Does God want Christians to be happy or sad? (Wrap-Up Podcast)
There was so much to say on this important subject, I didn’t have a chance to fit it all into the sermon! Here is a wrap-up podcast, where I build on the ideas from the sermon, and bring the final conclusion.
Examining key texts in the old and new testaments, we examined this question from a variety of angles.
Humorously, midway through the sermon I “had a brain fart.” I literally lost the plot line of the sermon, and ended somewhat prematurely. After contemplate the option of re-recording the material as an (accident-free!) podcast, I decided to leave the sermon as-is. After all…life happens! But I recorded a follow-up podcast to wrap up the discussion, and add in some crucial points that didn’t have time to mention.
Will try to save the content of the NT and of Jesus’ teachings for next week
This week, we will examine the questions:
Did Jesus exist?
Is the New Testament Reliable?
What does inerrancy mean? Is it tenable?
Do some of the claims of the Da Vinci code hold water?
Very important since:
The Da Vinci code ranks (by some estimations) as the fifth to the first best-selling book of all time
Works like Zeitgeist and HBO specials continue to propegate similar ideas
Reputable outlets like MacLeans magazine and Netflix specials propegate the same materials!
Overview of Class:
Discussion of “Liberalism” and methodology
Challenges from Archaeology
Reliability of the New Testament
SECTION ONE: Discussion of “Liberalism” and Methodology
Definitions: what is Liberalism?
In previous two classes, mentioned Liberalism
So far, very negative presentation of Liberalism
Liberalism can be: “A political movement
The Democrats in the US
The Progressive Liberals and (to some degree) the NDP in Canada.” (we are not talking about this)
Liberalism can be: “A Christian sect which denies miracles…”
… thus rejects the core teachings of the Christian faith
including the inspiration of the Bible, the virgin Birth, and salvation by grace through faith.
Liberalism can also be: “A religion studied from the outside looking in.”
A study of a religion which seeks to establish what really happened as opposed to what the religion claims about itself.”
1. Operates within a framework of naturalism (methodological naturalism)
2. No faith-based claims are accepted without proof
3. An attempt is made (although difficult to maintain!) to work in an atmosphere of professional neutrality
4. One seeks to follow the evidence where it leads
I will try to refer to this as “Secular Academia” to draw a distinction: but I may slip at times!
– We are used to choosing between the perspectives
– Often, one perspective demonizes the other
– Today, we will switch between the two
The limitations of a faith-based perspective
It is difficult to make “scientific” progress
Difficult to ask the hard questions, because of emotional/spiritual discomfort with questions
Religious establishment can become a hindrance to free thought
It is difficult to share findings in evangelism
People do not trust the results
People accuse of a biased process
At times, over-use of control pre-conditions people to believe conspiracy theories, like the DaVinci code
Limitations of a “Liberal” (or “secular academia”) perspective
Rules out valid information
For example, what could we really prove about our grand-parents? But they really existed!
What we can prove is not the same as “what really happened”
E.g. tombstone illustration
Rules out miracles
If miracles really happened, a Liberal could never find them, because they rule out miracles methodologically
The perspective of naturalism may not make sense.
We have proven that God exists
People all over the world attest that miracles happen
Especially in the third world
Also, very commonly in hospitals
The Bible is reliable in other matters, and records miracles
The Perennial Conflict
Liberalism is “toxic” to the Christian faith
Faith is based on assurance of what we cannot see (Heb. 12:1)
Liberalism questions everything, and only deals with what we can actually see
Liberalism is not afraid to ask questions that are insulting, painful, even blasphemous
Like, “Did Jesus have a wife? Was Jesus crazy? Was Jesus a myth? Did He never even exist?”
We may be tempted to reject, out of hand, Liberalism, but…
Remember limitations of Fundamentalism
Hard to make progress
Findings not respected by outsiders
It is helpful for someone to pose the questions, even if only so that conservatives can answer them!
It must be said that while new discoveries and ideas in Liberalism were, for many generations, toxic, these ideas have not been appropriated by Evangelicals. Now, Evangelicals lead the way in Jesus studies and Critical studies, because these support our faith, rather than destroy it
In some places, Christians need to be “brought up to speed” on these developments: they are still living in the bomb-shelters of the 1920’s, the wars of Modernity and Fundamentalism
This war is still ongoing!
…but in many cases:
Simply hiding is what they expect us to do, and it is not very effective
The evidence is on our side!
To help us signal when I am switching between the two, I will literally put on a different hat! J
This will be especially important when we discuss inerrancy and historical reliability
…where we’re going next:
Archaeology and the Bible
The Reliability of the New Testament
SECTION TWO: Archaeology and the Bible
Note: clearly, we don’t have time to examine everything here
Note: We will largely skip the OT questions. Because we didn’t look at them last week, this subject simply will be passed over. May pick it up in podcasts (need to do some personal research)
Note: usually, look at archaeology purely as support. It is very true that there are huge amounts of info. Which supports the Bible! There are also some points which provide challenges. I want to remind you that there are resources out there that talk about the evidences from archaeology. I want to talk about the issue of the challenges (often not discussed)
The Three Buckets
Faith vs. Fact
Two perspectives: express with faith vs. fact
Faith = facts
Faith ≠ facts
Faith = (facts)
o Cf. podcast “Science vs. Religion”
Two methodologies: each with limitations
Facts actually, “Information that can be verified to a high degree of certainty.”
Lots of things that really happened cannot be verified
…but they really happened whether we can prove it or not!
