been given the opportunity to accept or reject it. How do Evangelicals surmout this problem without lending credence to the necessity of religious pluralism?
- WEAKNESS: “The greatest problem with deistic evolution is that a god who winds the clock of the universe and then leaves it to run down on its own rarely meets the spiritual needs of people.“
- What does one need with a dispensable deity? Deistic evolution, in my opinion, is functional atheism. Given my relationship with Jesus Christ (i.e., those “subjective elements and personal biases” that are part and parcel of my life experience), this isn’t a viable option for me.
- STRENGTH: “The greatest support for dysteleological evolution [i.e., atheistic materialism] comes from the astonishing success of science. Modern society enjoys its fruits daily, and understandably atheists assume that the scientific method can be used to explain every aspect of life, including religion and morality. . . . In addition, atheistic evolution offers a reasonable explanation for an issue that has challenged men and women throughout the ages—the problem of evil. In a dysteleological world, this is not a dilemma because morality does not ultimately exist. Good and evil are only illusions fabricated by the human mind that have been projected upon reality.”
- Theodicy is, I believe, the a greatest problem for Christians of all origins persuasions. I honestly don’t have a particular stance on this and I’ve only just begun to research the issue. Any good books out there?
- WEAKNESS: “The greatest problem with dysteleological evolution is that it stands directly in the face of God and the First Commandment . . . . Atheists place themselves before God. . . . Another serious difficulty with dysteleological evolution is that it is a personal commitment to the belief that truth only comes through logical analysis and scientific investigation [i.e., positivism]. . . . Finally, atheistic evolution fails to meet the spiritual and psychological needs of men and women.”
- If I were an atheist, arguments #1 and #3 would have absolutely no impact on my thinking. Many atheists and agnostics whom I know are well-adjusted human beings who claim they don’t feel a need for a deity. Heck, even I don’t feel the “need” for a deity. I do, however, feel an irresistible call to enter into and maintain a personal relationship with God, who is just as real to me as my wife and children are. And then there’s my (subjective?) recognition that human beings are in desperate need of Spirit-filled assistance in overcoming their inherited selfish (read: sinful) nature and achieve pure, unadulterated selflessness. That being said, argument #2 (anti-positivism) would hold the most weight with me.
What are your thoughts on the various weaknesses and strengths of each position?