Other, less “scientific” forms of proof can often fill in the gaps, give us a much richer picture of a historical person
Again, we are reminded that the secular/liberal perspective rules out miracles from the outset
Dropping things into buckets
Faith = Facts
Israel, the temple, the Israelites in Egypt, in Palestine, in Babylon, scattered, religion, etc.
Jesus existed, NT written in 1st century, Christian religion started from Jesus’ followers
Faith ≠ Facts
“We really have no evidence for…Abraham, David, Jesus..”
“It is clear that the earth is more than 6,000 years old”
Jericho wasn’t destroyed at the right time
Jesus scholars are divided on the details of his life
Interpreting the Buckets
What sorts of things are in the two buckets? (conflict vs. agreement)
The main facts of the Judeo-Christian religion are verified:
Existence of Jewish people, main facts of their history. Existence of Jesus, etc.
By contrast, main facts of Mormonism shown to be fraudulent
This is enough to conclude that the Bible is “historically valuable” document
This is different from saying it is “inerrant” and “inspired,” which is a religious claim
This is enough to establish the historicity and works of Jesus, as we will see
As a last resort, we can “fall” from inerrancy to Barth or “historically valid” documents position. But better, use for purposes, then return to inerrancy
What doesn’t belong the conflict bucket?
Arguments from silence
“Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence” (unless we would expect to find evidence)
Abraham, patriarchs, etc.
What evidence would we expect to find of such people?
David was recently discovered
Throughout history, new discoveries often made, disproving long-held anti-Christian theories
Nineveh, Belshazzar’s dad, prefects in Acts…
How can we interpret what remains?
(New discoveries, above…) …leading us to have legitimate hope that remaining issues will someday be cleared up
Especially since Archaeology is a relatively young science
Also because it is a science in continual flux and motion, with new ideas overturning old. How could it ever accord with an unchanging revelation?
Also, sadly, radical Islam is an anti-archaeological force. With ISIS destroying relics, and all digs forbidden in Syria, where the most valuable information lies buried
This belief is a logically coherent faith-statement
It would not be rational, if major issues were in the conflict bucket (as with Mormonism)
It would become difficult to maintain, in face of continued archaeological info
At this point, we are switching hats. That doesn’t mean we are not able to switch back! It doesn’t invalidate work we do from a position of methodological naturalism
This belief allows us to hold on to inerrancy, while being scientifically informed
This is the position of the Chicago Statement
“WE DENY that alleged errors and discrepancies that have not yet been resolved vitiate the truth claims of the Bible.” Chicago Statement, Article XIV
This wording admits that challenges exist, and allows for hope that these issues will be resolved to serve as a way to hold to inerrancy
A further, important distinction is that while there may be some apparent “errors,” many of these evaporate when we understand more about ancient writing styles and genres
“We further deny that inerrancy is negated by Biblical phenomena such as a lack of modern technical precision, irregularities of grammar or spelling, observational descriptions of nature, the reporting of falsehoods, the use of hyperbole and round numbers, the topical arrangement of material, variant selections of material in parallel accounts, or the use of free citations.” Chicago Statement, Article XIII
This is a huge discussion
Should look at David Hume’s work, “Miracles”
Should look at C.S. Lewis, and others
Simply want to say:
o There is no conflict with science
This arises from misunderstandings, perhaps chronological snobbery
Ancient people, as well as moderns, knew that axe heads don’t float, virgins don’t give birth, and people don’t rise naturally from the dead
Miracles are, by definition, an abbheration from the norms of science
It is reasonable to believe miracles occur
Because, as we have proven, it is more likely than not that God exists
Because they are reported all the time
Especially in the developing world
Especially in hospitals
People have done studies, written books on this
As seen, we can examine our religion from miraculous, or non-miraculous perspective
As we will see, this can give very different pictures
The main part of changing hats is miracles
On some topics, non-naturalistic bias gives good info: on some, it gives skewed info (esp. since we believe miracles do exist!)
Lower Criticism (Fully accept!)
Higher Criticism (Reject most)
Jesus studies (Accept, with qualifications)
SECTION THREE: The Reliability of the New Testament
Transmission of the New Testament
“The New Testament was passed on faithfully & meticulously”
Copied by faithful Jews and monks
Stories told of the extreme devotion of Jews, who counted the characters on a page, washed after writing the name of God, etc.
Many tests show an extremely high degree of accuracy through the years
This argument is still true, it’s just not strictly necessary, with today’s scholarship
Through archeological finds and “Text Criticism” (or “Lower Criticism”) we are able to reconstruct the New Testament in virtually it’s original form
It is not like a game of “Telephone” (aka “Chinese Whispers”)
It is a real, recognized discipline
We are putting on our “secular” hat!
It will deal in degrees of certainty
More documents = more certainty
Closer to actual events = more certainty
The New Testament fares extremely well!
FAR more than any other ancient work: over 5,800 Greek texts, 10,000+ Latin, etc.
Dating to 125 AD (P52, the “John Rylands Fragment”)
This is far better than comparable sources
2,000 copies of Homer’s Illiad
Only dozens of works like Pliny, Aristotle, Plato, etc.
Basically, we have the New Testament of the early Church
Through text criticism, can reconstruct the New Testament to a level of 92-99% accuracy (Liberal vs. Conservative)
Contrary to popular opinion:
The entire New Testament is now recognized to have been written in the First Century
The text of the New Testament which you have in your Bibles (except the KJV) is substantially what was originally written
Where there are differences, or possibilities of other translations, they are highlighted in the footnotes
Objection 1: “But what about the 8-1%?!”
All agree, none of these differences affect doctrine: they are mostly typos that creep in through normal human translation
They do not affect meaning
(put secular hat on)
These are exactly what we would expect to find
They in no way invalidate the historical reliability of the NT
(put on conservative hat)
For us, it raises the religious question, “How can God’s word be subjected to errors?”
The original documents are inspired
Our documents are inspired to the degree to which they represent these documents
Since these documents have been preserved/restored to an almost miraculous level of accuracy, our Bibles very reliable!
…of course, there will always be a slight imperfection to work with, because we do not have the originals
Objection 2: What about the sections not in the NIV/NASB Bibles?
A few famous, smaller passages
John 5:4 (an explanatory note that crept in)
Mark 9:29, Mat. 17:21 (agenda for fasting crept in)
Acts 8:37 (smoothing theological discomfort)
The Lord’s prayer: different versions (Mat. 6:9-13, Luke 11:2-4)
Clearly, this sort of thing is disconcerting, especially if your sermon text turns out not to be in the text!!
We are in a transition time: those used to older Bibles need to just check to make sure their verses are in there!
We should be proud of our religion, which has the confidence/ability to adapt to new information: Islam has instituted the death penalty for anyone doing critical studies of the Koran!
I would encourage people to read the footnotes. Especially those who are bilingual, will appreciate the complexity of the translation process, and connect with the richness of a translated work
Some larger sections
The Woman Caught in Adultery (John 8:1-11)
This whole section not in the original texts
John Piper’s reaction:
It is in keeping with Jesus’ teachings, and is a powerful illustration of them
It is very early, and may reflect a true story that was integrated into the accounts later
It has been used by the church for centuries
…for these reasons, he still taught on it, even though it’s not in the original
The Ending of Mark
The KJV ending is not in the originals
The gospel was intended to end abruptly at Mark 16:8, or (more likely)
The original ending of Mark is lost
This is, clearly, very disconcerting for Christians, on first hearing
This leads to the obvious question: “What if some day we find the ending of Mark? What if it completely negates everything we believe about Jesus?!”
We should temper this (often sensationalized) possibility with the following:
Throughout Mark, Jesus, the “son of man”…
Has authority to forgive sins (2:10)
Has authority to drive out demons (3:22-30)
Has authority to make new laws (2:28)
Will judge the earth (8:38, 13:26, 14:62)
Will suffer and die for humanity (9:31, 10:33)
Will rise from the dead (9:9, 9:31)
Seals a new covenant with His blood (14:24)
Calls Himself “God” (“I am”) (14:62)
Is called the Son of God (1:1, 15:39)
The other Gospels (written only a decade later) all speak of Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances
Paul’s writings and sources, which predate Mark, speak of Jesus’ resurrection and post-resurrection appearances
For these reasons, the lack of the ending of Mark does not change anything substantive: if we ever find it, one would expect it to have material in keeping with the rest of Mark, and the other writings from the Christian community
Objection 3: “Only the King James Bible is authorized!”
Considering the “discomfort” we have already experienced, this reaction is certainly understandable!
This debate can be very contentious: I don’t want to go there extensively. However, could divide it into three categories:
Some simply wish to avoid all of this discussion, and “just stick to the text of Scriptures”
I certainly have no objection to this, except that:
This sort of faith is hard to pass on
The KJV is becoming increasingly difficult, as people loose touch with the language: in some cases, even for those who use it, the meanings can be lost
An over-devotion to the KJV can actually be against the Bible: since slight errors were found in the KJV, why not get version closer to the original?
God promised preservation (Mat. 5:18)
The argument goes:
God has promised to perfectly preserve His word (down to the very letters!)
God could preserve His word, and give us an authorized translation in every language
THEREFORE, the KJV is that translation
Since it is proven that there are “typos,” the question is more: how do we deal with Mat. 5:18, in the face of the missing end of Mark, etc.?
It seems reasonable that what Jesus meant was that the content or message of His ministry would be communicated.
Typos are a normal part of human communication: they may not have been considered a flaw to early readers
The Wescott-Hort text vs. the Textus Receptus
The issue: the received text came through church transmission, while the WH text came through archaeology, and lower criticism, culminating in the work of Brooke Foss Westcott (1825-1901) and Fenton John Anthony Hort (1828-1892)
The latter is sometimes maligned for:
The location of the texts (often found in Egypt)
The character of W & H (who were probably Liberals, and may not have been “saved” by Evangelical standards)
Both of these critiques are ad hominem attacks, which fail because:
North Africa is a very likely place to find Jews and early Christians after the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70
The climate of North Africa was responsible for preserving many texts
The religion of Egypt didn’t affect the texts themselves, as far as I know
The character of W & H doesn’t enter into the equation, because they had their “secular” hats on, and were simply trying to follow the evidence where it leads
The real issue here is the approach of retreat vs. engagement with the issues
I am proud that the Evangelical church is, for the most part, able and willing to engage with the facts
Although it is more complicated, and it is disconcerting at times, it actually shows a more firm foundation for the faith
To me, personally, the fact that we have enough precision to detect minor flaws and typos speaks not of the invalidity of the sources, but of how close we have to the originals. (Like an electron microscope, butterfly wings). Remember, it is the originals that are inspired. We have them, to an amazing degree of certainty!
G. Like butterfly wings in an electron microscope
Dating & Authorship of the New Testament
As we know, the New Testament isn’t one book, but a library of books
We need to divide the books up into sections: the epistles, the Gospels, and Revelations
We need to further divide the sections into individual books
We can (cautiously!) divide the books further into their sources
This is forbidden territory!
Cf. Chicago Statement, article XVIII
The reason is because:
Perceived intent to “relativize, dehistoricize, or discount” the actual documents
“Higher Criticism” is
Based on naturalistic presuppositions
Highly speculative (compared to lower criticism)
Scholars often differ on the extent and nature of the sources (most famously, “Q”)
It seems unreasonable to play an actual document off against an hypothetical, source document
Rightly understood, source criticism is valid
The NT itself claims to be build on valid sources
Sources may include:
First-person recollection (John 14:26)
Faithful second-hand source material (John 19:35)
Careful research (Luke 1:1-2)
A written document (Luke 1:1-2)
A creed or communal saying (1 Cor. 15:3-9)
Slogans, or communal vocabulary (1 Cor. 16:22)
Songs, communal poetry (Phil. 2:5-11)
The only logical alternative to sources is one’s imagination: the NT adamantly denies this (2 Peter 1:16)!
Although determining some sources becomes quite speculative, others display themselves quite naturally
Source criticism (switching hats) makes Evangelical claims more likely than not
The texts were written very early
Jesus died AD 33
Paul wrote AD 50-67
Mark wrote AD 65-70
Matthew, Mark, Luke wrote AD 70-80
John wrote AD 90
How do we know?
A number of historical cues, including:
The death of Herod the Great (4 BC)
The death of Nero (68 AD)
The use of the NT by the Church Fathers
The John-Rylands fragment, and other fragments (125 AD)
The sources were even earlier
Philippians (AD 62)
Philippians 2:1-11 (dates to AD 50 or so)
1 Corinthians (AD 53-53)
1 Cor. 15:3-11 (As early as AD 40)
1 Cor. 16:22
Often, sources highlight the divinity of Christ
In Q, Jesus will return to judge the world (Mark 13:26)
In Philippians 2, Jesus is “very nature God” before His incarnation
In I Cor. 15:3-11, Jesus:
Died for our sins, according to scriptures
Was buried, rose again
Appeared to many people
In 1 Cor. 16:22, an Aramaic slogan is used, which means “Come, Lord Jesus,” indicating that the very earliest followers of Jesus expected His return and called Him Lord
These sources should be used more effectively to defend the divinity of Christ, as William Lane Craig does: but many evangelicals feel they aught not to use them.
That being said, we do need to remember that many of these sources (such as Q) are hypothetical documents. Even Philippians 2 may have been written on the spot. It is very hard to know what sources may have gone into the book, and especially how they may have been modified by the authors.
The Reception of the New Testament
Here again, there is an older, common argument and a better, contemporary one
(Typical argument) The Early Church did careful analysis and accepted the books of the New Testament based on the following criteria:
Authorship, by an established apostle (or approved by an apostle)
Agreement, with the Old Testament and established New Testament texts
Usage, by all established churches
A clear hindrance of this argument is: the critique of a “conspiracy theory,” or else of the deficiency of the later church to make this judgment
The canon was not finalized until 692, the Council of Trullan
This is even later than what the Da Vinci code claims (Council of Nicea, 325)
Didn’t the church suppress the other Gospels?!
The Gnostic Gospels
These were known to history, since some Church fathers mentioned them (in lists of books by heretics)
They were never considered for the Canon (this is different from being rejected)
They failed all of the tests of orthodoxy
They recently caused a great stir when they were re-discovered
The Nag Hammadi collection was the most important collection discovered
The Gospel of Thomas is the most important of the Gnostic Gospels
They tend to follow a predictable format
They are not typical gospels
They contain little or no biographical info
They tend to be collections of sayings
Some are quite short, and exist only in fragments
They assume the existence of Christianity, and the New Testament
They claim that there is some “secret knowledge” not know in either the NT or by the mainline church
They claim that Jesus entrusted this information to a special disciple
They tend to be named after the special disciples
Disciples include Thomas, Mary, Judas, etc.
This secret information is the content of the “Gospel”
This knowledge is almost always “Gnostic” in content
It is Platonic, rather than Jewish in origin
It focuses on “ascencion” through special knowledge
That special knowledge usually focuses on self-awareness, self-deification, and ideas not dissimilar to contemporary “New Age” ideas
Upon further study, they reveal:
Interesting information on ancient Gnosticism, which was a major movement in the early church
No new information on Jesus
Due to their late dating, they really contribute very little to Jesus studies, and push us back to the Gospels and New Testament as the best sources for information on Jesus
Note: Some will try to push them back even into the first century, theorizing that the faith community that wrote the gospels may have been contemporary with the writing of the actual Gospels
Pseudepigrapha (or “falsely inscribed,” or “falsely attributed”)
Some Christian documents were also written during this time
They were attempts to add to the Gospels, to settle theological disputes, or to provide evidence for Christianity
The most famous is the Gospel of Peter, which retells the Gospel narrative with numerous, fanciful editorial additions
The Pseudophogrypha were rejected by the Early Church, and contemporary scholarship agrees, although they use them as windows into the early church
(Note): The Koran
Written in the seventh century
Universally rejected by Liberal scholars
Offers no new information about the Historical Jesus
Disagrees with the best established fact of Jesus’ life: His crucifixion
Attested in all gospels, in Paul
Attested by external sources
Key of Christian religion
Embarrassing: impossible it could have been invented
This is a significantly embarrassing point for informed Muslims
The Early Church followed the Jews in creating a Canon
Work began in the second century, virtually finished by fourth
They used good methods, including:
They virtually always had Paul and the Gospels: the issue was what else should be added?
Their work has been ratified by contemporary scholars
(Note: but some Liberals would try to subtract from the New Testament, there is no serious attempt to add to it)
Note: as higher criticism, and based on speculative theories, I do not find the arguments for discounting the NT books convincing. At worst, we may accept these writings as part of the community of the Apostolic church. Even if authorship is in dispute, dating is not: they are very early, and have been accepted for centuries.
The definitive issue is dating
The New Testament was written in the first century
The Gnostic Gospels and other Pseudepigrapha were not
SECTION FOUR: Summary
We have covered a lot of material! Let’s try to draw it together…
There are two ways of looking at Christianity:
Liberalism & conservativism
From the outside-in, from the inside-out
From “science” and from “faith”
We can use “methodological naturalism” to get scientific results, which are significant for our faith (…and what have we found about the Bible?)
The basic facts of the Christian religion are established
The basic facts of the life of Jesus are established
Many of the supposed conflicts can be dealt with
Arguments from silence
Archaeology in process
Room for “typos” within inerrancy
Through “Lower Criticism,” we can reconstruct the New Testament to an extremely high degree of certainty
None of the variants affect doctrine, or the meaning of the documents
The New Testament documents were written extremely early
Within the first one or two generations of Christians
Far before any other “gospels”
Some sources date to within seven years of the death of Christ: all are less than
All written extremely early
Sources even earlier
The Gnostic gospels were never accepted: never will, due to date
The Gospels and Paul virtually always accepted
Liberal scholars wouldn’t add anything to the New Testament: they may take, but still part of Christian tradition (historically reliable documents)
There is a wide variety of opinions, including YEC, OEC, and TE
These are all valid modern Christian positions
– Ken Ham (kind of) agrees with me!
Where we agree (against Liberalism)
– See chart, 1-10
Where we disagree (the five main positions)
– See chart, 11-15
You can be saved while believing in YEC, OEC & TE
“We are not saying that if you believe in evolution that you can’t be a Christian, not at all. Because the Bible says that by grace you are saved. You don’t save yourself. It is by confessing the Lord Jesus and that he was rose from the dead that you are saved.” – Ken Ham (http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/k/ken_ham.html)
1) Is a real danger, and a potent anti-Christian intellectual force
2) We will be talking more about Liberalism in coming lectures
3) What is Liberalism? (see Chart, 24, 15, 10, 9)
4) It is not true that all positions other than YEC are Liberal
It is also not true that turning from YEC is a “slippery slope” towards Liberalism
…unless one leaves YEC without being aware of the many other options.
For this reason, YEC should thank me, twice!
A) Thank you for giving our kids a middle option!
B) Thank you for giving us a second option, to use in evangelism!
…these positions do represent a middle-ground between YEC and Liberalism, which is both Biblical, and scientific
…But first, what is YEC?
SECTION TWO: Young Earth Creationism
A Short History
– The most important name in the current creationism debate is Charles Darwin (1809-1882).
With his publishing of “The Origin of Species” (1859), Darwin
Proposed an alternative to the traditional understanding of creation
Drove a wedge between science and religion on the question of origins, which remains to this day
– The church almost immediately began formulating responses to Darwin
Some sought to re-interpret the Bible, in light of the new science
(We will examine this shortly)
Some sought to re-interpret the new science in light of the Bible
(To this we now turn)
Formation of the Contemporary YEC Model
The Canopy Theory (Chart, 26)
– First formulated by Isaac Newton Vail (1840-1874), a Quaker and school-teacher, who wrote, “The Waters Above the Firmament” 1874
– Based on Gen. 1:7, 7:11
– Sought to solve the problem of a global flood, without sufficient water in the atmosphere (current atmospheric water content could suffice for inches, not feet, of water if it suddenly precipitated globally)
– This theory has been through countless revisions: some are now abandoning it, while others hold to it more firmly than ever
– In some iterations of this theory, the global canopy helps to explain why people before the Flood lived so long: perhaps the Canopy was shielding them from harmful radiation
Subterranean Water Stores Theory
– Based on Gen. 7:10-11
– Holds that great stores of water deep in the earth were suddenly released
– Holds that the waters then either went back to their previous place, or pushed down ocean floors (thus pushing up mountains) to their current place
– The recent discovery of layers of water deep in the earth serves to bolster this theory
Near-Miss Meteoric Events (Chart, 28)
– Meteorites passing close to the earth are a frequent feature of YEC models
– There are many ways that such a meteorite may have caused a flood:
“Pulling” the water in a global tidal-wave around the earth, in a short-lived, catastrophic orbit
Disrupting the hypothetical Canopy
Causing earth-quakes, and a rapid melting of the last ice-age
Causing a sudden release of subterranean water stores
The Genesis Flood (Chart, 21, 30)
– Was “global,” in the modern sense, of covering the entire globe
– Wiped out all land animals, except those spared by the Ark
– Caused most of the fossils and sedimentary layers we see today
Dinosaurs (Chart, 31)
– Really walked with people
– Really entered into the Ark (in pairs, the “babies” of each species)
– Died out quickly after the flood, perhaps due to changed atmospheric conditions
– Lived with humans long enough to account for the stories of “Dragons” and “Thunder-Lizards” common in most ancient mythologies
– The Biblical “Leviathan” and “Behemoth” refer to these human-dinosaur interactions
– Perhaps an as-yet undiscovered “fire-breathing dinosaur” will explain why Leviathan, and many ancient myths speak of “fire-breathing” creatures
The Omphalos (Navel) Argument (Chart, 18)
– Published by Philip Henry Gosse, in 1857
– Gosse argued that
a) God had created Adam “fully formed” (including having a navel) b) God had similarly created the world with an “appearance of age”
c) This explains any fossils and any other appearance of age
d) This theory is still very much in circulation
e) This theory is used especially to explain how starlight could have reached us from distant stars
Critical Evaluation of the Theory
A thoroughly “Modern” theory
YEC will sometimes try to claim that their view is taught “exclusively from the Bible”: this is sometimes used as support for YEC against other positions, which seem to “compromise” by trying to reconcile with modern science
As this brief survey shows:
a) YEC is, commendably, very interested in reconciling the Bible to science
b) These ideas (canopy, meteorites, deep stores, fossils, etc.) were unheard of before modern science invented them, and YEC applied them to this question
c) In this way, YEC too grows and evolves, in response to new scientific information…
Growth & Reformation
– Such growth is good!
All Christians do it
It is different from evolution
It gives us both better science AND better theology
Otherwise, we literally would be stuck in the Dark Ages
Often called “Pseudo-science”
Respond that “real scientists” often YEC
Along with the “Amphalos” argument, possible to fully embrace science
I think we can agree:
a) YEC seems anti-science to those outside
b) YEC may be difficult for new Christians/seekers to grasp
(For this reason, glad to have other options..)
c) Want to re-emphasize: YEC is a real theory!
I have nothing against it, if you know it well enough to defend it!!
Segway…and so let’s look at some of the other options…
III. SECTION THREE: OLD EARTH OPTIONS
Ancient precedent for an Old Earth
…one may think right away, “If we are only looking at these because we are pushed by Darwin, are these really valid options? Or are they ad hoc?”
…however, readers may be interested to know that Christians have read Genesis 1-3, and concluded that this was referring to a long period of time hundreds of years before Darwin ever came on the scene!
“For who that has understanding will suppose that the first, and second, and third day, and the evening and the morning, existed without a sun, and moon, and stars? and that the first day was, as it were, also without a sky? And who is so foolish as to suppose that God, after the manner of a husbandman, planted a paradise in Eden, towards the east, and placed in it a tree of life, visible and palpable, so that one tasting of the fruit by the bodily teeth obtained life? and again, that one was a partaker of good and evil by masticating what was taken from the tree? And if God is said to walk in the paradise in the evening, and Adam to hide himself under a tree, I do not suppose that anyone doubts that these things figuratively indicate certain mysteries, the history having taken place in appearance, and not literally.” Origen, (Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. 4, p. 365)
“We answered to the best of our ability this objection to God’s “commanding this first, second, and third thing to be created,” when we quoted the words, “He said, and it was done; He commanded, and all things stood fast;” remarking that the immediate Creator, and, as it were, very Maker of the world was the Word, the Son of God; while the Father of the Word, by commanding His own Son–the Word–to create the world, is primarily Creator. And with regard to the creation of the light upon the first day, and of the firmament upon the second, and of the gathering together of the waters that are under the heaven into their several reservoirs on the third (the earth thus causing to sprout forth those (fruits) which are under the control of nature alone, and of the (great) lights and stars upon the fourth, and of aquatic animals upon the fifth, and of land animals and man upon the sixth, we have treated to the best of our ability in our notes upon Genesis, as well as in the foregoing pages, when we found fault with those who, taking the words in their apparent signification, said that the time of six days was occupied in the creation of the world, and quoted the words: “These are the generations of the heavens and of the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens.” (Against Celus 6:60 [AD 248])
As the first seven days in the divine arrangement containing seven thousand of years, as the seven spirits and seven angels which stand and go in and out before the face of God, and the seven-branched lamp in the tabernacle of witness, and the seven golden candlesticks in the Apocalypse, and the seven columns in Solomon upon which Wisdom built her house l so here also the number seven of the brethren, embracing, in the quantity of their number, the seven churches, as likewise in the first book of Kings we read that the barren hath borne seven (St. Cyprian of Carthage, Treatises 11:11 [A.D. 250]) Online Source: http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0507.htm
But simultaneously with time the world was made, if in the world’s creation change and motion were created, as seems evident from the order of the first six or seven days. For in these days the morning and evening are counted, until, on the sixth day, all things which God then made were finished, and on the seventh the rest of God was mysteriously and sublimely signalized. What kind of days these were it is extremely difficult, or perhaps impossible for us to conceive, and how much more to say! (Augustine, City of God 11:6 [AD 419])
…we need to ask the question, “What caused serious and important Bible scholars centuries before Darwin to think the earth was old, simply on Biblical arguments alone?”
Biblical Warrant for an Old Earth
Days before the Sun
The Sun is created on day four. This creates at least two problems:
A) Where was the light coming from before the sun was created?
B) How were days measured without the sun?
Of course, YEC will have answers to this, including:
Jesus/God was the light, before the Sun, as He will be at the end of time (Rev. 22:5) – notice that in this passage, there are no days or nights
The sun emerged from the cloud cover on day four. – But notice that’s not what the text “literally” says!
– No humans were around before the creation of Adam/Eve: thus, the creation event happened in “divine time”
– For God, “A day is like a thousand years” (
– The “Day of the Lord” is a non-literal day
– The seventh day does not end
The “yom” Wars (Chart, 65-84)
Biblical Options for an Old Earth
1) The Gap Theory
By the highly popular, conservative Scofield Study Bible
Taught there were a “gap” between Genesis 1:1 & 1:2, which explained the existence of dinosaurs, fossils, etc.
Now, largely abandoned
2) The “Creative Day” theory
That God created on literal days, but separated by thousands of years
Now largely abandoned
– The Presbeterian Church offers the following options:
1) The Calendar-Day Interpreation
2) The Day-Age Interpretation
That the days refer to long ages of time
That the days aught not to be taken literally
Still very much a viable theory
3) The Framework Interpretation
“Along with several other scholars, I hold to a nonliteral interpretation of the days of Genesis called “the framework interpretation.” It is called that because the days of creation are viewed as a literary framework. The framework interpretation is the view that Moses presents God as a worker who goes about His creative work in six days and rests on the seventh day, and that this picture functions as a literary framework in which the creative acts of God are narrated in a nonsequential or topical order. The days of creation are presented as ordinary solar days, complete with mornings and evenings, but taken as a whole, the picture of God working for six days and resting on the seventh is anthropomorphic. The narrative of God’s creative activity within the six days corresponds to events that occurred in space and time, but the seven-day week is a literary device for organizing that historical narrative, and so that aspect of the narrative (the framework of the seven days) is not to be taken literally. Though the days are a literary framework, the events of creation narrated within the framework are real historical events. The days are like picture frames. The snapshots within each frame are historical, but the frames provide a literary structure for narrating the creation history in a topical (i.e., nonsequential) order.” Lee Irons, PhD., “The Framework interpreation of the days of Creation, http://www.equip.org/article/the-framework-interpretation-of-the-days-of-creation/
4) The Analogical Days Interpretation
“The analogical-day theory maintains that the days in Gen- esis 1 are God’s workdays, which are analogous to the workdays of human beings, as indicated in Exodus 20:9–11:
Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath . . . . For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”
5) The “Cosmic Temple” Interpretation
A very recent idea by John Walton that Genesis 1 does not refer to a literal creation event, but only God symbolically setting up His reign over Creation (He had created at an earlier time, or in 1:1)
This is like God entering into a new office, shuffling around the desk, chairs, papers and pictures and declaring, “This is my office. It is very good!” The idea is that what happened in Genesis 1 was entirely symbolic in nature: nothing physical would have been detected on earth.
3) The Metaphorical/Symbolic Reading
– God “talked down” to us in Genesis 1-3
– God’s actual processes would have been incomprehensible/inexpressible in ancient times: even today we are sturuggling to understand!
God used “phenomenological language” to express His work
– In this view, Genesis 1 is mostly symbolic
– A major problem is that Genesis 1 & 2 don’t separate well. One is pushed to either a more liberal interpretation, or else to a more conservative one.
For these reasons, I find a “Day-Age” interpretation is more useful
SECTION FOUR: Old Earth Positions
– God Created Everything, using evolution
Any tension with Darwin/new science
How can evolution display God’s glory?
Theology: how can Adam…
a) Be the federal head of the human race
b) Be truly “Made in the image of God” (Gen. 1:27): be truly “human,” and not “animal”?
c) Have actions which affect the entire human race
d) How can death come before the fall?
…if he is basically just a “sanctified ape,” one hominid in a long line of hominids?
Theistic Evolution 1
Definition: God created everything using natural processes, including evolution, but did not use evolution to create humans. Humans are special creations
a) Man is truly made in the image of God, and not an animal
b) Man can have actions which affect the entire human race
c) Man’s sin caused man’s death
Creates New Tension:
If God used evolution for animals, why not humans?
Science: there seems to be good evidence that humans are special, made different than animals
Bible: The bible seems to indicate that humans are specially created, in a different sense than animals (Gen. 2:9, 10, 19)
How did death/suffering exist before the fall?
Old Earth Creationism
Definition: The earth is old, but God specially created all biological life. Macro-evolution is not true.
Any resistance to the idea of God using evolution
(along with TE1) Resolves tension of death before the fall (chart, 43-63)
Why would God create an old earth, if He didn’t use evolution? (108-
How could creation be “very good” with death/suffering? (ch. 99-106)
SECTION ONE: The Fine Tuning Argument (William Lane Craig)
“What about the Bible….?!”
– Again, we are sidestepping the issue of creation evolution. We are asking, “if the naturalistic version of history is correct, does it Prove or disprove God?”
– We will deal with some objections at the end: but I want to address one right at the beginning.
The God of the Gaps
– Sorry, this may not have been in the text!
– This is where the teleological argument often goes, and I am surprised he didn’t bring it up
– The idea of the “God of the Gaps” argument is that:
Once upon a time, when the earth was flat and people were dumb,
People did not have science
When they observed things around them (such as lightning) they could not understand, they asked, “What caused that?”
When they could not find an answer, they said, “God did it!”
This both answered the scientific question and also seemed to provide evidence for God
HOWEVER, as science has progressed, we have found a purely natural cause for this phenomenon. Therefore, we no longer need God.
More than that, a “God of the gaps” argument can turn against Christianity!
We do not know what caused this phenomenon (e.g. lightning)
Therefore, God must have done it
…(yet with more scientific progress…)
Now we know what caused this phenomenon
Therefore, God must not have caused it
…but of course, knowing the means by which God did something does not negate the possibility that God was in some way involved
– There is some truth here. We aught not to be too quick to say, “this part of nature is amazing/inexplicable/mysterious therefore it proves God”
– Of course, science is learning new things every day: we aught not be too quick to pick a zone of current ignorance, and declare that it provides proof for God
This story is part of the larger Enlightenment narrative about the “Dark Ages”
– Which has been largely rejected
– I am not at all clear that the “God hypothesis” has been such an impediment to learning (or a crutch) as this myth asserts
– As we have seen, the idea of an omnipotent/omniscient Creator is at the foundation of the scientific endeavor! The whole point is to “Think God’s thoughts after Him.”
– The “God of the Gaps” story obscures the fact that one of the most important and controversial questions of human history is, “Is the cause of all things mind or matter?” Or, “Does God exist, or does only matter exist?”
– Atheists will often try to claim a position of neutrality, claiming that atheism is the “default position,”
Theists must provide proof for God, but atheists need offer no proof for atheism
Any attempt to invoke God is invalide, because it could be construed as a “God of the Gaps” argument
– …however, this attempts to hijack the entire discussion!
…the big question that we need to be asking, when we approach each topic in philosophy, science, history, etc., is, “Is God or not-God a better explanation for this?”
As we will see, the universe is incredibly fine-tuned for life. This has long been considered evidence on behalf of the existence of God. Dubbed the “Teleological Argument,” this argument states that:
There is incredible complexity, order, beauty and precision in the universe
The cause could have been God or nature
Nature is an insufficient cause to explain it
Therefore, God must be the cause of the universe
…another way of saying this is that this is not “ad hoc” because we are not trying to use God to rescue a theory: rather, we are relying on “inference to the best possible hypothesis.”
…at times, atheists can be seen committing the same error in reverse. Confronted with incredible, inexplicable order, and the Big Bang, they will sometimes say, “Someday we will find a naturalistic explanation…” This is just an appeal to a hope. When an inference to an existing explanation (God) would be a valid move.
– Today, there is a “rebirth” of the discussion of design in the universe
This connects with ancient streams from Aristotle, etc.
This connects with more recent theories, such as Paley’s “Watch-Maker” theory
o This theory was proposed in 1802 by William Paley
o It was thought to be disproven by evolution
o Some forms of this theory could be seen as question-begging, “Isn’t it obvious that the Creation needs a Creator?!”
– The “Fine Tuning” is not question begging
It is a religiously neutral term
It refers to the incredibly precise parameters necessary to support life
– Two kinds of fine tuning:
The constants of nature:
o 1. Gravity
o 2. The Sub-Atomic “Weak Force”
o 3. The Electromagnetic Force
o 4. Etc..
o 1. Amount of entropy in the Big Bang
Quote: read all of page 109
“…Fine tuning in this neutral sense is uncontroversial and well established…Like it or not, fine-tuning is just a fact of life that is scientficially well established.” William Lane Craig, On Guard, 109
If they had been different, perhaps different forms of life could have existed
Life = 1) ability to take in food, 2) extract energy from it, 3) grow, 4) adapt, 5) reproduce
“In the absence of fine-tuning, not even matter, not even chemistry would exist, much less planets where life might evolve!” – WLC, 110
What about a universe with totally different laws?
We have no idea about such a universe (because we have no access to it)
We do know what would happen if our universe (with our laws) had different constants and/or quantities: the results would be disastrous!
Personal Anecdote: I knew someone in High School who became a Christian literally because of the power of contemporary physics!
…however, clearly, not everyone looks at the evidence and concludes there must be a God! There are at least two other popular options to explain the existence of fine-tuning in the universe: physical necessity or chance. We can express this as follows:
The fine-tuning of the universe is due to either physical necessity, chance, or design
It is not due to physical necessity or chance
Therefore, it is due to design
Premise One: The fine-tuning of the universe is due to either physical necessity, chance, or design
– This argument is self-evident
– If anyone wishes to add to the list, they are welcome to do so!
Premise Two: The fine-tuning is not due to physical necessity or chance
– This seems “fantastically implausible” because it is saying, in effect, that “a life-prohibiting universe is a physical impossibility”
If we could imagine a life-prohibiting universe, this theory would be destroyed!
There is no proof of this: it is just put forward as a theory with no proof
Objection: what about “super-string theory” (M-Theory): the theory of everything
– This is a theory for explaining the Four basic forces of nature (gravity, the weak force, the strong force, and electromagnetism) into one force
– If found, this answer still would not explain why a life-permitting universe exists
…as of yet, there is no proof that the universe must be life-permitting
…here we return to the old friend of atheism, chaos. On atheism, infinite time plus infinite chance produces order.
…however, we are talking about one chance to get it right, with odds so high we literally don’t know how to count that high! There is no sea of chaos from which our orderly universe could emerge from!
– The question is meaningless: we have only one universe to speak of. And so all probabilities will result in a result of “probability of one”
– Not true! We can imagine universes with constants and quantities which are different. The Multi-Verse is just such a construction! In so doing, we can create hypothetical universes with which to compare our own. And in so doing, all of the vast improbabilities come back to roost!
Objection 2: The “Lucky Us” Argument
– “Well somebody needs to win the lottery. We just won the universe lottery!”
– No, the point is precisely that nobody had to win the lottery!
– Not about “the likeliness of getting this specific universe, but the likeliness of getting a universe that allows life
Objection 3: The Anthropoic Principle
– According to this argument, “We should not be surprised to observe a life-permitting universe, because if we did not live in a life-permitting universe, we would not be here to observe it!”
Actually, we can view (hypothetically!) other universes
This distracts from question of the actual likeliness of such a universe coming into being
…firing squad illustration
…in this case, due to the great improbability, we would be justified in believing that the whole situation was in some way “rigged” for our survival!
…finally, none of these arguments really work without conjoining the Many Worlds hypothesis…
The Many Worlds Hypothesis…
The Multiverse itself may have been fine-tuned
– Explanations are too vague to rule this out
The Multiverse itself likely needs to have a beginning (see previous class)
Far more likely we would see far less order
Final Objection: (Dawkins)
The God Hypothesis is invalid because:
It necessitates a cause for God
It is not simple
– Actually, God does not need a cause because He is eternal
– Actually, God is quite simple
SECTION TWO: Various other Teleological Arguments
– Disclaimers and warnings:
This will be a very quick, arial survey of many disciplines!
I wish I had been able to do more fresh research on all of these:
o Because they are so “cutting edge,” it’s hard to keep up!
o Because there’s so many fields, it’s just hard to keep up!
I will freely admit my ignorance when I meet my limitations
I will point you towards resources when appropriate